The Heart Sutra
The Heart Sutra, also known as the Heart of Wisdom, is one of the
Perfection of Wisdom sutras and a very important Buddhist text explaining the
essence of emptiness. Buddhists recite the sutra often as a way of practice and
devotion. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that it is good to recite the
sutra as it helps one keep one's faith and reminds oneself of the practice.
However, he emphasized the need to understand the meaning of the Heart sutra
and practice meditation on emptiness. This will help us realize the meaning of
emptiness and grasp the reality of all existences and the ultimate nature of
we get a gross idea of impermanence and dependent origination of all phenomena
through this teaching of the Heart sutra. Impermanence and dependent
origination are important aspects of Buddhist teachings. Some of us might have
conceptual idea of what emptiness means; the subjective and objective existence
of all phenomena; and the two truths, conventional and ultimate truths.
means all composite things are subject to change and dissolution. This helps us
in understanding the futility of our grasping to self and others as if
everything exists permanently. This misunderstanding is ignorance which fuels
afflictions such as attachment, aversion, hatred, etc., in us.
origination means everything that we relate to exists dependently; nothing
exists independently. We are all part of this universe; we do not exist
independently. Our happiness is dependent on others. With this understanding,
we look at all sentient beings compassionately as any mother would do to her
child. The teachings say that we need to look at all the sentient beings as
one's mother in one of the many samsaric journeys of ours.
understanding of the emptiness gives us more clarity about impermanence and
Sutra, the meaning of emptiness is explained according to the two truths,
conventional and ultimate truths. Emptiness does not mean that nothing exists;
it says things exist subjectively but not objectively. Later, it explains the
shunyata, the nature of emptiness, the ultimate reality. Finally, it introduces
a mantra that explains the paths a practitioner needs to follow to reach
enlightenment through the realization of emptiness, the ultimate nature of self
Form is empty;
Emptiness is form;
Emptiness is not other than form;
Form is also not other than emptiness.
is empty means that although we see a form, it is devoid of independent
existence. It is a combination of many factors, a label that we have for a
particular form. Say a flower; it does not exist independent of its attributes.
Let us meditate on a flower; the flower is not independent; its existence
depends upon many other factors and attributes. It has no inherent independent
existence on its own. So, the form is empty of objective and independent
existence. It exists subjectively; form is conventional truth.
is form: Due to the absence of independent existence a subjectively existence form
is possible. This is what is referred to as the emptiness is form. What we are
seeing is what we have labeled as a form; it does not exist independently.
There is no objective existence of the form. Therefore, what we see as forms is
emptiness seen in forms only. We say it is a flower, but the flower is empty of
independent existence. What we see as flower, therefore, is a mere appearance
to the subjective mind. What is empty of objective flower allows the subjective
flower to exist. Therefore, emptiness is the ultimate nature of form.
Buddhist concept of emptiness is not about the non-existence of any phenomena;
it says things exist subjectively, not objectively. This denial of the
objective existence of phenomena is emptiness.
The text ends
with a mantra. It indicates that this is a great and excellent mantra which
could overcome the sufferings of Samsara.
ga-te, ga-te, para ga-te, para sam ga-te, Boddhi-svaha
roughly translated as: Go, go, go beyond, go further beyond, and establish
mantra encapsulates the five paths that a practitioner takes to achieve
Buddhahood. The five paths are 1) the path of accumulation, 2) the path of
joining (preparation), 3) the path of seeing, 4) the path of practice
(meditation), and 5) the path of fulfillment (no more learning), Buddhahood. [ཚོགས་ལམ། སྦྱོར་ལམ།
མཐོང་ལམ། སྒོམ་ལམ། མི་སློབ་ལམ།]
stage, the path of accumulation, is when one has realized the altruistic mind
of Bodhicitta – the courageous mind wishing to become Buddha for the benefit of
all sentient beings.
second state, the path of joining or preparation, is when a practitioner has
acquired high skill in the meditational technique of Vipassana and Samadhi. The
practitioner has a high conceptual understanding of emptiness but has not
perceived emptiness directly.
practitioner enters the third stage when he or she has directly perceived
emptiness, therefore, the path of seeing. Those who have reached this state are
honored as Arya beings. The path of seeing has sixteen moments or stages, the
last one being the 16th which is referred to as subsequent knowledge
of the path.
fourth stage, the path of meditation, is where the practitioner dwells deep in
the direct realization of emptiness frequently tempered by the mind of Bodhicitta.
Meditation and familiarity with the non-conceptual wisdom of emptiness complimented
by the noble eightfold path is practiced at this stage.
stage, the path of no more learning, is when the practitioner has fully
realized the emptiness for the ultimate deliverance from all obscurations. Arhat or dgra bcom pa is at the stage of "no more learning" in
the case of Sravakas, Personal liberation seeker, paths and Nirvana is achieved.
For a Mahayana
practitioner at this Mahayanist stage of "no more learning", the
ultimate nature of mind, the pure, clear light of Dharmadhatu in its
consummated form is manifested and Buddhahood is achieved.
Note: རང་གི་ཡིད་ལ་ངེས་ཕྱིར་ངས་འདི་བརྩམས། འདི་འབྲེལ་ཁུངས་དག་ཏུ་ཤེས་འདོད་ན་གཤམ་འཁོད་དཔེ་དང་གསུང་ཆོས་ལ་གཟིགས་རོགས་ཞུ།
I write this to familiarize
myself with what I have learned. A serious student should refer to the link
below for more information.
- H.H. the Dalai Lama, Introduction to Buddhism &
Tantric Meditation, Paljor Pubications, New Delhi
- H.H. the Dalai Lama, Essence of Heart Sutra, Wisdom
- Geshe Dorjee Damdul, Quintessence of Heart Sutra, Tibet
House Delhi Teaching, 27/09/2020
- Geshe Dorjee Damdul, Heart Sutra (3-day intensive course)
April 2013, Tibet House Delhi
- Geshe Dorjee Damdul, Tenet System, 09/10/2017, Tibet House
- Ani Thupten Chodron, Commentry on the Heart Sutra,
Sravasti Abbey, USA
- ダライ・ラマが語る般若心経、Kozo Otani and Kazuo Kikuchi 2006角川学芸出版