A BIRD ON ITS WINGS COURSES AND DOES NOT FALL
On my desk is a book of over six hundred pages presenting a mere portion of the Buddha’s own words on the topic of profound wisdom: The Large Sutra on Perfection of Wisdom (translated and edited by Edward Conze). Opening at random, under a subheading To Dwell Without Support, we encounter:
A bird on its wings courses in the air and does not fall to the ground. It dwells just in space, just in the air, but it does not stand therein nor does it get established therein. Just so the Bodhisattva achieves mastery over emptiness and dwells in the emptiness; he achieves mastery over the signless and dwells in the signless; he achieves mastery over the wishless and dwells in the wishless…But having coursed in innumerable Buddhadharmas, he reaches the knowledge of all modes.
How is the reader to penetrate the meaning of such a hauntingly beautiful yet intellectually-tantalizing passage? Amongst the many questions immediately raised: what are we to make of the Bodhisattva who dwells in the emptiness (as a bird dwells in space), but paradoxically, doesn’t stand or get established therein? Just what is this emptiness? This signlessness? This wishlessness? And, how does its realization relate to reaching the state of Enlightened omniscience: the “knowledge of all modes”?
Moon in Rippling Water seeks to embrace the many challenges and questions involved in approaching the profound topic of the Perfection of Wisdom. Intended to be of special interest to practitioners and meditators already endowed with some grounding in basic Buddhist philosophy (but surely many others besides) it offers a sustained enquiry into the central notion of Buddhist philosophy: emptiness (Skt: śūnyatā; Tib: stong pa nyid) together with exploration of its critical relevance to how we might best live profoundly productive lives, enriched by love and compassionate concern for others.
At the core of this blog are the teachings of my personal Guru, the Venerable Lama Zopa Rinpoche. It is upon his advice that I have selected and edited key teachings he has given on emptiness over many decades. The words and insights of many other meditation masters and scholars, both ancient and contemporary (including a number of my own precious teachers, especially the Venerable Geshe Doga) are also extensively acknowledged and quoted. From time to time I do contribute an autobiographical post by way of humble personal reflection. This was considered appropriate as I am also travelling along with you, as this blog grows.
Regarding advice as how to read this blog I suggest simply starting. An idle interest is enough to kindle a blazing fire. At some point though, it is wise to return to the first post and follow the chronology forwards. This is because the posts have been designed to also follow themes and build on terms and concepts in a coherent progressive fashion. However, there is also magic in serendipity and a blog format certainly offers multiple portals to unexpected encounters. Enjoy.
I prostrate to the perfect Buddha,
The best of all teachers, who taught that
That which is dependent origination is
Without cessation, without arising;
Without annihilation, without permanence;
Without coming; without going;
Without distinction, without identity
And peaceful—free from fabrication.
May fortune shine in every corner of the world,
may virtue and goodness know no end,
and may those protectors of all that is good
forever guard with love.
May the act of compiling this blog
Resplendent with the glistening garlands
Of the Holy Guru’s fragrantly-resounding speech
Cause beings to quickly
Obtain the state of the three bodies.
Dr. Ross Moore
 Edward Conze, translator and editor, The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom with the Divisions of the Abhisamayālaṇkā. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975; first paperback edition, 1984, 426.
 Collectively, emptiness, wishlessness and singlessness are known as the Three Doors(or gateways) of Liberation. See Daniel S. Lopez, The Heart Sūtra Explained: Indian and Tibetan Commentaries (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988), 90.
 Nāgārjuna’s salutation to the greatness of Lord Buddha. See Tsongkhapa, Ocean, 24–25.
 Tsongkhapa, from “Verses of Benediction” in Splendor, 259.