Wisdom Beyond Words: the Buddhist vision of ultimate reality
reprinting September 2013
Dangerously disorientating to the unwary student, the Prajnaparamita or Perfection of Wisdom teachings can offer a fast route to some well-trodden blind alleys - or to the very heart of Reality.
Sangharakshita's clarity, scholarship and insight are revealed in this commentary on the Diamond Sutra, the Heart Sutra and the Ratnagunasamcayagatha - core teachings of Mahayana Buddhism. Using this book as a guide we can begin our own investigation of these sublime teachings - and also perhaps be rewarded with a world-shattering glimpse of the Buddhist vision of ultimate Reality.
"This volume consists in a learned but practically oriented commentary on three major works of the Prajnaparamita literature — the Diamond Sutra, the Heart Sutra, and the Ratnaguna-Samcaya-Gatha. These are key Mahayana texts, which celebrate the combined cultivation of wisdom (prajna) and compassion (karuna). They are fundamental to any understanding of the sublime path of the bodhisattva, the spiritual practitioner who is dedicated to attaining enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Sangharakshita's observations, which spring from his own long-time Buddhist practice, typically have a down-to-earth ring to them, which makes the often lofty ideals of the Mahayana path manageable. For instance, the bodhisattva's vow to lead all beings into nirvana begins, as he points out, with a rather more modest practice: to clearly perceive others' present needs and try to be helpful to them while training ourselves to more and more perceive the underlying real need, which is for everyone to attain enlightenment. To be able to care for others at all, we must, Sangharakshita rightly emphasizes, first cultivate self-worth, which is "to love ourselves and feel that we are loved by others."
The author's common-sense approach to metaphysical matters, which are often intellectualized and thus rendered irrelevant to actual practice, is refreshing. His attitude toward the sacred literature is appropriately respectful but not slavishly adulatory. Regarding the Perfection of Wisdom, which teaches the "emptiness" of all things, he remarks that it is like salt. "An exclusive diet of it probably wouldn't do you much good, but you need a pinch of it in your spiritual diet all the time. It gives it a little flavour—the flavour of irrelevance. Otherwise, if it all becomes too relevant, well, you take it all too seriously—you think too much in terms of yourself as you are now." Clearly, his preference for balance and harmony is very traditional.
This book is full of fine insights and eminently suitable for the needs of Western Buddhist practitioners but also speaks to non-Buddhists who are eager to proceed on the spiritual path with real understanding."
—Traditional Yoga Studies Interactive