Journal

般若

“般若”為梵語prajñā的漢譯,本義為智慧。那麼為甚麼不直接翻譯為智慧,而音譯為“般若”呢?

早期佛經翻譯用辭並不統一,prajñā除了音譯外(早見於支婁迦讖的《道行般若經》),意譯為“明”、“智”等,如“大智度論”裡的“大智度”實際上等於“摩訶般若波羅蜜多”。由於大乘佛教裡的“般若”並不是指一般的智慧,加上為免與其他與智相關的概念(jñāna)混淆,所以自鳩摩羅什以來,一般統一譯作“般若”。

那麼“般若”又是一種甚麼特別的智慧呢?大乘佛教一般把“般若”與六波羅蜜的“般若波羅蜜多”等同。按照《大智度論》的說法:

「何以故名般若波羅蜜」者,「般若」者〔秦言智慧〕,一切諸智慧中最為第一,無上、無比、無等,更無勝者,窮盡到邊;如一切眾生中佛為第一,一切諸法中涅槃為第一,一切眾中比丘僧為第一。——《大智度論》卷43〈集散品〉

這種超於一般世間智慧的“特殊智慧”包含了特殊的宗教含義,而且在各種典籍衍生了各種分類和說明,但簡單的說已非常人所能理解的智慧了。

原始佛典裡,三學戒定慧的“慧”(巴利語paññā)和動詞prajānāti實在同出一轍,可見“般若”原來包含了更廣泛和基本的含義。像如實知曉(yathābhūtaṃ prajñānāti)或巴利語《大念住經》裡重複多遍佛陀對弟子的叮囑,prajānāti一詞一般針對佛陀所說的教理而言。

梵語裡前綴pra意思為“往前”、“前進”或“超越”。例如gacchati為“去”,pragacchati則為“前進”;tiṣṭhati為“立”,pratiṣṭhati為“站起來,出發”。那麼與詞根jñā“知道”搭配,prajñā該是甚麼意思呢?

在婆羅門典籍裡,出現svargaṃ lokaṃ prajānāti這樣的搭配,上下文意思是預先知道[往生]天國[的途徑](Kauṣītaki-brāhmaṇam 7.8.11)。這樣看來pra清晰顯示了預先知道的意思。在婆羅門教裡,懂得正確祭祀的方法甚為關鍵,因為知道了“方法”,便能依法而行,最後達到理想的目的。佛教裡的“般若”,儘管不一定與婆羅門的天國有關,但亦可理解為包含“預知”的含義,意思就是明白了佛陀所說的道理後,身體力行,便能達到理想的的效果。為甚麼“預知”那麼重要呢?因為有了先見之明,就能避免碰壁,不但免除禍害,更能迅速找到解決問題的方法。

英語裡provide一詞的原理亦十分相似。Provide來自拉丁語providere,意思就是先(pro)見(videre),即是先見之明。Provide for意思是“為某事情作好準備”,而provide with則引伸為“提供”。這樣說起來,“般若”原意確並非一般的世俗認知或智慧,而是指具有先見之明的智慧,一種未雨綢繆、對未來具備洞察力的思考特質。

悉曇拾趣:aḥ 和 hūṃ

京都的大德寺為臨濟宗的重要寺院,創建於1325年,雖然年代說不上早,但對日本文化影響甚大,特別是茶道,而馳名後世的一休和尚亦是大德寺的住持。禪宗本來不立文字,但過去漢地的祖師語錄、公案和各種文字創作之多實在匪夷所思。不過語言文字只不過是善巧方便,試圖以文字破文字障可被看作為八萬四千法門之一。日本佛教亦不例外,以解脫為目標的神祕語言哲學自中世以來不斷展開,為多元的日本佛教的一大特色。

 

大德寺寺內分佈著多個塔頭,所謂塔頭,原來指禪宗祖師或大德的墓塔一帶地方,後來指那裡獨立建立出來的小院。其中年代最久,一個名叫龍源院的塔頭裡,有一個叫“滹沱底”(日語發音kodatei)的石庭,亦作“阿·哞の石庭”。按照寺院提供的說明,滹沱為河北鎮州城臨濟禪師所住之寺南流之河名。至於“阿”和“哞”則代表出入吸吐,男女陰陽等宇宙真理,為寺院東西基石加上一層哲學意味。

 

然而沒有說明的是“阿”和“哞”實際上是梵語a和hūṃ的漢譯。由於梵語字母(即一般傳統梵語語言學家所說的字母花圈varṇamālā)以a和ha為首尾,象徵起源和終結,像聖經裡希臘文的alpha和omega。而在悉曇學和佛教咒語裡,a代表佛教裡無生(anutpanna)的基本教理,a附上形象為兩點(:)的“涅槃點”(即梵語的送氣音)則衍生為aḥ;至於hūṃ則為咒語結束的慣用字母,像六字大明咒最後的字母一樣。

 

無獨有偶,就在附近龍泉庵旁,芳春院外的一個小亭前,筆者發現一個小塔,四面刻有悉曇字母,分別為aḥ、trāḥ、hrīḥ、hūṃ。四個字母首尾為“阿”和“哞”,中間則分別為虛空藏菩薩和阿彌陀佛的兩個種子字。實際上,這四個字加上vaṃ(大日如來)即是所謂的“五字真言”。

 

按照《金剛峰樓閣一切瑜伽瑜祇經》卷下《金剛吉祥大成就品》的說法,這五個種子字為“五字明王”。其誦法和儀軌略錄如下:“行者應畫五大金剛虛空藏。於一圓明中。等自身量畫之。於一圓中。更分為五。於中圓畫白色虛空藏。左手執鉤右手持寶。前圓中畫黃色虛空藏。左持鉤右執寶金剛。右圓中畫青色虛空藏。左執鉤右持三辦寶。放大光明。於後圓中畫赤色虛空藏。如前左持鉤右持大紅蓮華。左圓中畫黑紫色虛空藏。如前左持鉤右持寶羯磨。是名五大虛空藏求富貴法。若畫此像。於青色或金色絹上畫之。其菩薩衣服首冠瓔珞。皆依本色。跏趺坐。畫此像已。對於壇前。無問時方。但誦五字明一千萬遍。即得富貴成就。時時護摩。速獲大悉地次當說印相。”(大18.867.263中)。當然,《金剛峰樓閣一切瑜伽瑜祇經》所說的只是密宗經典裡的其中一種說法,空海在其著作裡對aḥ和hūṃ有更多密宗教理上的闡述,學界對其內容出處眾說紛紜,不過由於印度濕婆教對種子字和神祕語哲學的論著比佛教更為豐富和完整,所以佛教密教的部分學說源自古老的濕婆教文獻的可能性甚高。

 

當然,帶有密宗色彩的悉曇文字在禪宗寺院裡有跡可尋,反映空海最澄所傳的悉曇學在日本影響之深。然而,五字真言的悉曇塔為何在禪院出現,還有密宗法門如何與禪法共修,諸此問題則尚待探討。

My Journey as a Buddhist

My Journey as a Buddhist, from Diamond Sutra to Diamond Sutra (Part 1)

 My first memory of something related to Buddhism was the sound of sutra-chanting where I heard in a Zen monastery in Lantau when I was a young child. Though neither of my parents was Buddhist, my mother a Protestant Christian and father a freethinker, they were nevertheless sympathetic to Buddhism. My father, beside being a philanthropist who always busied himself with various charity projects, was much interested in Buddhist teachings. During the summer vacations, my father would bring me to some of the remote monastery in Lantau Island or New Territories for meditation sitting and to live with the monks. Those early morning chanting had always held a special fascination for me. It was like sound of waves washing into my whole being, awe-inspiring and exhilarating at the same time. Later I found out that it was called the Diamond Sutra.

 

In my childhood days, I had always had my hair trimmed very short and the monks would tell me jokingly that I look just like a novice. An old nun even once remarked that I had been a yogi in my past live which I only half-believed. When I sat for meditation as a seven years old child, the monks took it nonetheless very seriously and would give me a bat if I was dozing away. The beating I received, which was harder than necessary, left me a very negative impression which lasted for years. Little did I know at that time that the monk who delivered the blow would become my first Buddhist teacher years later.

 

It was not until my university years when I started to take serious interest in Buddhism. At that time, I gave up my studies in science and turned to linguistics with a specialization in Sanskrit. I was fascinated by the ancient religious texts and in particular, the Indian religions which Buddhism was a part of. My multilingual bookcase was soon filled with books like the Bible, Bhagavadgītā, the Japji of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Yogasūtra and also the Diamond Sūtra. As a linguistic student, though I could read through the Diamond Sutra in Sanskrit, its meanings completely escaped me as it was so unlike anything I had read. For over years, this Buddhist sutra remained an enigma to me.

It was almost ten years after I first started reading the Diamond Sutra when I finally found the need to understand it completely. The reason why I could understand only the surface meaning of the text but not its true meaning was that, as I thought at that time, because I was not a Buddhist. After all texts were all written for specific audience in mind and without proper context and background knowledge, they could not deliver the intended message. Thus with this desire to gain the “insider’s view” I decided to learn more about the religion and eventually, became a Buddhist.

With my years of training in science, I had always been a diehard skeptic and religious conversion was not an easy one. Unlike Christianity where there were churches with open doors and priests and missionaries ready to answer every single one of your religious queries, the Buddhist door was an iron door tightly shut. It was a tortuous process, but thanks to my father’s Buddhist friends and other Buddhist teachers whom I came across one after another, the Buddhist faith gradually became clear to me. At a more personal level, I began to understand that Buddhism was a path of self-cultivation. Though I did not aspire to become enlightened, it became apparent to me that the Buddhist path was a well-trodden one, praised by the wise ones and made people only into better persons.

My life was gradually becoming surrounded by everything Buddhist. After years of exciting but rather uninspiring work, which inflated my asset and my ego, I took the very humbling path of resuming my Buddhist studies once again at Hong Kong University. I also took the time to explore and find out for myself what the Buddhists and the Buddhist communities were doing, to experience for myself whether the practice lived up to the theories. Perhaps most importantly, I started to gain many Buddhist friends. It was due to the positive influence of these kalyānamitra-s that a certain Buddhist identity took root in me. In my mind, they were the embodiment of wisdom and compassion and I too want to become one of them. Looking around in our society, it is hard to believe that there are truly people who are wise and yet kind and friendly at the same time, tolerant enough even to people who do not share the same faith – these are the Buddhists.

After I took my refuge in the Three Jewels and my lay precepts from my first Buddhist teacher who was from the Zen tradition, the chanting of Diamond Sutra thus became my daily homework. As my understanding of the Buddhism at both levels of intellect and faith deepened, I began to appreciate the beauty of the Sutra. In retrospect, it was a very liberating experience to shed with “thunderbolt wisdom” all the false identities I had built up for myself, which was defined by labels such as career, wealth or even trivial things like education or clothes one puts on. In a place like Hong Kong where everyone seemed to be trapped in a rat race for wealth and status, unable to see their existence beyond what they possessed materially or nominally, leading the imaginary life of pleasure they created in their own minds, the Sutra breathed a fresh air, bringing peace, kindness, understanding and other human virtues to a world of madness.

 

My Buddhist identity became something I treasured very much and something I took a special pride of. In the following years, due to my academic pursuit, I had to travel around the world, first to mainland China, then Germany and Japan. It was my encounter with other Buddhists in these countries which made me constantly reflect on this identity I had created for myself. Little did I expect that such encounter led to a great transformation within me, both in terms of my identity as a Buddhist, as well as my understanding of Buddhism as a world religion at large.