Heart Sutra -- why study it?

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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby Lotus_Bitch » Wed Aug 20, 2014 11:20 pm

yan kong wrote:
Jikan wrote:Chanting a text like the Heart Sutra, rather than something silly or meaningless, is a way to practice mindfulness. Specifically, to be mindful of the content of the Buddha's teachings. The Heart Sutra especially is valuable for this, because it is a kind of summary of the Prajnaparamita literature. It's very chantable. It doesn't take much effort to commit it to memory if you do it regularly. And once you have it, it gets stuck in your head and you may be reminded of it throughout the day. And these reminders may lead to insights.


There is still also merit in memorizing Dharma texts and chanting aids this.


Thus, all are contributing factors to creating positive imprints in the mindstream.
Many meditators know how to meditate,
But only a few know how to dismantle [mental clinging].
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Aug 21, 2014 2:30 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:
Malcolm wrote:... the first bhumi ... was rather common in India, actually.

How do you know that?


Oral communication from various lamas.
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby Jikan » Thu Aug 21, 2014 6:10 pm

Malcolm wrote:
dzogchungpa wrote:
Malcolm wrote:... the first bhumi ... was rather common in India, actually.

How do you know that?


Oral communication from various lamas.


I've heard the same thing also from more than one Tendai priest. "Nalanda was FULL of bodhisattvas... now look at today in comparison..." <head shaking>
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby SeekerNo1000003 » Fri Aug 22, 2014 5:12 am

Lazy_eye wrote:All:

I've been wondering about this for some time. The Heart Sutra is a beautiful, profound text, conveying the highest wisdom. But that wisdom is far beyond the attainment of most ordinary practitioners, and indeed, there may be a danger in believing that one actually has this kind of prajna and can engage the sutra on its own level. The same could be said of the Diamond Sutra.
...
But this leaves me wondering: why study them then? What chant or contemplate them? If we do so, isn't it with the aim of taking them to heart and using them as a guide?

What is the most beneficial way to approach these texts?


I would like to share with a couple of things my Dharma teacher suggested, relevant to the present discussion. You may wish to check this further...
He recently pointed out that Dharma teachings are different from secular teachings in that one does not need to progress through increasingly higher grades to practice. You practice from your level of understanding... I try to do that when contemplating some points of the Heart Sutra (which we recently covered). For example, I may contemplate the dependent arising of each of my five aggregates. My teacher advised us that we first need to understand dependent arising before meditating on emptiness. That's what I'm trying to do. This I believe will lay the foundation for a deeper analysis and a deeper understanding.

Re your points on dangers involved...my own experience is that honesty about my level of understanding makes me feel safe. When I find myself overly confident I just look within myself and ask: do I reallllly understand? (just be honest!, just be honest! I shout to myself internally :)) That brings me down to earth and helps me work from my level of understanding. I feel the danger may be not so much studying difficult texts but fooling oneself into thinking that we possess more wisdom than true. So here I would agree with the point that there may be a danger in believing that one actually has wisdom understanding emptiness. But I think this can be prevented without avoiding important Dharma texts!
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Aug 22, 2014 5:02 pm

SeekerNo1000003 wrote:I would like to share with a couple of things my Dharma teacher suggested, relevant to the present discussion. You may wish to check this further...
He recently pointed out that Dharma teachings are different from secular teachings in that one does not need to progress through increasingly higher grades to practice. You practice from your level of understanding... I try to do that when contemplating some points of the Heart Sutra (which we recently covered). For example, I may contemplate the dependent arising of each of my five aggregates. My teacher advised us that we first need to understand dependent arising before meditating on emptiness. That's what I'm trying to do. This I believe will lay the foundation for a deeper analysis and a deeper understanding.

Re your points on dangers involved...my own experience is that honesty about my level of understanding makes me feel safe. When I find myself overly confident I just look within myself and ask: do I reallllly understand? (just be honest!, just be honest! I shout to myself internally :)) That brings me down to earth and helps me work from my level of understanding. I feel the danger may be not so much studying difficult texts but fooling oneself into thinking that we possess more wisdom than true. So here I would agree with the point that there may be a danger in believing that one actually has wisdom understanding emptiness. But I think this can be prevented without avoiding important Dharma texts!


I sometimes feel that the Heart Sutra is "easy to understand but hard to apply." What I mean is that it's not that tricky on a conceptual level. We can see that some teachers (Thich Nhat Hanh, for instance) are able to present it in simple layman's terms. We can also draw analogies with things like "negative space" in art, and so on. The conceptual ease makes it possible for some people to be expert fakers, as was mentioned earlier in the thread.

But applying it consistently to one's thinking, to actually view the world consistently in that way, seems to me quite hard.

It's like the 37 practices of the bodhisattva -- not so difficult to explain, but who can do it?
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby LastLegend » Fri Aug 22, 2014 7:56 pm

There is a difference between understanding emptiness conceptually and truly realizing it. Buddha is the one who truly realized it. This term "emptiness" can lead to imagine of space or nothingness but it is not. That's why the non-self interconnected nature of all phenomena is a better way to understand it. All phenomena are empty because there is not a thing that exists independently by itself, thus dependently arising. Because dependently arising, there is non-separation between mind and appearances/forms/bodies. If we propose mind as an independent entity, we imagine it to be a thing when it is not. It then becomes the first cause but according to dependent arising, there is not a thing that is independent. So then we can conclude that the nature of all phenomena is the nature of non-separation between mind and appearance. "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form." Dharmakaya or Dharma Body is referring to the Buddha truly realized nature of all phenomena, the truly realized nature of non-separation between mind and appearance (like one). Thus, emptiness, Dharma Body of all phenomena, dependent origination, etc is the Dharma or Buddhadharma itself. Buddha is the one who truly realized this Dharma of all phenomena, thus he is realized Dharma Body (Dharmakaya).
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby LastLegend » Fri Aug 22, 2014 8:33 pm

In my opinion, all teachings ( Older Vehicle or Mahayana) are the same. The practice is different. In a Sutta mentioned, "He who sees Dhamma sees Tathagata, he who sees Tathagata sees Dhamma."

We can understand the Dharma/emptiness conceptually, and I guess that can be wisdom itself. Wisdom is that which liberates from suffering. Thus, we have to practice after conceptual understanding.
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby Mkoll » Fri Aug 22, 2014 10:08 pm

LastLegend wrote:In a Sutta mentioned, "He who sees Dhamma sees Tathagata, he who sees Tathagata sees Dhamma."

Yes, it's from the end of the Vakkali Sutta.

"Enough, Vakkali! What is there to see in this vile body? He who sees Dhamma, Vakkali, sees me; he who sees me sees Dhamma. Truly seeing Dhamma, one sees me; seeing me one sees Dhamma."
Peace,
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby TRC » Sun Aug 24, 2014 9:29 am

LastLegend wrote: ... Thus, emptiness, Dharma Body of all phenomena, dependent origination, etc is the Dharma or Buddhadharma itself.

Yes agree LastLegend, this is the very essence of Buddhadharma. And In the same vein as Mkoll quoted from the Vakkali Sutta, we have this from the Maha-hatthipadopama Sutta:The Greater Discourse on the Simile of the Elephant’s Footprint:

    “One who sees dependent origination sees the Dhamma; one who sees the Dhamma sees dependent origination.”
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby Dan74 » Sun Aug 24, 2014 2:29 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
SeekerNo1000003 wrote:I would like to share with a couple of things my Dharma teacher suggested, relevant to the present discussion. You may wish to check this further...
He recently pointed out that Dharma teachings are different from secular teachings in that one does not need to progress through increasingly higher grades to practice. You practice from your level of understanding... I try to do that when contemplating some points of the Heart Sutra (which we recently covered). For example, I may contemplate the dependent arising of each of my five aggregates. My teacher advised us that we first need to understand dependent arising before meditating on emptiness. That's what I'm trying to do. This I believe will lay the foundation for a deeper analysis and a deeper understanding.

Re your points on dangers involved...my own experience is that honesty about my level of understanding makes me feel safe. When I find myself overly confident I just look within myself and ask: do I reallllly understand? (just be honest!, just be honest! I shout to myself internally :)) That brings me down to earth and helps me work from my level of understanding. I feel the danger may be not so much studying difficult texts but fooling oneself into thinking that we possess more wisdom than true. So here I would agree with the point that there may be a danger in believing that one actually has wisdom understanding emptiness. But I think this can be prevented without avoiding important Dharma texts!


I sometimes feel that the Heart Sutra is "easy to understand but hard to apply." What I mean is that it's not that tricky on a conceptual level. We can see that some teachers (Thich Nhat Hanh, for instance) are able to present it in simple layman's terms. We can also draw analogies with things like "negative space" in art, and so on. The conceptual ease makes it possible for some people to be expert fakers, as was mentioned earlier in the thread.

But applying it consistently to one's thinking, to actually view the world consistently in that way, seems to me quite hard.

It's like the 37 practices of the bodhisattva -- not so difficult to explain, but who can do it?


Yes, I feel the same way.

On the practical level, huatou like "What is it?" among many other are pointing it out. But even without a formal huatou practice, if we learn not to get swept up in the comings and goings, the ever-changing phenomena, but focus on the host, the experiencer, the phenomena will appear quite flimsy and ephemeral. "Behold the puppets prancing on the stage, and see the man behind who pulls the strings." Linchi.

Of course it takes a great deal of dedication (and renunciation) to maintain this 24/7. I love the Heart Sutra and have chanted it in dark hours to remind myself of these insights. It helped. But who knows what the future holds :shrug:
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby muni » Mon Aug 25, 2014 10:02 am

"Behold the puppets prancing on the stage, and see the man behind who pulls the strings".


Freeing.
Theories can create an illusory distance between us and enlightenment.
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby Silent Bob » Mon Aug 25, 2014 4:38 pm

Thus have I heard from two of my teachers; that we chant the Heart Sutra not only for ourselves, but for beings wandering in confusion in other realms who might hear it.
"All the sublime teachings, so profound--to throw away one and then grab yet another will not bear even a single fruit. Persevere, therefore, in simply one."
--Dudjom Rinpoche, "Nectar for the Hearts of Fortunate Disciples. Song No. 8"
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby White Lotus » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:14 pm

It's easily attainable anyway. It's actually so easy you won't think it possible, as unhelpful as that may sound..

All you wrote there aeons, stages and renunciation are just stories which only serve to keep you away from it. The point is to see through them and see what's right in front of your nose. Hit your thumb with a hammer and see what remains of those stories, as old Genkaku would say...


Dharma is what is right in front of you, right now. dropping all concepts and intelectual approaches what do you see right now? that is dharma in all its shades of meaning. awareness just as it is. this is suchness. seeing the computer just as it is. tasting your coffee just as it is. hearing the cars just as you do. all this is suchness and is dharma. some would say that because it is ''thus'' we can neither say it is empty nor full. it is just as it is.

the heart sutra is the beginning because it points us towards emptiness of fullness, but this is just one way of seeing things. we free our minds and say it is absolutely real, or we free our minds and say ''there is not a breadcrumb''. what you look for is what you find. people believe what they want to believe. this is the nature of consciousness. it is simple just to say ''this is it''.

when one has extinguished the i concept, the conciousness skhanda, etc. all these things are known to be unnecessary. it has always just been ''this'', or ''that'' which is right infront of you, or within you right now. Mind remains mind, yet we do not attach to the concept of mind. even after complete extinction, there is still seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching and knowing. so who speaks of extinction?

Daisetz Teitaro Suzukin sait that the heart sutra and all prajnaparamita sutras are encapsulated and realized when one utters once the mantra: Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi-svaha. you dont need to know what it means, nor do you need to see emptiness on a daily basis as i once did. the dharma is right infront of you. ordinary daily life is the way. the way/dharma has always been complete in you and all things right now in this eternal present moment. even if you hear these words, you will continue to seek for something outside yourself until you come to realise that 'it' is complete in you. it always has been. talk of seeing emptiness is dharma poison. it blinds you to your innate buddhahood.

awareness has always been perfect. after all else has gone, it remains. the first, middle and last principle. But then again we must not forget Love, also the first, middle and last principle that brings fullness and satisfaction to the emptiness of the way. love may be painful. i know, but without it we are wasting our time. i find it very difficult to love.

hope this is helpful.

best wishes, Tom.
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby LastLegend » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:22 pm

White Lotus wrote:
Dharma is what is right in front of you, right now. dropping all concepts and intelectual approaches what do you see right now? that is dharma in all its shades of meaning. awareness just as it is. this is suchness. seeing the computer just as it is. tasting your coffee just as it is. hearing the cars just as you do. all this is suchness and is dharma. some would say that because it is ''thus'' we can neither say it is empty nor full. it is just as it is.


Oh yeah? How do drop all concepts and attachments?
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NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:35 pm

I had a similar question this morning as I was looking at some passages in the Avatamsaka Sutra. One of them mentioned that bodhisattvas "do not see sentient beings". That left me trying to imagine what the bodhisattva perspective would be like -- do they just see the flow of phenomena, causes and conditions, and so on?

It is hard to conceive. How does Kuanyin "hear the cries of the world" if she does not actually perceive any sentient beings?"
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby Hieros Gamos » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:44 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:... if she does not actually perceive any sentient beings?"

Suffering is not the result of impermanence and ego but impermanence and egolessness.

The experience of impermanence and egolessness leads to suffering. Although nothing is permanent and nothing is functioning in the realm of ego, if you really look at yourself fully, you see that there is still anger. You might think that if the whole thing is nonexistent, you should feel relief, or that you should not have to experience any more pain. You might think that if everything is gone, it could be a kind of honorable suicide. But the fact that those expectations are not met, that things don’t happen in that way, creates even more pain. The logic that says, “Because ego does not exist, therefore you should not suffer,” does not work. In fact, the reason suffering is so acute, so oppressive, and so painful is because suffering has no root. If there were a root, if there were a case history, you could follow it back. Suffering would become vulnerable. But suffering is, in fact, indestructible and self-existent. Therefore, it happens to be real, unlike the nonexistence of ego. Suffering is the most real thing in one’s realm of experience.
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby Jeff » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:18 pm

Realization of the Heart Sutra is all one needs. With the realization, one knows Emptiness.

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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby garudha » Fri Sep 05, 2014 4:57 pm

Hieros Gamos wrote:...suffering is, in fact, indestructible and self-existent. Therefore, it happens to be real, unlike the nonexistence of ego. Suffering is the most real thing in one’s realm of experience.
Trungpa


I never heard anyone speak like this before. Where did you get such ideas from ?

I think you've misunderstood some doctrine and are relaying distorted information.
Show me once where a Buddha has said that suffering is indestructible and I'll eat my hat.

Thanks.

Edit; if suffering is permanent then why did the Buddha "try" to teach how to end it ?
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby longjie » Sat Sep 06, 2014 4:51 pm

The Heart Sutra does not give a lot of context, but the Diamond Sutra certainly explains why it should be studied.

Subhūti, if the mind of a bodhisattva dwells in dharmas when practicing giving, then this is like a person in darkness who is unable to see anything. However, if the mind of a bodhisattva does not dwell in dharmas when practicing giving, then this is like a person who is able to see, for whom sunlight clearly illuminates the perception of various forms. Subhūti, in the next era, if there are good men or good women capable of accepting, maintaining, studying, and reciting this sūtra, then the Tathāgata by means of his buddha-wisdom is always aware of them and always sees them. These people all obtain immeasurable, limitless merit.

Subhūti, suppose there were a good man or a good woman who, in the morning, gave his or her body away as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. In the middle of the day, this person would also give his or her body away as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. Then in the evening, this person would also give his or her body away as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. Suppose this giving continued for incalculable billions of eons. If there are people again who hear this sūtra with a mind of belief, without doubt, then the merits of these people surpass the former merits. How much more so for those who write, accept, maintain, study, recite, and explain it?

Subhūti, to summarize, this sūtra has inconceivable, immeasurable, limitless merit. The Tathāgata speaks it to send forth those in the Great Vehicle, to send forth those in the Supreme Vehicle. If there are people able to accept, maintain, study, recite, and explain this sūtra to others, then the Tathāgata is always aware of them and always sees them. Thusly, these people are carrying the Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi of the Tathāgata.

Subhūti, if there are good men and good women in the next era who accept, maintain, study, and recite this sūtra, and I were to fully explain all the merits attained, the minds of those listening could go mad with confusion, full of doubt and disbelief. Subhūti, understand that just as the meaning of this sūtra is inconceivable, its rewards of karma are also inconceivable.

These are just a few examples. Notice that in the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha does not advocate merely chanting the text. He explicitly includes studying the text and explaining it to others. As stated in the text many times, the fruition of study and cultivation of the Diamond Sutra is the limitless and immeasurable merit of Anuttara Samyaksambodhi (complete enlightenment and buddhahood). Never does it characterize the benefits of the sutra as fundamentally beyond the capabilities of any reader or listener. On the contrary, it states often that even repeating four lines from the sutra bestows vast merits.

In one part, though, the Diamond Sutra does state that some people will not benefit from it. These are the people who have rejected the Diamond Sutra in favor of "lesser teachings." In the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha states that they do this because they are clinging to notions of a self, a person, a being, and a life.
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Re: Heart Sutra -- why study it?

Postby Vajrasvapna » Sat Sep 06, 2014 8:13 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:But this leaves me wondering: why study them then? What chant or contemplate them? If we do so, isn't it with the aim of taking them to heart and using them as a guide?

What is the most beneficial way to approach these texts?


I remember the first time I heard the heart sutra, I started crying after hearing such teaching. I decides to talk about it to other people and some of them began to have a nihilistic crisis. To avoid this nihilism, the teachings of Tathagatagarbha, including the Tathagatagarbha sutra, are the great antidote.

The Buddha taught the teachings about noself and emptiness as a antidote to the tendency of people to cling to a illusory conditioned self and also for the illusory appearances. In the 3th turning teachings, the Buddha taught about a no-conditioned self, that is luminous, birthless, deathless and eternal. Thus teach people about emptiness and Buddha-nature together is important to avoid both nihilistic and eternalists trends.
"It cuts the root of the mind;
It cuts the root of the five poisonous emotions
And the extreme views, which become the causes for meditation;
As well as conduct accompanied by inadequacy, hope, fear,
And pride— because it cuts all of these,
It is defined as Chöd."
Aryadeva

"Firstly with the thought of “I”, they cling to self,
And then with “mine”, they grow attached to things,
Helplessly, they wander like a turning waterwheel."
Candrakīrti

"'A great yogi' simply means being free from attachment and clinging." Guru Padma
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