Having followed Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamita) for a long time, Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, clearly observed that the true nature of the five aggregates is Emptiness. Such insight is the answer to all pain and struggles.

Answering a question from Sariputra, she said: Sariputra, Form is Emptiness, and Emptiness is Form. Form is not separated from Emptiness, and Emptiness is inseparable from Form. The other four aggregates - Feeling, Thought, Conception and Consciousness - are also inseparable from Emptiness. All dharmas are manifestations of Emptiness: Nothing is created, nothing destroyed; nothing is pure, nothing impure; nothing increases and nothing decreases. So, in Emptiness, there is no Form, no Feeling, no Thought, no Conception, no Consciousness.

There are no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind. As a result, there is no sight, no hearing, no smell, no taste, no touch, and no dharma. In Emptiness, nothing is seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched, nor has any dharma ever existed. In Emptiness, there is no ignorance, thus no end to ignorance; there is no old age and death, thus no end to old age and death; there is no suffering, no cause of suffering, no end to suffering, no path to take; there is no wisdom, and thus no attainment of wisdom. As there is no attainment of wisdom, Bodhisattvas dwell on the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamita), which releases them from all attachments.

Without any attachments, they are free all delusions and illusions and reach Nirvana here and now. Past, present and future Buddhas all dwell on Perfection of Wisdom for enlightenment. Therefore, the Perfection of Wisdom is the magic mantra, the most inspiring mantra, the ultimate mantra, the unparalleled mantra. This mantra can remove all sufferings, and its true essence is indestructible. The mantra says it so: Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate. Bodhi! Svaha!

 

Now I would like to talk about the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra. Although it is the shortest sutra on Prajna (wisdom), it contains the core teaching of all Prajna canons. "Heart" denotes "central" and "foundational"; the Heart Sutra clearly reveals ultimate truth for whoever wants to be rid of attachments and attain enlightenment.

The spiritual state described in the Heart Sutra is the result of a full realization of Avalokiteshvara's wisdom. The true meaning of the Heart Sutra is as elusive as our heart, and is therefore beyond elucidation. Unlike the six-syllable mantra of Four-armed Avalokiteshvara, there are no common practices for holding the Heart Sutra. To realize this sutra is akin to realizing Zen, which emphasizes instant awakening of our true nature without oral or written teaching of scriptural text.

Before I start, I would like to use a dharma story to tell you how impossible it is to elucidate the Heart Sutra. One day, Buddha Shakyamuni gathered his disciples around him for Dharma teaching. For a long while, however, he remained completely silent. Then he picked up a lotus flower with a serene smile on his face.

All of his disciples were baffled, except Venerable Kasyapa, who returned the smile of his teacher with his own smile. Seeing the smile of Kasyapa, Shakyamuni told all his disciples that he had "finished his teaching," and Kasyapa was the only one who understood it. Although this story may not be a good example to explain how impossible it is to " teach" Heart Sutra, it does tell us how the most profound dharma may be conveyed through small texts, or even utter silence. Here, I will try my best to expound the meaning of this sutra in a simple and clear manner.

The best way to practice this sutra is not to seek Avalokiteshvara's blessing and mercy for our worldly wishes, such as family happiness, wealth or fame. When reciting this sutra, however, you must cultivate the determination to become "Avalokiteshvara". If you realize her wisdom of Emptiness, follow Heart Sutra for self-reflection, and develop insight into the five aggregates, you would be freed from all attachments. Here, the logic is that when you want nothing for yourself, you will have everything; when you enter the world of liberation, you will automatically become "the answer to all pain and struggles".

What shall we do to clearly observe that the nature of the five aggregates is Emptiness and find "the answer to all pain and struggles"? First, we have to make the determination to "become Avalokiteshvara"; we should constantly read, deliberate, memorize and copy the Heart Sutra, even reciting it several times a day. "Clearly observed" implies an active approach of self-examination, introspection and contemplation. As sentient beings, all of us are conditioned by deep-rooted karmic imprints, which is the source of delusions trapping us from time to time. According to the Heart Sutra, Avalokiteshvara's empowerment comes from the realization of self-knowledge; when practice of the Heart Sutra becomes part of our daily life, enlightenment may strike us as a wake-up call when the right time comes.

The Heart Sutra is very popular in Chinese society, including non-Buddhist communities. It is also a source of inspiration for artistic creation, which comes in diversified forms and serves different purposes, such as home decorations, wall ornaments, gifts, calligraphy work and wood carvings.

Despite its popularity and ubiquitous presence in Chinese culture, the true meaning of this mantra remains a mystery to many people. For example, some people may hang a calligraphic work of the Heart Sutra on a living room wall for several decades, without understanding what it is really about.

Now let us start with the title "Prajnaparamita". Under a Bodhi tree by the Ganges River, the Buddha Shakiyamuni once told his disciples, "from birth to death, life after life, all sentient beings are confined by illusions and delusions of 'this shore'.

Your mission, however, is to provide navigation to leave 'this shore' of pain and obscurity and reach 'the other shore' of liberation and enlightenment." As a human being, everyone wants to cross the ocean of suffering and pain safely in our own way. The only reliable vehicle, however, is Prajna (Sanskrit for 'wisdom'). In Sanskrit, Paramita means a voyage to "the other shore," indicating the transcendence of all suffering.

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

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