Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Heart Sutra

The Heart Sutra The Heart Sutra by Red Pine

As with the Diamond Sutra, I preferred the Red Pine translation and commentary to the Conze edition. While looking online for a translation to link to (while refusing to go to Wikipedia) I found these amusing videos. Then I succumbed and went to WP, and found Conze's translation. Below, in blue, Red Pine's translation, as well as his commentary and commentary translations in italics. On to my review in preparation for my paper.

Red Pine says in his introduction:
A mantra is like a magic lamp, which itself is often cast in the shape of a womb. But instead of bringing forth a genie, as other mantras are intended to do, this mantra draws us inside, where we become the genie. Chanting this mantra thus creates the womb from which we are reborn as buddhas. (p. 16)

And this is how this is the Mother of the Buddhas.

Three Levels of Prajna

  • First level: mundane wisdom --> concretization --> "views what is impermanent as permanent, what is impure as pure, and what has no self as having a self"
  • Second level: metaphysical wisdom --> opposite of concretization --> "views what appears to be permanent as impermanent, what appears to be pure as impure, and what appears to have a self as having no self. ...Despite providing its possessors with insight into a higher reality, such wisdom remains rooted in dialectics and does not result in enlightenment"
  • Third level: transcendent wisdom--> not two --> "views all things, whether mundane or metaphysical, as neither permanent nor impermanent, as neither pure nor impure, as neither having a self nor not having a self, as inconceivable and inexpressible. ...it is based on the insight that all things, both objects and dharmas, are empty of anything self-existent. (p. 30)
Part One: Prajnaparamita

1. THE NOBLE AVALOKITESHVARA
Fa-tsang says, "This name is given to someone who has the power to see without being obstructed by concepts or objects and whose power to see how to aid those who hope to be rescued is also unobstructed. The first explains his wisdom, the second his compassion." (p. 48)

The practice is all about getting better at witnessing and letting go of the obstructions. This continues even when obstructions are vanquished. Sometimes a person is Kanzeon, sometimes a person needs to call upon Kanzeon.

Hui-ching says, "Seeing the emptiness of greed, he is master of generosity; seeing the emptiness of sin, he is master of morality; the same holds for the rest of the paramitas; and seeing the emptiness of ignorance, he is master of wisdom." (p. 49)

2. WHILE PRACTICING THE DEEP PRACTICE OF PRAJNAPARAMITA
Hui-ching says, "And after approaching the end of the path and gaining the forbearance of birthlessness, they realize that the person who cultivates and the path they cultivate are nothing but a dream or illusion." (p. 55)

3. LOOKED UPON THE FIVE SKANDHAS
Red Pine's explanation of the root meanings of the 5 skandhas are worth looking at if you chance upon this book. Here they are, along with the fallacies of identifying with any one of them, from my cheat-sheet reminder card:
1. Rupa=Form: I am my body.
2. Vedana=Sensation: I am my feeling
3. Samjna=Thought: I am my thought.
4. Samskara=Activity: I am what I do.
5. Vijnana=Consciousness: I am my consciousness
Red Pine says the 4th is "our karmic genome, the repository of all that we have previously intended, whether expressed in the form of words, deeds, or thoughts." (p. 64)

4. AND SEEING THEY WERE EMPTY OF SELF-EXISTENCE
Hui-ching says, "If the skandhas exist, then suffering isn't empty. But once someone understands that the skandhas are empty, what does suffering have to rest on?" (p. 70)

5. SAID, "HERE, SHARIPUTRA
6. FORM IS EMPTINESS, EMPTINESS IS FORM.

Well, duh. I only say that because it's been chanted into my blood and bones.

Yin-shun says, "Most people don't understand this. They think that 'emptiness' means 'nothing' and that it can't produce everything that exists. They don't realize that if dharma weren't empty, no dharmas would ever appear, that what exists would always exist and what doesn't exist would never exist. But dharmas [things] aren't like that. Those that exist can change, then they don't exist. ANd those that don't exist can appear to exist as the result of causes and conditions. The birth and destruction, the existence and non-existence of dharmas is entirely dependent on their lack of self-existence and their fundamental emptiness. (p. 79)

That sure puts qua anything out of existence.

7. EMPTINESS IS NOT SEPARATE FROM FORM, FORM IS NOT SEPARATE FROM EMPTINESS
8. WHATEVER IS FORM IS EMPTINESS, WHATEVER IS EMPTINESS IS FORM
Chen-k'o says, "Ordinary people don't understand. They see form, but they don't see emptiness. Followers of the Two Paths are biased and see emptiness, but they don't see form. It is just like the water of the Ganges. Fishes and dragons see it as a cavernous home. Devas see it as aquamarine. Humans see it as a flowing current. Hungry ghosts see it as a roaring blaze. What these four beings see is nothing but their emotions. Those who wake up understand that none of these exist."

9. THE SAME HOLDS FOR SENSATION AND PERCEPTION, MEMORY AND CONSCIOUSNESS.
10. HERE, SHARIPUTRA, ALL DHARMAS ARE DEFINED BY EMPTINESS
11. NOT BIRTH OR DESTRUCTION, PURITY OR DEFILEMENT, COMPLETENESS OR DEFICIENCY
Red Pine says, "This is a restatement of the Buddha's teaching of the Three Insights (tri-vidya) into what characterizes a dharma, or fundamental entity of the mind. These are impermanence (anitya), suffering (dukkha), and no-self (anatman)." (p. 90)

Fa-tsang says, "To be neither born nor destroyed is to be an ordinary person at the beginning of the path. To be neither pure nor defiled is to be a bodhisattva at the middle of the path. And to be neither complete nor deficient is to be a buddha at the end of the path. These three have no nature of their own, hence they manifest the marks of true emptiness. (p. 95)

Part Two: Abhidharma in the Light of Prajnaparamita

12. THEREFORE, SHARIPUTRA, IN EMPTINESS THERE IS NO FORM,
13. NO SENSATION, NO PERCEPTION, NO MEMORY, AND NO CONSCIOUSNESS
14. NO EYE, NO EAR, NO NOSE, NO TONGUE, NO BODY AND NO MIND
15. NO SHAPE, NO SOUNDS, NO SMELL, NO TASTE, NO FEELING AND NO THOUGHT
16. NO ELEMENT OF PERCEPTION, FROM EYE TO CONCEPTUAL CONSCIOUSNESS
17. NO CAUSAL LINK, FROM IGNORANCE TO OLD AGE AND DEATH
18. AND NO END OF CAUSAL LINK, FROM IGNORANCE TO OLD AGE AND DEATH
19. NO SUFFERING, NO SOURCE, NO RELIEF, NO PATH

Red Pine says, "As with the previous analytical categories, the Four Truths address the same basic issue: the nature of our experience. The Five Skandhas explained it in terms of aspects or bodies, the Twelve Abodes explained it in terms of location, the Eighteen Elements of Perception explained it in terms of components, and the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination explained it in terms of causal connections. It was this last insight that formed the basis of the Buddha's Enlightenment. (p. 116)

20. NO KNOWLEDGE, NO ATTAINMENT
AND NO NON-ATTAINMENT
Chen-k'o says, "Once the Five Skandhas are seen as empty, the light of the mind shines alone. When all the clouds are gone, the full moon fills the sky. Thus, birth and destruction, purity and defilement, completeness and deficiency are all snowflakes on a red-hot stove. Once you realize true emptiness, how could the Five Skandhas alone be empty?" (p. 127)

Part Three: The Bodhisattva Path

21. THEREFORE, SHARIPUTRA, WITHOUT ATTAINMENT
Red Pine says, "Thus, while the shravaka path ends with no rebirth, the bodhisattva path ends with no birth, with the realization that nothing comes into existence in the first place. And because nothing arises, nothing ceases. And because nothing ceases, nothing is impermanent. And because nothing is impermanent, suffering cannot occur. And because suffering cannot occur, all beings are freed from suffering. And because all beings are freed from suffering, bodhisattvas fulfill their vow to liberate all beings. And because bodhisattvas fulfill their vow to liberate all beings, they themselves are liberated from liberating all beings." (p. 129)

22. BODHISATTVAS TAKE REFUGE IN PRAJNAPARAMITA
23. AND LIVE WITHOUT WALLS OF THE MIND

Conze translates this as "thought coverings."

24. WITHOUT WALLS OF THE MIND AND THUS WITHOUT FEARS
Te'ch'ing says, "All dharmas are basically empty. But someone who relies on sentience or discriimination to view such thins will become hopelessly entangled by the mind and its objects. Whereas someone who relies on the true wisdom of prajna will see that the mind and its objects are empty. And instead of obstructions, they will only meet with freedom. And because their minds are free of walls, there is nothing to fear from birth and death. And because there is nothing to fear from birth and death, there is also no buddhahood to seek. It is because of the fear of birth and death that we seek nirvana. But this is nothing but a dream or delusion. (p. 135)

25. THEY SEE THROUGH DELUSIONS AND FINALLY NIRVANA
Hui-chung says, "What the mind depends upon are views. When you suddenly realize the source of the mind, there is nothing at all to grasp." (p. 139)

26. ALL BUDDHAS PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
27. ALSO TAKE REFUGE IN PRAJNAPARAMITA
Red Pine says, "Here, Avalokiteshvara reminds us of this process, that buddhas become buddhas by taking refuge in Prajnaparamita and not by attaining nirvana." (p. 140)

And what that means is only bodhisattvas can become buddhas. Also, just a reminder, nirvana = extinction. It does not mean heaven.

28. AND REALIZE UNEXCELLED, PERFECT ENLIGHTENMENT

Part Four: The Womb of Buddhas

29. YOU SHOULD THEREFORE KNOW THE GREAT MANTRA OF PRAJNAPARAMITA
Ching-chueh says, "Once you catch a fish, you can forget the trap. Once you catch a rabbit, you can forget the snare. Once you catch the meaning, you can forget the words." (p. 147)

30. THE MANTRA OF GREAT MAGIC
31. THE UNEXCELLED MANTRA
32. THE MANTRA EQUAL TO THE UNEQUALLED
33. WHICH HEALS ALL SUFFERING AND IS TRUE, NOT FALSE
8 Kinds of suffering: of birth; of age; of illness; of death; of separation from what one loves; of meeting what one hates; of not getting what one wants; of the skandhas (p. 153)

34. THE MANTRA IN PRAJNAPARAMITA SPOKEN THUS
Te-ch'ing says, "The foregoing text is exoteric prajna. This mantra is esoteric prajna. There's no place for an intellectual understanding, only silent repetition. The speed of its effectiveness depends upon the inconceivable power of forgetting feelings and putting an end to understanding. But the reason behind the effectiveness is the light inherent in everyone's mind." (p. 155)

35. 'GATE GATE, PARAGATE, PARASANGATE, BODHI SVAHA'
para-gate = into the gone beyond
Red Pine says, "Thus, the word around which this mantra, and the entire sutra, revolves is "beyond." After negating the categories of the Abhidharma, this sutra refuses to set up another category or set of categories. Whatever it is, this teaching is beyond it, including itself. This is the function of this mantra: to go beyond language and the categories in which language imprisons us and to lead us into the womb of Prajnaparamita." (p. 158)

Kyogen said, "I think of the Heart Sutra as a formula that expresses the whole of the Buddhadharma."

When I was attempting to make up past classes, I took a hard look at this and the Diamond Sutra, and I knew I couldn't find something to say. The harder I looked, the more it eluded me, so I decided to take the class again, especially since it was being offered the next season.

Now I've been through the class again, and again, I have little to say, at least about this. But now I see that is quite natural. This mantra, and this sutra, go beyond language.

Red Pine says, "The mantra concludes with bodhi svaha. While the first part of the mantra leads us into the womb, this last part gives us birth. Bodhi, which is case-free here and thus the magic seed of our rebirth, means "enlightenment," and svaha is exclamatory: "at last," "amen," "hallelujah." It was used at the end of the Vedic rituals while making oblations to the gods and thus has the function of consecrating an offering." (p. 158)

(Yes, Buddhism is a religion.)

Having chanted this for years, I wholeheartedly agree that the chanting of "bodhi svaha" gives us birth.