Heart Sutra

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in Chicago and in Korean temples they sing the chants. It's very, very beautiful and try to find it online sometime. It's very beautiful the way they chant the Heart Sutra. In Japanese, as you know, in the Japanese background Zen centers, we chant it in words. Tom has put a copy of the chant the Heart Sutra on a share screen and I'd like us to chant it together. And as you chant, can y'all see it all right? Yeah, good. Think about what you're thinking about. Tell me later what you're thinking about when you chant it, your feeling or whatever. I'll start us. Great Wisdom, Beyond Wisdom, Arts of Truth, Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva, One practicing deeply the Prajna Paramita, Perceive that all five skandhas in their own being are empty.


saved from all suffering. O Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness. Emptiness does not differ from form. That which is form is emptiness. That which is emptiness form. The same is true of feelings, perceptions, formations, consciousness. O Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness. They do not appear nor disappear, are not tainted nor pure, do not increase nor decrease. Therefore, in emptiness, no form, no feelings, no perceptions, no formations, no consciousness, no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind, no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind, no realm of eyes, until no realm of mind consciousness, no ignorance and also no extinction of it, until no old age and death and also no extinction of it, no suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path, no cognition, also no attainment,


With nothing to attain, a bodhisattva depends on prajna paramita. And the mind is no hindrance. Without any hindrance, no fears exist. Far apart from every perverted view, one dwells in nirvana. In the three worlds, all Buddhas depend on prajna paramita. and attain unsurpassed complete perfect enlightenment therefore know the prajna paramita is the great transcendent mantra is the great bright mantra is the utmost mantra is the supreme mantra which is able to relieve all suffering and is true not false so proclaim the Prajna Paramita Mantra Proclaim the mantra that says GATE GATE PARA GATE PARASAM GATE BODHISATVA


I've learned in studying on this that it's not just Zen temples that chant the Heart Sutra, but in the Tibetan tradition they have, people can request a special healing ceremony in which the Heart Sutra is chanted. And this is a sutra used by people, used to overcome difficulty, used for healing, used many different ways. One devotional practice is to chant it over and over again. Another is to copy the words, copy the sutra, copy it or copy the calligraphy. There's a we have in the in the chat box a couple of references of books about the Heart Sutra that I study, one is by Red Pine and the other is by Kaz Tanahashi.


There's a wonderful chapter in Kaz Tanahashi's book about his experience in Japan, copying the calligraphy in a temple where people do that. Maybe some of you remember the Korean film of many years ago, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. There's a beautiful scene in that film of a monk on the on the boat copying the calligraphy of the Heart Sutra. Some people use the end of the Heart Sutra, the gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate bodhisvaha, in itself as a comforting, healing rhyme to say. Ed Brown tells a story of many years ago when he was young at Tassajara being very very upset and Katagiri Roshi there as a teacher told Ed just chant gatte gatte paragatte parasamgate bodhisvaha.


So recommended to all beings. I think it's a very helpful way to get ourselves out of the tangles were in and come to a new place. It's wonderful to hear the Heart Sutra being chanted in Japanese. A friend and I were very fortunate a little over a year ago to visit Suzuki Roshi's temple in Japan. And his grandson was the priest in residence when we were there. And he has a wonderful, wonderful chanting voice. And to hear in that beautiful space him chanting the Heart Sutra, we just, I just felt, couldn't you just do it over and over and over again? If you go on YouTube, there's actually a genre on YouTube called Japanese Zen Music.


and you can hear some amazing videos of Buddhists. There's also a video of Buddhist monks around the world chanting the Heart Sutra together, and some of you will recognize people you know in that version. One of you, at VCC sent a while ago to the community Yahoo group a video of a Japanese priest singing a really wonderful jazzed up version with various instruments found in the zendo doing the heart sutra. Please send it again. I've been trying to find it and couldn't find it recently. This musical chanting obviously resonates with people. If you look on YouTube at how many people have heard each of those videos.


It's quite a large number. So how did this come to be? How is it that all these Zen temples are chanting the Heart Sutra? For years, when I chanted it, I thought of Red Pine's wonderful story. Red Pine has spent over 30 years in China, knows Chinese, of course, as well as he knows any other language, studied the Heart Sutra and found that the words of the Heart Sutra were, seemed to be responses to an old Sebastian Baden chant and felt that that was, and developed a story that there was a young monk in the Sebastian Baden ancient tradition in India who was who had insight into ultimate reality and was critiquing the Savasthavadin approach, saying no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, because they were delineating every little bit of everything you could perceive as a way to catch ultimate reality.


And I love that story. And as I've been chanting the Heart Sutra all these years, love thinking about that monk creating this chant that negates the detailed picture and brings us off into reality as we might know it, as I think it really is. But Takas Tanahashi did a more recent study of the origins of the Heart Sutra there's been some critical literature on the Heart Sutra that he did a close analysis of and he also did research on the ground in Japan, studying the sutras as he found them in museums and temples. And so now chanting the Heart Sutra, we become deeply immersed in an understanding


of ancient connections between India and China. People in India, as Buddhism progressed throughout India, people inspired by their Buddhism wanted to share it. And so the sutras were in Sanskrit. They learned to translate them into Chinese and brought and sent sutras to China very, very early. So In the early part of this of this the common era ad There were a lot of sutras where it came from India to China and some of these Sutras were the Prajnaparamita Sutras which the Heart Sutra comes from.


There was a translation of the 25,000 line Prajnaparamita into Chinese and then a commentary on it in which in that commentary a lot of the parts of the translation were invoked. So there's a thought, or Kaustan Hashi's conclusion is that a person in China put together something, the Heart Sutra, and it's the very Heart Sutra that we chant, of three parts. First there was an introduction, beginning with Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, who was a very important figure in Chinese Buddhism. And then a core section of it, this part that the main part that we chant, which was from the commentary on the translation of the Prajna, the 25,000 line Prajnaparamita.


And then this mantra, gatte gatte paragatte at the end. So that's the Heart Sutra. Now, the question is, how come There it was in China. How come we all chant it? About 600 AD, 1,300 years ago in the Sichuan province of China, there was a young man, a Buddhist practitioner named Xuanzang. And he befriended an impoverished and ill man. He fed him, he got him health, medical care. And in gratitude, the man taught him the sutra, the same heart sutra that we chant, the very sutra translated from Chinese that we do every day. This man, Huan Song, became a monk. And as a monk in those days in China, he was taught the Yogacara teachings.


These are the teachings that Hosan has been teaching in his classes the past four Monday evenings. Xuanzang questioned this emphasis on the mind. Some would say the emphasis on mind only, or it's all in the mind. And he longed to go to India, to the great center of Buddhist study at Nalanda, to study and learn more, including to have access to scriptures that weren't available in China. Now, it was a very difficult period in history to get from China to India. For one thing, Chinese people were not permitted to leave China. And even if they were allowed, the journey was long and dangerous. The terrain was very rough. Deserts had to be crossed. There were bandits along the way. It was, one would say, an impossible journey. He left his center in China in the year 629 in the fall, and he traveled 10,000 miles on his journey.


He traveled to India, to Nalanda. He spent a lot of time there. He traveled deep down into India and back. It was a journey that took him 16 years. And when he returned, he was 50 years of age. So he started out with a small group of people who were going to travel together with him on a trade route that later came to be known as the Silk Route. And after a while, the people that went with him dropped out. Then he had a guide, a local guide for that area of the journey. And as the story goes, he wrote a biography or a book A person who worked with him later wrote a biography based on his memories. The local guide, the story goes, tried to stab him. So he separated himself from that guide and continued alone on a horse, a thin, lame horse.


And the horse didn't, then he began walking. There's a period, a long period when he's walking through sand dunes. He became thirsty. He had hallucinations, imagined evil spirits. He invoked Avalokiteshvara. The spirits kept coming. He chanted the Heart Sutra over and over, and the spirits went away. He took on the practice of the old man he'd learned the Heart Sutra from, chanting the Heart Sutra to promote wellness, to scare away the evil spirits, to make the life that he wanted possible. When I thought I was gonna give this talk at Berkeley Zen Center, I was gonna put a big map up on the bulletin board so you all could see it afterwards. You can find them online. Please do look at a map of this journey. So he went long across China, got to the edge of the Gobi Desert.


That was where the barrier, the end of China was. And there were big sentinels there. like there are at some borders even these days. And somehow he snuck through, since he wasn't permitted to leave China, and then crossed the Gobi Desert and arrived at Hami, an oasis state. Now, this guy was pretty charming, we would say, and had a lot of knowledge of Buddhist scripture. So there was, a ruler there who invited him into the palace to talk and to tell what he was interested in and about. There was an envoy from a king of a kingdom called Turfan there at the palace who heard this and knew the king would be very interested. So he invited Xuanzang to make a detour in his trip and go to Turfan where


He talked to the king and to others there. The king tried to get him to stay, and this happened to him a few times in his journey. People would say, just stay here and teach us. Your teaching is profound, and we don't want you to go away. But when finally he had to have a hunger strike to convince the king of Turfan that he really was going to go to India. So the king outfitted him with, as the story goes, 30 horses, 24 helpers, gold and silver and bundles and bundles of silk. They continued on to India and ran into bandits who, the story goes, had killed the previous people they had robbed. But they managed to give the bandits a bribe so that they didn't kill them, but just took a lot of stuff. They had to climb over a mountain range with steep glaciers in which they lost about a third of the crew and lots of the oxen and horses.


Early accounts of people who traveled in pursuit of Buddhism have these descriptions of amazing hardship in their journeys, crossing glaciers and mountains and running out of food. It's amazing how people took out walking to get to very, very distant places to learn more about Buddhism. They got to the other side to something which is called the Lake of No Freezing after a year. And there, the great Khan of the Western Turks who reigned over most of Central Asia, also put him up and took care of the crew, but wanted him to stay and teach. On he went visiting sacred Buddhist sites that we've heard of, Bamiyan, into India, Lumbini, Kushinagar, Bodhgaya.


After three years, he arrived at Nalanda University Monastery. At that point, there were 10,000 students there. Also, if you look online, there's amazing pictures of the buildings of Nalanda and what it was like. Ultimately, he studied there for a long time. He went down into India and then came back home and waited at the border for permission to re-enter. He brought back on 22 horses, 657 Sanskrit sutras and commentaries. and also relics and images after a 16-year trip. The emperor gave him permission to reenter. He was greeted, it says, by hundreds of thousands of people in Chang'an, a capital city of what is now Shanxi province. Ximin, the emperor of the Tang dynasty, praised him for courage and achievement and assisted him to set up a national center to translate Sanskrit


texts into Chinese. So already there's two things that made the Heart Sutra so prominent worldwide. One is this tale, this amazing tale of where the Heart Sutra took him and then secondly the prominence of this institute which contributed to worldwide acceptance of the Heart Sutra because of the translations that came out of this Institute. And the stories of the magical powers of the Heart Sutra. So these stories continue. We've heard the story. We chant the Heart Sutra. There was in 1965 a film called Swan Song that some of you have seen and if you haven't you can see it on YouTube. The Chinese government has also produced a series on swan song, which is available on YouTube.


I had a little peek at it and I'm not sure we're going to approve of all the content, but there it is. Because of the stories of swan song, the custom began in China of daily chanting of this sutra. And also in China, the Prajnaparamita Sutra was worshipped. It was placed on altars and bowed to, so it seemed natural to venerate a related and shorter version. Buddhism, as you know, went from China to Korea to Japan, and from those three places to North America and Europe. For most practice places, Buddhism meant chanting the Heart Sutra. For us today, the Heart Sutra is a deeply embodied reminder, touchstone of the core of Buddha's understanding.


Put together in the common era in China by an unknown person, starting by invoking Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, the one to whom we pray, the representation of the forces of compassion in the universe, for all those who need prayers for well-being. Continuing by explicating the understanding of ultimate reality as boundless, as one completely connected, merged whole, and ending with a mantra that is believed to heal. These are words with a power not understood quite rationally, felt when we hear the voice of a Japanese priest chanting the Japanese version when a chorus of Zen practitioners chants together, when we repeat for ourselves, gate, gate, pargate, parasamgate, bodhisvaha, which leads me to wonder, what about the rest of you?


What does everybody think about the Heart Sutra? What do you think when we chant, when you chant? So I want to open it up I don't know what time we're doing. Are we doing okay? Have a little bit of time to have Tom call on people. Now let me just say a few words before we open it up for questions. As many of you know, there's two ways you can ask questions of Hannah. The first is to raise your virtual hand by clicking on participants at the bottom of your screen, and then both Hannah and I will see the hands. call on you. The second way is to submit a question in the chat box, which I'll keep an eye on, and forward that to Hannah. Hannah, we want to hear from as many voices as possible, especially newer people, so we ask you limit yourself to one follow-up question versus having ongoing dialogue with Hannah so we can hear from as many people as possible.


That's the spirit of this. So thanks, and I'll Mute myself and and we do have a question. It's already come up from Sean and Would the question is why do we chant the heart sutra in a monotone? Versus some other way. So I thought that was great question. So that's from Sean. I Was shocked the first time I heard People in our tradition chant the heart sutra. I had been attending a Korean Zen temple in Chicago, and where it's an amazingly beautiful melody, and then landed one morning early at Green Gulch Farm in morning service, and they started chanting like we do, and I thought, oh, really? This is very different, but they're certainly very serious about this.


I was impressed with the seriousness. This is the tradition I wanted to be part of, and so I chanted this way, and this is the way they chanted in Japan. How it, I mean, it would have first gone to Korea, and I don't understand. Perhaps somebody else can answer the question. I'd love the answer. How come Japanese chanting is like this? Hozon, Sojin, anybody got an answer? We'll assume silence means no answer. I have a guess. Yes. But I was hoping someone that actually knows might answer. Well, you're the one speaking, so give it a try. Okay. Well, my guess is that it's easier to get large groups of people to sing one note as opposed to, um,


you know, some type of scale you're learning out. And it harmonizes perfect if you have multiple people singing it or, you know, chanting it. So that's the off of the top of my head. I would think that might be a more logical reason, but I didn't know if there were some other deeper reason. And also, I've heard some singing with even Thich Nhat Hanh, and people were singing incredibly out of tune for a long period of time. So I just was like, what could be going on there? Okay, thank you, Sean. Looks like Sojin has a comment. You hear me? Yes. Well, I ran into a monk But he said that Suzuki Roshi gave us the simplest way to do things that everybody could participate in, which is very much like the last person that gave you that idea.


So I agree with him that to make everything as simple as possible so that even the simplest illiterate or whatever person can chant. And it's much easier to chant in a mono tone. So anybody can just walk right in and participate. And also, rather than melodic, it's more like high energy. We should be chanting with high energy, but we don't all have that. are willing to share it. So when we get up from Zazen, we chant it after, usually after Zazen. And so our Zazen spirit is our strength, inner strength, is the touchstone for chanting.


So Jen, when we've, When you've been in Japan in temples, though, didn't they also chant it this way? Yeah, yes, in a monotone. But they also have, you know, Soto Zen has the most elaborate chanting of anybody in Japan. It's called Baika, Plum Blossom. And that's very florid and beautiful and wonderful, but ordinarily not attributed or not used in the Heart Sutra. Oh. Yeah, you should hear some Pika. Yes. Yeah. Ask, um, uh, Show Marco to do that. But he doesn't like it. And he'd do it anyway, huh? He'd do it anyway. Okay. Thank you. Thank you. Hmm. Anybody? I think Ken had a question for you.


Ken. Uh, yes. Hi, can you hear me? I can hear you. OK, last time you gave a talk a couple of years ago, it was also about chanting and so on. said that you'd like me to do this if it came up again. So this is Phil Whelan's version of the last part of the Heart Sutra, the gate gate part. Gone, gone, really gone, into the cool, oh mama. On that note, I will mute myself again. Thank you so much. I think that one would help us too. Yeah, we could chant that. Hey, Sue Osher has a question for you.


Sue. Hi, Hannah. I don't know that it's a question, but I want to thank you. This was wonderful. And I feel so reconnected to the Heart Sutra. I have memories of chanting it in the Adirondacks going up 11th Mountain and chanting loudly because I wanted to warn the bears that I was there if they were around. And my stepson introduced Gordon and me to it. He took us to a Sunray Meditation Society which was a combination of Tibetan Buddhism and a shamanic Native American practice, maybe Cherokee. And they chanted the Heart Sutra. That was the first time I'd heard it. It was melodic and it was just thrilling. So thank you for your talk. Thank you. Love to hear that.


Susan has a question. I wish I could see you when people... Can you hear me? I can hear you, yes. Good morning. Thank you for your talk, Hannah. Many, many years ago at Berkeley Zen Center, there was a woman from Japan who sat with us. And one day I said to her, it must be really especially wonderful for you to chant the Heart Sutra in Japanese as opposed to English. It must have more meaning for you. And she said, Well, actually, in Japanese, it's just the sound. The sound is what we're focused on. She said the words don't really, those words, she called it, don't really mean anything. And so she said if you want to think about it, the English has more so-called meaning. And after that, I thought, oh, that's really great, just to pay attention to the sound. When you asked us to chant it with you in the beginning, and you said, what are you thinking about when you chant the Heart Sutra?


I thought it's pretty hard to think about the Heart Sutra while you're chanting it, because then you would get, or I would get tripped up. And if we pay attention to the sound, This sounds quite beautiful. I don't know, I just wondered if you had something to say about your own practice with the Heart Sutra and the sound versus the meaning. It's one thing to sit down and read the Heart Sutra and study it, and another thing to actually chant it. I don't know, does that make any sense? Totally makes sense, and I think they're chanting it in ancient Sino-Japanese, so it's not, modern Japanese that the Japanese chant is, so it wouldn't be a common language for them. You know, I'm a nature girl, so when I'm chanting and the words are that there's not all this separation of entities, that it's


no, no, no, the, the adverse being all. Um, I mean, I like the words because I, I'm really into an understanding of how it's all one is I think of it, Schneer, um, of, of, uh, complete, um, as cast on how she uses the word boundlessness, um, it's, That's our life. We tend to break it up. And these words are negating that breaking it up into that ultimate reality of boundlessness. So I like the although, of course, it goes in your body. It's a chant that goes in your body. And, you know, a lot of us don't look at the words anymore. And it's not that we sat down to memorize it. the saying of it just brought it into our bodies. So our bodies know this chant, which is different from most things we know by heart.


We have to stop and learn them. This one just comes into your body. So that's what I have to say on this subject. Yeah, thank you so much. Heather has a question for you. Good morning. Can you hear me? Hi. Thank you so much for this wonderful talk. I was curious about, you had really focused in on the Gaté, Gaté, Paragaté, and using the ending as a mantra. And I really appreciated the earlier interpretation. that someone shared, and it just brought a smile to my face to think about it that way. I was wondering if you could talk about what it means to you, what that particular piece of the Heart Sutra means to you and why, of everything, you might pull that out as a mantra in your own life, if that's not too personal.


Well, I don't know that it is personal. I think it's kind of... common to humans in this tradition. Dan Harden just wrote it on the chat. Gone, gone, gone beyond. You know, you have to let go of the stuff you're caught in. When you're upset or afraid and can't fix it, you know, it's so helpful to chant Gone, gone, gone beyond. Just give it up. Let go. Merge with whatever can hold you. That's my thought. Does that make sense? Yeah, that's beautiful. Thank you. Can you do it? Well, I'll fake it till I make it.


Yeah, well, we got to do something. Yeah, including right now. Yes. Thank you. Yeah. Karen Sondheim has a question and then Sojin after Karen. Thank you. I've really enjoyed this talk and I have to say I've had issues over decades with the Heart Sutra and it started off that I really didn't like the monotone, which somebody brought up earlier. So I went to Sojin about this, and what he told me was every word is equal, that in the melodies, one tends to, or I tended to prefer certain words and not like other parts, but that with this monotone, every syllable, every word is equal. Wow, I really like that.


Sojin. Yeah, thank you, Karen, for putting words in my mouth. No, I liked it. Thank you for teaching me that again. Well, the mantra, you know, is an unusual thing for a sutra. Sutras don't end with mantras. And so the mantra is kind of very particular to this sutra. I mean, to this, Yeah, the sutra. So that's kind of the mystery of this sutra, is that it explains everything, and then at the end, you shout it out with kind of unintelligible words. It ends with an emotional ending, actually. Gatte, gatte, [...] It's very emotional.


Yes. So that's the wonderful part of the sutra. I should go on, but I won't. Hey, Colleen Bush has a question for you. Hi, Colleen. Hi, Hannah. It's actually not a question. It's just a story that I can't resist sharing because it resonates with so much of what's been said. John and I were at Jazz Fest some number of years ago, sitting in the jazz tent in New Orleans, and Nicholas Payton was on stage. I believe it was Nicholas Payton. And all of a sudden, and that was the song. And We looked at each other and went, oh my God, it's the Heart Sutra. And sitting next to me was this Japanese couple.


And I turned to the Japanese guy and I was like, it's the Heart Sutra, it's the Heart Sutra. I was so excited, you know? And he had no idea what I was talking about. Absolutely no idea. And so it goes to what you were saying about, you know, these words didn't, mean anything to him. This wasn't a language he understood, but it deeply meant something to John and I to chant them. And it was so delightful in that context to suddenly be encountering the Heart Sutra as we knew it in Japanese. So I was also just nodding when Susan was talking about it not being so much about the words. I can relate to both that it is about the words and our relationship to the words. And it's also just about the sounds. and taking them in and listening and chanting fully ourselves and adding our voice to the chant. So it's, for me, both are really true. When I chant the Enmei Chuku Kanangyo, for example, I don't really know what I'm saying.


I don't, but it means a lot to me, that chant. So there's something about just chanting with your heart. That's it. I just wanted to share that story. Thank you. It looks like we have time for one more question from Mark. Hi, Mark. Hi, Hannah. Thanks for your talk. At the beginning, you said that the Heart Sutra was in your heart, and you said in both senses of the word. And I think you meant the heart, usually the physical organ that pumps the blood. And the other sense was the seat of emotions and feelings. And really when you said both senses of the word is really, you had emotions and feelings or an emotional reaction to the heart sutra. And then there's a third sense of the word of heart of the most essential point, the most important part.


But this seed of emotions and feelings, the one emotion you described was devotion to Prajnaparamita, the tradition of devotion. I wonder if that's what you mean, if you see other emotions and feelings in the Heart Sutra, or if there's anything you'd expand on in that reaction, I'm sure. Interesting question. It's with a sense of joy, I carry it in my heart. It's the core of, I say our beliefs, it's the core of my beliefs. It's the familiar what we do. Here we are, all separated in our boxes here, our separated places. And One of the hard things is that we can't put our voices together with this Zoom delay of sound.


So it's fabulous to go on YouTube and hear these people singing, chanting. So in that sense, it's in my heart too. All three, thank you.