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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Prajna

A Sanskrit term suggesting a superior form of knowledge, usually translated “wisdom,” from the prefix pra- meaning “before,” “forward,” “forth,” or “toward” and the root jñā, “knowledge.” Prajñā is thus transcendental wisdom or intuition as it goes beyond the reasoning process of vijñāna. It is an essential element of satori or enlightenment. D. T. SUZUKI states that in prajñā, there is no differentiation between the seer and the seen, and it sees the whole and integrates rather than analyzes — it “ever seeks unity on the grandest possible scale” (Studies in Zen, p. 85). The awakening of prajñā is a “direct holding of Reality” which “gives the solution to all the questions we are capable of asking about our spiritual life.” And as it is “the leaping over an intellectual impasse, it is an act of Will” (The Essentials of Zen Buddhism, p. 25).

In yoga, the light of prajñā emerges after one is able to attain samyama, or the combined states of concentration, meditation and samādhi (Yoga Sūtras, III:5).

In theosophical mysticism, prajñ€ is considered such a significant stage to reach that Helena P. Blavatsky calls it “the key to which makes of a man a god, creating him a Bodhisattva, son of the Dhyānis” (Voice of the Silence).

In MAHĀYĀNA BUDDHISM it is the sixth stage in the perfection of wisdom (PRAJÑĀ-PĀRAMITĀ); its contrast is VIJÑĀNA, sometimes translated “conditioned consciousness.” In The Secret Doctrine, it is stated that prajñā “exists in seven different aspects corresponding to the seven conditions of matter” (SD I:139; cf. II:29 fn, 597 fn, 636, and 641). The term seems to be used there merely in the sense of consciousness in general. In an article entitled “Personal and Impersonal God” published in an early issue of The Theosophist and anthologized in Five Years of Theosophy (ed. G. R. S. Mead, 1894; reprint by Arno Press, 1976, p. 128), T. Subba Row concurs with HPB’s use of the term, defining prajñā as “the capacity of perception [which] exists in seven different aspects corresponding to the seven conditions of matter,” although adding that “there are really but six states of matter, the so-called seventh state being the aspect of cosmic matter in its original undifferentiated condition.” And, “Similarly there are six states of differentiated Prajñā, the seventh state being a condition of perfect unconsciousness.” He then continues, “By differentiated Prajñā, I mean the condition in which Prajñā is split up into various states of consciousness,” objective or subjective depending upon whether one can function on any particular plane of matter in a way that differentiates between a subject and an object. For most of us, the physical plane is the only one in which consciousness functions objectively, the higher planes being purely subjective for us at our present stage of evolution.

 

R.W.B./V.H.C.

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