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Oct 03

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Talk on the heart sutra

This a contemporary, personal and also a scholarly investigation in to the meaning of the Heart sutra. Different Heart Sutra translations Of course there are many Translations of the Heart sutra. Many varying only slightly. There is however one translation I know of, that varies more. So, for this talk we will have a look at two translations of the Heart Sutra of which I believe they are of acceptable authority, or, at least of authority that can be considered to be an authority. The first translation we will use in this talk is the version used by monks in the Mahayana tradition of whom the Dalai Lama is the respected leader and a famous example. The second translation we will use in this talk is the version of Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Vietnamese Zen-buddhist monk. His ‘new Heart Sutra Translation’ has been given a new name and is called “the Insight that brings Us to the Other Shore”. – / – FIRST translation (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition) http://cdn.fpmt.org/wp-content/uploads/sutras/heart_sutra_c5.pdf?2ebbb6 The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra I prostrate to the Arya Triple Gem. Thus did I hear at one time. The Bhagavan was dwelling on Mass of Vultures Mountain in Rajagriha together with a great community of monks and a great community of bodhisattvas. At that time, the Bhagavan was absorbed in the concentration on the categories of phenomena called “Profound Perception”. Also, at that time, the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara looked upon the very practice of the profound perfection of wisdom and beheld those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature.
Then, through the power of Buddha, the venerable Shariputra said this to the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara: “How should any son of the lineage train who wishes to practice the activity of the profound perfection of wisdom?” He said that, and the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara said this to the venerable Sharadvati putra. “Shariputra, any son of the lineage or daughter of the lineage who wishes to practice the activity of the profound perfection of wisdom should look upon it like this, correctly and repeatedly beholding those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature. Form is empty. Emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than form; form is also not other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, discrimination, compositional factors, and consciousness are empty. “Shariputra, likewise, all phenomena are emptiness; without characteristic, unproduced, unceased; stainless, not without stain; not deficient, not fulfilled. “Shariputra, therefore, in emptiness there is no form, no feeling, no discrimination, no compositional factors, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no visual form, no sound, no odor, no taste, no object of touch, and no phenomenon. There is no eye element and so on up to and including no mind element and no mental consciousness element. There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so on up to and including no aging and death and no extinction of aging and death. Similarly, there is no suffering, origination, cessation, and path; there is no exalted wisdom, no attainment, and also no nonattainment. “Shariputra, therefore, because there is no attainment, bodhisattvas rely on and dwell in the perfection of wisdom, the mind without obscuration and without fear. Having completely passed beyond error, they reach the endpoint of nirvana. All the buddhas who dwell in the three times also manifestly, completely awaken to unsurpassable, perfect, complete enlightenment in reliance on the perfection of wisdom. Therefore, the mantra of the perfection of wisdom, the mantra of great knowledge, the unsurpassed mantra, the mantra equal to the unequaled, the mantra that thoroughly pacifies all suffering, should be known as truth since it is not false. The mantra of the perfection of wisdom is declared: TADYATHA [OM] GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA
“Shariputra, the bodhisattva mahasattva should train in the profound perfection of wisdom like that.” Then the Bhagavan arose from that concentration and commended the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara saying: “Well said, well said, son of the lineage, it is like that. It is like that; one should practice the profound perfection of wisdom just as you have indicated; even the tathagatas rejoice.” The Bhagavan having thus spoken, the venerable Sharadvati putra, the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara, and those surrounding in their entirety along with the world of gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas were overjoyed and highly praised that spoken by the Bhagavan. (This completes the Ärya-bhagavatï-prajñäpäramitä-höidaya-sütra.) SECOND translation The new Heart sutra translation by Thich Nhat Hanh http://plumvillage.org/news/thich-nhat-hanh-new-heart-sutra-translation/ The Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore Avalokiteshvara while practicing deeply with the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore, suddenly discovered that all of the five Skandhas are equally empty, and with this realisation he overcame all Ill-being. “Listen Sariputra, this Body itself is Emptiness and Emptiness itself is this Body. This Body is not other than Emptiness and Emptiness is not other than this Body.
The same is true of Feelings, Perceptions, Mental Formations, and Consciousness. “Listen Sariputra, all phenomena bear the mark of Emptiness; their true nature is the nature of no Birth no Death, no Being no Non-being, no Defilement no Purity, no Increasing no Decreasing. “That is why in Emptiness,Body, Feelings, Perceptions, Mental Formations and Consciousness are not separate self entities. The Eighteen Realms of Phenomena which are the six Sense Organs, the six Sense Objects, and the six Consciousnesses are also not separate self entities. The Twelve Links of Interdependent Arising and their Extinction are also not separate self entities. Ill-being, the Causes of Ill-being, the End of Ill-being, the Path, insight and attainment, are also not separate self entities. Whoever can see this no longer needs anything to attain. Bodhisattvas who practice the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore see no more obstacles in their mind,
and because there are no more obstacles in their mind, they can overcome all fear, destroy all wrong perceptions and realize Perfect Nirvana. “All Buddhas in the past, present and future by practicing the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore are all capable of attaining Authentic and Perfect Enlightenment. “Therefore Sariputra, it should be known that the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore is a Great Mantra, the most illuminating mantra, the highest mantra, a mantra beyond compare, the True Wisdom that has the power to put an end to all kinds of suffering. Therefore let us proclaim a mantra to praise the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore. GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA! – / – Because the “The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra” as found on the website of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition is probably the the most authorized, the most used and best known version of the Heart Sutra we will take this version as the basis from which to work on understanding its meaning. I chose an “unscholarly”, text analysis based approach, to understand the meaning of the sutra,
I call it the ‘naive approach’. Besides this naive approach one of course should not avoid have a more scholarly approach, and so I did check the findings and did correct and complement these if needed: Although it might be considered to be naive, I think it is only logical to assume that the One Who gave us the content of this Sutra – Avalokitesvara, has chosen the words of it wisely, foreseeing its future use being translated to many languages. For this reason I believe that an English version of Heart Sutra will reveal its core meaning from a logical text analysis, without the need of reading commentaries or having an authorized teacher to guide you. So this will be a basic principle to start with. For this reason the text analysis using this point of view, will only use little more than common research methods like translation and Wikipedia. About translations – I did not go into translating the Heart Sutra myself. I have looked into the meaning of a few Sanskrit words but that is all. I will tell you the progression of the talk by indicating which indention of the text is coming up. I will divide an indention in several parts though, and only when a new indention comes up I will say so.. The Title The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra As the title seems to suggest the Sutra is about the Perfection of Wisdom and the addition ‘Heart of’ seems to indicate, to a westerner at least, the sutra contains ‘the essence’ of the Perfection of wisdom. That the word ‘Heart’ is used in the Title of the sutra, in stead of ‘essence’ is extremely puzzling for many Tibetan monks, who fail to understand how the word Heart ended up there. The one after the other proposes the word ‘essence’ as a far better translation as one will find out soon enough if one is researching on the Heart Sutra. The better translation, as far as many monks are concerded for the Title seems to be ‘the Essence of the Perfection of Wisdom sutra’, although one might also find it translated as “Heart of the Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom sutra”. First indention of the sutra text Sutra text: I prostrate to the Arya Triple Gem. Thus did I hear at one time. Text analysis: As a contemporary person without any prior knowledge of Buddhism, one would have to research on ‘Arya Triple Gem’ to know what that means. I assume we here all know its meaning to be ‘Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
These first two sentences can, for the naive approach, be regarded as a standard opening and of little relevance for understanding ‘how to train the Perfection of Wisdom’, the main theme of the Sutra. Sutra text: The Bhagavan was dwelling on Mass of Vultures Mountain in Rajagriha together with a great community of monks and a great community of bodhisattvas. At that time, the Bhagavan was absorbed in the concentration on the categories of phenomena called “Profound Perception”. Text analysis: A little research would tell you that ‘the Bhagavan’ here means the Buddha. The Buddha was at that time meditating on another topic than ‘the Perfection of Wisdom’. A little more research would tell you what Wikipedia tells us what a Bodhisattva is; I quote Wikipedia: In Mahayana Buddhism, bodhisattva is the Sanskrit term for anyone who, motivated by great compassion, has generated bodhicitta, which is a spontaneous wish to attain buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. End Quote These second two sentences also seem to be of little relevance for understanding ‘how to train the Perfection of Wisdom’, the main theme of the Sutra. Sutra text: Also, at that time, the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara looked upon the very practice of the profound perfection of wisdom and beheld those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature. Text analysis: This last sentence of the first indention of the Sutra gives us a first clue about ‘ho to practice the Perfection of Wisdom’, which is, that ‘the aggregates are also empty of inherent nature’.
Researching what is meant with ‘aggregates’ in this sentence one would find it is referring to the Sanskrit ‘Skandhas’ or Pali ‘Khandas’ As Wikipedia explains under the term ‘Skandha’ these aggregates are, and I quote Wikipedia: Skandhas or khandhas means “heaps, aggregates, collections, groupings”.In Buddhidm, it refers to the five aggregates concept that asserts five elements constitute and completely explain a living being’s mental and physical existence. The five aggregates or heaps are: matter or body (rupa), sensations or feelings (vedana), perceptions (samjna), mental formations (sankhara), and consciousness (vijnana) End of quote. I will shortly explain these skandhas, aggregates or heaps, as I have come to understand them. My explanation might vary slightly of more scholarly essays about them, but it will do to make us get the idea. Important it is to remember that these aggregates ‘constitute and completely explains a beings physical and mental existence’. Explanation on the skandhas Rupa or matter, form or body If one researches on these skandhas, one will find that the skandha called rupa is more then we westerners might expect. It is not only our physical body; it is that plus all material phenomena that we perceive with, or through, that physical body. The material world outside a being body is an inseparable part of the material body experience of that persons being, in Buddhist tradition. Vedana or sensations or feeling is the bodily faculty of reception of impulses, and I guess we have to assume that the bodily reception of touch, sounds, smells, views and tastes all count as vedana. Also one should consider that one can have bodily sensations or feelings at the reception of a thought! Samnja or Perception is the way in which the reception of an impulse is noticed and valuated. For instance, the one person can’t stand getting tickled; another one might hardly take notice. One person would feel deeply annoyed if someone begs for money, another would happily share some and feel quite the same as before the beggar begged him for money. So Perception is the way how the one specific being experiences a certain impulse. Sankhara or mental formations can be seen as being deep habitual currents which have a strong impact on how one reacts to the perception of certain impulses, these mental formations might even be rooted
in ‘old karma’, build up in previous lives. For instance if a person can’t stand being in small spaces and always feels afraid when entering one, which makes him scan for escape routes. The cause might be a traumatic experience of being locked up, for instance in childhood; or even in a previous life. Vijnana or consciousness : It can be hard to see consciousness as an ‘element’ of a living being and on top of that it should be beheld as empty of inherent nature. It might just get a little less difficult if we remember that this consciousness, just as every one of these skandhas, is a part of the physical and mental constitution of the person. We do not have to be conscious all the time, although we might think so. We however do spent lost of hours in un-conscious state while sleeping. We even have un-conscious moments during our waking hours, but these are hard to remember. Everybody will, every now and then, see themselves come out of a moment of no-consciousness I think. This short investigation into those aggregates shows them to be the way or the medium through which our personal minds make – and make contact with the physical and psychical world we experience. This finishes this short explanation on these Aggregates. We now can go on analyzing the sutra text. So the last sentence of the first indention states that Avalokitesvara beheld that the elements that constitute and explain a living beings mental and physical existence are empty of inherent nature. What a stunning judgment this is! So, for instance, the elements that make up the physical body of a person and the world around that person is not even inherently material. Then again …. don’t we all experience this world as being made of the nature of matter? I am sure most of us do so, so this finding on the nature of these aggregates needs to be investigated further if we hope to understand what is being meant here. I’m sure the usual average minded scientist would now think this is all nonsense! So let’s not be scared away and read on, looking for more clues …. Second indention Sutra text: Then, through the power of Buddha, the venerable Shariputra said this to the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara: “How should any son of the lineage train who wishes to practice the activity of the profound perfection of wisdom?”
Text analysis: Here obviously the Buddha somehow made Sariputra ask that question. The importance is that the question, having been asked at that time, would get an answer which of course is of the greatest relevance for understanding ‘how to train the Perfection of Wisdom’, the main theme of the Sutra. Third indention Sutra text: He said that (see the previous indention) , and the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara said this to the venerable Sharadvati putra. “Shariputra, any son of the lineage or daughter of the lineage who wishes to practice the activity of the profound perfection of wisdom should look upon it like this, correctly and repeatedly beholding those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature. Text analysis: Not important but certainly noteworthy is the fact that here in the answer Avalokitshvara demonstrates the equality of genders! More importantly, Avalokitesvara answers to the question put forward and. In the answer we find our second clue for understanding ‘how to practice the Perfection of Wisdom’. We are being told to behold those five aggregates as empty of inherent nature as obviously Avalokiteshvara did before, but not only that. We are being told to do so correctly and repeatedly! How to do so repeatedly is not hard to imagine, but how to do so correctly has not yet been made clear. Hoping to find clues for that in the rest of the text. Fourth indention Sutra text: Form is empty. Emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than form; form is also not other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, discrimination, compositional factors, and consciousness are empty. Text analysis:
Here, it seems, the first statement about the emptiness of the five aggregates is being repeated. This repetition of the statement, seemingly, comes a little overdone because saying ‘Form is Emptiness’ has the same meaning to our minds as saying ‘Emptiness is Form’. Then this already doubled statement gets doubled ones more by not only saying ‘the one is the other’ and ‘the other is the one’ but saying on top of that that ‘the one is not other then the other’ and ‘the other is not other then the one’. It seems in all these words, no extra information is to be found. Seemingly it is no more than repeating the same meaning. What is noteworthy though is that in this indention the existence of the aggregates or skandhas (form, feeling, discrimination (perceptions?), compositional factors (mental formations?) and consciousness are being acknowledged to exist as well as that the existence of something called ‘Emptiness’ is being acknowledged. One might notice the great emphasis put on the unity of these two – that the one never can be without the other and visa versa. Lets count the Unity of Form and Emptiness for a new clue, for the time being, making it the third clue for understanding how to practice the perfection of wisdom,. The emphasis might have significant meaning, even if one can’t see it yet. Fifth indention Sutra text: “Shariputra, likewise, all phenomena are emptiness; without characteristic, unproduced, unceased; stainless, not without stain; not deficient, not fulfilled. Text analysis: When researching on these five aggregates or skandhas we already learned that the world of material forms arises together with, or belongs to the same skandha as a beings physical body. This in itself is a strange concept for our western minds, but now and here things get even much more strange! What is being said here? ‘All phenomena’, which has to include ‘all material forms’ or even matter itself are all ‘only emptiness’. On top of that we are being told ‘they are al without charecteristic’. Before in the third indention both phenomena and emptiness were acknowledged to exist as if they were equals, but here we see that that statement seems to become revoked. Now it seems that, actually, the only ‘thing’ truly existing is Emptiness.
And then, while thoroughly pondering on the meaning of this statement, our fourth clue for training the Perfection of Wisdom shows up, when the meaning of the word ‘Emptiness’ is seen in this line of text – a deeply awesome concept of the whole phenomenal world, is here being rendered before our minds eye! Everything we can perceive of, whether material or immaterial is without characteristic! If they are without characteristic, they obviously can’t exist or can’t have been produced, because that would be their first characteristic, would it not?! If they did not get produced they couldn’t get ceased either. If this vision is accepted as a fact (or as a concept for consideration), it gets easy and logical to see why all phenomena are for instance both ‘stainless’ and ‘not without stain’. Anything that does not exists could be said to be both of any other pair of ‘opposite qualities’ as long as these qualities are put in the negative form. They also could be called every negative quality without adding opposite positive quality, because anything which does not exist, logically can be named to be ‘not anything this’ and ‘not anything that’. Hmmm – getting this insight in this statement clarified a lot of this seemingly very obscure fifth indention, if only because of understanding the logic of the words. The meaning of these words remain puzzling I guess.Nothing exists … how so? I think the usual average minded scientist by now might have fainted … Since we are still analyzing the meaning of the text of the sutra we will go on now, but we will return to this awesome finding later, because some really important questions come up because of this and they need to be answered! Sixth indention Because all phenomena do not exist as is stated in the fifth indention, the sixth indention can start with the word ‘therefore’ . Sutra text: “Shariputra, therefore, in emptiness there is no form, no feeling, no discrimination, no compositional factors, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no visual form, no sound, no odor, no taste, no object of touch, and no phenomenon.
There is no eye element and so on up to and including no mind element and no mental consciousness element. There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so on up to and including no aging and death and no extinction of aging and death. Similarly, there is no suffering, origination, cessation, and path; there is no exalted wisdom, no attainment, and also no nonattainment. Text analysis: When analyzing this text from the naive point of view and superficially there seems to be little to add to what already has been found, and some elaboration on that, in the previous indentions. But on second thought there is something that might catch the eye here. Here now in this sixth indention, the existence of matter or form, or any other phenomena, is not only not being acknowledged to exist, but are now actively being denied to exist! How come? Why is this? Obviously the level of experience in which ‘form is emptiness and emptiness is form’ – thus the level where forms are experienced as reality – has been left ‘behind’ if one can say it like this. Another level of experience or awareness is the topic here. This level is ‘in Emptiness, inside Emptiness’ – where form has been taken out of the equation because form and phenomena have been recognized as non-existent and thus they are no longer get to be acknowledged as reality. Then there is a another point of attention that arises if one sifts this indention. It is not easy to see, I think, and it took a long time for me to even notice it. It is our fifth clue. The text states – but not in the usual negative quality format – that in Emptiness there is no exalted wisdom. This is a new and quite different format of saying what exists or does not exist in emptiness. If you look closely at this sixth indention, you will see all named phenomena and named qualities are in the negative format. It is not that difficult, pretty obvious even, that the meaning of the text is that these phenomena and qualities do not exist in Emptiness. But this analysis fails for the non-existence of Wisdom in Emptiness! Why is that? If one says for instance that in a bucket there is no blue water this does not mean that there is no water at all present in that very same bucket. In the same way the statement that in Emptiness there is no exalted Wisdom does not mean that there is no Wisdom at all present in Emptiness.
The use of the word ‘exalted’ here in this context seems intended to underline the actual fact of the presence of Wisdom in Emptiness. This finding then in its turn raises questions about the nature of Wisdom because it can no longer be regarded as some random phenomena. Inside Emptiness the only possible experience has to be ‘Wisdom’, if it even can be called so or experienced as such, since in Emptiness there seems to be no object to relate to. I geuss the question is if Wisdom can be aware without anything objectified. This question will go unanswered for all who are unable to be in Emptiness! Outside Emptiness, when form is objectified and experienced as reality by most beings, one looses access to Wisdom because one is inclined to see the actually non existing phenomena (form) as foundation for reasoning. In this way those five aggregates who or which bring the experience of the material phenomena and psychical phenomena block our IN-sight. Seventh indention Sutra text: “Shariputra, therefore, because there is no attainment, bodhisattvas rely on and dwell in the perfection of wisdom, the mind without obscuration and without fear. Having completely passed beyond error, they reach the endpoint of nirvana. Text analysis: This statement indicates that the realization of the existence of Emptiness, as well as the realization that in Emptiness is the Wisdom, ceases the urge of the Bodhisattvas to search for something to attain outside of Emptiness and causes them to remain in this awareness in confidence – with un-obscured mind and without fear. By deduction we now also can see that it is because of not realizing the existence Emptiness one has an obscured mind and thus suffers fear. Realizing Emptiness and keeping ones focus firmly on this realization will make a bodhisattva reach the endpoint of Nirvana. Harder to see are the next two clues. The sixth clue is found in the statement that it is the bodhisattva who reaches the endpoint of Nirvana; so it is not the not-Bodhisatva!. The un-selfish (!) compassionate loving-kindness motivation of the bodhisattva is an absolute necessity to attain Nirvana. Truly realizing the unity of all beings in emptiness will spontaneously generate this motivationif this was not yet sufficiently present.
The seventh clue is to be found in the statement ‘dwell in the perfection of wisdom’. This ‘dwelling in the perfection of wisdow’ we now know is disconnected from the input that can reach awareness over those five aggregates. This means the bodhisattva actively dismisses gratification of any sensory urges as being a distraction which hinders from attaining the goal set. This is the basis for renunciation; renunciation, ceasing sensory input is a necessity to reach the endpoint of nirvana. Sutra text: All the Buddhas who dwell in the three times also manifestly, completely awaken to unsurpassable, perfect, complete enlightenment in reliance on the perfection of wisdom. Text analysis: Obviously here is being told that all the Buddhas also rely on the perfection of wisdom, which we now know is the acknowledgment of Emptiness as the only truly existing basis of all experience of phenomena, to awaken to the complete enlightenment. An interesting point to notice is, that here is being spoken about ‘Buddhas who dwell in the three times’. The three times are of course ‘the past, the present and the future’. So in reliance on the perfection of wisdom one also will transcend time – or said with other words; time, also, does not exist in Emptiness. Any time seems to be accessible from inside Emptiness. eighth indention Sutra text: Therefore, the mantra of the perfection of wisdom, the mantra of great knowledge, the unsurpassed mantra, the mantra equal to the unequaled, the mantra that thoroughly pacifies all suffering, should be known as truth since it is not false. The mantra of the perfection of wisdom is declared: TADYATHA [OM] GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA Text analysis: Here in the eighth indention several qualifications for the Heart Sutra mantra as well as the mantra itself are being given. Noteworthy, of course, is the fact that using this mantra can pacify all suffering. Since we have been studying the meaning of the sutra, now we know, that in order to end our suffering we must realize awareness of Emptiness. Thus using the mantra will make one realize awareness of emptiness.
Of course this has to be such kind of use which would qualify as ‘correctly and repeatedly beholding those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature’, as we were being told to do if we wish to train the practice of the perfection of wisdom. I will return to the topic how to use this mantra as a practical tool. ninth indention Sutra text: Then the Bhagavan arose from that concentration and commended the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara saying: “Well said, well said, son of the lineage, it is like that. It is like that; one should practice the profound perfection of wisdom just as you have indicated; even the tathagatas rejoice.” Text analysis: The meaning of this indention is easy to understand and needs no further explanation. What is interesting to notice though is the fact that it seems to be correct and suitable for the tathagatas to rejoice ! Tathagata of course was a word the Buddha used for designating himself. There seem to be more then one tathagatas. tenth indention Sutra text: The Bhagavan having thus spoken, the venerable Sharadvati putra, the bodhisattva mahasattva arya Avalokiteshvara, and those surrounding in their entirety along with the world of gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas were overjoyed and highly praised that spoken by the Bhagavan. Text analysis: The meaning of this indention is easy to understand and needs no further explanation. Although there is mention of the existence of worlds beyond the one we know, there is no new information on how to train the practice of the perfection of wisdom. What is interesting to notice though is the fact that it seems to be correct and suitable for the Buddha and the Sangha to rejoice – at least on that occasion! This finishes the naive text analysis Summarizing the conclusions
1. We now have learned that in order to train in the practice of the perfection of we wisdom we should repeatedly and correctly behold those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature. 2. Those aggregates are the way or the medium through which our personal minds create – and make contact with the physical and psychical world we experience. 3. We should behold all phenomena both material and psychical as non existent. They do not even get to be created! In reality all that exists is Emptiness, a non-dual reality – in which Wisdom exists. 4. There obviously is a second reality, a dual reality in which we experience our material and psychical reality and time. 5. The un-selfish loving-kindness motivation for the welfare and liberation of all sentient beings is a necessity to attain Nirvana. 6. Renunciation is a necessity to reach the Nirvana. 7. Relying on – and dwelling in the perfection of Wisdom will end all suffering and will make a bodhisattva reach the endpoint of nirvana. -.-.-.-.- Unanswered questions: So now there are a few questions still unanswered, which we need to investigate for some answers. These are the points to be revisited, as was pointed out before. The first point to revisit was the fifth indention Fifth indention
Sutra text: “Shariputra, likewise, all phenomena are emptiness; without characteristic, unproduced, unceased; stainless, not without stain; not deficient, not fulfilled. The text analysis shows that this means that all phenomena do not exist because they are not being created. The first question that arises here is: If phenomena do not get created, how can a person be and be aware of anything at all? Well, I guess the only way to solve this problem, is to suppose that ‘the one inside the person’, which calls the person ‘I’ is imagining the physical and psychical phenomena that enter upon its awareness. Right? To make this more graphic we can look upon it like this in an applicable way since we are talking about imagining which has the word ‘image’ for its root; The mind inside a person is like a clear light simply shining brightly in all directions. Space acts as a medium, like a film-screen, simply reflecting and showing whatever is projected on – or in it. The person who is not aware of the Emptiness nature of all phenomena, is constantly imagining situations, circumstances to attain. This intention of attaining empowers the image which is being imagined to obscure the clear light mind and then the obscuration acts like that old analog film which is drawn between the light and the screen. This then results in the image getting projected in space like the analog movie on the screen. Like this a person gets to see what was empowered to appear. I guess the imagination is something one would like to tame. A clear light mind which ceases to imagine dwells in the perfection of Wisdom and no longer empowers phenomena and experiences to objectify and appear. If this is or would be the true way how a beings ‘world’ gets created, immediately a follow up question comes up on rather logical grounds. The follow up question:
If this is true, that a person ‘sort of dreams up his own reality’, how then is it possible that all of us seem to share a common reality? If person A sees a wall chances are great for all who can see to see a wall there too, or even bump there heads against it! An nteresting question, right? So we have seen that all phenomena do not exist but that they do appear in space when the intention of lets say ‘the dreamer’ to attain something, is strong enough to act as the generating factor – as the image providing, old analog film between the clear light and the film-screen. In order to be able to answer this question of shared experience satisfactory, at least in theory, one must be able to transcend or overcome the borders of one’s personality. If one can’t accept the idea that ones own personality is actually not a personality in absolute reality, one never will accept the answer, not as a hypotheses let alone as a foundation for practicing the perfection of Wisdom. So here comes the answer, the only answer I could think of that makes sense to me. So if the world of experienced phenomena is a projection of ‘the dreamer’, why then would it not be possible for the dreamer to ‘dream up’ a whole universe, with star systems, stars, planets moons and an earth with many species and a mankind existing, of many so called individuals with a sense of awareness of individuality? There is no reason I can think of why this solution for the logical follow up question would be impossible. So I would suppose the answer to the follow up question is that. The absolute truth is that there is only Emptiness. That Emptiness is a non-dual reality, meaning it is only ‘One’. On the basis of this ‘One’ the relative reality of a multitude of phenomena appears. But out of necessity, these phenomena are all the same ‘One’ on their founding level, which is Emptiness. If you ask me it is only logic to assume this ‘dreamer’ to be the so called ‘Buddha nature’ or the ‘True Self’ which Avalokitesvara was searching for in those five aggregates and did not find there. If all phenomena do not exist and only Emptiness is Reality and Wisdom, then only emptiness can be the True Self. This True Self is logically free from ‘rising and falling’ and other imperfections, since it is eternally unborn. Since this all is of utmost importance for understanding how to practice the perfection of Wisdom, it is necessary to call in some indisputable Buddhist authorities to show that precisely this awesome view on
the reality of Emptiness and the non-existence of phenomena including the non-existence of individuals is the core teaching of the Heart Sutra or even of Buddhism! So the rest of this talk will bring you more than the personal and naive text analysis that has been given so far. There will be some referencing to accepted or acceptable authorities. New Heart sutra translation’ by Thich Nhat Hanh If one now reads the ‘New Heart sutra translation’ by Thich Nhat Hanh, included in the notecard, they will see that Thich Nhat Hanh thought it most important to explain precisely this point of non-individuality in his new translation. In his new translation of the Heart sutra he has taken the liberty to elaborate on what we have seen in that fifth indention in the classic Mahayana Heart sutra version we studied in this talk so far. The biggest change he made in his new translation it is that fifth indention. He designated those phenomena to their standard Buddhist classification, being; the 18 realms of phenomena and the links of interdependent arising. Precisely these two changes point to the core of practicing the perfection of wisdom. I’ll get back to these shortly when discussing how to work with the mantra. He emphasizes that in Emptiness these phenomena, being those aggregates or skandhas, the 18 realms of phenomena and the links of interdependent arising and the four noble truths ‘are not seperate self entities’. This of course is exactly the conclusion which was reached on logical grounds by simply analyzing the meaning of the text of the Heart sutra as we just did in the so called ‘naive approach’. So the conclusion is that Thich Nhat Hanh’s translation approves of our finding that we are not separate self entities. I would like to point to the Diamond Sutra as a second proof for the correctness of our finding that we, our individualities, are actually not separate self entities at all. The Diamond sutra is another one of the sutras from the Mahayana tradition and can be regarded as being of sufficient authority. I will quote one quote from the Diamond sutra now: quote Section III; The Real Teaching of the Great Way Buddha said: Subhuti, all the Bodhisattva-Heroes should discipline their thoughts as follows: All living creatures of whatever class, born from eggs, from wombs, from moisture, or by transformation whether with form or without form, whether in a state of thinking or exempt from thought-necessity, or wholly beyond all thought realms — all these are caused by Me to attain Unbounded Liberation Nirvana. Yet when vast, uncountable, immeasurable numbers of beings have thus been liberated, verily no being has been liberated. Why is this, Subhuti? It is because no Bodhisattva who is a real Bodhisattva cherishes the idea of an ego-entity, a personality, a being, or a separated individuality.
Unquote As you see the Diamond Sutra also takes this very same view on the unity of beings as opposed to separated ego-entities or individualities. All liberated and to be liberated beings are ‘phenomena’ in the sense that they never existed, they never were anything else then Emptiness and Emptiness cant be more then One since it is non dual. Pali Canon As a third reference of proof that the result of the analysis of the Heart Sutra text is correct, one of course would like to find proof in the Pali Canon. The Pali Canon is pre-sectarian and is respected as authority by both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. The Pali Canon is very extensive and one of the more important and well know parts is the Digha Nikaya. In this Digha Nikaya we find a description of Buddha Gautama’s teachings just as he himself has given them – so, his teachings in his words. If there is an authority one needs to check to see if the finding about non-existence of phenomena and the non-separated-self-identity of beings is correct it is the Digha Nikaya. Reading the Digha Nikaya is a lot to do and has many many repeating text-indentions because it has been written as it was verbally transmitted for many decades. Luckily Alexander Ducan has done the hard work for us and wrote a book called ‘Conversations with the Buddha’ about it. In his book, ‘Conversations with the Buddha’, each sutra is regarded as a unique window into the dharma, the teaching of the buddha, to be compared and collated with all other canonical sutras in order to arrive at a synthetic basis for comprehensive understanding of the whole of Buddhas teaching. Honestly I deeply recommend this book if you truly wish to know what Buddha taught and how he taught it. Alexander Duncan has done a great job getting rid of needless repetitions in the text and ordered the teaching by making lists if possible and giving conclusions and summaries if needed. http://www.lulu.com/shop/http://www.lulu.com/shop/alexander-duncan/conversations-with-the-buddha/paperback/product-22857025.html On the wall behind me on my right hand side, which is left of me for you of course, you see that board on which I pasted a few lists from Duncans book (from chapters 14 and 15), so they are lists the Buddha gave in his teachings. The terms used might be slightly differ from terms I used in this talk, but that is nothing that is drastically different. For instance, when someone is talking about the twelve links of interdependent arising, as Thich Nhat Hanh does in his translation of the Heart sutra, that basically is the same as the ‘chain of cause and effect’ consisting of 10 links as seen on the top left of the board. There just have grown several traditions which we for our talk today basically can ignore if we keep our mind focussed on the big picture.
So we see the Buddha taught those links of interdependent arising as we find them listed in Duncans book. We even see one arrow pointing downward, indicating the direction in which one is busy to become born , to age and die and then this person will start to become born again if he did not reverse the process and liberated himself. If we look closely we see that Duncan made the links 1. consciousness ( is consciousness in an ignorant or a non-wisdom state), 2. mind-body (I would prefer Name and form which often is used for this), 6. craving and 7. clinging in a darker color, indicating that these links are the links a being can take influence on in order to break the chain of ‘getting reborn in Samsara all the time’. This teaching in the Pali Canon fits seemlessly to the findings the naive text analysis provide; It features the ‘separating from the Union inemptiness and becoming as well as the necesseties of perfecting Wisdom and renunciation of clinging craving to form. A second list one finds in the Heart Sutra and of which we can find proof of existence in the Digha Nikaya is the list with the Five aggregates of grasping (in the top right position on the board) , which were called ‘those five aggregates in the Heart sutra. Please note how the list of aggregates strongly relates to the list of the links of interdependant arising. If one considers these correspondences one can see how those five aggregates or skandhas, which make up the total constitution of a person, really came into being because this person was under the influence of becoming as is shown in the downward motion on the list of interdependent arising? The Heart sutra is teaching is how to break this chain of becoming by perfecting our wisdom or by taking out the ignorance of identifying our personalities as separate self identities. Sp it aims at breaing the chain of interdependant arising on the first and second link. How would Buddha have said how to do this? Because of not spending too much time and being very elaborate we can again simply use two lists from Duncans book. The list of course are composed of Buddhas teachings. If we look at the list on the lower right side we see the ‘seven stations of consciousness’, numbered 1 to 7 and each level is a higher or more spiritual level. Take notice that on station 1 we find our human consciousness. Then on station 5 we find the consciousness we might label ‘infinite space’ and the perception one has when in that station of consciousness is described for us as; transcendence of perception of matter vanishing of perception of sense reactions non-attention to the perception of variety
Can we see how here those aggregates which became to be because the person was on route for becoming will cease to have grip on a person who learns to focus on this without ever letting down? Then two stations up from here on station 7 the highest station of consciousness is found. This level of consciousness is called ‘nothingness’. Of course it is no accident the core teaching of the Heart sutra is ‘that nothing exists’ if the highest station of consciousness is ‘nothingness’. The last list from Duncans book, on the lower left side on the board is called ‘the eight liberations’, which are eight stages necessary to go through to attain final liberation. As you can see it starts out on the first 3 stages with a person getting immersed in Samsara, immersed in form and clinging to form. The person ‘being intend on it’ as is shown in stage 3 is causes that person to be unable to break the chain of interdependent arising. Intention is karma! If the person however, having understood and accepted the core teaching of the Buddha and starts to train as Buddha teaches (and that the Heart sutra teaches also) this person will go as is described in stage 4 of the list. This person will start to practice concentrating to not forget that all phenomena do not exist and to learn to transcend all perception of matter to no longer be intent on the world of form and the sense reactions to it, because only by the the vanishing of these sense reactions to the world of one can hope to learn to transcend all perception of matter. No longer pay attention to all varieties of matter and form ponder on and realize in ones mind the infiniteness of space in the hope to be able to enter and abide in stage 4, the Sphere of Infinite Space, the fifth level of consciousness. After that a person training for liberation has to get to stage 5, the level of nothingness corresponding to the 7. level of consciousness. Even in this 5. stage, the Sphere of Nothingness, a person still has perception and feeling, because to transcend perception and feeling one has must first get to stage 7, the Sphere of ‘Neither Perception nor Non-Perception’ Having passed through there one gets to stag 8 where one finally reaches the state of Nirvana from which one can break through the last link by ceasing all perception and feeling. Our Bodhisattva from the Heart sutra, who trained to attain buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings, of course will refrain from breaking this last link because doing so would make the bodhisattva disappear from Samsara. Having lost all connection to Samsara the bodhisattva will no longer be able to help suffering sentient beings.
About practicing using the Mantra Before I go on a few words of warning. Meditation can be dangerous for those who are not fit for it. The practice of the perfection of wisdom has always been given with the warning it should not be taught to those who are not fit. Although I see no ground not to discuss the meaning of the Heart Sutra as is done openly these days, I feel the need to give this warning about practicing strongly and intensely with the mantra and the method I will describe and which is the method as I have been using for a year now. So please, if you feel or know you have mental or emotional problems you should be careful and have a strong attention on what the meditation does to you. If it makes you more instable or otherwise negative please be wise and stop! You will achieve much better goals starting out on paying attention to maintain a loving kindness attitude by doing a voluntary job if possible and do good as much as you can –while doing normal activities it is save to ponder on the meaning of the Heart sutra and emptiness! So again, please pay attention to the effects of your practice if you practice! The meaning of the words of the mantra: The translations of the mantra of ‘gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bhodi svaha’ into English is ‘gone, gone, gone over, gone fully over, Awakened, so be it!’ Now if one uses this mantra in practice, in meditative concentration, they should consciously use every word filled with intention for result. Now lets see what meaning is in the Mantra ….. what is gone? What has gone fully over? Having analyzed the meaning of the text, for us now obviously the notion of an existing world of phenomena and separate self entities has gone over. How to meditate using the mantra? Of course one needs to start with calming body and mind and generating the unselfish loving kindness motivation. Then one has to try to visualize the unity of all things in Emptiness, maybe by visualizing the Universe in Empty Space, trying to see this as inside oneself as opposed to outside. Then one might start using the mantra as a supporting tool.
This will help firstly to retract attention from those aggregates, the skandhas, which one can simply see as retracting attention away from the sense organs and the awareness of the outside world. Secondly it will support the inner generation and maintenance of that vision of unity of Emptiness or the vision of the universe in space inside. Of course one needs to practice this. Sustained concentration does not come easily. I (meaning this personality) use the words of the mantra pared to concentrated thoughts, sort of in this manner; I say: I try to concentrate on: OM the One Vision of Light in Space Gate I am not this body nor the senses nor the world around me , it all does not exist Gate I am not those feelings or other sensations , they do not even exist paragate I am not the perceptions of these sensations nor am I the habitual responses I may have in reaction to these perceptions; they do not exist parasamgate I am not the individual nor the name nor the form , there is no ‘I’ present in it, this person does not even exist Bhodi Consciousness Awakened, Infinite Space Infinite Clear Light svaha it is! The clue of course is that the person meditating keeps his concentration focused and his attention aimed at the goal. For this ones should be aware that the workings of those five aggregates, the skandha’s – the sense organs and perceptions and daily thought and thinking are contra-productive.
Because of this I try when using this mantra to make it fit to my breath as follows. I take a breath and start on top of the breath or a little later, with the first word and thought. Then while slowly exhaling the rest of the mantra slowly will be spoken and thought! The result for me is over the course of a year that it is getting progressively more easy to retract all attention from sense organs and normal daily consciousness. In the process of that, things the mind takes notice of start changing. The darkness I normally perceived with closed eyes is getting lighter and every now and then even very bright, or even so bright I thought it would burn my eyes although I was sure they were firmly closed. This way of Heart Sutra practice is like consciously walking the Chain of interdependent arising in reversed order. The effect of meditating like this outside of the time one is actually sitting in meditation is both strengthening the understanding of interdependent arising and decreasing the power of clinging and craving which creates Space for …. ehmmm Emptiness … well .. at least it does that for me, there is more rest in all of my systems so to say and a far deeper acceptance of circumstances. So I am confident that this meditation for me is effective. I have to say I have no teacher for meditation – nor for debate on dharma. My fate is to do it without having found a teacher in RL. This does not have to be your way though. If possible you might want to consider searching a teacher in RL. That comes in very good for most I believe.

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