Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Heart of the Matter.

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva,
when deeply practicing prajna-paramita,
clearly saw that the five skandhas are all empty,
and was saved from all suffering and distress.

Tonight we started looking at The Heart Sutra. This is a central Mahayana Buddhist scripture that is studied and chanted widely throughout the Buddhist world.

It takes the form of a speech delivered by the Bodhisattva of Compassion (called 'Kannon' in Japanese) to Sariputra, one of the Buddha's main disciples.

In it Kannon reveals that all things (including all aspects of our self) are of the nature of sunyata or 'emptiness'. This term 'emptiness' is sometimes misunderstood to mean that things aren't real or that they don't exist, but actually it refers to the nature of things just 'as they are' as we can directly realise them in zazen when we become balanced and stable, when our thinking calms down and things become clearer (even in our un-clearness!).

It seems important to note that Kannon delivers this revelation while 'deeply practicing prajna-paramita' (or deeply practicing 'perfect wisdom'), so s/he is expressing the nature of things as experienced in a very stable state of zazen.

There have been volumes written about sunyata/emptiness and what it means as a philosophy and whether it negates things or not etc etc etc... but it seems more important to directly clarify substantially for ourselves what emptiness/shunyata is in our own sitting zazen. It's not really just a philosophical matter.


  1. Harry,

    Nice to hear ye got to take a look at the Heart Sutra. Hope it goes well.


  2. Thanks, Peter.

    And thanks for making your translation and commentary available.

    Regards to all over there,