Heart Sutra Resources

I noticed today that Marcus has a listing of different Heart Sutra resources on his blog. Some of these were ones that I’d never seen before.

The chanting of the Heart Sutra is a core practice in many, if not most, Mahayana schools of Buddhism. The Five Mountain Sangha does it twice a day, morning and evening, for example. Keisho, the Tendai priest who has been running a meditation class in Berkeley, has had us chanting it in Japanese. He pointed out that if you memorize the Heart Sutra in Japanese, you can walk into just about any temple of any sect in Japan and be able to join in as it is the one common denominator amongst all of them.

My friend, Jayarava, posted an essay back in 2007 discussing whether the Heart Sutra was even originally a Sanskrit text. There is evidence, which he discusses, that it is actually a Chinese composition that was then translated into Sanskrit and that it draws on the much larger Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamita) Sutra as a text specifically meant to be chanted. If that is the case, then it has fulfilled its role immeasurably over the centuries, being chanted daily all over Korea, China, and Japan (and now much further).

Here is one version that the Kwan Um School uses in English:

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva when practicing deeply the Prajna Paramita perceives that all five skandhas are empty and is saved from all suffering and distress.

Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. That which is form is emptiness, that which is emptiness form.

The same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness.

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

Therefore, in emptiness no form, no feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness.

No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no realm of eyes and so forth until no realm of mind consciousness.

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.

The Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita and the mind is no hindrance; without any hindrance no fears exist. Far apart from every perverted view one dwells in Nirvana.

In the three worlds all Buddhas depend on Prajna Paramita and attain Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi.

Therefore know that Prajna Paramita is the great transcendent mantra, is the great bright mantra, is the utmost mantra, is the supreme mantra which is able to relieve all suffering and is true, not false. So proclaim the Prajna Paramita mantra, proclaim the mantra which says:

gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha.