Friday, February 15, 2013

The Heart Sutra (the Heart of Prajnaparamita Sutra)  is chanted daily by millions of Buddhists around the world, and presents the teaching on the understanding  of non-duality.  A “sutra” is a teaching, and the heart sutra teaches a state of “non-mind” by which one can “lose” their suffering.  The famous line “form is emptiness, emptiness is form” is sometimes difficult for Western minds to understand.
Recent translations have clarified the meaning of “emptiness” and have re-interpreted reality as “boundlessness”, very much in keeping with our understanding of Oneness. 
Sacred texts, like the heart sutra, are guideposts and gateways for personal experience with our true selves and with our personal divine. We do not teach or experience the literal word for word meaning of the sutra.  Instead, we will seek to personalize the sutra for each of us, thereby creating our own “bhakti” experience.  Bhakti is the personal love and devotion to one’s divine.

In a nutshell, the Heart Sutra teaches on how one can transcend "suffering", and thereby help others to awaken to the joy that their suffering can also be transcended. The suffering that Buddhism talks about is the suffering of the mind, thinking......that causes worry, fear, dissatisfaction, etc.  Per the 4 noble truths, suffering arises because of our desires, or cravings.  To the Western mind this is hard to understand, so I will TRY to help to explain.
This is the mental process that we go through:

We are attached to outcomes and expectations, therefore we have the idea that our actions can effect specific outcomes in our lives, and that our wishes and desires are obtainable. Once we have this idea our senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and object of mind) agree with the ideas and conspire to produce cravings that our false realities will  be fulfilled. We seek to avoid the suffering that will come by NOT attaining what we crave and desire, thereby producing an attachment to its outcome.  We worry that it will not come about, we fear it not coming about. These appear as cycles of suffering as we get a glimpse of our desires coming to pass, and the reality of its being unattainable.   This state of disappointment, or suffering, is the essence of ignorance, which started and perpetuates the cycle until one becomes AWARE, in the words of the Buddha, that "this whole heap of dukkha (suffering) arise according to these factors.”
The heart sutra takes reality as we know it, strips us bare, destroys all we think is true, and then asks us to step into a new world where we have overcome our ignorance, we leave suffering behind as an empty form, and step into a boundless existence where nothing is permanent.  Sounds like fun, huh?
The best way to find "grace" from the Heart sutra is to memorize it and feel it become part of you as you learn it.  As you repeat it and know it, it is amazing how often parts of it will be made aware to you, and you will have many "ah-ha" moments with it.
Be very blessed today. 

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