Heart of Perfect Wisdom

Rochester Zen Center

[From WikiPedia:] The Heart of Perfect Wisdom Sutra or Heart Sutra or Essence of Wisdom Sutra (Sanskrit: प्रज्ञापारमिताहृदय Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya; Chinese: 摩訶般若波羅蜜多心經) (the word sutra is not present in known Sanskrit manuscripts) is a well-known Mahāyāna Buddhist sutra that is very popular among Mahayana Buddhists both for its brevity and depth of meaning. Buddhist writer and translator Bill Porter calls the Heart Sutra the best known and most popular of all Buddhist scriptures.

The Heart Sutra is a member of the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajñāpāramitā) class of Mahāyāna Buddhist literature, and along with the Diamond Sutra, is perhaps the most prominent representative of the genre.

The Heart Sutra is made up of 14 shlokas in Sanskrit; a shloka composed of 32 syllables. In Chinese, it is 260 Chinese characters, while in English it is composed of sixteen sentences. This makes it one of the most highly abbreviated versions of the Perfection of Wisdom texts, which exist in various lengths up to 100,000 shlokas. According to Buddhist scholar and author Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in his commentary to the Heart Sutra:

The Essence of Wisdom Sutra (Heart Sutra) is much shorter than the other Perfection of Wisdom Sutras but it contains explicitly or implicitly the entire meaning of the longer Sutras.

This sutra is classified by Edward Conze as belonging to the third of four periods in the development of the Perfection of Wisdom canon, although because it contains a mantra (sometimes called a dharani), it does overlap with the final tantric phase of development according to this scheme, and is included in the tantra section of at least some editions of the Kangyur. Conze estimates the sutra's date of origin to be 350 CE; some others consider it to be two centuries older than that. Recent scholarship is unable to verify any date earlier than the 7th century CE.

The Chinese version is frequently chanted (in the local pronunciation) by the Chan (Zen/Seon/Thiền) sects during ceremonies in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam respectively. It is also significant to the Shingon Buddhist school in Japan, whose founder Kūkai wrote a commentary on it, and to the various Tibetan Buddhist schools, where it is studied extensively.

The sutra is in a small class of sutras not attributed to the Buddha. In some versions of the text, starting with that of Fayue dating to about 735, the Buddha confirms and praises the words of Avalokiteśvara, although this is not included in the preeminent Chinese version translated by Xuanzang. The Tibetan canon uses the longer version, although Tibetan translations without the framing text have been found at Dunhuang. The Chinese Buddhist canon includes both long and short versions, and both versions exist in Sanskrit.


"THE ESSENCE OF RIBHU GITA" here preceded by "A Story of Sage Ribhu & his Disciple Nidagha" (Chapter 26 of the Ribhu Gita) as told by Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950)

The Sage Ribhu taught his disciple the supreme Truth of the One Brahman (Pure Consciousness) without a second. However, Nidagha, in spite of his erudition and understanding, did not get sufficient conviction to adopt and follow the path of Self-Knowledge (Jnana Yoga), but settled down in his native town to lead a life devoted to the observance of ceremonial religion (Bhakti Yoga). But the Sage loved his disciple as deeply as the latter venerated his Master. In spite of his age, Ribhu would himself go to his disciple in the town, just to see how far the latter had outgrown, his ritualism. At times the Sage went in disguise, so that he might observe how Nidagha would act when he, did not know that he was being observed by his Master. On one such occasion Ribhu, who had put on the disguise of a village rustic, found Nidagha intently watching a royal procession. Unrecognized by the town-dweller Nidagha, the village rustic enquired what the bustle was all about, and was told that the king was going in the procession.

“Oh! it is the king. He goes in the procession! But where is he?” asked the rustic. “There, on the elephant,” said Nidagha. “You say the king is on the elephant. Yes, I see the two,” said the rustic, “but which is the king and which is the elephant?” “What!” exclaimed Nidagha. “You see the two, but do not know that the man above is the king and the animal below is the elephant? What is the use of talking to a man like you?” “Pray, be not impatient with an ignorant man like me,” begged the rustic. “But you said above and below— what do they mean?”

Nidagha could stand it no more. “You see the king and the elephant, the one above and the other below. Yet you want to know what is meant by 'above' and 'below'” burst out Nidagha. “If things seen and words spoken can convey so little to you, action alone can teach you. Bend forward, and you will know it all too well.” The rustic did as he was told. Nidagha got on his shoulders and said: “Know it now. I am above as the king, you are below as the elephant. Is that clear enough?” “No, not yet,” was the rustic's gentle reply. “You say you are above like the king, and I am below like the elephant. The 'king', the 'elephant', 'above' and 'below'— so far it is clear. But pray, tell me what you mean by 'I' and 'you'?”

When Nidagha was thus confronted all of a sudden with. the mighty problem of defining a 'you' apart from an 'I', light dawned on his mind. At once he jumped down and fell at his Master's feet saying: “Who else but my venerable Master, Ribhu, could have thus drawn my mind from the superficialities of physical existence to the true Being of the Self? Oh! Gracious Master, I crave thy blessings”

The Dharma of Mind Transmission: Zen Teachings of Huang-po

In the version of Dharma Master Lok To


The Mind is neither large nor small; it is located neither within nor without. It should not be thought about by the mind nor be discussed by the mouth. Ordinarily, it is said that we use the Mind to transmit the Mind, or that we use the Mind to seal the Mind. Actually, however, in transmitting the Mind, there is really no Mind to receive or obtain; and in sealing the Mind, there is really no Mind to seal. If this is the case, then does the Mind exist or does it not exist? Actually, it cannot be said with certainty that the Mind either exists or does not exist, for it is Absolute Reality. This is expressed in the Ch'an Sect by the maxim: "If you open your mouth, you are wrong. If you give rise to a single thought, you are in error." So, if you can quiet your thinking totally, all that remains is voidness and stillness.

The Mind is Buddha; Buddha is the Mind. All sentient beings and all Buddhas have the same Mind, which is without boundaries and void, without name and form and is immeasurable.

What is your Original Face and what is Hua-Tou? Your Original Face is without discrimination. Hua-Tou is the Reality before the arising of a single thought. When this Mind is enlightened, it is the Buddha; but when it is confused, it remains only the mind of sentient beings.

The Ch'an Master Huang-po Tuan-Chi was a major Dharma descendent of the Sixth Patriarch and was the Dharma-son of the Ch'an Master Pai-Chang. He was enlightened by the Supreme Vehicle to realize the Truth. Transmission of Mind is this alone ? nothing else!

The Dharma of Mind Transmission, the teaching of Ch'an Master Huang-po Tuan-Chi, is a cover-title that includes both The Chung-Ling Record and The Wan-Ling Record. These Records are sermons and dialogues of the Master that were collected and recorded by his eminent follower P'ei Hsiu. Both a government official and great scholar, P'ei Hsiu set down what he could recollect of the Master's teaching in 857 C.E., during the T'ang Dynasty, eight years after the Master's death (ca. 850 C. E. ), fifteen years after his first period of instruction by the Master at a temple near Chung Ling (842 C.E.), and nine years after his second period of instruction at a temple near Wan Ling (848 C.E.). The Records were presumably edited and published somewhat later in the T'ang Dynasty by an unknown person, and they contain a "Preface" by the recorder, P'ei Hsiu. I would like to say to all present and future students of the Dharma, both in the East and in the West, and to all my good friends: If you want to practice, you should practice just as this Ch'an Master Huang-po Tuan-Chi did. Then you, too, can realize Sudden Enlightenment.

Dharma Master Lok To
Young Men's Buddhist Association of America
Bronx, New York
December, 1985

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