Friday, January 17, 2020

Sharon Salzberg Meditation Challenge

Last year's launch at, Hollywood
Happiest 2020 from American Buddhist meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. That time of year is coming:

The Real Happiness Meditation Challenge is right around the corner! Registration has just opened. Join before February 1st, 2020 for a month of practice together.

Many of the core elements this year are the same as in previous years, but with some refinements and new exercises. The challenge follows the format of 28 daily lessons, which each contain:
  • Teaching of the Day
  • Guided Audio Meditation
  • Inspirational Quote for Sharing
  • Meditation Tip of the Day
  • Frequently Asked Question
  • Meditation Transcript
  • Related Blog Entries from fellow participants
This 2020 Challenge is being offered on a donation basis to make it accessible to all. There is a $10 suggested donation, which can be made via PayPal after registration is complete.

If able to donate more, that allows Sharon Salzberg to keep offering the challenge solely on a donation basis. Even if unable to afford to donate $10, please feel free to join anyway.

Join this powerful month of practicing together. Click below to learn more about the program, and feel free to reach out with any questions.

The Doctrine of No-Soul, No-Self, No-Ego

Ven. Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (; Eds., Wisdom Quarterly

What the Buddha Taught (Ven. Rahula)
What in general is suggested by soul, self, ego, or the Sanskrit atman, is that in a person (a human, demon, spirit, animal, celestial messenger, angel, demigod, god, deva, brahma, or whatever) there is a permanent, everlasting, and absolute animating entity, which is the unchanging substance behind the changing phenomenal world.

According to some most religions, each individual has such a separate "soul" (enduring or immortal self) that is created by God, and which, finally after death, lives eternally either in hell, purgatory, limbo, heaven, or is annihilated -- its destiny depending on the judgment of its creator.

According to others, it goes through many lives (reborn, reincarnated, purifying, paying off its karmic debt, learning, growing, maturing, changing for the better, evolving) until it is completely purified and becomes finally united with God (Brahma, the personal "Supreme" Being), Brahman (GOD, the impersonal Absolute), Universal Soul (godhood) from which it originally emanated.

This soul or self in a human is the thinker of thoughts, feeler of feelings, and receiver of rewards and punishments for all its good and bad choices and actions. Such a conception is called the doctrine of self.

Buddhism says what is impossible: It stands unique in the history of human religion, philosophy, and thought in denying the existence of such a soul, self, or ego (atman).

According to the awakened teaching of the Buddha, the idea of self is an imaginary, deluded, false assumption which has no corresponding reality, and this delusion produces harmful thoughts of "me" and "mine," selfish desires, craving, clinging, attachment, hatred, resentment, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism, and other defilements, impurities, and problems.

It is the source of all the troubles in the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations. In short, to this false view can be traced all the harm (wrong, evil) in the world. One idea is psychologically deep-rooted in a human, that of self protection and preservation.

For protection humans have created God, on whom we depend for our protection, safety, and security, just as a child depends on a parent, and for self preservation we have conceived the idea of an immortal soul, which will live eternally in hell or heaven.

In our ignorance, weakness, fear, and desire we need these two sides of a coin to console ourselves. So we cling to them deeply and fanatically.
  • The mere suggestion that there's no soul, no self, no ego is unreal is offensive! It's angering and preposterous! "Nothing else might be real, but at least self is real!" we insist. Even language works against us: There's no way to talk or think without continuing to imagine an actor (noun) as the subject, the doer of the action (verb).
The Buddha's teaching does not support this ignorance, weakness, fear, and desire, but aims at making humans and devas enlightened by removing them and revealing the ultimate truth, striking at the very root of our wrongly conceived assumption.

According to Buddhism, our ideas of God and soul are false and empty. Though highly developed as theories and theologies, they are all the same extremely subtle mental projections, dressed in intricate metaphysical and philosophical phrases.

These ideas are so deep rooted in us -- so taken for granted by us, that is, the intuitive but mistaken Cartesian assumption Cognito ergo sum or "I think therefore I am" -- and so near and dear to us that we do not want to hear nor understand any teaching against them.

The Buddha knew this quite well. In fact, he said that his teaching was "against the stream" (patisotagami), against our selfish desires. Just four weeks after his great awakening (enlightenment), seated under a Ficus religiosa tree, the Awakened One thought to himself:

"I have realized this Truth so deep, difficult to see, and difficult to understand . . . comprehensible only by the wise . . . people who are overpowered by passions (greed and hatred) and surrounded by a mass of darkness (ignorance) cannot see this Truth, which is against the stream, which is lofty, deep, subtle, and hard to comprehend."

With these thoughts in mind, the Buddha hesitated for a moment wondering whether it wouldn't be a wearisome waste of time if he tried to teach and explain the ultimate Truth he had just realized to a world such as this.

Then he compared the world to a lotus pond: In a lotus pond there are some lotuses still remaining under water, others that have risen up only to water level, and others that have risen above the water and are now untouched by it.

In the same way in this world there are human at different levels of development. Some would understand the Truth. So the Buddha was encouraged to teach it [Mhvg. (Alutgama, 1922), p. 4 f; M I (Pali Text Society), p. 167 f.] by Brahma Sahampati (a very high born God) for the sake of those "with only a little dust in their eyes." He decided to teach the impossible because it leads to liberation from ALL suffering and nothing else does.

The doctrine of anatta (Sanskrit anatman) or no-soul (no-self) is the natural result of, or the corollary to, the analysis of the Five Aggregates clung to as Self and the teaching of Dependent Origination (Conditioned Co-genesis, paticca-samuppada).

In the discussion of the first ennobling/enlightening truth (the truth of the disappointing nature of all things, dukkha), what we assume to be a "being," "self," "soul," or "individual" is composed of the Five Aggregates. But when these aggregates are analyzed and examined, there is nothing behind them which can be taken as "I," soul, or self, or any unchanging abiding substance. That is the analytical method.

The same result is arrived at through the doctrine of Dependent Origination, which is the synthetical method. According to this nothing in the world is absolute. Everything is conditioned. Everything is relative and interdependent -- that is to say, not able to stand alone or independent. This is a Buddhist "theory of relativity."

Dependent Origination

Before going into the question of no-soul, no-self, no-ego, it is useful to have an idea of what Dependent Origination means. The principle of this doctrine is given in a short formula of four lines:
  1. When this is, that is. (Imasmim sati idam hod)
  2. When this arising, that arises. (Imassuppada idam uppajjati).
  3. When this is not, that is not. (Imasmim asati idam na boti)
  4. When this ceases, that ceases. (Imassa nirodha idam nirujjhati).
On this principle of conditionality, relativity, and interdependence, the whole of existence and the continuity of life and its cessation are explained in the detailed formula called Paticca-samuppada "Dependent Origination." It consists of 12 factors:

1. Through ignorance are conditioned volitional actions or karma-formations. (Avijjapaccaya samkhara).

2. Through volitional actions is conditioned consciousness. (Samkharapaccaja vinnanam).

3. Through consciousness are conditioned mental and material [name and form, mind and body] phenomena. (Vinnanapaccaja namaruparti).

4. Through mental and material phenomena are conditioned the six faculties (i.e., five physical sense-organs and mind). (Namarupapaccayd salayatanam).

5. Through the six sense faculties is conditioned (sensorial and mental) contact. (Salayatanapaccaya phasso).

6. Through (sensorial and mental) contact is conditioned sensation. (Phassapaccaja vedana).

7. Through sensation is conditioned craving. (Vedanapaccaja tanha).

8. Through craving is conditioned clinging. (Tanhapaccaja upadanam).
  • M III (PTS), p. 63; S II (PTS), pp. 28, 95, etc. To put it in a more modern form: When A is, B is; when A arises, B arises; when A is not, B is not; when A ceases, B ceases.
9. Through clinging is conditioned the process of becoming. (Upadatiapaccaya bhavo).

10. Through the process of becoming is conditioned birth. (Bhavapaccaya jati).

11. Through birth are conditioned (12) decay, death, lamentation, pain, and so on. (Jatipaccaya jaramaranam...).

This is how life arises, exists, and continues. If this formula is taken in reverse order, it comes to the cessation of the impersonal process:

(1) Through the complete cessation of ignorance, volitional activities or karma-formations cease; (2) through the cessation of volitional activities, consciousness ceases... (12) through the cessation of birth, decay, death, sorrow, and so on cease.

It should be clearly remembered that each of these factors is conditioned (paticcasamuppantia) as well as conditioning (paticca samuppada).

1. Therefore, they are all relative, interdependent, interconnected, and nothing is absolute or independent. Therefore, no first cause is accepted by Buddhism.

2. Dependent Origination is considered a circle rather than a linear chain.

3. The question of free will has occupied an important place in Western thought and philosophy. But according to Dependent Origination, this question does not and cannot arise in Buddhist philosophy.

If the whole of existence is relative, conditioned, and interdependent, how can will alone be free will, like any other thought, is conditioned. So called "freedom" itself is conditioned and relative. Such a conditioned and relative "free will" is not denied.

There can be nothing absolutely free, physical or mental, as everything is interdependent and relative. If free will implies a will independent of conditions, independent of cause and effect, such a thing does not exist.

How can a will, or anything for that matter, arise without conditions, away from cause and effect, when the whole of existence is conditioned and relative, and is within the law of cause and effect?
  1. Vismuddhi Magga (PTS), p. 517.
  2. See above p. 29.
  3. Limited space does not permit a discussion here of this most important doctrine. A critical and comparative study of this subject in detail will be found in a forthcoming work on Buddhist philosophy by the present writer.
Here again the idea of free will is basically connected with the ideas of God, soul, justice, rewards, and punishments. Not only is so-called free will not free, but the very idea of free will is not free from conditions.

According to the doctrine of Dependent Origination, and according to the analysis of a living being into the Five Aggregates clung to as Self, the idea of an abiding, immortal substance in human or outside, whether it is called I, soul, self, or ego, is considered only a false belief, a mental projection.

This is the Buddhist doctrine of anatta, no-soul and no-self.

In order to avoid confusion, it should be mentioned here that there are two kinds of truth -- conventional truth (sammuti sacca) and ultimate truth (paramattha sacca).

When we use such expressions as "I," "you," "being," "individual," and so on, it is true in a conventional sense. Language is a set of conventions. But ultimately there is no self, no being as such. And to say so is to speak in conformity with ultimate truth even as it differs from the conventions of the world and language. There is something, but it is not a self, soul, or ego.

The ultimate truth is that there is no "I" or "being." This is an ultimate reality. As a Mahayana sutra says, "A person (puggala) should be mentioned as existing only in designation (i.e., conventionally speaking, there is a being), but not in reality (or substance)." More

What are vitakka and vicara?; Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

Kwan Yin as Avalokiteshvara
The classic Heart Sutra translation by Edward Conze uses a strange term, "thought coverings." What he was translating was new to English, the technical Buddhist psychological terms vitakka and vicara. They are not "thinking" as such. The enlightened scholar-monk Pa Auk Sayadaw translates them as initial application and sustained application of mind.

That's somewhat like thought but completely different from discursive thinking (the wandering mind). Ven. Thanissaro -- who often makes idiosyncratic and utterly misleading word choices spread widely on -- errs terribly to translate them as "thinking and pondering," but the mistake is understandable when we look at Bhikkhu Bodhi's treatment of these terms: They refer to a component of thinking, the "mounting of the mind on the object" then "staying on it."

They are two factors of meditative absorption (jhana) found in the first absorption, so they are crucial to understand. There is no thinking in the first absorption, only awareness. In yogic terms the absorptions and meditations (dhyanas and dharanas), it is as if the vrittis are settling and undisturbed. The state is full of brightness and singlepointed. It is too close to normal conscious, which has thinking, for comfort. So one moves on to the second absorption, which is better, has fewer faults, is more peaceful.

The Buddha compared them by analogy to the flying of a bird. A bird on a branch wishing to soar first jumps and flaps and struggles then settles down and glides through the air almost effortlessly. The flapping is like vitakka initially applying the mind to the meditation object, having to bring it back again and again. But after a time it stays apparently without effort. It sustains, and that the vicara.

Let's check our handy online Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia (

Vitakka (Sanskrit vitarkah) is a Buddhist term that has been translated as "conception," "application of thought," and so on.

In the ancient Theravada Buddhist tradition, it is defined as the mental factor that mounts or directs the mind towards an object. In the Mahayana tradition, vitakka is defined as a mental factor that investigates things roughly.

Vitakka is identified as: One of the six occasional mental factors within the Theravada Abhidhamma system. It is one of the four changeable mental factors in the Mahayana Abhidharma teachings.

Vitakka is the first of four or five mental factors present in the first jhana (Sanskrit dhyana), the first "meditative absorption."

From a Theravada perspective the American scholar-monk Bhikkhu Bodhi (Jeffrey Block) explains:

"In the suttas (sutras), the word vittaka is often used in the loose sense of thought, but in the Abhidhamma it is used in a precise technical sense to mean the mental factor that mounts or directs the mind towards an object [in normal consciousness as well as meditation].

"Just as a king's favorite might conduct a villager to the palace, even so vitakka directs the mind onto the object. In the practice of attaining jhana [meditation, absorption, ecstasy], vitakka has the special task of inhibiting the hindrance [see the Five Hindrances] of sloth and torpor (thina-middha) [mental and physical laziness]."

The Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga IV, 88) defines vitakka as follows:

"...Herein, applied thinking (vitakkama) is applied thought (vitakka) [initial application of mind]; hitting upon, is what is meant. It has the characteristic of directing the mind onto an object (mounting the mind on its object).

"Its function is to strike at and thresh -- for the meditator is said, in virtue of it, to have the object touched and struck at by applied thought [application of mind]. It is manifested as the leading of the mind onto an object..."

Nina van Gorkom explains: The Atthasālinī (Book I, Part IV, Chapter I, 114)… uses a simile of someone who wants to “ascend” [to] the king's palace and depends on a relative or friend dear to the king to achieve this.

In the same way the citta [mind moment] which is accompanied by vitakka depends on the latter in order to “ascend” to the object, to be directed to the object. Vitakka leads the citta to the object so that citta can cognize it.

In relation to vicara [sustained application of mind], it is said that: "Vitakka is the directing of concomitant properties towards the object; vicāra is the continued exercise of the mind on that object."

It is also said [apparently by Ven. Thanissaro because who else uses ampersands as if they were proper English?] that: "Vitakka has the characteristic of fixity & steadiness, vicāra that of movement & display." [This would be exactly backward because initially there is gross movement and display, and subsequently there is fixity and steadiness, the increasingly subtle sustain.] More

What is vicara?

Vicara (Sanskrit and Pali vicāra) is a Buddhist term that is translated as "discernment," "sustained thinking," and so on. In the Theravada tradition, it is defined as the sustained application of mind on an object.

In the Mahayana tradition, vicara is defined as a mental factor that finely scrutinizes to discern the specific details.

Vicara is identified as: One of the six occasional mental factors within the Theravada Abhidhamma system. It is one of the four changeable mental factors within the Mahayana Abhidharma teachings and one of four or five mental factors present in the first jhana (Sanskrit dhyana). It is closely associated with the mental factor vitakka.

From a Theravada point of view, American scholar-monk Bhikkhu Bodhi explains: "The word vicara usually means examination, but here it signifies the sustained application of the mind on the object.

"Whereas vitakka is the directing of the mind [cittas] and its concomitants [cetasikas] towards the object, vicara is the continued exercise of the mind on the object.

The Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga IV, 88) defines vicara as follows: "...Sustained thinking [sustained application of mind] (vicaraṇa) is sustained thought (vicāra); continued sustenance (anusañcaraṇa) is what is meant. It has the characteristic of continued pressure on (occupation with) the object. Its function is to keep conascent (mental) states (occupied) with that. It is manifested as keeping consciousness anchored (on that object).

Nina van Gorkom explains: "Vicāra is not the same reality as vitakka. Vitakka directs the citta [mind] to the object and vicāra keeps the citta occupied with the object, “anchored” on it.

However, we should remember that both vitakka and vicāra perform their functions only for the duration of one citta ["mind moment" with "mind" being the "stream of cittas"] and then fall away immediately, together with the citta. Both the Visuddhimagga and the Atthasālinī use similes in order to explain the difference between vitakka and vicāra.

Vitakka is gross, and vicāra is more subtle. We read in the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification IV, 89): "...Applied thought (vitakka) is the first compact of the mind in the sense that it is both gross and inceptive, like the [initial] striking of a bell.

"Sustained thought (vicāra) is the act of keeping the mind anchored, in the sense that it is subtle with the individual essence of continued pressure, like the [sustained] ringing of the bell..." More

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Heart Sutra (Prajnaparamita Hridaya)

Avalokitesvara/Kwan Yin
The "Heart Sutra" is an apocryphal text in the Mahayana Buddhist school often cited as the most popular "sutra" in Buddhism.

It is not actually a sutra nor does it literally call itself one. But, as with many Mahayana texts, it imitates or is written in the form of  a Brahminical-Hindu discourse, purportedly between Kwan Yin (Goddess of Compassion, here still in the earlier form of Lord Avalokiteshvara, a Brahminical deity who looks down and therefore hears the cries of the world) and Ven. Sariputra (the arhat male disciple declared "foremost in wisdom" by the historical Buddha).

Its Sanskrit name is Prajnaparamita Hridaya or "The Heart of Perfect Wisdom," a reference to the paramita  or "perfection" it is bringing to perfection. The perfection of wisdom is the understanding of the uniquely Buddhist teaching of the "empty" or impersonal nature of all phenomena, particularly the "Five Aggregates or 'Heaps' Clung to as Self" (pancha-upadanakkhanda). The word "sutra" is not present in any known Sanskrit manuscripts.

Literally, the Sanskrit name can be taken to mean "The Heart of the Perfection of (Transcendent) Wisdom." It is the heart because it is the culmination or abbreviated version, the pith, of a very long work attempting to explain emptiness (selflessness, egolessness, the impersonal nature of phenomena).

The post-historical Buddhist work belongs to the Mahayana "Perfection of Wisdom" (prajna-paramita) literature. In English this short version is composed of just 16 sentences. A much longer version exists. This short version is the core or "heart" of it from the Chinese. FULL STORY:

Avalokita transmogrified = Kwan Yin
When? Recent scholarship is unable to verify any date earlier than the 600s CE. Available evidence points toward it being composed in the 500s or 600s.

Where? There are differences of opinion among scholars. The scholar Jan Nattier has suggested that the earliest (shortest) version of the Heart Sutra was first assembled or composed in China in the Chinese language based on a Chinese translation of the Longer Perfection of Wisdom "Sutra" along with the new composition.

Evidence supports a Chinese version at least a century before a Sanskrit version. Nattier's theory is supported by some other prominent scholars of Buddhism but is not universally accepted.

Who? In short, the composition might have been assembled or composed in China. In any case, it is not taken to be the words of Buddha. The more popular Lord Avalokiteshvara -- who came to refer to the Goddess or Bodhisattva of Compassion Kwan Yin -- is speaking to the historical Buddha's chief male disciple "foremost in wisdom," who is here a strawman figure relying on head-centered intellect, whereas Avalokita/Kwan Yin uses heart-centered intuition to arrive at the realization of ultimate truth.

Who was Sariputra? (Born Upatisya/Upatissa, Sanskrit Shari-putra or Pali Sari-putta, his common nickname means "Sari's son")? Sariputra was one of the chief disciples of the historical Buddha, of which there were four, two nuns and two monks. He was often praised and co-taught with the Buddha, and he was declared "foremost in wisdom."

Emptiness or Suchness?
What does the text say? The text, which for these reasons, really should not be called a "sutra," describes liberation by meditative insight or "the wisdom that has gone beyond [mere reasoning]."

This insight or vipasyana (Pali vipassana) refers to "emptiness" (tathātā [roughly "that-like-that," "the thing like that," e.g., that flows like water, is firm like the earth], suchness, thusness, anatta, not-self, egolessness, soullessness, corelessness, essencelessness, the impersonal nature of things all which are ultimately devoid of self-identity) by a contradiction that is loosely rendered "Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form" ("All is empty, and empty is all").
Famous Zen American singer Leonard Cohen
To elaborate, the Buddhist singer and former Zen Buddhist monk Leonard Cohen sang, "There's a crack in everything," so it follows, too, that "there's a crack in the statement that there's a crack in everything." [It's the exception that proves the rule.] Some yet cling to a doctrine of self (an identity-view, a self-view) and so would say something like, "'All is empty' even this [absolute] statement; therefore, at least one thing is not empty [and that is this eternal Self, this Higher Self, the Atman (Soul), which is the witnessing consciousness, which sees no duality, the Brahman of the Brahmins' lore]."
  • Hinduism: Drop (atman) merges with Brahman
    Emptiness (sunyata, anatta) has come to mean "everything" or the "infinite potential" of nothing (no-thing) to become anything and everything. It turns a sad black hole into a hopeful spout at the other end shooting out new universes in the Brahminical-Hindu conception of the universe, Brahman (above even Brahma the "Supreme"), the Godhead. Mahayana survived because it came to be very, very Hindu, ignoring what the historical Buddha taught and setting up as many buddhas as the Vedas and Brahmins had "gods." Medicine Buddha, Vairocana the "Cosmic" Buddha, the "Celestial" Buddha Amitabha... Even "the perfection of wisdom" (which used to mean bringing insight or wisdom to perfection) was anthropomorphized and made the Goddess Prajnaparamita who is on par, and possibly more beautiful (see below) than Kwan Yin, the "Bodhisattva of Compassion."
Leonard Cohen as Zen monk, Mt. Baldy
In light of the foregoing wisdom, know that Śūnyatā is "emptiness" but only in the sense of selflessness or nonidentity (not-self). Form is empty, that is to say "devoid of self," and emptiness is form is only emphasizing it, as if to say, "A mirage is unreal, and the unreal is a mirage."

To reason that it means more than this when it is in fact idiomatic will lead to a paradox, when it is precisely the use of a paradox that is trying to prevent the reasoning portion of the mind from stepping in and short circuiting intuition or direct penetration of an ultimate truth. Ultimate truth is, by definition, beyond any such duality or simple linear comprehension. It must be experienced directly not arrived at by reason. If reason could arrive it, it would have arrived at ultimate truth long ago.

What separates ordinary worldlings, however intelligent or wise, from enlightened individuals (of any of the various stages of enlightenment from stream-enterer to arhat) is the realization of this very thing -- not self, emptiness, the impersonal nature of things. It is the key realization that brings about awakening or enlightenment. It is the wisdom that has gone beyond, beyond even beyond.

Brahminical deity Avalokiteshvara = Kwan Yin
Like many Vedantic-Hindu sutras, and this is really what Mahayana is imitating over the historical Buddha's discourses (as preserved in that other Buddhist school known as the Theravada, which is not a Hinayana school because all of those were driven to extinction by the machinations of the Mahayana/Brahminical movements), a text begins with an Om and ends with a mantra.

So the translator Edward Conze renders the culminating Heart Sutra mantra: "Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all hail!" Om is a divine sound signifying that a profound truth is about to be uttered, namely this teaching.

The closing is svaha or "All hail!" which actually means something more like "So it is!" or "Behold!" or "Well said!" or "Hallelujah!" or "So be it! [in the consummation of a spell]" or "Word!" [in the modern colloquial usage of the American urban vernacular].

The Diamond Sutra, which was also never uttered by the historical Buddha or any of his immediate disciples, belongs to the same class of later Mahayana Buddhist literature.

The Heart Sutra: Three Versions

1. Dr. Moriarty's transliteration
deep perfect wisdom action perform luminously
saw five bundles them own nature empty
? saw oh Sariputra
form emptiness evidently form form not different
emptiness emptiness not different form
this form that emptiness this emptiness that form
like this feeling thought choice consciousness
oh Sariputra all dharmas emptiness
mark not born not pure not increase not decrease?
therefore Sariputra in the middle of emptiness
no form no feeling no thought no choice no consciousness
no eye ear no nose tongue body mind
no form sound smell taste touch dharmas
no eye-area up to no mind-consciousness area
no clarity no clarity no clarity exhaustion no clarity exhaustion
up to old age no old age exhaustion
no suffering end of suffering path
no knowledge no ownership no witnessing no thing to own
therefore bodhisattva perfect wisdom dwells
in dwell thought no obstacle clarity exhaustion not clarity exhaustion
up to old age no old age exhaustion
no suffering end of suffering path
no knowledge no property no witnessing no thing to own
therefore bodhisattva perfect wisdom dwells
in dwell thought no obstacle thought no obstacle
no existence fear fright inverse reverse ? separate
perfectly stands nirvana three worlds thing experiences
all buddhas perfect wisdom dwell
unexcelled ultimate perfect insight together? buddhas
therefore should know ? perfect wisdom great charm great clear charm
unexcelled charm unequalled equal charm
all suffering stop terminate genuine real not vain
perfect wisdom declared charm saying
gone gone totally gone totally completely gone enlightened so be it (gone, gone, gone beyond, gone beyond the beyond, o bodhi hail!)
  • [Prepared by Dr. Michael E. Moriarty, Communication Arts Dept., Valley City State University, Valley City, North Dakota]
2. Translated by Red Pine
Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, Lanka
Bill Porter uses the pen name of the American author and translator Red Pine. In 2018 he won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Thornton Wilder Prize for translation. For his Heart Sutra work, he made use of various Sanskrit and Chinese versions, using the teachings of dozens of ancient teachers in his own commentary.
The noble Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva,
while practicing the deep practice of Prajnaparamita,
looked upon the Five Skandhas
and seeing they were empty of self-existence,
said, "Here, Shariputra,
form is emptiness, emptiness is form;
emptiness is not separate from form, form is not separate from emptiness;
whatever is form is emptiness, whatever is emptiness is form.
The same holds for sensation and perception, memory and consciousness.
Here, Shariputra, all dharmas are defined by emptiness
not birth or destruction, purity or defilement, completeness or deficiency.
Therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form,
no sensation, no perception, no memory and no consciousness;
no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body and no mind;
no shape, no sound, no smell, no taste, no feeling and no thought;
no element of perception, from eye to conceptual consciousness;
no causal link, from ignorance to old age and death,
and no end of causal link, from ignorance to old age and death;
no suffering, no source, no relief, no path;
no knowledge, no attainment and no non-attainment.
Therefore, Shariputra, without attainment,
bodhisattvas take refuge in Prajnaparamita
and live without walls of the mind.
Without walls of the mind and thus without fears,
they see through delusions and finally nirvana.
All buddhas past, present, and future
also take refuge in Prajnaparamita
and realize unexcelled, perfect enlightenment.
You should therefore know the great mantra of Prajnaparamita,
the mantra of great magic,
the unexcelled mantra,
the mantra equal to the unequalled,
which heals all suffering and is true, not false,
the mantra in Prajnaparamita spoken thus:
"Gate gate, paragate, parasangate, bodhi svaha."

3. The classic Edward Conze version in Sanskrit and English
Perfection of Wisdom as a goddess, East Java (wiki)
"There have been several critical editions of the Sanskrit text of the Heart Sutra, but to date the definitive edition is Edward Conze's. It was originally published in 1948 and then again in 1967.

Conze had access to 12 Nepalese manuscripts (mss.), seven mss. and inscriptions from China, two mss. from Japan, as well as several translations from the Chinese canon and one from the Tibetan.

There is a great deal of variation across the manuscripts in the title, the mangala verses, and within the text itself. Many of the manuscripts are corrupt or simply carelessly copied." [WP, "Heart Sutra"].

The Heart [of Perfect Wisdom] Sutra translated from Sanskrit by Edward Conze
Om namo Bhagavatyai Arya-Prajnaparamitayai!
Homage to the Perfection of Wisdom, the Lovely, the Holy!

Arya-Avalokitesvaro bodhisattvo gambhiram prajnaparamitacaryam caramano vyavalokayati sma: panca-skandhas tams ca svabhavasunyan pasyati sma.
Avalokita, The Holy Lord and Bodhisattva, was moving in the deep course of the Wisdom which has gone beyond. He looked down from on high, He beheld but five heaps, and he saw that in their own-being they were empty.

Iha Sariputra rupam sunyata sunyataiva rupam, rupan na prithak sunyata sunyataya na prithag rupam, yad rupam sa sunyata ya sunyata tad rupam; evam eva vedana-samjna-samskara-vijnanam.
O, Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.

Iha Sariputra sarva-dharmah sunyata-laksana, anutpanna aniruddha, amala aviamala, anuna aparipurnah.
O, Sariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness; they are not produced or stopped, not defiled or immaculate, not deficient or complete.

Tasmac Chariputra sunyatayam na rupam na vedana na samjna na samskarah na vijnanam. Na caksuh-srotra-ghranajihva-kaya-manamsi. Na rupa-sabda-gandha-rasa-sprastavaya-dharmah. Na caksur-dhatur yavan na manovjnana-dhatuh. Na-avidya na-avidya-ksayo yavan na jara-maranam na jara-marana-ksayo. Na duhkha-samudaya-nirodha-marga. Na jnanam, na praptir na-apraptih.
Therefore, Sariputra, in emptiness there is no form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor impulse, nor consciousness; No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; No forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables or objects of mind; No sight-organ element, and so forth, until we come to: No mind-consciousness element; There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so forth, until we come to: there is no decay and death, no extinction of decay and death. There is no suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path. There is no cognition, no attainment and non-attainment.

Tasmac Chariputra apraptitvad bodhisattvasya prajnaparamitam asritya viharaty acittavaranah. Cittavarana-nastitvad atrastro viparyasa-atikranto nishtha-nirvana-praptah.
Therefore, Sariputra, it is because of his non-attainmentness that a Bodhisattva, through having relied on the Perfection of Wisdom, dwells without thought-coverings. In the absence of thought-coverings he has not been made to tremble, he has overcome what can upset, and in the end he attains to Nirvana.
Tryadhva-vyavasthitah sarva-buddhah prajnaparamitam-asritya-anuttaram samyaksambodhim abhisambuddhah.

All those who appear as Buddhas in the three periods of time fully awake to the utmost, right and perfect Enlightenment because they have relied on the Perfection of Wisdom.
Tasmaj jnatavyam: prajnaparamita maha-mantro maha-vidya-mantro "nuttara-mantro" samasama-mantrah, sarva-duhkha-prasamanah, satyam amithyatvat. Prajnaparamitayam ukto mantrah. Tadyatha: Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhisvaha. Iti prajnaparamita-hridayam samaptam.

Therefore one should know the prajnaparamita as the great spell, the spell of great knowledge, the utmost spell, the unequalled spell, allayer of all suffering, in truth -- for what could go wrong? By the prajnaparamita has this spell been delivered. It runs like this:

Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all-hail!

4. Dhr. Seven translation, Sanskrit/English
It is unusual to locate a recording sung by a native Sanskrit speaker from India. Vidya Rao's rendering is perhaps the only such recording available. This famous Buddhist chant is part of a collection recorded by Siddhartha's Intent, an organization dedicated to reviving the wisdom traditions of Ancient India.

The Heart (of Wisdom) Sutra
प्रज्ञापारमिताहृदयसूत्रम्। [संक्षिप्तमातृका] ॥ नमः सर्वज्ञाय॥ ॥ ऊँ नमो भगवत्यै आर्य-प्रज्ञापारमितायै ॥ आर्यविलोकितेश्वरो बोधिसत्वो गम्भीरां प्रज्ञापारमिता-चर्या चरमाणो व्यवलोकयति स्म-पञ्च स्कन्धाः । तांश्च स्वभाव-शून्यान् पश्यति स्म॥ इह शारिपुत्र रूपं शून्यता, शून्यतैव रूपम्। रूपान्न पृथक् शून्यता, शून्यताया न पृथग् रूपम्। यद्रूपं सा शून्यता, या शून्यता तद्रूपम् । एवमेव वेदना-संज्ञा-संस्कार-विज्ञानं ॥ इहं शारिपुत्र सर्व धर्माः शून्यता, लक्षणा, अनुत्पन्ना, अनिरुद्धा, अमला विमला, अनूना अपरिपूर्णाः। तस्माच्छारिपुत्र शून्यतायां न रूपं, न वेदना, न संज्ञा, न संस्काराः, न विज्ञानं । न चक्षुःश्रोत्र-घ्राण-जिह्वा-काय-मनांसि । न रूप-शब्द-गन्ध-रस-स्प्रष्टव्य:-धर्माः। न चक्षुर्धातुर्यावन्न मनोविज्ञान-धातु न विधा । न अविधा-क्षयो यावन्न जरा मरणं न जरा मरण-क्षयो । न दुःख-समुदय-निरोध मार्गा । न ज्ञानं न प्राप्तिर् न अप्राप्तिः ॥ तस्माच्छारिपुत्र अत्रात्तित्वाद बोधिसत्वस्य प्रज्ञापारमितामाश्रित्य विहरति अचित्तावरणः। चित्तावरण-नास्तित्वाद अत्रस्तो विपर्यासातिक्रान्तो निष्ठ-निर्वाण प्राप्तः। त्रध्व-व्यवस्थितः सर्व-बुद्धाः प्रज्ञापारमितामाश्रित्य अनुत्तरां सम्यक्-संबोधिम् अभिसंबुद्धाः ॥ तस्मात्ज्ञातव्यं प्रज्ञापारमिता महा-मन्त्रोऽमहा-विधा-मन्त्रोऽनुत्तर-मन्त्रोऽसमसम-मन्त्रः, सर्व-दुःख प्रशमनः, सत्यम् अमिथ्यत्वात् । प्रज्ञापारमितायाम् उक्तो मन्त्रः। तधथा -- 'गते गते पारगते पारसंगते बोधि स्वाहा'॥ इति प्रज्ञा पारमिता हृदय सूत्रं समाप्तम्॥
English: Heart Sutra (translation)
Dhr. Seven (trans.), Wisdom Quarterly (on the shoulders of Edward Conze), updated 10-8-17
Vulture's Peak, Rajgir, India, setting for Heart Sutra (Wonderlane/
Avalokiteshvara now Kwan Yin
Om namo Bhagavatyai Arya-Prajnaparamitayai.
Honor to the sublime, noble perfection of wisdom!

Arya-Avalokitesvaro bodhisattvo gambhiram prajnaparamitacaryam caramano vyavalokayati sma: panca-skandhas tams ca svabhavasunyan pasyati sma. 
[Compassionate] Avalokitesvara, the noble being-bent-on-perfect-enlightenment, was moving in the deep course of transcendent wisdom which has gone beyond. He looked down from on high and [knowing-and-seeing] beheld nothing more than these Five Aggregates. And he saw that they were empty [=impersonal, devoid of "self," without suchness or intrinsic identity].
Iha Sariputra rupam sunyata sunyataiva rupam, rupan na prithak sunyata sunyataya na prithag rupam, yad rupam sa sunyata ya sunyata tad rupam; evam eva vedana-samjna-samskara-vijnanam.
Here, O [wise] Shariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, and form does not differ from emptiness. Whatever is form, that is emptiness, and whatever is emptiness, that is form. The same is true of [the other four aggregates:] feelings [sensations], perceptions, mental formations [like volitions], and consciousness.

Iha Sariputra sarva-dharmah sunyata-laksana, anutpanna aniruddha, amala aviamala, anuna aparipurnah. 
Here, O Shariputra, all phenomena bear this universal mark of emptiness [shunyata, anatta "not-self"]. They are neither produced nor annihilated, neither defiled nor pure, neither deficient nor complete. [That is to say, there is no duality, no opposites.]

Tasmac Sariputra sunyatayam na rupam na vedana na samjna na samskarah na vijnanam. Na caksuh-srotra-ghranajihva-kaya-manam si. Na rupa-sabda-gandha-rasa-sprastavaya-dharmah. Na caksur-dhatur yavan na manovjnana-dhatuh. Na-avidya na-avidya-ksayo yavan na jara-maranam na jara-marana-ksayo. Na duhkha-samudaya-nirodha-marga. Na jnanam, na praptir, na-apraptih. 
Therefore, O Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, feeling, perception, formation, or consciousness. There is no [contact as a consequence of three things coming together to form what is called] eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, or mind. There are no [external] forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangibles, or objects of mind [in that they are not real and permanent but illusory and transient. There is no [sense-base consisting of] sight-organ element, and so mind-consciousness element. There is no ignorance, no cessation of ignorance, and so forth... There is no decay and death, no cessation of decay and death. There is no suffering, no origination, no cessation, no path. There is no knowing, no attaining, and no non-attaining.

Tasmac Sariputra apraptitvad bodhisattvasya prajnaparamitam asritya viharaty acittavaranah. Cittavarana-nastitvad atrastro viparyasa-atikranto nishtha-nirvana-praptah. 
Therefore, O Sariputra, it is because of his non-attainment-ness that a being-bent-on-perfect-enlightenment, through having relied on the perfection of wisdom [prajna paramita], dwells without thought-coverings. In the absence of thought-coverings one does not tremble, having overcome what can upset, and in the end one abides in nirvana [the unconditioned element, the ultimate reality that is even beyond beyond].
Tryadhva-vyavasthitah sarva-buddhah prajnaparamitam-asritya-anuttaram samyaksambodhim abhisambuddhah. 
All those who appear as perfectly-enlightened-beings in the past, present, and future fully awake to the utmost-enlightenment because they have relied on the perfection of wisdom.

Tasmaj jnatavyam: prajnaparamita maha-mantro maha-vidya-mantro nuttara-mantro samasama-mantrah, sarva-duhkha-prasamanah, satyam amithyatvat. Prajnaparamitayam ukto mantrah. Tadyatha:
Therefore, one should know the perfection of wisdom by this great mantra, the mantra of great wisdom, the utmost mantra, the unequalled mantra, the allayer of all suffering, in truth for how else could it be? By the perfection of wisdom is this mantra arrived at thus:

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha.
Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond,
O what an awakening, so it is!

Iti prajnaparamita-hridayam samaptam.
This completes the heart of perfect wisdom.
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Pali canon abbreviations
AN - Anguttara Nikaya (Numerical Discourses Collection)
DN - Digha Nikaya (Long Discourses Collection)
MN - Majjhima Nikaya (Middle-Length Discourses Collection)
SN - Samyutta Nikaya (Connected Discourses or Kindred Sayings Collection) More (Source)