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Posts Tagged ‘Maha Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra’

We continue our thoughts on these verses from the “Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra” below.  Remember when reading this sutra you are the bodhisattva regardless of whether you feel like it today or not.  It is an inherent characteristic of you that cannot be denied, removed, or ignored:  When we try to do so it simply finds ways to remind us.

No gain thus Bodhisattvas live this Prajna Paramita

With no hindrance of mind.

No Hindrance, therefore no fear,

Far beyond all such delusion,

Nirvana is already here.

Shohaku Okumura in his book Living by Vow A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts writes about these verses beautifully.

This is prajna—no gain and no loss.  There’s nothing coming in or going out because there is no place where anything can come to or go from. There is no border, no separation, just a flow of energy. This is reality beyond our conceptual and calculating way of thinking (p. 194). [1]

This may be a difficult concept to grasp as we live in the physical world and we see birth and death every day in our lives and on our TV.  And yet the famous healer and author Joel Goldsmith wrote about this same idea in his book Practicing the Presence Guide to Regaining Meaning and a Sense of Purpose in Our Life, (1958)

All through the ages, duality has separated us from our good, but it is a sense of duality, not duality, because there is no duality.  The secret of life is oneness, and oneness is not something we bring about.  Oneness is a state of being.

There is no such thing as God and man, any more than there is an outside and an inside to the tumbler, separate and apart from each other. The outside and the inside are one (page 56).

The nature of our existence is immortality, eternality, infinity (page 58).[2]

Just as Okumura says, there is no border, no separation, just a flow of energy—tumbler energy appearing as a vessel for us to use when we are drinking.  Our bodies and our minds are like this vessel and thus there is no gain and no loss, there is nothing coming in or going out and when we grasp this idea we also lose the idea of “hindrance.”  This understanding relieves us of our fears and delusions.  Thus “Nirvana is already here.” Thus we are already the bodhisattva!

Yet, we keep forgetting.  Sitting is a great way to help us remember. Practicing the principles of Buddhism is a great way to remember.  Living a life of compassion and peace is a great way to demonstrate that you remember.  Simply sitting as often as possible and as long as possible is a great way to demonstrate that you remember.

And from these demonstrations come results in our lives: less fear, less delusion, less hindrance of mind. This is “reality” beyond our everyday thinking. And that is the perfect place to be today!

Things to focus on this week:

  1. I will begin each day by sitting in quiet meditation letting go of everything that is keeping me from focusing my attention on my breath.
  2. I will remind myself that doing this can help free me from my fears and delusions.
  3. I am not looking into the future for Nirvana because it is already here in this now moment!
  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] Goldsmith, J.S. (1958). Practicing the Presence Guide to Regaining Meaning and a Sense of Purpose in our life. HarperSanFrancisco

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Once again I will attempt to unwind the mystery of the Heart Sutra the next several sections of the sutra are on the concept of emptiness.

O Shariputra, form is no other than emptiness,
Emptiness no other form;
Form is exactly emptiness,
Emptiness exactly form;
Sensation, conception, discrimination, awareness
are likewise like this.

The sutra above says, “form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form.”  Now that’s a brain twister!  How can something be both form and not form, full of something and yet full of nothing?  When I hit my shin on the coffee table that doesn’t feel like it’s full of “nothing” to me! So rather than try to break this idea down intellectually let’s work on using this idea to help us during our sitting and to help us deal with the outer world more effectively and compassionately.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu talks about emptiness in his book Meditations2.  He writes this:

When the Buddha talks about emptiness in the Pali Canon, he does so in two major contexts.  One is this sense of dwelling in emptiness as the mind gets still and the emptiness begins to surround things.  That’s the side of emptiness that’s obviously positive.

You can maintain this spacious sense of dwelling in emptiness and, at the same time, the things that used to bother you, the things that used to weigh you down, become empty, too; empty of self. Because they’re empty, they don’t disturb the emptiness of your awareness. You can live together.  You can live with these things but not be weighed down by them (page 168).[1]

Since I created this reality I can change it at any time and I can create a new reality out of the emptiness that is everything.  I can take the weight out of the fear, negativity, thoughts, actions and the like anytime I want to because if everything is emptiness then I can take those things back to their true nature or emptiness and remove those negative thoughts and emotions that I have attached to them.  I can free myself of them.

I can see this as a glass filled with something, something that may not be healthy for me and in doing so I can empty that glass.  I can pour its contents into the sink or onto the ground and look back into that glass and see nothing.  I can begin to fill it up again, if I so choose, with something healthy more fulfilling for my mind and body.

This may be a very simplistic way of looking at this complex and mind boggling Buddhist idea of emptiness, but what good are the Buddhist teachings if they are not usable, understandable, or helpful in keeping us on this beautiful path of love, compassion, and kindness—none!

Many years ago I read an article in Unity Magazine about a woman whose life had begun with a very difficult and demeaning childhood.  So when anyone asked her about her childhood she told them the awful stories over and over again.  Her current life was filled with hardship and loss and one day she awoke to the idea that we call “emptiness” in her life and realized that even though she could not change the past she could change how she viewed it.  From that day on when someone would ask her about her childhood she would relate the same happy story over and over again of her favorite aunt taking her to the park and what a fabulous time they had.  It took time, but over the next few years she quietly built a new past in her mind and she began to remember small events that were good as she was growing up until she had created a new and loving past in her mind and a glorious new present began to appear.

Her cup was filled with fear, anger, and animosity until she chose to empty it and to begin filling it up with love.  If your cup is filled to the brim already how can you pour more tea into it?  You can’t! First you must empty it to make room for more tea. When sitting open yourself to this “spacious sense of dwelling in emptiness.”  Empty your cup and free yourself, as she did, of those things that are drawing you away from the place your heart most desires to be.  And even though those things are empty too we can see them without giving our power away to them.  How do we do that, keep sitting, and keep looking for the emptiness in all things and watch what happens in your life.

Choose emptiness.

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin seeing the emptiness in all things today.

2.  I will remind myself that doing this can help me create a peaceful life filled with love and compassion for self and others.

3.  I will remember to see the emptiness in things of the past that may have hurt or hindered me and I will watch for the lightness in mind, body, and spirit and see the weight being lifted from me and the emptiness taking its place.

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] DeGraff, G. (Thanassaro Bhikkhu. (2006) Meditations2, Dhamma Talks, Metta Forest Monastery, Valley Center: CA.

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