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Buddhadharma : Fall 2006
buddhadharma| 31 |fall 2006 Ionce attended a memorial service for an old grandmother in Mishima, Japan. She had been a Zen student, and members of her family had connections with Shingon and Nichiren sects as well. A priest from each of these three denomina- tions took part in the service, and they joined in reciting the Heart Sutra together. The Heart Sutra says that form is emptiness; emptiness is form; form is exactly emptiness; emp- tiness exactly form. Moreover, sensation, percep- tion, formulation, and consciousness are also like this. This seems to be an unnatural kind of contra- dictory intelligence, but it is the expression that is contradictory – there is no contradiction in nature. Very strange things live side by side in evident har- mony – intimate harmony, even identity. The Heart Sutra is an exposition of nature, essential nature, the way things are. Only 276 words, the Heart Sutra is a very brief text, abbreviated from a monumental work, the Caught in Indra’s Net if you want to understand the full truth of “form is emptiness; emptiness is form,” says robert aitken roshi, you must go beyond the Heart Sutra to philosophical texts like the Huayan Sutra, which unpack and elaborate this profound paradox. Prajnaparamita Sutra, probably the Astasahasrika edition of 8,000 lines, which was composed just before the Common Era. The Heart Sutra was produced shortly thereafter. And that evening in Mishima, it was recited together by priests of dis- parate sects, and it is recited every day in almost all Mahayana temples in Japan, China, Korea, and Vietnam, except those of the Pure Land, and has been recited there every day for 1,600 years and more. Today you will hear it daily throughout the Buddhist diaspora beyond East Asia. Furthermore, in East Asia, it is not translated. It is recited, and has been recited, in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam using the original Chinese ideo- graphs. Once, I took my teacher Nakagawa Soen Roshi to visit a Chinese Buddhist temple in Hono- lulu. The resident priest was very hospitable, and showed his Japanese guest the sutra book used by his sangha. The roshi turned to the Heart Sutra, and he and his Chinese host recited it together, syllable by syllable, each using his own, slightly different pronunciation. They didn’t miss a beat and ended precisely on the same note. Contrary to some scholarship, the fullness of the Heart Sutra’s import does not lie in the origi- nal sutra’s 8,000 lines, but rather in the way the RobeRt Aitken Roshi is cofoundeR of the diAmond sAnghA And the buddhist PeAce fellowshiP. his lAtest book is VegetAble Roots discouRse: wisdom fRom ming chinA on life And liVing (shoemAkeR & hoARd). he liVes in hAwAii. installations by erwin redl CourtesyoftheartistandaCeGallery,losanGeles