Archive for February, 2014

Here we are finally at the last few verses of “The Great Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra,” this incredible adventure is about to come to an end and hopefully it will be one of such wonderful magnitude that your life will be better in every way from studying it and chanting it and contemplating its words and listening to the sounds that it sends through your ears into your head.

The verses are as follows:

This is no other than truth.

Therefore, set forth the Prajna Paramita mantra,

Set forth this mantra and proclaim

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha (x3)

The last line is actually sung like a chant three times.

Shohaku Okumura in his book Living By Vow writes this about these verses.

Since this is a mantra, the words themselves are believed by some to have divine power and so are not translated.  Depending on the translator, the meaning is, “Gone, gone, gone beyond” or “Gone altogether beyond. Oh, what an awakening!” Bodhi means “awakening” and svaha means “all hail.” “Gone” points to a reality beyond our system of values, beyond the boundary of our ready-made picture of the world and ourselves.  This mantra enables us to break through our internal limitations and see a deeper reality inside us.  The Buddha taught us to wake up to this deeper meaning in our daily lives. (page 203).[1]

So when we read and chant and think about this sutra we discover our innate ability to go beyond the physical world of modern day living to go where awakening exits and all things are one living in unison and harmony.  Beyond thinking and feeling and beyond the intellect that is always trying to make things of mystery have weight and measure and answers and logic.  Beyond sight, and sound, and touch, and taste–beyond anything the human mind can comprehend.

Gate, Gate Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi SvahaGone, gone, gone beyond!  Gone altogether beyond anything I can know through my intellect.  Gone into a world of possibilities that my human mind may not be able to comprehend.  This is the place that Deepak Chopra calls “pure potentiality.” The place between this thought and the next that exists some place in quantum physics but is not seen by the human eye.  To live in this space is to be all there is to be in this life and any other.  To bath in that place where life has “pure potentiality beyond any place my human mind can take me at this moment…into the “silence” as we say in Unity Church.

This is where Shodo Harada in his beautiful book of poetry, calligraphy, and prose, Moon by the Window, writes, “The old pine is speaking prajna wisdom (page 203).”[2]

Normally we see our body and the rest of the world as separate; we live a life apart. When our world and our body meld, we experience the awakening of the Buddha, becoming a perfect whole.  Our zazen isn’t for playing around with our own thoughts. This world is filled with problems; our bodies are imperfect too. But putting everything aside and becoming one with this world, completely and totally, is what has to be done (page 203).[3]

So let us take time this week to sit and meditate while chanting the last verse of the sutra chanting until you are lost and have gone beyond the words into that perfect place of pure potentiality where the old pine, or the cushion, or the wind in the trees melds you with all things, all sounds, all sights, and all thoughts…melds you into one where you have gone, gone, gone, beyond into awakening.

You can do it…so go for it—go beyond it!

In gassho


Things to focus on this week:

  1. I will begin each day with at least 5 minutes of chanting “Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha.”
  2. Before I put my feet on the floor each morning I will remind myself that “I am pure potentiality.”
  3. I will remember that if “The old pine is speaking prajna wisdom.” I can too!
  4. Lastly, I will keep a journal of the opportunities that have been presented to me so I can keep track of my progress and my opportunities for growth.

[1] Okumura, S. (2012) Living By Vow A practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts, Wisdom Publications, Boston: MA

[2] Harada, S. (2011) Moon by the Window, The Calligraphy and Zen Insights of Shodo Harada. Wisdom Publications, Boston: MA

[3] Ibid.

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We are winding down our thoughts on the verses from the “Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra” and only have one verse and the mantra left to go after this.  All of the verses we have looked at are distinct in their wisdom and bring light to the principles by which Buddhists live.

All past, present and future buddhas live this Prajna Paramita

And attain supreme, perfect enlightenment.

Therefore, know that Prajna Paramita is the holy mantra,

The luminous mantra, the supreme mantra,

The incomparable mantra

By which all suffering is cleared.

Lucky for us these are some of the easiest verses to understand and when the Sutra is chanted and the ideas are used regularly they can help bring peace, love, joy, and light into our lives. The verse tells us that throughout the ages people have lived by these principles and through the ideas, techniques, and practices have lived a life where suffering was limited and for some maybe even eliminated.

So if you are looking for a way to alleviate or at least minimize the suffering in your lives make it a habit to sit each day and before the sitting chant “The Great Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra.”

Shohaku Okumura in his book Living By Vow A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts writes this about these verses:

Although the sutra has the phrase ‘relieves all suffering.’ I don’t believe it works as a kind of pain killer.  Instead it enables us to change the way we view our lives and ourselves.  It allows us to see the deeper meaning and broader reality of our life.  Our way of thinking is limited by our experience, education, culture, and values.  Our picture of the world is narrow.  This wisdom of prajna-paramita enables us to break through these fixed systems of value and see reality from a wider perspective (p. 202). [1]

Just as Okumura says, “Look at life from a different point of view.”  I remember sometime back reading a story about a woman who had lived in a very remote area of her country and suddenly fell ill.  She traveled far and long to get to a hospital where she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  During the surgery the physicians realized that they could not get it all.  They did not say anything to her about that and when she was able they sent her home to die.  Several years later she appeared in the ER with another, but different, problem.  When the nurse looked up her chart she asked to see a picture ID and without thinking said, “It can’t be you—we sent you home to die.”  The patient replied, “Well no one told me that!”   She had evidently “changed the way she had viewed her life” from one of illness to one of wellness!

Charles Fillmore the co-founder of Unity was often quoted as saying, “Pain is inevitable—suffering is optional.”

Yet, we keep suffering and some even talk themselves into dying and others talk themselves into living.  Sitting regularly and practicing the principles of Buddhism is a great way to help us remember that suffering is optional!

Things to focus on this week:

  1. I will begin each day by sitting in quiet meditation while remembering that “suffering is optional.”
  2. I will remind myself to simply return my focus to my breath no matter how many times I have to do so—without frustration or anger.
  3. I will look for the rainbow behind the cloud and focus my attention there.
  4. Lastly, I will keep a journal of the opportunities that have been presented to me so I can keep track of my progress and my opportunities for growth.

[1] Okumura, S. (2012) Living By Vow A practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts, Wisdom Publications, Boston: MA

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