Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Heart Sutra - Buddhism's Key Concepts, Part 4

The Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita, and the mind is no hindrance, without any hindrance no fears exist. Far apart from ever perverted view one dwells in Nirvana. In the three worlds all Buddhas depend on Prajna Paramita and attain Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi.

Avalokitesevara Mandala

When thoughts and analysis are stopped the world is perceived as it is. Perverted views are any qualities one gives to dharmas. Without the hindrance of wrong views we gain Prajna Paramita, the knowing beyond knowing and find Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi, the supreme awakening. Again we are presented with a paradox. In the last verse it says "no attainment, with nothing to attain" in this it says supreme awakening can be attained. What does this mean?

Therefore know that Prajna Paramita is the great transcendent mantra . . .

The sutra now shifts from diagnosis to prescription. It recommends a way to find the goal-less goal. Simply repeat the prajna paramita mantra:

Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha.
Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone all together beyond, awaken, all hail

This line is left untranslated from the Sanskrit in the different Asian versions. Mantra meditation has been used in India for thousands of years and was appropriated by the Buddhists. By concentrating on a phrase thinking is cut off, opening the way for awakening.

As with any other method there is no guarantee, but what we may find along the path is often helpful. Even if we do not find supreme awakening in this lifetime, perhaps we can find the still, empty eye in the center of the hurricane. Even if we do not know interdependence, by trying to understand it we can see that all life is related and have compassion for our fellow beings. As we chant the Heart Sutra we should be mindful of the teachings it summarizes and apply them to our lives.