Chanting the Heart Sutra in English

As previously mentioned, the Heart Sutra is one of the best known and most popularly chanted Buddhist sutras. It recited every day by people in many different Buddhist traditions all over the world.  And I think by now, they are often reciting the sutra in their native language, as opposed to the traditional Asian ones, which is only natural.

Although I frequently recite the Heart Sutra in English, I also chant in Japanese. Once about ten or twelve years ago, I made a determination to learn to  chant the sutra in Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan also, and maybe I will one of these days . . .

The Tibetan and Japanese style of sutra recitation is very similar: deep-voiced, monotone chanting. The Chinese style is much more melodic, as though they are singing the sutras, with counter-harmonies and subtle changes in rhythm. Chinese Buddhist music is very popular these days. It’s been commercialized quite a lot but pleasant to hear.

Since the Japanese style is how I first learned the Heart Sutra, that’s what I stick with. So, here is my English version. The text is below.

Great Heart of Transcendent Wisdom Sutra

Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, while practicing deep Prajna-Paramita, clearly saw that all five Skandhas are empty and crossed over all suffering. Shariputra, form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Form does not differ from emptiness; emptiness does not differ from form. Sensation, perception, volition, and consciousness are also like this.

Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness: Not beginning, not ending, not stained and not pure, not increasing and not decreasing. Within emptiness there is no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind; no seeing, no hearing, no smelling, no tasting, no touching, and no thinking; no realms from sight to mind; no ignorance and no ending of ignorance, no old age and death and no ending of old age and death; no suffering and no beginning and no ending of suffering, no path; no wisdom and no attainment with nothing to attain.

Therefore, the Bodhisattvas rely on Prajna-Paramita, the most excellent wisdom, and with no hindrance of mind, no fears and no illusions, they enter into Nirvana. All Buddhas from the past present and future practice in this way and awake to complete and perfect enlightenment.

Therefore, know that the Prajna-Paramita is the great bright mantra, the great transcendent mantra that relieves all suffering. Know this as truth and declare:

Gone, Gone, Gone Beyond, Gone Far Beyond, Be Set Upon Awakening!

Great Heart of Transcendent Wisdom Sutra


6 thoughts on “Chanting the Heart Sutra in English

  1. this is one of the best “western chants” that I have heard … it is way better than the “melodic” that I have heard .. this follows the origin of the tibetan style chants of texts.


    1. Thank you for the comment and the praise. It’s actually, wh based on the the Japanese style of chanting the Heart Sutra, which like the Tibetan style is rather monotone. I do like the more melodic Chinese chanting, too. It’s all good.

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