As you may or may not know, I am a practitioner of Zen Buddhism.
As part of an online course I am participating in, I am slowly working my way through a study of the Heart Sutra (sutra is Sanskrit for “thread”). This sutra is chanted daily by buddhist practitioners all over the world.
Many commentaries and essays have been written to help tease open its teaching with respect to the non-dual empty, or boundless state of reality, and how this emptiness templates with the way we actualise our lives.
Writing in Lions Roar magazine Karl Brunnholzl explains:
Usually we think that if a given phenomenon is not something, it must be nothing, and if it is not nothing, it must be something. But emptiness is just a word for pointing out the fact that no matter what we say or think about something, it does not really correctly characterize that something because our dualistic mind just gets stuck in one extreme or the other. Thus, we could say that emptiness is like thinking outside of the box, that is, the box of black-and-white thinking or dualistic thinking. As long as we stay within the ballpark of dualistic thinking, there is always existence, nonexistence, permanence, extinction, good, and bad. Within that frame of reference, we will never get beyond it, no matter if we are religious, a scientist, a Buddhist, an agnostic, or whatever. Emptiness tells us that we have to step out of that ballpark altogether. Emptiness points to the most radical transformation of our entire outlook with regard to ourselves and the world. Emptiness not only means the end of the world as we know it, but that this world never really existed in the first place.
The Japanese pop band Kissaquo recently released a video showing a live performance of the heart sutra (in Japanese). One of the members of the band Yakushiji Kanji, is also a Zen priest and director of a Buddhist temple in Ehime, Japan.
Here is a recent english translation of the heart sutra by Kaz Tanahashi and Joan Halifax:
Avalokiteshvara, who helps all to awaken, moves in the deep course of
realizing wisdom beyond wisdom,
sees that all five streams of
body, heart, and mind are without boundary,
and frees all from anguish.
O Shariputra who listens to the teachings of the Buddha,
form is not separate from boundlessness;
boundlessness is not separate from form.
Form is boundlessness; boundlessness is form.
Feelings, perceptions, inclinations, and discernment are also like this
boundlessness is the nature of all things.
It neither arises nor perishes,
neither stains nor purifies,
neither increases nor decreases.
Boundlessness is not limited by form,
nor by feelings, perceptions, inclinations, or discernment.
it is free of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind;
free of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and any object of mind;
free of sensory realms, including the realm of the mind.
It is free of ignorance and the end of ignorance. Boundlessness is free of old age and death,
and free of the end of old age and death.
It is free of suffering, arising, cessation, and path, and free of wisdom and attainment.
Being free of attainment, those who help all to awaken
abide in the realization of wisdom beyond wisdom
and live with an unhindered mind.
Without hindrance, the mind has no fear.
Free from confusion, those who lead all to liberation
embody profound serenity.
all those in the past, present, and future
who realize wisdom beyond wisdom,
manifest unsurpassable and thorough awakening.
Know that realizing wisdom beyond wisdom is no other than this wondrous mantra, luminous, unequalled, and supreme.
It relieves all suffering.
It is genuine, not illusory.
So set forth this mantra of realizing wisdom beyond wisdom.
set forth this mantra that says:
GATÉ, GATÉ, PARAGATÉ, PARASAMGATÉ, BODHI! SVAHA!
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