Bhutans religion | Buddhism | The development of the doctrine | The Mahayana | The Prajnaparamita Sutra

The Prajnaparamita sutra

This text expounds on the doctrine of the lack of reality of the world as it is conventionally experienced. Philosophical methods prove that the kind of being which we ascribe to our daily experiences, things and appearances is nothing but the product of our analysing thinking and the perception of our senses.

 

This is compared with the idea of the »Highest Being«, as it will be experienced at the moment of release. The Highest Being is characterised by the feature of emptiness (sunyata*). Emptiness is lacking inherent existence, existence in itself.

This means that objects are merely attached to words. For instance, the term »chair« is attached to a collection of four legs, one back and one seat. But »chair« is neither one of the parts taken on its own, nor is it detached from those parts, nor is it the collection of the parts. If »chair« were the composition of the parts of a chair, this would mean that each part would be a chair or that the composition would not have any parts. For that reason a chair only exists as attachment or designation. This brief example illustrates the way of thinking and reasoning of Buddhist philosophy.

As consequence of this insight there are two types of reality. The »Relative Reality« (samvrtisatya) of the world of appearances is necessary to be able to act and move in our world. On the other hand, there is the »Absolute Reality« (paramarthasatya), which is characterised by the absence of inherent existence. Recognising the latter one leads to the attainment of release.

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Book cover (legshing), wood, gilded, turquois; L: 82 cm., B: 35 cm., H: 4,5 cm.; loan from the National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside, Liverpool
Religious texts are written on single, loose sheets. Wooden book covers keep together the loose heaps of leaves at the top and on the bottom. At the centre of the cover three illustrations have been carved out in the shape of a relief: on the left Buddha Shakyamuni, in the centre the goddess Prajnaparamita*, die embodiment of transcendental wisdom and the personified illustration of the Buddhist teaching , and on the right the bodhisattva* Maitreya*, the Buddha of the coming age. All three of them are seated at a throne, which is framed by mythological animals standing on top of each other. The mythological bird Garuda forms the edge. The »Four Guardians of the World « (gyelchen deshi) are positioned in the four outermost corners.