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Dharma Materials: The Heart Sutra

Thus I have heard. At one time the Lord was sitting on Vulture's Peak near the city of Rajgir. He was accompanied by a large community of monks as well as a large community of bodhisattvas. On that occasion the Lord was absorbed in a particular concentration called the profound appearance. Meanwhile the bodhisattva, the great being, the noble Avalokiteshvara was contemplating the profound discipline of the perfection of wisdom. He came to see that the five aggregates were void of any inherent nature of their own.

Through the power of the Buddha, the venerable Shariputra approached the noble Avalokiteshvara and asked him, "How should a son of the noble lineage proceed when he wants to train in the profound discipline of the perfection of wisdom?"

The noble Avalokiteshvara replied to the venerable Shariputra, "Whatever son or daughter of the noble lineage wants to train in the profound discipline of the perfection of wisdom should consider things in the following way. First, he or she should clearly and thoroughly comprehend that the five aggregates are void of any inherent nature of their own. Form is void, but voidness is form. Voidness is not other than forms and forms are not other than voidness. Similarly, feelings, discernments, formative elements and consciousness are also void. Likewise, Shariputra, are all phenomena void. They have no defining characteristics; they are unproduced; they do not cease; they are undefiled, yet they are not separate from defilement; they do not decrease, yet they do not increase. This being the case, Shariputra, in terms of voidness there exist no forms, no feelings, no discernments, no formative elements, no consciousness; no eyes, no ears, no noses, no tongues, no bodies, no minds; no visual-forms, no sounds, no smells, no tastes, no tactile sensations, no mental elements, and no elements of mental consciousness. There exist no ignorance and no exhaustion of ignorance, no aging and death and no exhaustion of aging and death. In the same way there exist no suffering, no origin of suffering,no cessation, no path, no wisdom, no attainment and no lack of attainment.

Therefore, Shariputra, since bodhisattvas have no attainment, they depend upon and dwell in the perfection of wisdom; their minds are unobstructed and unafraid. They transcend all error and finally reach the end-point: nirvana.

All the buddhas of the past, present and future have depended, do and will depend upon the perfection of wisdom. Thereby they become, are becoming and will become unsurpassably, perfectly and completely awakened buddhas.

Therefore, the mantra of the perfection of wisdom is a mantra of great knowledge; it is an unsurpassable mantra; it is a mantra that totally pacifies all suffering. It will not deceive you, therefore know it to be true!

I proclaim the mantra of the perfection of wisdom:

TAYATHA GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA

Shariputra, it is in this way that the great bodhisattvas train themselves in the profound perfection of wisdom."

At that moment the Lord arose from his concentration and said to the noble Avalokiteshvara, "Well said, well said. That is just how it is, my son, just how it is. The profound perfection of wisdom should be practiced exactly as you have explained it. Then the Tathagatas will be truly delighted."

When the Lord had spoken these words, the venerable Shariputra and the bodhisattva, the great being, the noble Avalokiteshvara, and the entire gathering of gods, humans, asuras and gandharvas were overjoyed, and they praised what the Lord had said.

From "Echoes of Voidness" by Geshe Rabten
Translation by Stephen Batchelor