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Buddhadharma : Fall 2012
FALL 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 25 T here is no doubt that the Heart Sutra is the most frequently used and recited text in the entire Mahayana Buddhist tradition, which still flourishes in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, Mon� golia, Bhutan, China, parts of India and Nepal, and, more recently, also in the Ameri� cas and Europe. Many people have said many different things about what the Heart Sutra is and what it is not, such as being the heart of wis� dom, a statement of how things truly are, the key teaching of the Mahayana, a condensation of all the Prajnaparamita Sutras (the Buddha’s second turning of the wheel of dharma), or an expla� nation of emptiness in a nutshell. In order to understand the actual words of the Heart Sutra, it’s helpful to first explore its background within the Buddhist tradition as well as the meanings of “prajnaparamita” and “emptiness.” One thing we can safely say about the Heart Sutra is that it is completely crazy. If we read it, it does not make any sense. Well, maybe the begin� ning and end make sense, but everything in the middle sounds like a sophisticated form of non� sense, which can be said to be the basic feature of Form Is Emptiness, Emptiness Is Form The Heart Sutra Will Change You Forever the Prajnaparamita Sutras in general. If we like the word “no,” we might like the sutra because that is the main word it uses—no this, no that, no everything. We could also say that it is a sutra about wisdom, but it is a sutra about crazy wis� dom. When we read it, it sounds nuts, but that is actually where the wisdom part comes in. What the Heart Sutra (like all Prajnaparamita Sutras) does is to cut through, deconstruct, and demol� demol� demol� ish all our usual conceptual frameworks, all our rigid ideas, all our belief systems, all our refer� ence points, including any with regard to our spiritual path. It does so on a very fundamental level, not just in terms of thinking and concepts, but also in terms of our perception, how we see the world, how we hear, how we smell, taste, touch, how we regard and emotionally react to ourselves and others, and so on. This sutra pulls the rug out from underneath our feet and does not leave anything intact that we can think of, nor even a lot of things that we cannot think of. This is called “crazy wisdom.” I guess I should give you a warning here that this sutra is hazard� ous to your samsaric sanity. What Sangharak� shita says about the Diamond Sutra equally Penetrate the true meaning of the Heart Sutra, says Karl Brunnhölzl, and nothing will be the same again. The secret is making it personal. PHOTO GINA KELLY