English Translation of the Heart Sutra

 

Once, a great person, whose mind was opened by Satori, clearly experienced the truth that the body, the chattering mind, and, in fact everything and everyone is without any limitation and has no real self-identity. This truth was called "Emptiness" because, despite all appearances all things are empty of anything which really separates.

The true nature of the body, for example is emptiness; so too is the nature of sensation, perception, thought and desire. The concept of "I" is like-wise characterised by emptiness, and as such is neither produced or destroyed; neither increases nor decreases. All things are part of a cycle which continues eternally.

In the real world of Emptiness, which is empty of illusion, there are no bodies, no sensations, no perceptions, no thoughts, no desires, and no "I". There are no eyes, ears, nose, tongue; no colours, voices, fragrances, tastes, things to be touched, nor intentions; no world of sight, no experiences, no intuition, no ending of intuition; no death, no ending of death; no pain, no attachment, no peace of mind, no discipline, no knowing and no thought of acquisition. These things exist only in the world of illusion as concepts which support the false notion of separateness.

One who searches for the truth and has experienced "Satori" has no attachment at all, having been freed by deep wisdom. Being without attachment, even to the concept of "I", he has no fear. Being without fear, he lets go of the chattering mind and enters into that sacred joy which, being not a part of the world of time, is eternal. From this experience the deepest wisdom - timeless, universal, full of awe, arises.

It is from the truth and power of this sacred writing that the darkness of ignorance is destroyed. This teaching is the highest known. and there is none other to be compared with it in this world. It is the absolute truth without deception or falsehood. It gives rise to the deepest wisdom which dissolves all struggle and hardship.
And so, it should be widely taught in order that people everywhere may have the opportunity to act upon it. In the oneness of knowledge and action is found the truth which is reality.

 

 

The Sutras are considered to be sayings spoken by the Buddha. However at that time the language he would have spoken, which was possibly Magadhi, was oral and had no written form. (Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born c.563 BCE and he lived until the age of 80). No one knows for sure but in all probability the oral tradition (much like that of the Celtic Druidic tradition) lasted for about 400 years after his death. If this is so then the sutra would have been committed to writing in Pali during last quarter of the first century BCE; not long before the birth of Christ. Of course as with anything as old as the Sutras there is argument about language and dates; however, just as we accept the wisdom of what was written as Christ's words, long after His death and don't dismiss that wisdom because there is no historic reference to His life, so too we can accept the wisdom of the Heart Sutra as a true account of what was said.

The age of the Sutra does explain the unusual expressions such as "no eyes, ears, nose, tongue; no colours, voices ..." for a preacher would have used literal language that the people could easily understand; and by and large those listening were simple farmers. We might just as easily find strange expressions which nonetheless convey great wisdom in Christ's reported sayings such as:

"When you make the two one, and when you make the inner as the outer and the outer as the inner and the above as the below ... then shall you enter (Reality) ...I am the All, and the All came forth from Me and the All attained to Me. Split a piece of wood, I am there; lift up a stone and you will find Me there."

Here the 'I' and the 'Me' are references to the disguised Self.

 

 

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