A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Heart Sutra a deeper look (Part 7)

Shariputra, all dharmas are empty of characteristics.  They are not produced. Not destroyed, not defiled, not  pure, and they neither increase nor diminish. Therefore, in emptiness there is no form, feeling, cognition,  formation, or consciousness; no eyes, ears, nose, tongue,  body, or mind; no sights, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of  touch, or dharmas; no field of the eyes, up to and  including no field of mind-consciousness; and no  ignorance or ending of ignorance, up to and including no  old age and death or ending of old age and death. There is no suffering, no accumulating, no extinction, no way, and  no understanding and no attaining.

This is one that is difficult to explain. This is one of those chicken and egg situations. As all Dharmas are empty, even by saying this we add something to the Dharma. The point of this line is that all the five skandhas are empty. In the absolute form of emptiness there is no thought, no speech, so therefore we would not have Dharma to talk about or define, as there would be nothing to define. So have you gotten a headache yet, from trying to comprehend that there is nothing to be studied or understood. There is nothing to be obtained, for you already have it within you, would be the best I can do right now in explaining this line. Understanding this is good, but when you can truly accept this, then you will have reached the truth about existence.

If you can understand there is nothing to be obtained, then you can understand that suffering is obtained. If suffering is obtained then, by understanding the true nature of everything, without adding our filters, we can avoid suffering. In saying there is no birth or death, no good or evil, we are accepting everything as it is. This is the beginning of arriving at Nirvana. For if you can grasp the idea that suffering does not exist, that we create it in our minds, through our actions, thoughts and speech, then you can begin to understand how to avoid creating it in your life, as well as the lives of others.

Here’s an an analogy that might help you understand this. You are starting out on a road trip on the Pan-American Highway system. Your starting in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and your goal is Ushuaia, Argentina. Due to a solar storm satellite based gps is not available for this trip, so it’s the old fashioned trip. You have found a series of maps (sutras) and as you travel your route will be different than the next person. You might stop to examine the flowers along the way, while the next person hits all the tourist spots. Guess what both are valid ways to get there. How you treat those beings you meet along the way is important regardless of the path, you have chosen. All the knowledge that you are learning from the maps (sutras) are like sign post along the route. You read the information, then leave it behind, holding onto it just long enough to get to the next point along the path. Just as you would not haul every sign post you saw along the real road, nor are you to be attached to the sign posts of the sutras. They are like the Buddha, pointing to your destination, and as he told you not to concentrate on him, you must also not develop an attachment to the signs along the way.

Hopefully one day I can give a better description of this.


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3 thoughts on “Heart Sutra a deeper look (Part 7)

  1. This is beautifully explained and I will return to it again so I can understand more fully (I’m a novice at this so bear with me)…

  2. Pingback: Heart Sutra a deeper look (Part 8) « Keith the Green's Blog

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