"Ignorance" conditions compositional factors. Compositional factors condition consciousness. Consciousness conditions name-and-form. Name-and-form condition the six [sense] entrances. The six [sense] entrances condition contact. Contact conditions feeling. Feeling conditions craving. Craving conditions grasping. Grasping conditions existence. Existence conditions birth. Birth conditions old age and death. This constitutes "the delineation of the twelve causes and conditions describing flowing along and turning about [in samsaric existence]." This corresponds to the two truths of suffering and accumulation. [Where the Sutra refers to] "extinction of ignorance" on up to [where it refers to] "extinction of old age and death," this constitutes "the delineation describing the return to extinction." It corresponds to the two truths of extinction and the Way. This is the dharma contemplated by the "condition-enlightened" practitioner (pratyekabuddha). In every case they are found to be fundamentally nonexistent within the substance of praj then not only are there no dharmas associated with the [above-mentioned] two vehicles,.there are no bodhisattva dharmas either. How is this? "Wisdom" here is just contemplative wisdom It is that mind [which is operative] within the wisdom of the six perfections and which is capable of seeking. "Attainment" here is just the result of buddhahood. It is that realm which is sought after. Thus , in the cultivation of the bodhisattva, he takes wisdom as constituting that which is foremost. His transforming beings below is solely for the sake of seeking the result of buddhahood above. Most especially because the realm of buddhahood is like space and has nothing upon which it relies, in any case where one were one to seek after it with a mind holding on to [the concept of] something attainable, this would not be genuine. It is on account of this phenomenon being fundamentally nonexistent within the substance of the true emptiness ofprajnaa it says, "There is no wisdom nor is there any attainment." It is non-attainment itself which constitutes genuine attainment. It is then that one's attainment succeeds in reaching the ultimate.


Since nothing whatsoever is attainable, because the bodhisattva relies upon the praj his mind is not hung up or obstructed. Because he is not hung up or obstructed he has no fearfulness and leaves far behind upside-down dream thinking and ultimately reaches nirvana.

It is especially because there is nothing which is gained and yet the result of buddhahood is gained that the bodhisattva relies in his cultivation on prajnaa and so carries on his contemplations in that manner. Thus [he perceives] that absolutely all dharmas are fundamentally empty and still. If one were to rely upon emotions, thinking and discriminations and go about one's contemplations in such a manner then one's mental state would become so bound up and enmeshed that one would be unable to gain liberation. One becomes attached through one's desires in place after place and in every case this brings about hangups and obstructions.

If one relies upon the true wisdom of prajnaa+as+he+carries+on+his+contemplations+then+both+the+mind+and+the+objective+sphere+are+[understood+to+be]+empty.+At+every+point+of+one's+experience+everything+is+utterly+clear+and+there+is+nothing+which+is+not+liberation.+Hence+it+states+that+because+one+relies+upon+this+prajnaa one's mind is free of hangups and obstructions. On account of the mind's being free of hangups and obstructions there is then no birth and death which could be feared. Hence it states that one has no fearfulness.

Since it is the case that there is no birth and death of which one can be afraid, then there is no result of buddhahood which can be sought after either. This is because the fearing of birth and death and the seeking after nirvana are all just manifestations of dream thinking and inverted [views]. The Perfect Enlightenment Sutra states that birth and death and nirvana are just like yesterday's dream. Thus, in the absence of praj~naa's perfect contemplation one is certainly unable to leave behind the marks of these inverted views and dream thinking. Since one is unable to leave behind inverted views and dream thinking one is certainly then unable to ultimately arrive at nirvana.

Now "nirvana" is a Sanskrit term. Here it is termed "still extinction" and also as "perfect stillness." This refers to perfectly ridding oneself of [the delusions corresponding to] the five dwelling stations and to achieving the eternal peace of still extinction. It is just the ultimate result to which the Buddhas return. The intent here is that one who is able to leave behind the sentiment [which clings to distinctions corresponding to] the Superior and the common person is then able to achieve realization of and entry into nirvana, that's all. If in the cultivation undertaken by the bodhisattva, he fails to pay heed to this point, it definitely does not constitute genuine cultivation.


Because the buddhas of the three periods of time rely upon the Prajna-paaramitaa+they+gain+anuttara-samyak-sa.mbodhi.+Therefore+one+knows+that+the+prajna-paaramitaa is the great spirit mantra, it is the great bright mantra, it is the unsurpassed mantra, and it is the unequaled mantra which is able to get rid of all suffering and which is genuine and not false.

This is to say that it is not only the bodhisattvas who, relying upon this praj undertake their cultivation, but it is the buddhas of the three periods of time. There are none who do not rely upon this prajnaa in gaining perfect realization of the result of the unsurpassed, right, equal, and correct enlightenment. Hence [the Sutra] states, "Because the buddhas of the three periods of time rely upon the praj~naa-paaramitaa they gain anuttara-samyak-sa.mbodhi." This is a Sanskrit term. The "an-" means "not." "Uttara" means "surpassed." "Sam-" means "right." "Yak" means "equal." "Bodhi" means "enlightenment." This is the ultimate term for the result of buddhahood. Looking at it based on this one knows therefore that the Praj death and the afflictions. Therefore [the Sutra] states that this is the great spirit mantra. It is able to break up the darkness of ignorance which has endured throughout the long night of birth and death. Therefore [the Sutra] states that it is the great bright mantra. Both within the world and beyond the world there is not one single dharma which is able to surpass prajnaa. Therefore [the Sutra] states that it is the unsurpassed mantra. Because praj~naa is the mother of all buddhas which gives birth to every one of the immeasurable number of meritorious qualities there is nothing within the world or beyond the world which equals it. It is only this which is able to equal every other. Hence [the Sutra] states that it is the unequaled mantra.

As for what is referred to as a "mantra," it is not the case that [aside from this] there is some other mantra. It is just this prajnaa+which+[itself]+is+it.+Why+is+it+then+that+it+says+"prajnaa" and then additionally refers to it as a "mantra"? It is on account of the speed of the spiritual efficacy associated with [these] ultimate words. They are like the secret orders used in the military. Among those who are able to silently carry out the actions there are none who are not decisively victorious. Praj it is like a sweet dew [elixir]. One who drinks it is able to avoid death. And so if there is someone who possesses the flavor of prajnaa he is then able to suddenly get rid of the great calamity of birth and death. Hence it states that it is able to get rid of all suffering. That it then states that it is true, genuine and not false is in order to show that the speech of the Buddha is not erroneous. This is out of a desire that people will truly believe and not have doubts about it. [This is because] decisiveness in cultivation constitutes something which is essential.


Therefore he spoke the praj saying:

On account of prajnaa's truly possessing the quality of being able to get rid of suffering and bring about the achievement of bliss he therefore then spoke the secret mantra in order to cause people to silently hold it [in mind] so as to seize its rapid efficacy.

Gate Gate Paaragate Paarasa.mgate Bodhi Svaahaa.

This is Sanskrit. The text which comes prior to this constitutes the openly manifest declaration of prajnaa.+This+mantra+constitutes+the+secret+declaration+of+prajnaa. It is not such as admits of an intellectual understanding. One simply recites it silently. The speed of experiencing its efficacy resides specifically in the inconceivable and ineffable power which comes from forgetting one's emotions and cutting off [the pursuit of] understanding. Thus the reason for the speed of experiencing its beneficial effects lies in the originally existing light of the mind which is possessed by everyone. The buddhas achieve realization of it and employ it as the marvelous function of spiritual superknowledges. Beings remain confused with regard to it and employ it as the basis for engaging in erroneous thinking and [sense]-object weariness. The reason that one employs it every day and yet is unaware of it is due to one's own obscuration of the fundamental truth. Thus one undergoes bitter suffering unjustly. How could this not be lamentable?

One need only be able to awaken to that which originally exists and, right on the spot, reverse the illumination and reflect back [inwardly]. If one single-mindedly emmerses oneself in cultivation then the barrier of sentiments associated with birth and death will suddenly come crashing down. This is just like the case of a room which has remained dark for a thousand years. A single lamp is able to dispel [the darkness]. One need not seek elsewhere for any other skillful means. Where we possess the determination to go forth from birth and death, if we abandon this [method], it is not the case that there would be some ferry or raft [which we might avail ourselves of]. As has been said, when one is being tossed about on the waves in the middle of the sea of suffering, praj prajnaa is a lantern.

The fellows of today run off down dangerous roads. They drift about helplessly on the sea of suffering. Where there is someone possessed of his own free will and yet who fails to seek this out, I have no idea where he might [otherwise be able to] find a refuge. Even though this is the way it is, still, praj~naa is like [the magical sword known as] Syau-lyan which cut cleanly through anything it so much as contacted. Even though things were cut completely through by it, still, [the wielder] wouldn't even sense it. If one is not a spiritual sage then one is unable to put it to use, how much the more so would this be the case with a lesser fellow!


End Notes

1. I'm using the Yale romanization system for the pronunciation of Chinese characters here because it's the only system that when pronounced by the non-specialist guarantees at least a reasonably close approximation of the correct sounds of the characters. Both Pin Yin and Wade-Giles systems are perversely and absurdly misleading to anyone not already well versed in their bizarre idiosyncracies. So if you see something that looks like a romanization of a Chinese character, pronounce it like it looks and you'll be close enough. The Sanskrit terms are rendered with the current ASCII standard system with the exception of palatal "s" which is rendered as "sh".

2. The two kinds of birth and death refer to: a) gross physical birth and death; and b) the production and extinction which occurs at the subtlest level of existence.

3. The Chinese translation of the Heart Sutra renders the word "heart" with "syin" which means both "mind" and "heart." It is for this reason that Han-shan embarks on this reference to the concept of "mind."

4. "Superior" corresponds to the Sanskrit "aarya." It is actually a technical term referring to anyone who has realized the "path of seeing."

5. The five aggregates are the five fundamental components of being which the typical worldling seizes upon as constituting a "self": forms, feeling, perception, compositional factors, and consciousness.

6. "Venerable One" here refers to Shaariputra.

7. The four great elements are earth, water, fire, and air. In contexts where literal interpretation seems forced it is sometimes helpful to think in terms of solidity, liquidity, heat and whatever adjectives you might choose to describe "airiness" such as perhaps "mobility," "insubstantiality," etc.

8. The "Two Vehicles" refers to: a) the "hearers" or "disciples" who gain arhatship through hearing the teachings of the Buddha; and b) the pratyekabuddhas who are born when no buddha is in the world but nonetheless gain a relatively exalted level of liberation through meditation on causality.

9. The "three realms" are the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm.

10. "The myriad practices" refers to the practices undertaken by the bodhisattva in his aeons-long journey to buddhahood.

11. The "six perfections" are: giving, moral conduct, patience, vigor, meditative absorption, and wisdom.

12. The "Three Vehicles" are the practice modes of: the hearers, the pratyekabuddhas, and the bodhisattvas.