The Heart Sutra, also known as the "Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya" in Sanskrit, is a famous Buddhist sutra that is part of the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajñāpāramitā) literature. It is considered to be one of the most important and widely studied sutras in Mahayana Buddhism.
The Heart Sutra is relatively short, with only around 260 Chinese characters in the original text, but despite its brevity, it contains a wealth of teachings on the nature of reality and the path to enlightenment. The sutra is divided into two parts, the first part explains the emptiness of the five skandhas or aggregates that make up the individual, and the second part explains the emptiness of all dharmas or phenomena.
The Heart Sutra begins with the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, who represents the embodiment of compassion, contemplating the nature of the five skandhas or aggregates that make up the individual. These skandhas are form, sensation, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. Through contemplation, Avalokiteśvara realizes that these aggregates are empty and lack inherent existence.
The sutra goes on to state that all dharmas, or phenomena, are also empty and lack inherent existence. This is the concept of "śūnyatā," or emptiness, which is a key teaching in Mahayana Buddhism. Emptiness does not mean that things do not exist, but rather that they do not have an inherent, independent existence separate from other factors.
The Heart Sutra also teaches that through understanding emptiness, one can achieve the "perfection of wisdom" or prajñāpāramitā. This perfection is not a state of knowledge, but rather a state of being in which one is free from the duality of self and other, and is able to see the interconnectedness of all things.
The sutra concludes with a famous mantra, known as the "Gate Gate Pāragate Pārasaṃgate Bodhi Svāhā," which is often recited by practitioners as a way to cultivate the understanding of emptiness and achieve the perfection of wisdom.
To understand the Heart Sutra better, it is important to explore related sutras such as the Ornament of Clear Realization (Abhisamayālaṃkāra Sutra), which is a commentary on the Heart Sutra and explains the concept of emptiness in more detail. The Sutra of the Ten Grounds (Daśabhūmika Sutra) explains the stages of the bodhisattva path, while the Sutra of the Three Vows (Triśaraṇa Sutra) emphasizes the importance of taking the bodhisattva vow. These sutras, along with the Heart Sutra, form an important part of the Prajñāpāramitā literature and together provide a comprehensive understanding of the key teachings of Mahayana Buddhism.
In conclusion, the Heart Sutra is a powerful and profound text that encapsulates many key teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, such as the nature of reality, emptiness, and the path to enlightenment. It is an important text that continues to be widely studied and recited by practitioners today as a means to deepen their understanding of these teachings and to cultivate the wisdom and compassion necessary for attaining enlightenment.
The Heart Sutra
Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, meditating deeply on Perfection of Wisdom, saw clearly that the five aspects of human existence are empty*, and so released himself from suffering. Answering the monk Sariputra, he said this:
Body is nothing more than emptiness,
emptiness is nothing more than body.
The body is exactly empty,
and emptiness is exactly body.
The other four aspects of human existence --
feeling, thought, will, and consciousness --
are likewise nothing more than emptiness,
and emptiness nothing more than they.
All things are empty:
Nothing is born, nothing dies,
nothing is pure, nothing is stained,
nothing increases and nothing decreases.
So, in emptiness, there is no body,
no feeling, no thought,
no will, no consciousness.
There are no eyes, no ears,
no nose, no tongue,
no body, no mind.
There is no seeing, no hearing,
no smelling, no tasting,
no touching, no imagining.
There is nothing seen, nor heard,
nor smelled, nor tasted,
nor touched, nor imagined.
There is no ignorance,
and no end to ignorance.
There is no old age and death,
and no end to old age and death.
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering,
no end to suffering, no path to follow.
There is no attainment of wisdom,
and no wisdom to attain.
The Bodhisattvas rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and so with no delusions,
they feel no fear,
and have Nirvana here and now.
All the Buddhas,
past, present, and future,
rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and live in full enlightenment.
The Perfection of Wisdom is the greatest mantra.
It is the clearest mantra,
the highest mantra,
the mantra that removes all suffering.
This is truth that cannot be doubted.
Say it so:Gaté, gaté, paragaté, parasamgaté. Bodhi! Svaha!
Which means...Gone, gone, gone over, gone fully over.
Awakened! So be it!