Tom Kenyon
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The Unbearable Light of Awareness

Tom Kenyon

The irony of the moment did not escape me.

Only an hour or two before, I had been reading the Diamond Sutra, a treatise attributed to Buddha, in which he discusses, among many things, the practice of the six Paramitas.

The Paramitas, sometimes known as the Six Perfections, are attitudes or behaviors that greatly increase the likelihood of enlightenment. They are a lighthouse, the diamond light of Mahayana Buddhism—or what is called the Great Vessel.

This enigmatic term refers to the undertaking of enlightenment not just for oneself (which is called Hinayana, or the Lesser Vessel), but for all sentient beings as well.

The Greater Vessel, or Mahayana, is the realization that we are all in the same boat, so to speak. We all live in the realm of samsara or illusion. And it is the nature of samsara that all things and all beings are impermanent, transient and empty. This was one of the great insights attributed to Lord Buddha, though there is evidence that other earlier traditions may have stumbled onto the same realization—notably the BonPo of ancient Tibet.

In any event, quantum physics agrees with the Buddha’s realization, which he attained around two thousand years before the advent of modern quantum physics.

The Buddha as Sage and Scientist

If I may be so bold as to summarize some aspects of the cosmology of quantum mechanics, it is this. All things that exist in the universe are impermanent. From the tiniest subatomic particles, to the largest quasars and galaxies, to you and me, our days are numbered, so to speak—though of course, when it comes to the lifespan of galaxies and other heavenly bodies, their time of existence is measured in millions of years—not decades or centuries.

Indeed, from the cosmic perspective, all of us, including our civilizations are birthed, live and die, in but the blink of a cosmic eye.

One of the sufferings of being in samsara (a Buddhist term meaning the illusion of the physical world), or relative existence, to use a very quantum term, is that we, and all we know, will one day no longer exist. At the physical level of existence we are, each of us, nothing more than oscillating patterns of subatomic particles dancing the temporary dance of existence.

This is one of the cardinal principles, if you will, of quantum mechanics—though some quantum theorists may argue that the nature of light is actually the first cardinal principle of quantum physics. And I would certainly agree with them that it was through the study of light that quantum mechanics came into existence in the first place. That’s why I said that impermanence is one of the cardinal principles of quantum mechanics—not the first cardinal principle. I belabor this in case some of you reading this are, in fact, physicists.

Another principle of quantum mechanics is that all physical objects are comprised essentially of space. Buddhists would say emptiness. But science and Buddhists are fundamentally saying the same thing.

According to some physicists, our bodies are something like 99.9% space. The actual physical matter that makes up our bodies is only about one-tenth of one percent. In fact, according to these estimates if you took all the physical matter that makes up your body and put it in a pile, it would all fit on the tip of a pin. The rest of you is space.

It gets even stranger. If you were to poof down to the size of an atom and measure the distance between the electrons closest to the nucleus, you would have a very small measurement indeed. But if you brought that same atomic ratio up to human size, the distance between that electron and the nucleus would be about the size of a football field. In other words, atoms—the building blocks of all physical things—are comprised primarily of space.

The Nature of Suffering

In the Diamond Sutra, Buddha talks about these two qualities—impermanence and emptiness—as essential characteristics of all existence. He also discusses the nature of suffering.

Essentially he says that all suffering is the result of desire—specifically the desire for sensory objects. Sensory objects can take many forms—a good meal, a nice glass of wine, pleasant surroundings, a new car, a new lover, or the newest techno gadget. The list is virtually endless, but the fundamental underlying catch is when we see, hear, feel, smell or taste something that we really like, most of us try to get more of it, or hold on to what we have.

But, alas, we live in a quantum atomic world of impermanence. Physical sensory objects to which we attach ourselves to will eventually dissolve back into the quantum soup (emptiness) they came from, and we won’t be able to see, hear, feel, taste, or smell them anymore.

That good meal is never quite the same again. The nice glass of wine eventually turns into vinegar. Those pleasant surroundings will one day disappear, if you hang around long enough. That new car will get a scratch in the parking lot, and eventually dissolve into rust. The new lover will not turn out to be whom you thought he or she to be, and eventually the rosy promise of youth turns into the inevitability of old age and death. And don’t even talk to me about those techno gadgets. As soon as you get the newest hot sensation, just wait a few months. Before you know it, that razzle dazzle must-have device, is an out-of-date piece of techno junk.

Now according to the Buddha, desire, as I said earlier, is the cause of all suffering. But for those of us in the post-modern world, and in the West rather than the East, perhaps a more useful concept is to say that the root of all suffering is not desire per se, but rather the attachment to our desires.

This view is shared by certain traditions of Buddhist practice—notably Dzogchen and Vajrayana, both of which share the reputation as being rapid paths to enlightenment. In some Vajrayana practices the yogi or yogini is actually encouraged to experience certain types of desire with full awareness. It is this union of awareness (or bodhicitta, meaning the mind of one’s Buddha nature) with the impermanent and empty nature of desire that leads one to illumination. It is, however, a tricky and treacherous path. It is not suited for everyone, and it requires a high degree of training, discipline and detachment.

I mention this other view as to the cause of suffering because for modern individuals, especially in the West, our desires are the engines that drive much of our culture—not to mention our economy. To abandon all desire is a big jump for many, if not most of us. Understanding that our attachment to desire is the root of our suffering allows those of us unable to abandon all desire a way to begin letting go of the bonds that bind us. In other words, enjoy the world, but don’t get attached to it.

Dharma Lost by the Sea

All of this leads me back to the Diamond Sutra and the incident I mentioned at the beginning of this article. It occurred of all places, while I was sitting, minding my own business, drinking a cappuccino by the Red Sea.

The Dharma, for those unfamiliar with Buddhism, means the way of the Buddha. Thus when one practices the Dharma, one lives one’s life according to one’s own inherent Buddha nature (or bodhicitta), which traditionally is revealed to oneself through the practice of meditation. If one does not have a direct connection to one’s own Buddha mind, then one follows some of the external precepts or codes of conduct—like the Paramitas, for one example.

This is similar to a Christian who follows the precepts of Christ. He or she could be said to be living the way of Christ, just like a Buddhist might be said to be living the way of Buddha, (the Dharma).

It is possible to live the Dharma and temporarily forget it, lapse if you will, back into old ways of being that lead not to enlightenment but rather to further delusion and sensory attachment. This is what happened to me at the edge of the Sinai Desert.

Judi and I had just finished taking about fifty people on a tour of Egypt. The journey was over and we had come, at the suggestion of our guide, to the Red Sea for some R&R.

The problem was that the trip from Cairo took eleven torturous hours over bad roads. My seat in the van was broken, leaning me back and slamming my right shoulder into the window over and over again. When we reached Dahab, I was in excruciating pain.

The hotel doctor was on vacation and a new doctor, who had recently graduated from medical school, with a degree in pediatrics, treated me. To make a very long story short, he misdiagnosed my injuries and gave me some mild painkillers, which did nothing to alleviate my suffering. Weeks later, when we finally got to decent medical attention in Spain, MRIs would show that I had in fact, torn tendons in my shoulders and had both a damaged bursa and deltoid muscle. When the emergency room physician in Spain looked at the meds I had been handed in Egypt, she rolled her eyes and immediately ordered intense pain blockers.

Back in Egypt, competent medical treatment was in my future. In the moment, I was in a state of near constant pain. I would have to hold my useless arms against my sides, and bend my elbows using both hands to eat or drink.

I have often found that humor is my best ally in difficult situations. And I agree with Mark Twain who once said that “some things in life are so serious, all you can do is laugh.” I nicknamed myself Flipper.

One afternoon, lying in bed, as sitting or walking was too painful, I propped up a copy of the Diamond Sutra and began to re-read the Buddha’s teachings.

The Paramitas are jewels of enlightenment that radiate a spiritual light just by reading them. I was lifted up for a time into the numinous light –filled realms of spirit, and my pain seemed to lessen a bit the whole time I was engaged in reading the text.

I decided that I would try and practice two of the Paramitas to see what might be revealed as I struggled with my physical condition. The two Parmitas I chose were the Paramita of Patience and the Paramita of Compassion.

Later that day, as twilight began to set in, Judi and her daughter, Adrianne, went shopping for gifts to take back home. I decided to join them and have a cappuccino as a distraction from my pain. The fact was that if I stood for more than a few minutes, my arms and shoulders would ache with a searing pain that sometimes left me breathless. Sitting or lying down were the only relatively comfortable positions.

And so I took a seat at an empty table looking over the sea to Saudi Arabia. The moon was clear in the sky and its silvery light reflected off the dark waters.

I had chosen this spot because there was no one else there. I could sit alone and nurse something in my hands, buying some time to sit before having to stand up and head back with Judi and Adrianne to our hotel.

When the coffee arrived, I was in such bad shape tears came to my eyes from the sheer agony of nerve pain, which is like nothing else I had ever experienced. But I discovered that by slowly raising the cup between both hands, I could find a place where the pain was less, and in some positions almost non-existent. But if I moved the cup as much as a half-inch out of this small range of motion, the shooting pain returned. And so I sat there looking over the water to Arabia and finding slight solace in a warm cappuccino.

At this point in my plight, I did not know if I would ever be able to use my arms again. I did not know if I would be able to play the crystal bowl or piano, or even eat properly for that matter. I also found that I could not write. The stress of typing on my laptop sent shock waves of pain up my arms and into my shoulders. I knew something was very wrong, but just how wrong I didn’t know for sure.

And so in the face of such uncertainty, my mind wandered far and wide into scenario after scenario of an impoverished and handicapped life. My mental meanderings reminded me of another comment attributed to Mark Twain, “I have lived a life filled with misery, hardship and ill-fortune, most of it imagined.”

So as I did my best to keep my coffee cup poised in that small range of movement that wouldn’t send blasts of pain up my arms, I also did my best to keep my mind poised and not give in to my growing apprehension.

For a moment in the cacophony of my own samsaric circus (my personal term for samsara), my pain had, more or less, disappeared. I was enjoying the warm sensory object of my coffee and the light of the moon reflecting off the Red Sea. I was savoring the moment. And I had unwittingly become attached to the sensory objects before me and in my hands.

Then my reverie and the fulfillment of my desires were suddenly and rudely interrupted. A rather large woman smoking a cigarette sat down at the same table I had chosen. She plopped down right in front of me, blocking my view of the sea and the moon. She sat her year-old, or so, son on the bench next to her and pulled out another cig.

How dare she come and sit down here at my table? How dare she ruin my moment of quiet calm between my bouts with pain? I wanted her to leave, and I wanted her to leave now.

In short, I had lost my patience and my compassion, all within an hour or two of reading the Diamond Sutra.

Then I noticed his eyes. The young boy was sitting next to his mother looking up at me. It was one of those tender curious looks you often see on the faces of young children. They still carry that mark of the other world they came from and have not, as yet, been marred by life in this one.

His obvious innocence reminded me of a Balinese custom. In a traditional Balinese home, a child is not allowed to touch the earth for the first year of his or her life. The belief is that they are too new to this world, having been birthed from the spirit world. To touch the ground at such an early age would be too large a shock to their tender souls.

The boy in front of me was not Balinese, but he looked through me with an innocence that was disarming.

I felt my heart begin to open, but then I shut it closed. I was pissed. His mother had ruined my moment of pleasure in a sea of pain. I wasn’t about to let him or her off the hook that easily.

I ponder this reaction in myself from time to time—when for whatever reason, I choose to withhold love or compassion.

The woman suddenly, and for no apparent reason, put her second cigarette back into its pack, grabbed her son and wandered off into the crowd of tourists. The moon was beginning its descent from view across the sea. Only a slight sliver of it remained visible from behind a mountain. There were only a few sips of coffee left in my cup. The sensory objects of my desire were coming to an end. I smiled at the strange and bitter irony of the moment.

One of the many things I appreciate about Buddhism is its central belief that we are all living Buddhas. It may take a lifetime or ten thousand lifetimes before we fully realize our own Buddha nature. But this does not detract from the fact that we are intrinsically already Buddhas. It is just not our time to become fully self-aware.

The seed of an oak tree is not yet an oak. But it carries within itself the potential to become one. Perhaps a better metaphor in this case would be to say that a coffee bean is not yet a coffee tree or cup of coffee, but given the right circumstances, and the skilled hands of a good Barista, it can fulfill its potential and become a cup of coffee, a cappuccino, a latte, a macchiato, or whatever. There are, after all, many ways a coffee bean can become a cup of java. And, no doubt, there are many ways a human can reach Buddha-hood as well.

But until the moment of full self-realization, we can do things that are not expressions of our innate Buddha-self, but rather expressions of our own delusion and attachments. Thus, when I withheld love and compassion from the young boy in front of me, I had missed a moment of shared bodhicitta.

Shared bodhicitta is a true treasure for those practicing the Dharma. It is a meeting of mind and heart with another. I have experienced it with lamas and nuns in Tibet and with pilgrims in Lhasa. I have experienced it with Zen roshis, and I have experienced it with strangers who would have never called themselves Buddhists.

Check-out clerks who smiled at me as I paid for my purchases, babies in grocery carts looking up at me with chubby faces, their eyes luminescent with a simple yet profound spiritual light, drivers pausing to let me enter the street with my car—these are all moments of shared kindness, one of the more simple, yet significant manifestations of bodhicitta.

As the boy and his mother turned a corner and were lost to my sight, I realized what had just happened. My attachment to my desire for a moment of refuge in an ocean of unrelenting pain had made me grasp the sensory objects of my desire—a cup of coffee and the setting moon. My mental picture had not included a stranger sitting in front of me smoking a cigarette, nor her young child staring up at me. I had wanted to be alone.

And so I suffered. Not because the woman invaded my space, but because I refused to let go of my attachment. And in my frustration with her and the situation, I failed to see the young Buddha sitting right in front of me.

And then a truly odd thing happened. A single tear fell from my left eye. And I suddenly felt ancient and very very Buddhist. It was as if I had become Avalokeshtavara, the Buddha of Infinite Compassion, known in Tibet as Chenrazig.

Chenrazig is often depicted with a thousand arms, and in each hand there is an eye that sheds a tear for the suffering of all sentient beings trapped in samsara.

Now I know that I am not Chenrazig. I had, after all, just dismissed a young Buddha from my presence because I was blinded by own desires. And yet the vision continued.

I was no longer just Tom sitting at a table with an empty coffee cup; I was a witness to the Great Mandala of existence. For a moment, the veil that separated me from the awareness of the profound sacredness of all beings and all things was lifted.

The single tear was still on my cheek. And it was for the young Buddha –child who had just been carried off by his mother. It was also for his mother, who had probably taken a seat in front of me because she was tired of carrying him around.

I shed the tear for the Barista, the young Muslim man who had made my coffee and whose eyes were constantly searching the crowd, his right foot continually tapping the floor with a nervous tension.

I shed the tear for the cats and their kittens that skulked in the shadows from restaurant to restaurant searching for scraps. And I shed a tear for myself, and all of us who miss those sacred moments when a Buddha, or whatever you call the Divine, is sitting right in front of us.

And then the moment became surreal. The air felt pregnant with awareness, as if creation had, in that moment, become aware of itself. Colors seemed more vibrant, even though the moon had disappeared across the sea somewhere in Arabia. And there was a sudden and unexpected sweetness in the gentle breeze from the waters of the Red Sea.

In Christianity the Peace That Passeth All Understanding is called Grace. In Arabic it is called Baraka. In Tibetan, the deep well of peace is called Rigpa.

Om Mani Peme Hum. This is the mantra of Chenrazig. It means Hail To The Jewel In The Lotus, and it is chanted and meditated upon by Tibetan Buddhists throughout the world. The jewel is compassion and the lotus is the heart. Through the power of all the Buddhas, may we all find the jewel and the lotus, and may we all also find a good cup of coffee.

Part Two

The Six Paramitas

Dana Paramita—the perfection of generosity, the open heart of being-ness itself. This paramita is similar to what Christians call charity, though it doesn’t mean just giving money to the poor. Dana also means unattached generosity, boundless openness, and what some might call unconditional love.

Sila paramita—virtue, a deep sense of morality

Shanti paramita—patience and tolerance of others

Virya paramita—energy, diligence and courage

Dhyana paramita—meditation, contemplation, concentration and absorption into the transcendent realms of consciousness

Prajna—transcendental wisdom

Personal Thoughts

For me, the tap root of the Paramitas is hidden within the very last paramita on the list—that of Prajna or transcendental wisdom. When prajna is glimpsed, all phenomena, all existence is seen as essentially empty and impermanent. What looks solid is seen for what it is—essentially emptiness. One realizes that the illusion of solidity is a trick of our nervous systems. There is, in truth, no one and nothing to grasp, nothing to hold on to. Add to this emptiness the insight of impermanence, and you have a heady-soup called samsara in Buddhism.

This would, indeed lead many, if not most of us, to a deep sense of despair and hopelessness were these two insights (emptiness and impermanence) not offset by two other qualities inherent in transcendent wisdom (prajna). These are bliss and luminosity.

This type of luminosity is not the type you can read in a book or see the world by. Rather, it is the luminosity of awareness itself. Tibetan Buddhists call it the Clear Light. As one approaches the center point of consciousness in oneself, there is a spontaneous arising of prajna or transcendent wisdom. This type of wisdom brings with it not only the luminosity of self-awareness, but also a kind of bliss. In Sanskrit, bliss is called ananda. And consciousness is said by yogis and yoginis to have three aspects—Sat (existence), Chit (knowledge) and Ananda (bliss).

For Buddhists, chit (knowledge), is replaced by bodhicitta, or the knowledge of one’s own inherent Buddha nature.

Through the inherent power of Buddhist and yogic meditation practice, I have, occasionally, experienced the radiant luminosity of prajna. I thought in those moments, that I would forever possess the light and bliss of awareness. But alas, this was not to be the case.

For one thing, there was nothing to possess and no one to possess it. This is one of the critical and central insights of the Diamond Sutra. Such concepts seem odd to us when we are caught up in the sensory display and personal desires of samsara. But it is self-evident as we enter prajna or transcendent wisdom. And what is this self-evident realization that occurs in prajna? It is that all things are both real and unreal. They, and we, are much like clouds or mirages having no real substance.

This sounds like gobbely-goop if you are in your ordinary mind (sensory based awareness). But it is self-evident when you reside in your Buddha mind (bodhicitta or prajna, transcendent wisdom). I think it might be helpful to bring this odd juxtaposition of reality and unreality down from the ephemeral metaphorical language of prajna (transcendent wisdom) into the language of quantum physics. It might help us to better understand this central enigma of the Diamond Sutra.

Let’s take your hands for an example. They are obviously real—at least at one level of awareness. They are, for instance, holding the paper that this article is written on, or if you are reading this on a computer, you use your hands to move the cursor, which moves the text. All of this is quite real.

But move with me, if you will, down into the microscopic and subatomic world of your hands. Here there is a whirling dervish dance of subatomic particles, all swirling about in space. In fact, as I mentioned in the first part of this article, there is more space than solid matter at the atomic level of reality. As we move deeper into this subatomic space, emptiness seems more real than solidity.

It is here that we must abandon quantum physics as our guide, since now there is nothing to measure or quantify and in order to have science you have to be able to measure something. But here, all we have is emptiness.

When our personal awareness resides in this emptiness (through meditation), all things are seen as essentially illusory—empty and devoid of substance. And so it is that your hands that appear to you as solid and real in one moment can, in the next, through the power of prajna or bodhicitta, appear as unreal. The Diamond Sutra takes the unusual philosophical stance that things are both real and unreal, both existing and non-existing. And it is this state of non-duality that shapes the experience of enlightenment.

The other reason I was not able to remain in these heightened states of awareness, quite frankly, was because I had not mastered the first four paramitas, which act as a kind of ground for prajna (transcendent wisdom) into everyday life. In other words, through meditation or dhyana paramita, I caught a glimpse of the vastness from the top of the mountain, but when it came time to come down into the valley and actually live life, I forgot the View (prajna).

The first four paramitas train the mind so that it (the mind) can eventually reflect the luminosity and wisdom of one’s own bodhicitta. This type of mind training was deemed vital by the Buddha for anyone desiring self-realization, and is one of the main focus points of The Diamond Sutra.

Let’s take a look at these, beginning with the fourth paramita—virya. Virya is both diligence and energy. It also implies spiritual courage. Indeed, anyone attempting to become self-realized must find or generate these qualities in him or herself. Samsara is often represented as a snare that catches us, and it takes immense energy, diligence and courage to escape its clutches.

In more realistic and less metaphorical terms, it takes energy, diligence and courage to stand up to and transform our own negativity. And if this dynamic self-transformative energy is not part of one’s innate nature, it must be cultivated.

The third paramita—shanti is characterized by patience and tolerance of others. Again, this is a method of training the mind to move towards its inherent bodhicitta. Patience and tolerance are expressions of prajna, and as one gets closer to self-realization these two qualities spontaneously appear. However, it has been my observation that shanti does not mean to make oneself a doormat, or to let others take advantage of you. There is an old Buddhist story though its roots may actually be Hindu.

According to the folk tale, an enlightened yogi was walking through the woods when he was attacked by a large poisonous snake. Using his yogic powers he avoided the attack, and the snake, stunned by the yogi’s abilities, asked to become a disciple. The yogi taught him the third paramita of shanti, which literally means peace.

Some time passed, and the yogi revisited the woods to see how his serpentine disciple was doing. The large reptile was ravaged with cuts and wounds. His guru asked, “What in the name of Buddha has happened to you?”

The snake explained that after his conversion to peace, he no longer wished to harm the local villagers. When they found out that he was a pacifist they kicked him and hit him with sticks for fun.

The yogi said, “I told you to practice the paramita of shanti, but I never told you to stop hissing.” In other words, in the duality that is samsara we may at times have to stand up for ourselves, but when doing so we should strive not to harm.

The second paramita—sila, means virtue or a deep sense of morality. This attitude is an expression of prajna (transcendent wisdom) and comes out of the fundamental insight that we are all interconnected. When we are acting out of prajna we cannot knowingly harm another being. But when we are in deluded states of mind, such harm is commonplace. This paramita of sila is an external code of conduct. It means not to steal, not to kill or harm another. When we are in our right mind (meaning prajna) then such actions are simply not possible. But when we are not in prajna (meaning our ordinary mind) such actions are possible, and the sila paramita protects us against ourselves. It is, in another way of looking at things, a safety device to avoid creating negative karma.

The first paramita—dana is the perfection of generosity, the open heart or what some might call unconditional love. When we reside in our Buddha nature (bodhicitta), or our transcendent wisdom (prajna), we are naturally and spontaneously openhearted. This is generosity of spirit, and it is one of the signs of emerging enlightenment.

When looking at the six paramitas, one can say that the first four are codes of conduct or internal attitudes. The fifth paramita is the practice of meditation, which reveals one’s own innate bodhicitta, and it is here that prajna, or transcendent wisdom is spontaneously revealed.

Now I personally have some difficulties with the first four paramitas, or more accurately, how they are sometimes practiced. I have written about the quandary of spiritual ideals on several occasions because they are truly double-edged swords. Whereas the fifth paramita, dhyana, is the practice of meditation, and prajna is its fruit, the first four paramitas are prime territory for making spiritual vows—meaning that we state our intention to practice them.

This is fine in and of itself, and in fact, I think one has to put a lot of energy and intention into the paramitas for them to work as a means towards enlightenment. But what do we do with ourselves when we screw up, when we fail to keep our vows? Do we beat ourselves up, or do we just take it as important information about our own negativity and start again?

What originally attracted me to Buddhism was its seeming lack of guilt. But as I studied Buddhist thought and practice from various cultures, guilt and shame raised its ugly head again. Depending upon the school and the tradition one is involved in, guilt and shame do sometimes show up.

I consider guilt and shame to be some of the most deleterious attitudes to ever befall humanity. They are useless emotions in that they do not lead us into greater self-awareness. They are just ruts to wallow in and used to self-flagellate ourselves. Insight into why we did what we did is far more resourceful at changing future behavior than condemning ourselves, or another for that matter.

And so, when by the Red Sea, I screwed up and failed to fulfill my intention to practice the two paramitas of shanti (tolerance) and dana (generosity of spirit)—all within a period of about two hours—I had the opportunity to condemn myself for breaking my own vows.

Fortunately, I had resolved to experiment with the two paramitas rather than take a vow to practice them no matter what. As a result, when I recognized the fact that I had failed in my undertaking, I was not gripped with shame and guilt. Instead, I felt the bitter truth of my own personal attachment. I had told myself that my desires were understandable given my state of unrelenting physical pain. A little refuge was all I had hoped for—a cup of decent coffee while sitting under the moon by the sea, and to do this alone.

When the realization dawned that I had missed an opportunity to experience the presence of the young Buddha in front of me, I did not experience guilt. Rather, I experienced grief—the type of grief that comes from standing face to face with one’s own emotional limitations. And then in a moment of grace, perhaps due to years of meditation practice, the grief changed into a form of luminous awareness in which prajna, transcendent wisdom, revealed itself to me for a few shining moments.

I offer this little bit of insight for those of you who choose to experiment with the Paramitas. My personal experience is that they are well worth the effort. And I suggest that anyone undertaking them read the Diamond Sutra. Why drink from a cup when you can go to the stream itself?