Digital Garden

The Heart Sutra


The following are resources to look into regarding the Heart Sutra

  • The Heart Sutra: The Womb of Bhuddas1, by Red Pine
  • The Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra2, from Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner
  • The Heart Sutra3 presented by Josh Bartok to Boundless Way Zen
  • The Heart of Understanding4, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • The Dalai Lama Reciting the Heart Sutra5


  • Authorship unknown; title added later in China; possibly considered a summarization of longer sutras and darmas.
  • Connected to the Sarvastivada from Northern India sometime around 100-200 B.C.
  • Agamas
  • Discussion on shastras and sutras; latter teaching vs teachings originating from Bhuddha.
  • The Abhidharma, the higher darmas. Story of the mango tree. Taught to Santushita on Mount Sumeru during the monsoon with summaries provided to Shariputra.
  • Collapse of Sui in China (581-618) leads to Hseu-tsueng taking refuge in Szechuan before going on 10,000 mile journey through the Kushan Empire. Said to have recited the sutra along his way to ward of dangers. Orgin of Journey into the West
  • Kushan Empire. Northern India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan etc.
  • Silk road connection. Expansion of Bhuddism into China.


  • Broken into three parts, lines 1-11, 12-20, and 29-35.
  • pra = before, jna = to know. Jnaa = knowledge, prajna = wisdom. Related to beginner's mind.
  • Three levels of wisdom. Level one, the mundane wisdom, taken in my appearances. Level two, dialectics and philosophy, what appears pure is impure; what appears to have self has no self; what appears permanent is impermanent. Level three, transcendent wisdom; neither permanent nor impermanent; pure or impure; having self or no self.
  • Pranjaperimita = "She who has gone beyond"


1. The Noble Avolokiteshvara Bodhisattva

  • The longer version includes Shariputra asking Avolokiteshvara how to practice Prajnaparamita. The shorter version includes only the answer.
  • Buddhists consider the merits of the teachings of the text more important the authenticity or authority of the text
    • The Four Reliances: rely on the teaching, not the author; the meaning and not the letter; the truth and not the convention; the knowledge not the information.
  • Mahayana vs Hinayana (Lesser Path) Buddhism
  • Bodhisattva = being/warrior/champion of enlightenment
    • The Hinayana goal of enlightenment is nirvana; Mahayana focus on the bodhisattva
  • Shravaka = one who hears. Those who heard the buddha speak, extended to the early sects, e.g. the Sarvastivadins. Latter become a pejorative for those who seek nirvana for themselves and not liberation for all (heard, but did not practice).
  • Avolokiteshvara (lord who looks down) has both male and female identities.
    • Possibly the reincarnation of the Buddha's mother: Maya

External References

  1. Pine, Red. The Heart Sutra: The Womb of Bhuddas / Translation from Sanksrit with Commentary. Counterpoint, 2004.
  2. Warner, Brad. Hardcore Zen. Wisdom Publications, 2004.
  3. Bartok, Josh. The Heart Sutra -- Part One. BoundlessWay Zen. Retrieved 2021-02-19.
  4. Hanh, Thich Nhat. The Heart of Understanding. ParallaxPress, 2009.
  5. Gyatso, Tenzin. Dalai Lama reciting prajna paramita heart sutra mantra - gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha. Youtube. Retrieved 2021-02-19.

Linked References