Friday, September 27, 2013

The Heart Sutra

When Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva was engaged in the practice of the deep prajnaparamita, he perceived that there are the five aggregates; and these he saw in their true nature to be empty.

"O Sariputra, form is emptiness, 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, perception, thought, 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 perception, no thought, no consciousness; no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; no form, sound, colour, taste, touch, objects; no element of vision, till we come to no element 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 mantra, the mantra of great wisdom, the highest mantra, the peerless mantra, which is capable of allaying all pain; it is truth because it is not falsehood: this is the mantra proclaimed in the prajnaparamita. It runs: 'Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha!' (Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone utterly beyond, hail enlightenment!)"

*Notes. A few points in the above text may need clarifying. Bodhisattva is the highest form of practice in Mahayana Buddhism, which is prevalent in such places as China, Japan, & Tibet. Avalokitesvara is the bodhisattva of compassion, popular all over the far east. Sariputra was one of the Buddha's foremost disciples, renowned for his insight, which is revealing here as he is the recipient of wisdom. Prajnaparamita means roughly 'transcendent wisdom,' and is the highest wisdom recognized in Mahayana Buddhism. The aggregates are the Buddha's fivefold classification of human experience: form, sensation, perception, thought, and consciousness. Emptiness is not mere materialist nihilism, and isn't to be understood intellectually, but directly experienced through meditative practice & insight. The final mantra is in praise of enlightenment, the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice. The Heart Sutra is chanted by Buddhists every day all over the world, and is used as a focus of reflection to realize nirvana. Bodhi svaha!


Antique Buddhas said...

Wow, that's quite amazing statement from Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.
The Prajnaparamita sutra is regareded one of the most important Buddhist sutras of all sutras.
By the way, why was Avalokiteshvara addressing Sariputra in his statement.

G said...

Yes, it's an incredible teaching, isn't it? Why does Avalokiteshvara address Sariputra? Well, the latter is traditionally seen as the wisest among Buddha's disciples, having the best understanding of the Buddhist teachings. Thus, he personifies such teachings as the five aggregates & four noble truths mentioned in the sutra. The wisdom of the Heart Sutra is shown in contrast to these teachings by showing its exponent, Avalokiteshvara, teaching Sariputra.