Wednesday, September 11, 2002

The Heart of the Heart Sutra

Chanted the (Prajna Paramita) Heart Sutra ( in Chinese seven times at the temple yesterday with colleagues as our weekly group practice. I had an illuminating new discovery... The sutra is about seeing the ultimate emptiness of everything, including the Dharma. It culminates in the mantra "Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha", which means "Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all-hail!" This is interesting because it sums up the teaching of ultimate Wisdom as the going beyond of emptiness (and form), the letting go of emptiness itself! This is true total liberation! It is because Bodhisattvas can let go of attachment to both form and emptiness that they are able to stay at ease in Samsara to help all beings, without being tainted by it, "producing the continual thought (of Bodhicitta) without abiding anywhere". ("Ying1 Wu2 Suo3 Zhu4 Er1 Shen1 Qi1 Xin1"- From the Diamond Sutra, the next greater summary of the essence of 21 years of teaching- some 600 scrolls of Perfection of Wisdom teachings by the Buddha.)

Suddenly, the following verses make a lot of sense, "Therefore know that Prajna Paramita (Perfection of Wisdom) is a Great Spiritual Mantra, a Great Bright Mantra, a Supreme Mantra, an Unequalled Mantra. It can remove all suffering; it is genuine and not false." Indeed! What can be more powerful than liberation from realising emptiness plus letting emptiness go!

If the Heart Sutra is the heart of the Perfection of Wisdom teachings, the heart of the Heart Sutra then, is not really Emptiness, as it is so often mistaken. The heart of the Heart Sutra is beyond emptiness and form- in other words, truly beyond everything! It is the indescribable essence of the highest Enlightenment. So indescribable is it that it is not described in the sutra; there is instead a powerful mantra which is a direct instruction to the experience of Enlightenment! This brings us back to the beginning of this Sutra, "When Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara was practicing the profound Prajna Paramita, he illuminated the Five Skandhas (Five Aggregates of Form, Feeling, Perception, Mental Formations and Consciousness) and saw that they are all empty, and he crossed beyond all suffering and difficulty." This is another direct instruction on how to "cross beyond" to where the mantra describes (See above bolded mantra again)!

Bro.Richard commented similarly during a Sutta discussion class. I remember being stunned. Never saw this incredible sutra in this light before! This is a personal breakthrough for me- this "enigmatic" Sutra, especially its ending, is finally demystified! Wonderful!
I am very happy to learn about your emptiness-realisation & or letting-go's breakthrough yesterday while chanting the heart sutra. Form is no different from emptiness & emptiness is no different from form. Form is emptiness & emptiness is form... So the Buddha says Dharma, is not Dharma, so it is named Dharma.

Since about ten over years ago, I had been chanting the heart sutra without knowing or understanding what it is talking about, though it is only about 260 words. Then I switched over to the Diamond Sutra thinking this must be better as it contains more than 5 thousands words. It was getting "worse"! Then, I almost gave up & eventually went for retreat-meditation (vipassana). As time goes by, one day, when I chanted the Heart Sutra, suddenly I found my heart was smiling. I was full of joy with tears. Then later on, I went on to chant the Diamond Sutra, gradually rock-solid-peacefulness emerges in my heart/mind. BUT still I have to walk the path as I begin to understand!

-David reply

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