Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

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Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby dimeo » Mon Dec 30, 2013 7:39 pm

I'm sure it's been talked about before, but get an active thread going for studying the Heart Sutra together! I'd love to participate in a group study and share thoughts, observations, lessons, and insights on this essential sutra. I'd like to understand it better, and here's what I've found so far:

Overview:
The Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya or "The Heart of the Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom" or "Heart Sutra"
is said to be the best-known and most popular Mahayana Buddhist scripture of all. In only sixteen English sentences or 260 Chinese characters it summarises the essence of Buddhist teachings.

Online resources:

Translation by Ken McLeod: http://www.unfetteredmind.org/the-sutra ... -of-wisdom
NTC translation: http://www.shambhala.org/teachers/pema/shtk.php
Translation by George Churinoff: http://www.lamayeshe.com/index.php?sect=article&id=375

Commentary by Grand Master T'an Hsu & Chinese-English Translation by Lok To
http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/heartstr.htm
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/heart_s2.pdf (pdf version)

Commentary by Hsuan Hua:
http://www.fodian.net/World/ps.heart.02 ... .print.pdf

Commentary by Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: http://www.purifymind.com/HeartSutraInt.htm

Commentary by Geshe Lama Konchog: http://www.lamayeshe.com/index.php?sect=article&id=889
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby justsit » Mon Dec 30, 2013 9:43 pm

Another commentary here that might be of interest.
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby Wayfarer » Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:01 am

I have bookmarked this thread and would be interested in participating.

I have previously noticed The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra,Thich Nhat Hanh, although I haven't read it.
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby reddust » Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:21 am

I want to participate as well. My favorite book is The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines and It's verse summary by Edward Conze. I have the Large Sutra, Selected Sayings and Prajnaparamita Literature all by Conze. I haven't opened these books in years. Posting here, now I will get an email reminder when ever anyone posts to this thread.
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Dec 31, 2013 3:56 am

I'd participate. I haven't read that many commentaries, but i've read the sutra itself alot, and it's one of my favorites.
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby Berry » Tue Dec 31, 2013 9:01 am

There's also Essence of The Heart Sutra by the Dalai Lama (Translated by Geshe Thubten Jinpa)

http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/essence-heart-sutra

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Leave the polluted water of conceptual thoughts in its natural clarity. Without affirming or denying appearances, leave them as they are. When there is neither acceptance nor rejection, mind is liberated into mahāmudra.

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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby dimeo » Tue Dec 31, 2013 5:38 pm

How exciting to see all the interest in creating an active thread for studying the Heart Sutra together! :twothumbsup:

Additional Online Resources:
I'm enjoying the wealth resources available online for studying this sutra! It's just stunning how much is available.

1 Numbered and comparative translation by the Dharma Fellowship of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa:
http://www.dharmafellowship.org/library ... -sutra.htm

2 Six translations on one page: http://www.dharmanet.org/HeartSutra.htm

3 Study guide with commentary and review of key concepts in Buddhism: http://webdharma.com/ctzg/heartsutra1.html

4 Commentary outline from Jamyang Gawai Lodro:
http://www.glensvensson.org/uploads/7/5 ... _sutra.pdf

5 Commentary by Sojun Mel Weitsman (abbot of Berkeley Zen Center):
http://www.chzc.org/mel20.htm

6 Parallel Tibetan & English comparison from the
Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT)
https://fpmt.org/wp-content/uploads/sut ... tra_c5.pdf

7 Recorded MP3 audio commentary on the Heart Sutra by the 14th Dalai Lama, May 17-19, 2001
http://www.lamrim.com/hhdl/

8 Recorded MP3 audio commentary on the Heart Sutra by Gil Fronsdal (May 20, 2001):
1 hour. Streamed or download from:
http://www.audiodharma.org/talks/audio_player/9.html

I've listened to it several times now, while doing chores, relaxing before sleep, and making notes beside
a print out of the sutra. This was extremely helpful. Some of my general notes follow.

General notes on the Heart Sutra (from Gil Fronsdal's commentary):
- Comes from a much larger body of text.
- May appear to be crazy or nonsensical at first to a conventional Western way of thinking.
- Many different interpretations exist in various cultures and time periods. Somewhat like a mirror or Rorschach ink blot where people might see and interpret differently?
- Very popular in Japan (even pop culture) through Zen Buddhism.
- Contains philosophy and mantra. Can be read as a philosophical text or chanted as a ritual poem. It functions as a sacred incantation or chant and evokes a psychological effect as a protective text.
- It serves to silence the conventional and typical way of thinking.
- The sutra is framed by compassion for suffering in the world by naming Avalokiteshvara at the start.
- It ends being summarized by a mantra: gone, gone beyond, completely beyond, awake! hail!
- This short sutra makes reference to so many central teachings of Buddhist philosophy: the 5 aggregates, the 4 foundations of mindfulness, the 12 links of dependent origination, the 4 noble truths, the 5 hinderances, distorted views, impermanence, emptiness, insight meditation, realizing nirvana, and much more.
- In short, one possible explanation of this sutra: All things in life are impersonal, unsatisfactory, and impermanent. Therefore liberation from suffering comes by 'letting go' of selfish desire for attainment. Without clinging there is no hinderance or fear. Realize nirvana by relying on the 'transcendental perfection of primordial wisdom' (prajna paramita).

Additional Questions:
- Anyone have a clearer translation or definition of the concept of prajna paramita? Pure awareness? Perfect direct insight? Deep understanding of non-dual consciousness?

- Which common English translation could be ideal for a group study? There are so many different translations into English that have been made! Just to name a few: D. T. Suzuki in 1934, Edward Conze in 1958, Dwight Goddard in 1969, George Churinoff 2001 and many more.

-Which translation / manuscript version is the oldest existing? There are also so many original manuscript versions. The commentary at dharmafellowship.org states:
"There are at least 21 extant manuscript versions of the Heart Sutra: 12 Nepalese texts, seven Chinese, two Japanese, and one Tibetan version from the Kanjur."
source: http://www.dharmafellowship.org/library ... entary.htm
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby justsit » Tue Dec 31, 2013 11:56 pm

This is the version many Kagyu lineage teachers use; quite a few sangha members have it memorized.

The Heart Sutra
Thus have I heard. Once the Blessed One was dwelling in Rajagriha at Vulture Peak mountain, together with a great gathering of the sangha of monks and a great gathering of the sangha of bodhisattvas. At that time the Blessed One entered the samadhi that expresses the dharma called "profound illumination," and at the same time noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, while practicing the profound prajnaparamita, saw in this way: he saw the five skandhas to be empty of nature.

Then, through the power of the Buddha, venerable Shariputra said to noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, "How should a son or daughter of noble family train, who wishes to practice the profound prajnaparamita?"

Addressed in this way, noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, said to venerable Shariputra, "O Shariputra, a son or daughter of noble family who wishes to practice the profound prajnaparamita should see in this way: seeing the five skandhas to be empty of nature. Form is emptiness; emptiness also is form. Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, perception, formation, and consciousness are emptiness. Thus, Shariputra, all dharmas are emptiness. There are no characteristics. There is no birth and no cessation. There is no impurity and no purity. There is no decrease and no increase. Therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness, there is no form, no feeling, no perception, no formation, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no appearance, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no dharmas, no eye dhatu up to no mind dhatu, no dhatu of dharmas, no mind consciousness dhatu; no ignorance, no end of ignorance up to no old age and death, no end of old age and death; no suffering, no origin of suffering, no cessation of suffering, no path, no wisdom, no attainment, and no non-attainment. Therefore, Shariputra, since the bodhisattvas have no attainment, they abide by means of prajnaparamita.

Since there is no obscuration of mind, there is no fear. They transcend falsity and attain complete nirvana. All the buddhas of the three times, by means of prajnaparamita, fully awaken to unsurpassable, true, complete enlightenment. Therefore, the great mantra of prajnaparamita, the mantra of great insight, the unsurpassed mantra, the unequaled mantra, the mantra that calms all suffering, should be known as truth, since there is no deception. The prajnaparamita mantra is said in this way:

OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA

Thus, Shariputra, the bodhisattva mahasattva should train in the profound prajnaparamita.

Then the Blessed One arose from that samadhi and praised noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, saying, "Good, good, O son of noble family; thus it is, O son of noble family, thus it is. One should practice the profound prajnaparamita just as you have taught and all the tathagatas will rejoice."

When the Blessed One had said this, venerable Shariputra and noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, that whole assembly and the world with its gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas rejoiced and praised the words of the Blessed One.

Lotsawa Bhikshu Rinchen De translated this text into Tibetan with the Indian pandita Vimalamitra. It was edited by the great editor-lotsawas Gelong Namkha and others. This Tibetan text was copied from the fresco in Gegye Chemaling at the glorious Samye vihara. It has been translated into English by the Nalanda Translation Committee, with reference to several Sanskrit editions.
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby reddust » Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:29 am

OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA (taken from Justsit's post) :namaste:

From Selected Sayings from the Perfection of Wisdom, chosen, arranged, and translated by Edward Conze.

The Object of Perfect Wisdom, Negations In one sense, emptiness, as the objective counterpart to total renunciation, is the complete negation of all predicates, attributes, and entities. (66-67) There is, to begin with, no bondage, or defilement, emancipation

67. Purna, son of Maitrayani: You say, Subhuti, that form, feeling, etc., are neither bound nor freed?
Subhuti: So I do, Purna.
Purna: What is that form, etc., which is neither bound nor freed?
Subhuti: That form which is like a dream, or an echo, a mock show, a mirage, a reflection in the water, an apparition, that form is neither bound nor freed. And so for the other skandhas. Past, future and present form, etc., is neither bound nor freed, whether it be wholesome or unwholesome, defiled or undefiled, tainted or untainted, with or without outflows, worldly or supramundane, Because it has no being, is isolated, calmly quiet, empty, sighnless, wishless, has not being brought together, has not been produced. And what is true of form, that is true of the other skandhas, and of all dharmas. Neither bound nor freed a Bodhisattva will win a knowledge of all modes which is neither bound nor freed, and he will lead, by means of the three vehicles, to Nirvana beings who are neither bound nor freed. It is thus that a Bodhisattva, through the six perfections, will, himself neither bound nor freed, fully know all dharmas, though the fact that they have no being, and that everything is isolated, calmly quiet, empty signless, wishless, not brought together, not produced. It is thus that one should know the armour of the Bodhisattva, the great being, who is neither bound nor freed.

Right now I am kind of fixated on how Bodhisattva's sense the world, how they move, so that will be my focus. Also Magical Illusions...

88. The Lord: What do you think, Subhuti? Do the five grasping skandhas, after they have trained themselves in the perfection of wisdom, go forth in the knowledge of all modes?
Subhuti: No, lord, for the own-being of the five grasping skhandas is non-existent. The five skandhas are similar to a dream. The own-being of a dream cannot be apprehended, because it does not exist. In this way the five skandhas cannot be apprehended, because of the non-existence of their own-being.
The Lord: what do you think, Subhuti, the five skandhas which are similar to an echo, to an apparition, to a magical creation, to an image of the moon reflected in water, --do they, after they have trained themselves in perfect wisdom, go forth to the knowledge of all modes?
Subhuti: No, Lord. For the own-being of an echo is non-existent, and so is that of an apparition, of a magical creation, of a reflected image. And thus the five skandhas cannot be apprehended, because of the non-existence of their own-being.

1. form or matter
2. sensation or feeling
3. perception, conception, apperception, cognition, or discrimination
4. mental formations, impulses, volition, or compositional factors
5. consciousness
(Taken from wiki "Skandha")

Since I was a kid I've been curious with the thought of how I see and if I am seeing everything there is to see. To my delight Buddhism goes into this in great depth!
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby asunthatneversets » Wed Jan 01, 2014 6:33 am

"Ceaseless Echoes of the Great Silence: A Commentary on the Heart Sūtra" by Khenpo Palden Sherab Rinpoche is another good text.
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby Huifeng » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:15 am

I've a couple of possible resources on my blog for such study, if anyone is interested.
< http://prajnacara.blogspot.tw/search/la ... S%C5%ABtra >,
< http://prajnacara.blogspot.tw/search/la ... 8Hrdaya%29 >

At present I'm writing an essay on a couple of problems in the text, taken from Conze, but underscored by Nattier's taken on the source of this sutra. In the process, had a poke around a lot of modern takes on the text, in particular translations and commentaries in English. A lot of wishy washy stuff floating around, I thought--pick your favorite system of thought, and plug the Heart-Cipher into it until it says want you want it to say. Though chances are not many are going to buy into my reading, which really tries to read it as the "heart" of the larger Prajnaparamita family. Ho hum. (Essay is not yet finished, and won't appear on the blog until after publication.)

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:12 am

I would be strongly pre-disposed to your reading of it - or at least very interested in hearing it. As you say, one can read so many things into it, and many people do, no doubt. So I think we would all benefit from your perspective.

:namaste:
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby Huifeng » Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:57 am

I'm hoping to finish it off over the (Taiwan) winter break, and have it published before June or so. If you would like to be a proof reader for a draft stage, please let me know. Though I'd prefer grad-level studies in this sort of thing, which I know, Jeeprs, you have.

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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Jan 03, 2014 8:54 am

Since I finished my degree studies the year before last, I haven't been very much engaged with the formal side of study, so I could make a contribution in that regard I would be more than happy to do so.

:namaste:
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby the seafarer » Fri Jan 03, 2014 3:11 pm

That's a great idea dimeo.

Here's a book I recommend, Essence of the Heart Sutra, written by HH the Dalai Lama. (Amazon)

justsit wrote:This is the version many Kagyu lineage teachers use

I'm a disciple in the Gelugpa lineage; in our gompa we also follow the same version. :smile:
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby hornets » Fri Dec 12, 2014 1:23 pm

Resurrecting an old thread....

I have very much enjoyed Mu Soeng's two commentaries - 'Heart Sutra: Ancient Buddhist Wisdom in the Light of Quatum Reality' and 'The Heart of The Universe: Exploring The Heart Sutra'

I am currently re-reading and referring back to Mu Soeng's books and they also have inspired me to watch documentaries on quantum physics as well as books by Brian Greene. I very much doubt , as someone who was a bit of a science dunce at school, I would have 'got', let alone enjoyed, cutting edge physics if not for these two books.

I find Ken McLeod's 'An Arrow to the Heart' drives me nuts. In a good way. And is a big influence on how I approach The Heart Sutra in daily life and daily life within The Heart Sutra.

'There Is No Suffering' by Chan Master Sheng Yen is simply wonderful. A fantastic resource for contemplation practices.

I have recently read 'The Heart Sutra: A Meditation Manual' by Andre Doshim Halaw .

The author puts forward the idea that The Heart Sutra is also a meditation tool for 'empty-ing' yourself to come to know what you are essentially 'not' and what is beyond the 'not'. He explains that beyond forms and emptiness is the Absolute, Unconditioned, Mind, Dharmakaya, Nirvana. He says these are just words and concepts and should not be held on to. It can probably be argued that this is in line with Shentong, but, also, if I understand Dr Tony Page correctly, this is also how millions of East Asian Buddhists approach/understand the Wisdom Sutras. I wouldn't really know, I live in Derby.

I find this book - in equal parts - fascinating, helpful and potentially problematic at my current level of understanding. I don't feel confident enough or indeed qualified to comment any further on this particular book but would be interested to read other people's comments on it. I would say I do enjoy it as a companion piece to Thich Nhat Hanh's 'The Heart of Understanding'.

Bought but not read yet is Dosung Yoo's 'Thunderous Silence' which I assume will be from the Won Buddhist perspective (I know next to nothing about Won Buddhism apart from it is from Korea).

Best wishes Paul
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby longjie » Mon Feb 16, 2015 4:04 am

In the process, had a poke around a lot of modern takes on the text, in particular translations and commentaries in English. A lot of wishy washy stuff floating around, I thought--pick your favorite system of thought, and plug the Heart-Cipher into it until it says want you want it to say.


Very true. When people focus so much on one single text, they can frame it however they like. Whole traditions start this way, and after awhile they get sort of "inbred" and completely divorced from their original context.

People do this a lot with the Dharmacakra Pravartana Sutra as well. With that one, we start seeing more interpretations like, "Life is stressful," trying to turn Buddhism into a lifestyle accessory for office workers.

It's like the shorter the text, the more B.S. is guaranteed to be published about it. Not many people write wishy-washy stuff about the Prajnaparamita in 18,000 lines. :tongue:
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby Vasana » Tue Feb 24, 2015 9:56 am

Thich Nhat Hanh posted a new translation of the Heart Sutra fairly recently with an emphasis on adding that, in emptiness x & y "do not exist as separate self entities" rather than the way the root translation puts across that, in emptiness there is no x,no y ,no z etc

Translation and detailed explanation found here:

http://plumvillage.org/news/thich-nhat- ... anslation/

The insight of prajñāpāramitā is the most liberating insight that helps us overcome all pairs of opposites such as birth and death, being and non-being, defilement and immaculacy, increasing and decreasing, subject and object, and so on, and helps us to get in touch with the true nature of no birth/no death, no being/no non-being etc… which is the true nature of all phenomena. This is a state of coolness, peace, and non-fear that can be experienced in this very life, in your own body and in your own five skandhas. It is nirvana. Just as the birds enjoy the sky, and the deer enjoy the meadow, so do the wise enjoy dwelling in nirvana. This is a very beautiful sentence in the Nirvana Chapter of the Chinese Dharmapada.

The insight of prajñāpāramitā is the ultimate truth, transcending of all conventional truths. It is the highest vision of the Buddha. Whatever paragraph in the Tripitaka, even in the most impressive of the Prajñāpāramitā collections, if it so contradicts this, it is still caught in conventional truth. Unfortunately, in the Heart Sutra we find such a paragraph, and it is quite long.

That is why in this new translation Thay has changed the way of using words in both the original Sanskrit and the Chinese translation by Huyen Trang (Xuan-Zang). Thay translates as follows: ‘That is why in emptiness, body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness are not separate self entities.’ All phenomena are products of dependent arising: that is the main point of the prajñāpāramitā teaching. ‘Even insight and attainment do not exist as separate self entities.’ This sentence is as important as the sentence ‘form is emptiness.’ Thay also has added ‘no being, no non-being’ into the text. No being, no non-being is the deep vision of the Buddha stated in the Kātyāyana sutra, when he offered a definition on right view. These four words, no being, no non-being, will help future generations not to suffer from a twisted nose.


Imo, I'm assuming that Thay and others believe that for some people, the root translation can lead to erroneous views concerning the ultimate negation of concepts and phenomena in the context of conventional truth. In ultimate truth or emptiness, none of these things exist, Samsara doesn't exist, but conventionally, like a dream it still appears. Beyond the extremes of existence and non existence, affirmation and negation.

What do other people think about the slight variation suggested by Thich Nhat Hanh ?

Thich Nhat Hanh's commenteary on The Diamond Sutra (Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra) is really clear and concise too and also very recommended.
Last edited by Vasana on Tue Feb 24, 2015 10:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby Jeff » Tue Feb 24, 2015 2:30 pm

I would agree. Negation itself is less than half of the meaning of the heart sutra. Negation is the first part, Form = Void, or all form collapses down to nothingness. But the second part is Void = Form, which is that all the exists (or could exist) emerges from Void/nothingness. But, the realization of emptiness, is not just the two parts, it is knowing that the two parts are really exactly the same thing. It is with this knowing that "clarity" is merged (or found) with what people more commonly think of as "base" emptiness. That "clarity" is sort of like infinite potential of nothingness/void.
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Re: Studying The Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya)

Postby Wayfarer » Mon Apr 06, 2015 7:20 am

I found an excellent new book on this topic - The Heart Sutra: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classic of Mahayana Buddhism, Kazuaki Tanashi, in a bookstore I visited today, and bought it. I have only just started it, but it seems exceptionally thorough. Apart from interpretatons of the text it also contains a detailed history of its transmission and relationship to other texts.
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