Sutra means the saying of the Buddha or
Enlightened One. The Heart Sutra is
a very popular sutra among the Buddhist
and Taoist. It is the saying of Goddess of
Mercy when she was a man in one of her
lives known as Avalokiteshavra.
TA Chew Home Page
The Heart Sutra (Found this translation on the web)
Avalokiteshvara (Kuan Yin or Goddess of Mercy), 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. Avalokiteshvara is also known
as Goddess of Mercy (When she was a male in one of her lives)
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:
gone fully over.
So be it!
Emptiness is the usual translation for the Buddhist term
Sunyata (or Shunyata). It refers to the fact that no thing --
including human existence -- has ultimate substantiality,
which in turn means that no thing is permanent and no
thing is totally independent of everything else. In other
words, everything in this world is interconnected and in
constant flux. A deep appreciation of this idea of emptiness
thus saves us from the suffering caused by our egos, our
attachments, and our resistance to change and loss.
Note: Perfection of Wisdom is a translation of Prajnaparamita.
The full title of this sutra is The Heart of Prajnaparamita Sutra.
[This is an interpretation based on many others. All errors are mine alone –
Humble apology from the translator]
Inside The Heart Sutra
Sutra" is a remarkable document. It is a concise definition
of the Buddha’s teaching on emptiness. The sutra begins by telling us
that the Buddha was staying at the ancient city of Rajagriha and that this
teaching was given at "Eagle Peak," or "Mount Sacred Eagle." "Eagle Peak"
is a real place that anyone can visit and it is a frequent stop for tourists who
visit modern day India.
This sutra is somewhat unusual because the Buddha sits quietly nearby
as two of his advanced students discuss the concept of ultimate reality.
We are told that the Buddha was immersed in a meditative state called
"profound illumination." From the textual clues we realize that he was
dwelling on the empty nature of all phenomena.
Next we are told that the Bodhisattva student, Avalokiteshvara was also
engaged in this same meditation practice. From this we can assume that
Shakyamuni and Avalokiteshvara had been discussing the subject just
prior to this teaching or that this was a practice the Buddha had already
taught to the Bodhisattva.
At this point we are told that Shariputra, "through the power of the
Buddha" asks Avalokiteshvara how "a son of the lineage" should train
his mind if he wishes to "practice this wisdom."
"Through the power of the Buddha" simply means that Shakyamuni
was Shariputra’s teacher. He had already spent years training Shariputra’s
mind so the power we’re referring to is the power of his teachings to
influence his students mind.
"A son of the lineage" is any person who follows the guidance of the
Buddha and wants to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient
beings. The final part of this question, how a student should "practice
this wisdom" is very important. Notice that he did not ask, "How can
I acquire this wisdom," he asked how to ‘practice’ this insight because
he already understood that this meditation is a lifelong commitment to
Please observe that the Buddha was engaged in this meditation and
he was already enlightened, so this is clearly a practice that should
be continued no matter what state of realization you have attained.
At this point Avalokiteshvara answers Shariputra’s question by
giving a succinct definition of emptiness that is treasured by all
dharma students to this day. The bodhisattva begins his definition
by telling us that all existence is empty and that your five aggregates
are empty as well.
When Avalokiteshvara says that emptiness is the true nature of all
existence he means that everything is dependent on causes and
conditions. There is nothing in the universe that exists inherently.
Avalokiteshvara adds the part about your five aggregates because
it is more difficult to realize that these laws apply to you as well.
It is fairly easy to realize that the universe works by cause and effect
but it is much more difficult to fully comprehend that these same laws
always apply to you as an individual. We are always getting into
situations that we have created and then praying for the circumstances
to change. It is so easy to see that cause and effect works in the lives
of others but we want things to be different for ourselves. This is part
of the mental sickness that keeps us from finding liberation.
Avalokiteshvara continues by saying that ‘emptiness is form’,
form is emptiness’, and he makes clear that there is never a situation
where this is not the case. Again, he brings this teaching home to us
directly by saying that this truth also applies to the components that
make up our bodies.
Avalokiteshvara is not telling us that form does not exist because this
is obviously not the case. He is saying that form does not inherently
exist because anything you can think of is dependent on the causes that
created them, the proper circumstances, and the correct environment.
If any of these factors are absent then the phenomena will not be manifested.
The next point to consider is that all things ‘are not produced and do
not cease.’ This means that there is no birth or death. Again,
Avalokiteshvara is not saying that you were not born or that you will
not die, he is talking about the eternal nature of all sentient beings. Yes,
you were born, but the energy that is you has always existed and can
Avalokiteshvara adds that the energy that is ‘you’ has no taints or
separation from taint, this means that we are not born ‘evil or ‘holy.’
The way we behave is the result of decisions we make every day. We
choose to behave badly and so we embrace evil but this does not make
us inherently immoral. The same is true of ‘holiness’ or what is
perceived as good behavior.
The bodhisattva finishes this verse by saying that phenomena do not
increase or decrease. This means that the energy that is the phenomena
in question does not really alter in spite of appearances. To make this
easier to understand, let us examine the life of an ‘average’ person.
The energy of a human being does not alter with their life stage. The
true entity of that person is the same whether he is an infant or an
The next paragraph assures us that everything is empty and that includes
the twelve-link chain of dependent origination as well as the four noble
truths. This is telling us that all of the Buddhas teachings are not somehow
outside the system of rules that govern everything. Everything is empty
because everything is dependent.
Another Version of Heart Sutra
Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, practicing deep prajna
paramita, clearly saw that all five skandhas are empty,
transforming all suffering and distress.
Shariputra, form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no
other than form. Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly
form. Sensation, thought, impulse, consciousness are also like this.
Shariputra, all things are marked by emptiness -
not born, not destroyed,
not stained, not pure,
without gain, without loss.
Therefore in emptiness there is no form, no sensation,
thought, impulse, consciousness.
No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind.
No color, sound, smell, taste, touch, object of thought.
No realm of sight to no realm of thought.
No ignorance and also no ending of ignorance to no old age and
death and also no ending of old age and death.
No suffering, and also no source of suffering, no annihilation, no path.
No wisdom, also no attainment.
Having nothing to attain, Bodhisattvas live prajna paramita with no
hindrance in the mind.
No hindrance, thus no fear.
Far beyond delusive thinking, they attain complete Nirvana.
All Buddhas past, present and future live prajna paramita and
thus attain anuttara samyak sambodhi.
Therefore, know that prajna paramita is the great mantra, the
wisdom mantra, the unsurpassed mantra, the supreme mantra,
which completely removes all suffering. This is truth, not deception.
Therefore set forth the prajna paramita mantra, set forth this
mantra and say:
GATÉ GATÉ PARAGATÉ PARASAMGATÉ BODHI SVAHA
[Beyond, beyond, totally beyond, perfectly beyond: Awakening ....Yes!]
There is "no attainment" but also no "non-attainment" means that this
kind of dualistic thinking is not real. We are always attempting to place
things into categories but this does not ever reflect reality. A Buddha
has learned to see things just the way they are.
When we attain just a little of this kind of clarity our life condition
improves a great deal. As we continue to practice our wisdom develops
and we become happy individuals. As the sutra says, we become filled
with positive energy and our minds are freed from the fear of death.
When we attain Nirvana we are enlightened to the truth and thus
completely free from suffering.
At this point in the sutra the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara pronounces
a dharani, which is quite common to advanced Mahayana teachings.
To properly understand the concept of dharanis please read "Inside
The Lotus Sutra" (free from BIONA books).
The sutra concludes with the statement that any one who wishes to
train as a bodhisattva should follow these guidelines. The Buddha
sat and listened to this discourse and approved of what Avalokiteshvara taught.
I hope this commentary brings benefit to as many beings as possible.
May all beings reach the freedom of Nirvana.
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.
May all beings benefit. Thank You.