Thursday, February 16, 2006

And now, for something completely different

I think it's a good practice to read through this every so often.
--

The Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra

Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva while practicing deep Prajna Paramita
Perceived all five skandhas were empty and was saved from suffering and distress
Shariputra, form is no different from emptiness
Emptiness is no different from form
That which is form is emptiness
That which is emptiness is form
Feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness, the same is true of these

Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness
They do not appear or disappear
are not tainted or pure
do not increase or decrease

Therefore in emptiness no form,
no feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness
no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind
no color, sound, smell, taste, touch, object of mind
no realm of eyes and so forth until no realm of mind consciousness
no ignorance and also no extinction of ignorance
and so forth until no old age and death and no extinction of old age and death
no suffering, origination, stopping, path
no cognition also no attainment

with nothing to attain
the Bodhisattva depends upon Prajna Paramita
and (his) mind is no hindrance
without any hindrance no fear exists
far apart from every inverted view
(he) dwells in Nirvana

All Buddhas in the Three Worlds
depend on Prajna Paramita
and attain complete unsurpassed enlightenment

Therefore know the Prajna Paramita
is the great transcendent mantra
is the great bright mantra
is the utmost mantra
is the supreme mantra
which is able to relieve all suffering and is true, not false
so proclaim the Prajna Paramita mantra
proclaim the mantra that says
gone, gone, gone beyond
gone all the way beyond, Bodhi Svaha!

22 Comments:

At February 16, 2006, Blogger K'vitsh said...

This reminds me of something - I've read a few books now, but they're all contemporary. None of the "classics".

I don't ofen find I like reading things that aren't contemporary. At the risk of making myself sound like a moron, they don't really speak to me.

I do plan on reading them eventually, but how important is it, really? Quite, I guess, but just thought I'd ask.

 
At February 16, 2006, Blogger K'vitsh said...

Books about Buddhism, I meant to type.

 
At February 16, 2006, Blogger Bob J. said...

Actually we use a slightly different version when we use it, locally; I believe ours came from the Kwam Um School, or something like that. Our text, along with my commentary which you may feel free to ignore, is at http://ratzaz.blogspot.com/2006/01/living-and-dying-heart-sutra.html. Regardless of the version, I've come to believe it's the only text necessary for zazen, and that in fact most of the others may be detrimental. You can't beat "The mind is no hindrance. Without any hindrance no fears exist.

 
At February 16, 2006, Blogger me said...

no realm of mind consciousness

Perhaps this is what Watts was getting at when he said the ego is a hoax - it doesn't exist.

This sorta goes against all our built-in instincts though, doesn't it? I mean does anyone here really feel, understand, this notion that their consciousness isn't real?

I sure don't, but I'm working on it...

 
At February 16, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

me: I think ego is different from consciousness.

K'vitsh wrote: I don't ofen find I like reading things that aren't contemporary.

Yeah, the Heart Sutra can be pretty challenging when you first look at it, especially if you are unclear about some of the ideas like skandhas. It's still not entirely clear to me. But I understand it better than I did the first five times I read it. :-)

Brad wrote this about it: "the Heart Sutra is a short poetic piece written fairly early on in the history of Buddhism -- though probably a few hundred years after Buddha himself died -- which encapsulates most of what has come to be known as Zen Buddhism. The Heart Sutra is the standard sutra chanted at pretty much any relevant occasion at Zen temples and centers. It works for everything from morning services to funerals and everything in between."

As far as reading the classics... I don't know... but from what I've read :-) it's more important to find a real teacher and to practice every day. My teacher discourages too much reading. She tells me not to study Zen more than I sit. On the other hand, we sing the Heart Sutra a couple times a month...

 
At February 16, 2006, Blogger Erik said...

The best explanation of the "ego" thing I've come across is from Krishnamurti
It's a bit on the long side, but hey :-)


The observer is the observed:

When I build an image about you or about anything, I am able to watch that image, so there is the image and the observer of that image. I see someone, say, with a red shirt on and my immediate reaction is that I like it or that I don't like it. The like or dislike is the result of my culture, my training, my associations, my inclinations, my acquired and inherited characteristics. It is from that centre that I observe and make my judgements, and thus the observer is seperate from the thing he observes.
But the observer is aware of more than one image; he creates thousands of images. But is the observer different from these images? Isn't he just another image? He is always adding to and subtracting from what he is; he is a living thing all the time weighing, comparing, judging, modifying and changing as a result of pressures from outside and withing - living in the field of consciousness which is his own knowledge, influence and innumerable calculations. At the same time when you look at the observer, who is yourself, you see that he is made up of memories, experiences, accidents, influences, traditions and infinite varietes of suffering, all of which are the past. So the observer is both the past and the present, and tomorrow is waiting and that is also part of him. He is half alive and half dead and with this death and life he is looking, with the dead and living leaf. And in that state of mind, with is within the field of time, you (the observer) look at fear, at jealousy, at war, at the family (that ugly enclosed entity called the family) and try to solve the problem of the thing observed which is the challenge, the new; you are always translating the new in terms of the old and therefore you are everlastingly in conflict.
One image, as the observer, observes dozens of other images around himself and inside himself, and he says, 'I like this image, I'm going to keep it' or 'I don't like that image so I'll get rid of it', but the observer himself has been put together by various images which have come into being through reaction to various other images. So we come to a point, where we can say, 'The observer is also the image, only he has seperated himself and observes. This observer who has come into being through various other images thinks himself permanent and between himself and the images he has created there is a division, a time interval. This creates conflict between himself and the images he believes to be the cause of his troubles. So then he says, "I must get rid of this conflict", but the very desire to get rid of the conflict creates another image.'
Awareness of all this, which is real meditation, has revealed that there is a central image put together by all the other images, and this central image, the observer, is the censor, the experiencer, the evaluator, the judge who wants to conquer or subjugate the other images or destroy them altogether. The other images are the result of of judgements, opinions and conclusions by the observer, and the observer
is the result of all the other images - therefore the observer is the observed.

 
At February 17, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

eric:
Your quote is good.

In meditation first we become aware of the Ego, then we become aware that it is not 'I'. Eventually, we discad it.

I have writen a longish post about the Ego Ego and I
and Fukan Zazengi - a laymans view

The Cliff-notes version is:

The Ego is a construct.

It exists so that we can deny reality.

It splits reality into body, mind, inside and outside so that all can be 'watched'.

The Ego chooses what it 'sees'.

The Ego likes to reinforce itself.

The Ego reacts and defines itself by likes and dislikes, by duality, by discrimination.

Body and Mind are ideas/beliefs. When you destroy/let go of the Ego then [the ideas of] Body and Mind just drop away.

The Ego does not die willingly and cannot be killed/let-go-of until it is quite weak and small.

 
At February 17, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Here's my interpretation of the sutra:

"Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva while practicing deep Prajna Paramita
Perceived all five skandhas were empty and was saved from suffering and distress"


Avalokiteshvara was practicing wisdom/insight meditation when he realised that the five aggregates that constitute a human being ("matter", "sensation", "cognition", "volition", "consciousness") all exist only dependently and relatively, lacking in intrinsic nature or reality. And he was liberated from suffering.

"Shariputra, form is no different from emptiness
Emptiness is no different from form
That which is form is emptiness
That which is emptiness is form
Feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness, the same is true of these"


Matter and emptiness are inseparable. There is no emptiness (lack of intrinsic reality) separate from the apparent world and vice versa. The same applies to the rest of the aggregates. (Ultimate reality does not transcend relative/conventional reality - they are one and the same. This is the non-duality of Nirvana and Samsara.)

"Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness
They do not appear or disappear
are not tainted or pure
do not increase or decrease"


Lacking intrinsic reality or essence, there are ultimately no phenomena to appear or disappear. (see Nagarjuna for details)

"Therefore in emptiness no form,
no feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness
no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind
no color, sound, smell, taste, touch, object of mind
no realm of eyes and so forth until no realm of mind consciousness
no ignorance and also no extinction of ignorance
and so forth until no old age and death and no extinction of old age and death
no suffering, origination, stopping, path
no cognition also no attainment"


Ultimately phenomena have no existence. Even Samsara and Nirvana have no intrinsic existence.

"with nothing to attain
the Bodhisattva depends upon Prajna Paramita
and (his) mind is no hindrance
without any hindrance no fear exists
far apart from every inverted view
(he) dwells in Nirvana
"

Realising that there is no attainment or lack of attainment, the practitioner uses the perfection of Wisdom to liberate the mind from false views and fears and he finds Nirvana.

"All Buddhas in the Three Worlds
depend on Prajna Paramita
and attain complete unsurpassed enlightenment
"

This is how all Buddha's become enlightened.

"Therefore know the Prajna Paramita
is the great transcendent mantra
is the great bright mantra
is the utmost mantra
is the supreme mantra
which is able to relieve all suffering and is true, not false
so proclaim the Prajna Paramita mantra
proclaim the mantra that says
gone, gone, gone beyond
gone all the way beyond, Bodhi Svaha!
"

So, the Great Heart of Wisdom mantra is an important and powerful teaching which liberates from suffering - learn it. It goes:
'Gone, gone, Gone beyond
gone all the way beyond, Enlightenment, how wonderful! '

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_sutra

 
At February 17, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Or rather:

Avalokiteshvara was practicing the perfection of wisdom when...

 
At February 17, 2006, Blogger me said...

Erik, great quote. It lacks what I'm looking for though. John Doe, I'll read your Ego & I piece more thoroughly (only read the first bits to see where it was going).

I'm looking for an explanation that incorporates biology. Biologists understand the ego of humans as an adaptation - a wonderful ability that allows us to control our circumstances, environment, etc to improve our reproductive success. (I hope to write a longish essay on this topic for my blog - so here are some previews). The ego and most of its predispositions is thus a "program" written in our genes, encoded there because our ancestors were successful at leaving offspring. If they hadn't been then we wouldn't be here.

This is important so I'll elaborate - our ego is so selfish becuase our genes make it so. If we had genes that failed to make our ego selfish we'd put more energy into our neighbors well-being than our own well-being and we'd end up with no resources to call our own and no offspring of our own and our genes would never make it off the starting block! This is the odd problem of altruism in biology - typically explained by kin selection (we are altruistic to others who might share our genes, ie family members, which isn't really altruism, it's a form of selfishness).

Anyhow, our ego is an adaptation. But Watts says it doesn't exist. Here's some of what I think on this and how it relates to zen and the other comments here:

We are programmed by our genes to "feel" that we have egos (for a very good reason explained above) but these egos are illusions - they are concepts - they work very well to ensure our well-being (so we don't jump off of cliffs etc) but there is no actual reason why we should care more about ourselves than others, other than our genetic programming tells us to.

Now, how can something work if it's a concept only? Look at computer programs - they are ideas only and they work (usually :). Or are they? What is the real difference between a working computer program - a set of instructions for moving information around a microchip and the working of our minds/ egos?

See... I keep running out of ground to stand on!

 
At February 17, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Hi Justin,
You wrote: Lacking intrinsic reality or essence, there are ultimately no phenomena to appear or disappear. (see Nagarjuna for details)

If there are no phenomena, what are you reading right now?

"Therefore in emptiness no form,
no feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness
no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind
no color, sound, smell, taste, touch, object of mind
no realm of eyes and so forth until no realm of mind consciousness
no ignorance and also no extinction of ignorance
and so forth until no old age and death and no extinction of old age and death
no suffering, origination, stopping, path
no cognition also no attainment"

Ultimately phenomena have no existence. Even Samsara and Nirvana have no intrinsic existence.


That one doesn't work for me either. How about, "In emptiness, phenomena have no independent existance or intrinsic identity. Therefore, there are no distinctions to be made. There's just this."

I'm no authority on this stuff, so it won't hurt my feelings if you tell me I'm full of s#!t... :-)

 
At February 17, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Hi Jules,

This is, as far as I understand what is meant here - it's a common theme through Buddhist philosophy.

If there are no phenomena, what are you reading right now?

Anyone who claims (without qualification) that nothing exists is a bad liar, so you're right to flag this. But what I think it means is that things do exist, but their existence is dependent on other things - causes, conditions, context, interpretation etc. (aka Dependent Origination). They have no 'self-contained' or intrinsic existence or nature. In that sense, from an ultimate or absolute viewpoint they don't exist or have any nature at all.

What I'm reading right now has no separate, independent essence and hence has no real beginning or end. The perceived independence of things is a convention. So the 'blog' or 'comment' that I'm reading does not ultimately exist as a distinct thing.

"Ultimately phenomena have no existence. Even Samsara and Nirvana have no intrinsic existence."

That one doesn't work for me either. How about, "In emptiness, phenomena have no independent existance or intrinsic identity. Therefore, there are no distinctions to be made. There's just this."


If you prefer, but notice that I used the word 'ultimately'. There are no distinctions to be made - ultimately. From a conventional, relative POV we do make useful distinctions.

What do you mean by 'In emptiness...'? Don't you mean 'Being empty...'?

I'm no authority on this stuff, so it won't hurt my feelings if you tell me I'm full of s#!t... :-)

Who is? I'm not either. Hopefully I've picked something up from my studies do far. You're not full of s#!t at all.

 
At February 17, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

I'm moving house so I might be offline for a while.

:)

 
At February 17, 2006, Blogger karen said...

I first found out about buddhism through reading Krishnamurti. About 25 or so years ago I came across his books in the library. Then I was trying to get some bio information on him and one of the little stories said that someone out in Hollywood wanted to make a movie in the 1920's about the Buddha and wanted K to be the Buddha because they felt he was so much like him. Then I wanted to find out "Who is Buddha." I'm still finding out 25 years later. The temple that I used to belong to had the Heart Sutra as part of it's early morning service and even after years of chanting it, I didn't quite understand it. Things change and I came to what I think might be a way of understanding it, for me. I had some experiences very recently, insights I guess you could say. So, I spoke with my teacher about them. I don't do koans but for some reason, I suddenly understood the story about the monk polishing the tile. I knew in my heart and gut that sitting would not make me anything special, let alone a buddha. Some major changes took place in my thinking. I ran these by the teacher and she said it sounded like I had seen the emptiness of forms. I didn't think of it in that language but I guess that is what it is. We have an intrinsic buddha nature. No amount of sitting, chanting etc will make us buddha. We can't make ourselves what we already are. Like putting a head on top of a head. This insight also resolved the turmoil I had around sitting. Now, I just sit because I like the quiet, I am drawn to it and I'm not doing it for any other reason. Like to BE something or somebody etc. It actually allowed me to sit more or less without the guilt that I used to suffer if I didn't get to do this everyday. I don't know if this makes sense to anyone, but that has been my experience. It has been freeing for me. It has made relating to other people much easier, especially if I felt they were difficult before this experience. With that, all I can say is that it is hard to explain.

 
At February 17, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

HEART SUTRA RAP

Avora... master of compassion
His mind no longer thrashin'
Did some hard time lookin' deep inside

Wise old Avora
Saw with a clear eye
The five aspects
Of what we call personality
That what appears to be you
Appears to be me
In actuality
Is empty

Empty in time
Empty in space
Empty as the clear sky
No trace

He tuned in with such clarity
As few humans ever see
Went far beyond sufferin' an' misery
Clarified the mystery
Broke through the dream

Turned to his brother
To let him set his own self free
From the chains of "Me"
So he could simply be

Said... Dig it my brother Satra
Search deep enough inside
No more can you hide
The Truth which rides
Around in your hide

Take a good look, Ace
Check out your own face
'Fore you was born
Then you understandin' that form
Is emptiness
Emptiness is form

When the clear sky of your vision
Rests as comfortable
As a wound incision
That personality pentagram
The mind's five-fingered hand
Is just an empty seat
On a beat up old tram

Form, feeling, thought
Volition and consciousness
Collapse in a flash
Nothin's left amiss

Satra my brother, don' forget
Walkin' the path of awakenin'
There's nothin' to get
It's empty for the takin'

With awakened sight
Nothin's born, nothin' dies
Nothin' rots, nothin' shines
Nothin' grows, nothin' shrinks
There's no self to think
That somethin' exists outside
That it rocks or stinks

When the pentagram of personality
Bursts apart
It yields awakened seed
Ain't no eyes to see
No ears to hear
No nose to smell
No tongue to taste
Ain't no skin to touch
No thinkin' at all
No world of sight
Nor of consciousness
What could be other than right?

A state of mind
That can't be characterized
No ignorance
An' no end to it
No agin' and death
But ya' still get old and hit
The grave
Ain't nothin' to save ya'

No sufferin', cravin' or extinction
No path
To follow to completion
No wisdom
To be had by rumination
No attainment
So let go your fascination

Seen clearly
Nothin' to be attained
Seen clearly
The show's an empty shadow
Seen clearly
All isms bring on pain

So the person of wisdom
Relies on the map
Of the great heart transcendent wisdom rap
With no hindrance in the mind
Just a simple vow
Abiding in eternal now

No fear
No need for hope
Far beyond deluded views
At last aligned
With True Nature
Divine

In the past
The present and the future
All awakened ones
And those who dare to tread
On the path
Of the awakened state of mind
Root themselves
In this great heart transcendent wisdom rap
In so doing
They bootstrap
Supreme clarity
Ain't no deathtrap
Of ego's grasp
Instead they uncap
Life's potential
The universe they unwrap

Know, then, this to be true
The great heart transcendent wisdom rap
Is the most potent spell
The highest formulation
The incomparable structure of mind
It destroys all suffering
Truth - no lie

So set it forth
Lay it down
Great heart transcendent wisdom rap

Dig it
Gone, gone, gone beyond
Gone beyond the idea
Of goin' beyond
Completely combusted

© Copyright 2004 - All Rights Reserved - Ven. Kobutsu Malone & Rev. Koun Michael Selden

 
At February 17, 2006, Blogger karen said...

I wanted to add, to k'vitsh: I have begun to read more of the original texts. They seem to be more direct than some of the interpretations of present day teachers for me. I think that the short amount of time between spoken word and translation allows for better understanding. Although some of they are quite dry.

 
At February 17, 2006, Blogger Jinzang said...

Thinking about emptiness always ties my mind up into knots. Justin did a fairly good job explaining it. I'll just add this remark that Traleg Rinpoche made while explaining the Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra.

If we search for the nature of the mind, we will not find it. So in a way, it doesn't exist. But that doesn't mean it doesn't really exist. It means the nature of the mind is empty and even the Buddhas have not seen it. In Buddhist teachings, you really have to appreciate this relation between relative and absolute truth. On the ultimate level the mind has no essential qualities or attributes. The nature of mind is indescribable, devoid of characteristics or attributes. That is on the absolute level. Even the Buddhas do not see it. Why? Because emptiness is not an entity. Emptiness is not tangible. But on the relative level, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist at all. The mind does exist on a relative level and because of it one can entertain thoughts of enlightenment and bondage. To have the real middle view is to realize that these two states do not conflict. On the relative level, everything arises. On the ultimate level, things have no essence and even the Buddhas cannot see it. People think the Buddhas are omniscient and should see the mind, but you can't see what is isn't there. If things are devoid of essence there is nothing to be seen. Seeing nothing is seeing things on the ultimate level. However contradictory it may sound, it is seeing because there is nothing to be seen. That is the ultimate level. But everything arises on the relative level. It doesn't mean nothing exists, because mind is the origin of bondage and liberation. Combining these is having the middle view.

 
At February 17, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

justin wrote: If you prefer, but notice that I used the word 'ultimately'. There are no distinctions to be made - ultimately. From a conventional, relative POV we do make useful distinctions.

I see where you're coming from now. I disagree with the choice of words, more than with the meaning as you just explained it. One thing that threw me off a bit is that I think the word "intrinsic" usually means "essential" or "real", I haven't seen it used to mean "self contained" before.

Lacking intrinsic reality or essence, there are ultimately no phenomena to appear or disappear.

Maybe I'm a little oversensitive to phrasing which doesn't seem to draw a clear distinction between Buddhism and Nihilism. I've run into someone who was pretty familiar with several sutras but thought the Buddha taught a "very pessimistic philosophy". "Everything is empty." "All life is suffering." :-)

I see what you meant, I just misinterpreted your words.

Nagarjuna said, "for those who understand emptiness, everything is clear. For those who do not understand emptiness, nothing is clear."

And it's still not very clear to me yet, especially 'no fear exists' to be honest. So I don't think I really understand emptiness yet. Jinzang's quote rings true, it matches up with everything I've read and all the intellectual decriptions of emptiness that I've run across, but there's something I'm still missing.

I suspect the prescription for what I'm missing is probably less talk and more sitting.

 
At February 17, 2006, Blogger K'vitsh said...

Karen: Thanks. I think it's a combination of dryness, (what seems to me) sometimes stilted language (I don't know what that means - I'm tired), and how it doesn't seem relevant to my life now.

Of course, I anticipate as I get more into this whole thing, I'll be more open to the older stuff.

 
At February 21, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

I disagree with the choice of words, more than with the meaning as you just explained it. One thing that threw me off a bit is that I think the word "intrinsic" usually means "essential" or "real", I haven't seen it used to mean "self contained" before.

Intrinsic usually means a basic property of something which is entirely independent IOW essential - a property which is contained in or comes from the entity itself. I used 'self-contained' to try to explain that.

The Buddhist principle of Sunyata is that really there are no truly intrinsic properties. It is not that 'nothing exists' (actually that would contradict Sunyata too) - it is that things are interdependently and conventionally real rather than intrinsically real.

 
At February 21, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Thanks, Justin. I understand the concept intellectually. I just have an intuition that there's more to it than that. Maybe more than can be put into words? I don't know.

 
At February 21, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Well, the consequences are pretty mind-blowing...

 

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