Su DongPo wrote:
Astus wrote: But the Heart Sutra itself is a short reminder of the prajnaparamita teachings.
That is my understanding of the closing of the sutra: it expresses the idea that the Prajna Paramitas / The Perfect Wisdom -- and by implication the Heart Sutra itself -- is a kind of mantra, but I could be wrong.
For reference, here is Ven. Huifeng's translation and notes in a linked pdf --http://wisdom.buddhistdoor.com/huifeng/ ... y-word.pdf
In one of Lopez's books (The Heart Sutra Explained - this is a series of essays published from different Buddhist scholarly sources) he asserts that the Heart Sutra is a kind of transitional literature form between sutra and tantra and that mantra arose essentially as a further development of dharani. People have dismissed dharani and mantra as magical words - because that is what they are most clearly similar to in Western systems. However there is no real magic in Buddhism - even in folk Buddhism - to the extent that magic happens it is either a dependent arising or a result of getting unseen beings (like beings pledged to assist Buddhist practitioners) to act.
In the Heart Sutra itself there is no evocation of a yidam. So generally the mantra there has been explained as a direct condensation (or distillation) of the teaching of the Prajnaparamita Sutra in one line. It is intended to be recited as a form of meditation. This is similar to it's use in tantra.
Mantra in tantra has three general uses: 1. a mind protector (a condensed verbal form that carries blessings to protect the mind) 2. a direct verbal experience of enlightenment (this is usually glossed as a verbal invocation of a yidam - the mantra is the yidam in verbal form) 3. mantra recitation brings positive causes and conditions into the world in order to effect change - ultimately transforming everything into enlightenment (and not just in one's vision but really ultimately transforming the relative world into enlightenment).
By verbal I don't mean that it has to be exactly auditory. It can be mental as well. Another way of viewing mantra is as a merging of one's ordinary mind with enlightenment. Doing so sets up the causes and conditions for your enlightenment and also for everyone elses enlightenment.
We could really talk about mantra forever as it is an endlessly deep topic.