March 13, 2019

WHAT IS THE HEART SUTRA IN BUDDHISM?

The Heart Sutra is one of the most popular sutras in Mahayana Buddhism. It belongs to a larger collection of sutras that were composed between 100 – 500 BCE. In Sanskrit, it’s called Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya, which means, “The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom.

Shortly, if you were wondering what was the Heart sutra in Buddhism- it represents the pure distillation of wisdom (so-called prajna).

What makes the Heart Sutra so compelling? Its simplicity. The entire sutra is only a page long, and its language is straightforward and to the point.

In the Heart Sutra, we are taught a method to help us work on our mind. What is important is whether or not your mind has been worked on.

The Prajnaparamita Sutras

The Prajnaparamita Sutras

WHAT DOES THE HEART SUTRA ACTUALLY SAY?

The Heart Sutra is a written record of a conversation that took place between Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, one of the most revered bodhisattvas, or spiritual teachers, in the Buddhist tradition, and a disciple of the Buddha, Shariputra.  

In it, Avalokiteshvara attempts to explain to Shariputra that all things are expressions of emptiness. The ultimate truth of our existence is that nothing is truly distinct. Everything exists as a part of everything else. Essentially: we’re all interconnected.  

Here are some of the most powerful passages from the Heart Sutra. Read each slowly and carefully. Give them some time to sink in.

“Form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. That which is form is emptiness, that which is emptiness is form.”

“Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness; they do not appear or disappear, are not tainted or pure, do not increase or decrease.”

“No ignorance and also no extinction of it, and so forth until no old age and death and also no extinction of them. No suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path, no cognition, also no attainment with nothing to attain.”

Pretty powerful stuff, huh? You can also take a look at the full translation of the Heart Sutra in English if you’d like to explore it yourself.

What does it mean that the eye is empty

What does it mean that the eye is empty?

RELAX AND LET GO

In yet another way, we could say that the Heart Sutra is an invitation to just let go and relax. We can replace all the words in this sutra that go with “no,” such as “no eye,” “no ear,” with all our problems, such as “no depression,” “no fear,” “no unemployment,” “no war,” and so on. That might sound simplistic, but if we do that and actually make it into a contemplation on what all those things such as depression, fear, war, and economic crisis actually are, it can become very powerful, maybe even more powerful than the original words in the sutra.

Usually we are not that interested in, for example, our ears and whether they really exist or not, so with regard to contemplating what emptiness means, one of the basic principles of the Prajnaparamita Sutras is to make the examination as personal as possible. It is not about reciting some stereotypical formula or the Heart Sutra without ever getting to the core of our own clinging to real existence with regard to those phenomena to which we obviously do cling, or our own egoclinging.

Personal examinationThe Heart Sutra inspires personal examination

For example, the Heart Sutra does not say “no self,” “no home,” “no partner,” “no job,” “no money,” which are the things we usually care about. Therefore, in order to make it more relevant to our life, we have to fill those in. The Heart Sutra gives us a basic template of how to contemplate emptiness, but the larger Prajnaparamita Sutras fill in a lot of stuff, not only saying “no eye,” “no ear,” and so on. They go through endless lists of all kinds of phenomena, so we are welcome to come up with our own personal lists of phenomena that map out our personal universe and then apply the approach of the Heart Sutra to those lists.

HOW TO APPLY THE WISDOM OF THE HEART SUTRA TO YOUR LIFE?

The Heart Sutra explores one of the fundamental concepts of Buddhism: emptiness. But this is an emptiness in a way you might not have considered before.

The emptiness described in the Heart Sutra isn’t emptiness in the traditional sense of an empty glass or an empty room.

Emptiness, or in Sanskrit, shunyata, is the concept of perceiving events, objects, and ideas without coloring them with the tint of our perception. It’s a lot like mindfulness in that way, actually.

Both emptiness and mindfulness encourage us to separate ourselves from our stories. We tell ourselves stories about who we are and how we feel and why we do what we do. We attach to our stories because they give form our identity – ego, the “I”, separating us from the rest of the world.

The Heart Sutra communicates that separateness is actually an illusion. And the individual identities we assign and are assigned are also an illusion.

It’s a tough concept that challenges the way you view yourself and others. But it’s definitely one worth considering.

Explore the Heart Sutra on your own and see what you make of it. Print it out and stick it on your wall. Incorporate it into your meditation practice. Listen to it while you practice yoga. Or simply get spiritual empowerment by wearing The Heart Sutra Ring. The Heart Sutra Ring is called the “Ring of Transformation” and is used for aiding creativity, enhancing the development of your intuition, and is a strong titanium for the heart, both for the physical heart and to aid your healing emotionally.

This ring calming effect helps with easing fear, anxiety, and guilt, and brings hope. The Heart Sutra in the ring gently draws off negative energies of all kinds especially helpful during transitional times, such as breakups, poverty, problems, many debts and job loss, among other similar situations.

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