Heart Sutra and commentaries

D.T. Suzuki’s version of the Heart Sutra and three short commentaries:

The Prajnaparamita-hridaya-sutra, or Shingyo

When the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara was engaged in the practice of the deep Prajnaparamita, he perceived that there are the five Skandhas; and these he saw in their self-nature to be empty.

“O Sariputra, form is here emptiness,[4] emptiness is form; form is no other than emptiness, emptiness is no other than form; that which is form is emptiness, that which is emptiness is form. The same can be said of sensation, thought, confection, and consciousness.

“O Sariputra, all things here are characterized with emptiness: they are not born, they are not annihilated; they are not tainted, they are not immaculate; they do not increase, they do not decrease. Therefore, O Sariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, no thought, no confection, no consciousness; no eye,  ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; no form,[6] sound, colour, taste, touch, objects; no Dhatu of vision,  till we come to no Dhatu of consciousness; there is no knowledge, no ignorance, till we come to there is no old age and death, no extinction of old age and death; there is no suffering, no accumulation, no annihilation, no path; there is no knowledge, no attainment, and no realization, because there is no attainment. In the mind of the Bodhisattva who dwells depending on the Prajnaparamita there are no obstacles; and, going beyond the perverted views, he reaches final Nirvana. All the Buddhas of the past, present, and future, depending on the Prajnaparamita, attain to the highest perfect enlightenment.

“Therefore, one ought to know that the Prajnaparamita is the great Mantram, the Mantram of great wisdom, the highest Mantram, the peerless Mantram, which is capable of allaying all pain; it is truth because it is not falsehood: this is the Mantram proclaimed in the Praynaparamita. It runs: ‘Gate, gate, Paragate,parasamgate, bodhi, svaha!’ (O Bodhi, gone, gone, gone to the other shore, landed at the other shore , Svaha!)”

The Heart Sutra has only two hundred seventy Chinese characters, yet it contains all of Mahayana Buddhism’s teaching. Inside this sutra is the essence of the Diamond Sutra, the Avatamsaka-sutra, and the Lotus Sutra. It contains the meaning of all the eighty-four thousand sutras. It is chanted in every Mahayana and Zen temple in the world. In Korean temples and in our Zen centers in the West, the Heart Sutra is chanted at least twice every day, in the morning and at night, and during retreats it is chanted more. Sometimes if you find that your mind is not clear, and meditation does not help so much, you must read this sutra. Then your mind will become clear.

-Seung Sahn, Korean Jogye Seon master

The title, the Heart of Prajna Paramita Sutra, is made up of references to both dharma and analogy. The phrase “which transcends the relative” indicates a dharma which reaches a state of non-relativity. Prajna paramita is . . .the wisdom which arrives home and the wisdom of the Buddha . . . It is called the true heart (In Chinese, the character xin means both heart and mind) . . .The true heart is wisdom; wisdom is the true heart. Because prajna can be translated “true heart,” the two hundred fifty or so words of this sutra are the heart within the heart – the heart within the six hundred chapters of the prajna text of the Great Prajna Sutra.

-Hsuan Hua, Ch’an Buddhist teacher

When we listen to this mantra, we should bring ourselves into that state of attention, of concentration, so that we can receive the strength emanated by Avalokitesvara. We do not recite the Heart Sutra like singing a song, or with our intellect alone. If you practise the meditation on emptiness, if you penetrate the nature of interbeing with all your heart, your body, and your mind, you will realize a state that is quite concentrated. If you say the mantra then, with all your being, the mantra will have power and you will be able to have real communication, real communion with Avalokitesvara, and you will be able to transform yourself in the direction of enlightenment.

This text is not just for chanting, or to be put on an altar for worship. It is given to us as a tool to work for our liberation, for the liberation of all beings. It is like a tool for farming, given to us so that we may farm.

-Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen monk

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