Heart Sutra: Why it’s My Favorite Sutra
“Form is empty; emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than form; form also is not other than emptiness. Likewise, feeling, discrimination, compositional factors and consciousness are empty.”
TADYATHA OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA
By Guest Contributor James Porr
Anita Mui, much beloved, sings Heart Sutra. Anita, has since passed away:
- Note: This is a guest contributor’s view. For a teacher commentary on Heart Sutra, please see this Buddha Weekly story>>
When I brought the Heart Sutra into my daily practice I was in near desperation. At that time, I had the karma to run across teachings on Heart Sutra online. I learned that my desperation was empty. The feeling of desperation faded slowly, with each chanting of the Heart Sutra. My practice echoed the words of the sutra: “Therefore, the mantra of the perfection of wisdom, the mantra of great knowledge, the unsurpassed mantra, the mantra equal to the unequaled, the mantra that thoroughly pacifies all suffering, should be known as truth since it is not false. The mantra of the perfection of wisdom is declared: TADYATHA [OM] GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA.” Loosely: gone, gone, gone beyond, gone truly beyond, (to) glorious awakening.
Chanting of Heart Sutra:
Within a week I felt myself almost lightening day by day. My attitudes shifted away from habit and conditioning, and not just my external attitudes, but, much more importantly, how I felt inside. I suspect without the Heart Sutra coming to me when it did, with it’s power to warm and soften my heart, because my karma had ripened. My issues, my problems, pushed me towards the Dharma. I had a lot of misconceptions about Buddhism, especially the teachings on non-attachment, and emptiness, which for awhile kept me away from the Dharma. My accidental discovery of Tsem Rinpoche’s teachings online changed all that.
Dalai Lama introduces Heart Sutra, a precious teaching in English:
Just thinking about the Heart Sutra, and chanting the mantra, released me from the feeling of tense desperation. The grievances I harboured back then, when I first discovered the sutra—they barely cross my mind now. And, oddly, if I skip my daily practice of the Heart sutra I feel guilty. When I refocus on the practice—the great teaching on emptiness—I feel peace. For me this is both magical and transformative in a way that almost bring me to almost to tears.
Heart Sutra is vastly deep, complex and difficult on one hand. And vastly simple, clear and easy on the other. At the same time. Heart Sutra is nearly paradoxical in its quality. It evokes deep thought, and stillness. It inspires great passion, and peace. It makes everything an adventure, and shows the end of the adventure. I’ve since found teachings from H.H. The Dalai Llama and other great teachers.
If you’ve not added Heart Sutra to your practice I cannot recommend it enough. For some of us it is the needed antidote to the poisons of the modern world we’ve found ourselves infected with. It purifies our hearts and with a purer loving heart our minds and our actions are all quick to follow. You will see yourself become more compassionate.
I’m not sure if it’s appropriate, but I am not shy about saying the Heart Sutra is my favorite sutra and the one that I feel has up until now brought me the most freedom from my past pain and suffering. The true Perfection of Wisdom. I read it, chant and meditate on it daily. I hope you’ll find some of this perfection in your life.
Here is the short, precious, wonderful, perfect wisdom of the Heart Sutra:
The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra
Thus did I hear at one time. The Bhagavan was dwelling on Mass of Vultures Mountain in Rajagriha together with a great community of monks and a great community of bodhisattvas. At that time, the Bhagavan was absorbed in the concentration on the categories of phenomena called “Profound Perception.”
Also, at that time, the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara looked upon the very practice of the profound perfection of wisdom and beheld those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature.
Then, through the power of Buddha, the venerable Shariputra said this to the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara: “How should any son of the lineage train who wishes to practice the activity of the profound perfection of wisdom?”
He said that and the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara said this to the venerable Sharadvatiputra. “Shariputra, any son of the lineage or daughter of the lineage who wishes to practice the activity of the profound perfection of wisdom should look upon it like this, correctly and repeatedly beholding those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature.
“Form is empty. Emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than form; form is also not other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, discrimination, compositional factors, and consciousness are empty.
“Shariputra, likewise, all phenomena are emptiness; without characteristic; unproduced, unceased; stainless, not without stain; not deficient, not fulfilled.
“Shariputra, therefore, in emptiness there is no form, no feeling, no discrimination, no compositional factors, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no visual form, no sound, no odor, no taste, no object of touch, and no phenomenon. There is no eye element and so on up to and including no mind element and no mental consciousness element. There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so on up to and including no aging and death and no extinction of aging and death. Similarly, there is no suffering, origination, cessation, and path; there is no exalted wisdom, no attainment, and also no non-attainment.
“Shariputra, therefore, because there is no attainment, bodhisattvas rely on and dwell in the perfection of wisdom, the mind without obscuration and without fear. Having completely passed beyond error, they reach the end-point of nirvana. All the buddhas who dwell in the three times also manifestly, completely awaken to unsurpassable, perfect, complete enlightenment in reliance on the perfection of wisdom.
“Therefore, the mantra of the perfection of wisdom, the mantra of great knowledge, the unsurpassed mantra, the mantra equal to the unequaled, the mantra that thoroughly pacifies all suffering, should be known as truth since it is not false. The mantra of the perfection of wisdom is declared:
TADYATHA [OM] GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA
“Shariputra, the bodhisattva mahasattva should train in the profound perfection of wisdom like that.”
Then the Bhagavan arose from that concentration and commended the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara saying: “Well said, well said, son of the lineage, it is like that. It is like that; one should practice the profound perfection of wisdom just as you have indicated; even the tathagatas rejoice.”
The Bhagavan having thus spoken, the venerable Sharadvatiputra, the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara, those surrounding in their entirety along with the world of gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas were overjoyed and highly praised that spoken by the Bhagavan.
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