Heart of the Prajnaparamita Sutra

I read The Heart Sutta to the class today because I wanted people to know the way I was introduced to Buddhism: reciting a Mahayana Buddhist text in a Theravada group, and being completely baffled by this famous sutta (or sutra, it means a discourse or text or….it may also refer to a cigarette in Hindi College lingo). The Heart Sutta is one of the most well known text in Buddhism. I read it to the group and asked them to just see how they reacted to it. It was a complete mystery to me when I first heard it. See what you think of it.

This is a translation by the famous Zen teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh , who later wrote another and supposedly more accurate translation which you can find on the web. Our Tri-State Dharma Sunday sitting group likes this one. We meet on Sundays at 9:30, chant the Refuges, sit for a half hour, doing walking meditation for 20 minutes, and then site again for 30 minutes, finishing with this:


The Bodhisattva Avalokita, while moving in the deep course of Perfect Understanding, shed light on the five skandhas and found them equally empty. After this penetration, he overcame all pain.

“Listen, Shariputra, form is emptiness, emptiness is form, form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. The same is true with feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness.

“Hear, Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness; they are neither produced nor destroyed, neither defiled nor immaculate, neither increasing nor decreasing. Therefore, in emptiness there is neither form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor mental formations, nor consciousness; no eye, or ear, or nose, or tongue, or body, or mind, no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no realms of elements (from eyes to mind-consciousness); no interdependent origins and no extinction of them (from ignorance to old age and death); no suffering, no origination of suffering, no extinction of suffering, no path; no understanding, no attainment.

“Because there is no attainment, the bodhisattvas, supported by the Perfection of Understanding, find no obstacles for their minds. Having no obstacles, they overcome fear, liberating themselves forever from illusion and realizing perfect Nirvana. All Buddhas in the past, present, and future, thanks to this Perfect Understanding, arrive at full, right, and universal Enlightenment.

“Therefore, one should know that Perfect Understanding is a great mantra, is the highest mantra, is the unequalled mantra, the destroyer of all suffering, the incorruptible truth. A mantra of Prajnaparamita should therefore be proclaimed.

This is the mantra: “Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha.”

(gone, gone, completely gone to the other shore…well said.”)

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