Don’t church it up!
My wife grew up in Japan, when to a Buddhist pre-school, Had been familiar with Buddhism all of her life. Mainly she has recognized the main purpose of Buddhism as a funeral service. And that is OK! Or at least I have told myself. Buddhism, as far as I know, has never really been about seeking out converts and is more interested in teaching to those truly interested.
Now over the course of her life she has probably heard the Heart Sutra chanted dozens if not hundreds of times, maybe even thousands considering how often I have overheard in on NHK. Hear is the kicker… she has no clue what they are chanting. I don’t mean that the dose not understand the profound nature of the sutra it self but she doesn’t know what the guy chanting is saying! Aren’t they chanting in Japanese???
They are kind of, but the chant is all churched up and pretty unintelligible for a country girl like her. This is one of the reasons why I have such aversion to chanting, singing, and the other advanced choreography that goes along with the temple business.
I am pretty sure that the heart sutra was not initially created just to be chanted by someone who dose not even have a clue what they are saying. It was likely trying to get a message across about the nature of reality. Maybe I am totally wrong, but I doubt it. I think this is a serious danger to Buddhism when we try and church things up and make them all pretty we confuse the message. We have a hard enough time with this practice with everyone’s different interpretations of this that and the other as it is.
I know, I am likely preaching to the quire here, but I felt like a rant.
I am very happy now though because I can actually talk to my wife about something she has heard all of her life but never understood. This, I think, is pretty cool.
Be well and happy,