Prajnaparamita (Heart) Sutra

om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha

The (Prajnaparamita) Heart Sutra is thought to have been written around the first century BCE. Although the text is very short its influence in Buddhism has been enormous. Essentially it expounds the concept of 'emptiness' (sunyata), a key term in Mahayana philosophy. In short, sunyata refers to the absence of self or essence in all conditioned phenomena: 'form is emptiness and emptiness is form'. The world is seen as a complex of ever-changing, fluctuating elements (dharmas): 'Here, O Sariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness'. The texts culminates with the mantra: 'Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all-hail!'.

excerpted from the book MOTHER OF THE BUDDHAS by Lex Hixon

The humble lord of enlightenment is seated at the center of his radiant assembly of monks, nuns, single and married practitioners of perfect wisdom and celestial beings. Suddenly, lord Buddha enters the astonishingly profound concentration on Prajnaparamita in which every single structure of relativity shines clearly and distinctly. This particular concentration is known as the samadhi of deep light.

To the right of the golden Buddha, the sublime form of Avalokitesvhara -embodiment of enlightenment compassion- now manifests, like a brilliant white cloud shining in the sunlight. Avalokitesvhara is also spontaneously engaged in the profound practice of Prajnaparamita, clearly experiencing the insubstantiality and transparency of the five constituents of personal and communal awareness, including material forms and conscious states.

Shariputra: O Sublime avalokitesvhara, as I inquire only through the power of Buddha nature, so may you reply through the same transcendent power. How should a son or daughter of the Buddha family proceed in order to study truly and to practice powerfully the unthinkable depth of perfect wisdom ?

Avalokitesvhara: O noble Shariputra, a beloved son or a daughter of the wisdom lineage who longs to awaken to the depth of unthinkability should proceed this way. All material forms and all conscious states are to be known as absolutely selfless, without separate identity , luminously pure. The processes of personal awareness do not need to be purified. They are ontologically transparent, or perfectly pure, by their very nature. All the apparently complex forms of functional interdepedence, remain utterly simply, indivisible, pristine, open and free. Universal transparency is what manifests as both form and consciousness. Material forms are empty the slightest independent self-existence, and luminous emptiness of self-existence is precisely what is manifest as material forms. In the same way, conscious states are empty of the slightest independent self-existence, and luminous emptiness of self-existence is precisely what is manifest as conscious states.

O Shariputra, all structures of relativity without exception are empty of inherent self-existence, free from characteristics marks of limits, never created and therefore never destroyed, transparently pure, untouched by conventional notion of imperfection, never increasing or diminishing.

O Shariputra, in the light of Prajnaparamita, ontological transparency alone reigns, free from substantial material forms from independently existing conscious states. Interdependency functions harmoniously and unerringly without any need for self-existing form, perception, conception or separate awareness of whatever description -without substantila eyes, ears, nose, tongue, nervous system or mind. The profoundly significant karmic careers of all beloved conscious beings unfold coherently without any need for separate subject or object -without subjective or objective sound, smell, taste or touch and without any substantial subjective or objective structures, either particular or general

O Shariputra in the light of Prajnaparamita, Reality is never veiled or crystallised by primordial ignorance, and so there is no moment of illumination when veils or constructs are removed and ignorance ceased. There is no time at which total awakeness grows old or dies, and so there is no moment of liberation when the function of aging and dying is overcome. There is no substantial need to for the drive to attain liberation, for there is no substantial bondage.

O Shariputra, in precisely this sense, there can be no independent self-existence of what conscious beings conceptually and perceptually project as pervasive suffering. Even the notions developed by contemplative science about the inevitable arising of universal suffering, it's ultimate cessation and the spiritual disciplines conducive to it's cessation -even these venerable teachings are relative, or conventional. Since there is no separate moment of attaining wisdom, there is no time when perfect wisdom has not been attained. The uncrompomising light of prajnaparamita even reveals that there is never any independently existing perfect wisdom in the first place.

O shariputra Bodhisattvas never generate any awareness of intermediate attainment or of reaching some supreme spiritual goal. They abide in abodelessness, standing their ground within the groundlessnees of Perfect Wisdom. Their entire sensibility, or mind stream, is free from the slightest obscuration, free from the faintest trace of separate subjects or objects and free as well from the root anxiety that arises inevitably from the instinctive notions of objectivity and subjectivity. These fantastic notions and other false assumptions upon which the conventional world claims to be founded simply evaporate in the blazing light of Prajnaparamita. The entire complex of cyclical sorrow becomes transparent.

O Shariputra, the fully awakened Buddhas of the beginningless past, the open future and limitless dimensions of the present can manifest the total awakeness of Buddha Nature only by birthless birth from Mother Prajnaparamita, womb of Perfect Wisdom.

O Shariputra, listen carefully to these syllabic sounds which contain the entire perfection of wisdom, as a vast tree is miraculously contained within a small seed. This is the mantra which awakens every conscious stream into pure presence. This is the mantra of all mantras, the mantra which transmits the principles of incomparability and inconceivability, the mantra which instantly dissipates the apparent darkness of egocentric misery, the mantra which invokes only truth and does not acknowledge the separate self-existence of any falsehood:

Tadyatha gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha

Pure presence is transcending, ever transcending, transcending transcendence, transcending even the transcendence. It is total awakeness. It is suchness.

During the pregnant silence which follows this amazing discourse and miraculous mantric transmission of the full power of perfect wisdom, lord Buddha comes forth from his blissful absorption and addresses Avalokitesvhara.

Lord Buddha: Beatifully expressed and impeccably transmitted, O sublime celestial Bodhisattva. A son or daughter of the Buddha family should enter the unthinkable depth of Prajnaparamita in precisely the way you have indicated.

The voice of awakened enlightenment rings out with such perfect clarity that members of this and every other Buddha assembly, as well as conscious beings in all world systems, are plunged immediately into the peace of universal transparency and the ecstasy of universal praise.

When the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara
Was Coursing in the Deep Prajna Paramita
He Perceived That All Five Skandhas Are Empty.
Thus He Overcame All Ills and Suffering.

Oh, Sariputra,
Form Does not Differ From the Void,
And the Void Does Not Differ From Form.
Form is Void and Void is Form;
The Same is True For Feelings,
Perceptions, Volitions and Consciousness.

the Characteristics of the Voidness of All Dharmas
Are Non-Arising, Non-Ceasing, Non-Defiled,
Non-Pure, Non-Increasing, Non-Decreasing.

Therefore, in the Void There Are No Forms,
No Feelings, Perceptions, Volitions or Consciousness.

No Eye, Ear, Nose, Tongue, Body or Mind;
No Form, Sound, Smell, Taste, Touch or Mind Object;
No Realm of the Eye,
Until We Come to No realm of Consciousness.

No ignorance and Also No Ending of Ignorance,
Until We Come to No Old Age and Death and
No Ending of Old Age and Death.

Also, There is No Truth of Suffering,
Of the Cause of Suffering,
Of the Cessation of Suffering, Nor of the Path.

There is No Wisdom, and There is No Attainment Whatsoever.

Because There is Nothing to Be Attained,
The Bodhisattva Relying On Prajna Paramita Has
No Obstruction in His Mind.

Because There is No Obstruction, He Has no Fear,
And He passes Far Beyond Confused Imagination.
And Reaches Ultimate Nirvana.

The Buddhas of the Past, Present and Future,
By Relying on Prajna Paramita
Have Attained Supreme Enlightenment.

Therefore, the Prajna Paramita is the Great Magic Spell,
The Spell of Illumination, the Supreme Spell,
Which Can Truly Protect One From All Suffering Without Fail.

Therefore He Uttered the Spell of Prajnaparmita,
Saying Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha.

The Heart Sutra
(In Sanskrit and English)

Translated from the Sanskrit by Edward Conze

Om namo Bhagavatyai Arya-Prajnaparamitayai!

Homage to the Perfection of Wisdom, the Lovely, the Holy!

Arya-Avalokitesvaro bodhisattvo gambhiram prajnaparamitacaryam caramano vyavalokayati sma: panca-skandhas tams ca svabhavasunyan pasyati sma.

Avalokita, The Holy Lord and Bodhisattva, was moving in the deep course of the Wisdom which has gone beyond. He looked down from on high, He beheld but five heaps, and he saw that in their own-being they were empty.

Iha Sariputra rupam sunyata sunyataiva rupam, rupan na prithak sunyata sunyataya na prithag rupam, yad rupam sa sunyata ya sunyata tad rupam; evam eva vedana-samjna-samskara-vijnanam.

Here, O Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.

Iha Sariputra sarva-dharmah sunyata-laksana, anutpanna aniruddha, amala aviamala, anuna aparipurnah.

Here, O Sariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness; they are not produced or stopped, not defiled or immaculate, not deficient or complete.

Tasmac Chariputra sunyatayam na rupam na vedana na samjna na samskarah na vijnanam. Na caksuh-srotra-ghranajihva-kaya-manamsi. Na rupa-sabda-gandha-rasa-sprastavaya-dharmah. Na caksur-dhatur yavan na manovjnana-dhatuh. Na-avidya na-avidya-ksayo yavan na jara-maranam na jara-marana-ksayo. Na duhkha-samudaya-nirodha-marga. Na jnanam, na praptir na-apraptih.

Therefore, O Sariputra, in emptiness there is no form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor impulse, nor consciousness; No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; No forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables or objects of mind; No sight-organ element, and so forth, until we come to: No mind-consciousness element; There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so forth, until we come to: there is no decay and death, no extinction of decay and death. There is no suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path. There is no cognition, no attainment and non-attainment.

Tasmac Chariputra apraptitvad bodhisattvasya prajnaparamitam asritya viharaty acittavaranah. Cittavarana-nastitvad atrastro viparyasa-atikranto nishtha-nirvana-praptah.

Therefore, O Sariputra, it is because of his non-attainmentness that a Bodhisattva, through having relied on the Perfection of Wisdom, dwells without thought-coverings. In the absence of thought-coverings he has not been made to tremble, he has overcome what can upset, and in the end he attains to Nirvana.

Tryadhva-vyavasthitah sarva-buddhah prajnaparamitam-asritya-anuttaram samyaksambodhim abhisambuddhah.

All those who appear as Buddhas in the three periods of time fully awake to the utmost, right and perfect Enlightenment because they have relied on the Perfection of Wisdom.

Tasmaj jnatavyam : prajnaparamita maha-mantro maha-vidya-mantro 'nuttara-mantro' samasama-mantrah, sarva-duhkha-prasamanah, satyam amithyatvat. Prajnaparamitayam ukto mantrah. Tadyatha : Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhisvaha. Iti prajnaparamita-hridayam samaptam.

Therefore one should know the prajnaparamita as the great spell, the spell of great knowledge, the utmost spell, the unequalled spell, allayer of all suffering, in truth - for what could go wrong? By the prajnaparamita has this spell been delivered. It runs like this: Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all-hail! - This completes the Heart of Perfect Wisdom.