|The Heart Sutra: An Introduction|
Author: Yeshe Chodon
Published on: March 1, 2001
Heart of the Prajna-Paramita Sutra, also called Heart Sutra, is the shortest and the most popular sutra in Buddhism. If the six hundred volumes of the Maha Projna Sutra can be summarized by the Diamond Sutra in around 5000 words, then the Diamond Sutra can be summarized by the Heart Sutra in around 250 words.
I choose the Heart Sutra as this month's topic because it is such an essential Buddhist teaching. The Heart Sutra is a fundamental text in all Schools of Zen Buddhism. It is chanted daily in monasteries and Zen Centers around the World. It is also read and chanted by most of the Mahayana schools. In its prevalence, it is the equivalent of the Christian Lord's Prayer."So highly revered is this sutra that even the sound of it is believed to bring wisdom to those who hear it. The Heart Sutra crosses all boundaries and traditions."
However, it is a timely topic as well, because His Holiness, the XIV Dalai Lama will offer teachings in San Jose, CA on May 17, 18, 19 on the topic of the Heart. Sutra. Visit http://www.medicinebuddha.org/ for details on this event. Tickets are still available as of Feb. 17, 2001.
I attempt only to make the reader aware of the existence and significance of this Sutra and to list some sources for the text of the Sutra ( in many different languages) and sources of qualified commentary.
Text of the Sutra
There is an astonishing amount of bandwidth throughout the Web devoted to the Heart Sutra. The links in this article are just the beginning.
Next you might want to visit http://www.dmcclanahan.com/hsutra.htm
http://www.darkzen.com/zenmar/heart.html uses a Q and A format to illustrate main points of the Sutra. All rights are reserved, so I urge readers to visit this site.
The book recommended for study in preparation for His Holiness' teachings on the Heart Sutra is: Mirror of Wisdom by Venerable Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen. It is available through Land of the Medicine Buddha. Visit http://www.medicinebuddha.org/registration.html and look for instructions to order the book toward the bottom of the registration form.
Profound Wisdom of the Heart Sutra: And Other Teachings by Bokar Rinpoche is a book available through Amazon.com. There is a good review on Amazon's web site which throws more light on the importance and meaning of the sutra.
Editorial Reviews -- Book Description
History of the Sutra
http://www.buddhanet.net/hartcom.htm PRAJNAPARAMITA HRDAYA SUTRA Translated by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Tsang of the Tang Dynasty With Commentary by Grand Master Tan Hsu takes a glance at history of the Heart Sutra.
The Prajna literature is very extensive; it covers approximately twenty years of the Buddha's teaching career. The seven translations of the sutra display minor differences but the essential meaning was respected in each case. There is no major difference between the seven of them. According to the Tripitaka Master Kumarajiva's translation, this sutra was spoken by the Buddha.
The secrets of the Heart Sutra are revealed by experience, like Zen. Many masters do not seem to consider it necessary to expound upon the historical sources of this text, although they are certainly familiar with them.
But being a Western-trained left-brained linear thinker, I am increasingly curious about the history of this text. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/india/indiasbook.html is the Internet Indian History Sourcebook which provides exhaustive history of India and the thought conceived in India, conveniently organized by chronology. Buddhism is under the heading: "the Formation of Religious Traditions". But the links to the Heart Sutra, are links to the text, not to any chronological explanation of this text. I mention it here just to direct readers to this impressive storehouse of information.
It is generally accepted by modern scholars that the Perfection of Wisdom discourses date to the beginning of the common era, and that they were among the first Buddhist texts translated into Chinese in the second century C.E. On the basis of this and additional evidence from India, we can confidently say that the Perfection of Wisdom literature is among the oldest available to us from any of the Buddhist traditions.Dr. Della Santina further puts the teachings in the Sutra into the larger context of Buddhist teachings:
Emptiness is not a view. Emptiness is, in fact, a therapeutic device.... It is a corrective for the exclusively analytical view, which leaves us with a residual belief in the real existence of the elements of experience. Emptiness is a device that enables us to transcend this pluralistic belief in the independent existence of thingsThis is an extremely valuable article, but is best appreciated after gaining some background in the fundamentals of Buddhism.
Finally, but hardly least, His Holiness, the XIV Dalai Lama will give teachings on the Heart Sutra in San Jose for four hours each day, May 17, 18 and 19, 2001. Visit http://www.snowlionpub.com/pages/N52_10.html for details on this event which is sponsored by the Land of the Medicine Buddha.
Many hundreds of Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists are expected to attend along with persons from other cultures and traditions.
From my experience, the international appeal of the Dalai Lama makes his teachings especially exciting. There is a sense of spiritual union across so many national boundaries.
Details on this event and registration for the teachings at http://www.medicinebuddha.org/ Land of the Medicine Buddha which is the organization sponsoring His Holiness' upcoming USA tour. (A painfully slow load due to so many images, but an attractive web site with valuable information.) http://www.medicinebuddha.org/registration.html is the page for registration. As of Feb. 27, 2001, fixed seating is still available.
http://www.snowlionpub.com/pages/dlevents.html is His Holiness' worldwide schedule.
Peace to all!