Buddhist Church of Sacramento Buddhist Church of Sacramento 
A Jodo Shinshu Temple

 

 

About the Heart Sutra

The Heart Sutra is one of the most well-known Buddhist scriptures.  Although it is short, it is rich in meaning and history; it contains the essential concepts of Buddhist beliefs or philosophies.  It is generally agreed that it was written in the first century CE by a Sarvastivadin monk named Shariputra, making it one of the oldest Buddhist works of literature.

The Heart Sutra is commonly chanted for such occasions as morning services, meditation practice, routine meetings, and funerals.  It is frequently taught in Mahayana or Zen Buddhist temples and centers, which are located around the world, but most especially in China, Tibet, Japan and Korea.

At the core of the Heart Sutra is the teaching that, form is emptiness; emptiness is form, which is a central concept of Buddhist philosophy.  The Heart Sutra also advises the practice of deep meditation to gain wisdom and enlightenment, and the realization of the emptiness of form, feeling, perceptions, volitions, and consciousness.

THE HEART SUTRA

Om Homage to the Perfection of Wisdom the Lovely, the Holy !

Avalokita, the Holy Lord and Bodhisattva, was moving in the deep course of the Wisdom which has gone beyond.

He looked down from on high, He beheld but five heaps, and He saw that in their own-being they were empty.

Here, O Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness.

Here, O Sariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness; they are not produced or stopped, not defiled or immaculate, not deficient or complete.

Therefore, O Sariputra, in emptiness there is no form nor feeling, nor perception, nor impulse, nor consciousness;

No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; No forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables or objects of mind; No sight-organ element, and so forth, until we come to:

No mind-consciousness element; There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so forth, until we come to:  There is no decay and death, no extinction of decay and death.  There is no suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path.

There is no cognition, no attainment and no non-attainment.

Therefore, O Sariputra, it is because of his non-attainmentness that a Bodhisattva, through having relied on the Perfection of Wisdom, dwells without thought-coverings.  In the absence of thought-coverings he has not been made to tremble, he has overcome what can upset, and in the end he attains to Nirvana.

All those who appear as Buddhas in the three periods of time fully awake to the utmost, right and perfect Enlightenment because they have relied on the Perfection of Wisdom.

Therefore one should know the prajnaparamita as the great spell, the spell of great knowledge, the utmost spell, the unequalled spell, allayer of all suffering, in truth -- for what could go wrong? By the prajnaparamita has this spell been delivered. It runs like this:

gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha.

( Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all-hail ! -- )

This completes the Heart of perfect Wisdom.

(Translated by E. Conze)

 

For more information on the Heart Sutra, do a web search on
"heart sutra" or "heart sutra commentary"