The Heart Sutra:

A Faithful English Rendition of Prajnaparamita Hrdayam

1: Om! Salutation to the blessed and noble one! (who has reached the other shore of the most excellent transcendental wisdom).

(In this invocation the perfection of transcendental wisdom is personified as the compassionate mother of bodhi — wisdom — who bestows enlightenment upon the bodhisattvas who had vigilantly followed the course prescribed for the aspirant to full enlightenment — samyak sambodhi.)

2: The noble bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara, being engaged in practicing the deep transcendental wisdom-discipline, looked down from above upon the five skandhas (aggregates), and saw that in their svabhava (self-being) they are devoid of substance.

3: Here, O Sariputra, bodily-form is voidness; verily, voidness is bodily-form. Apart from bodily-form there is no voidness; so apart from voidness there is no bodily-form. That which is voidness is bodily-form; that which is bodily-form is voidness. Likewise (the four aggregates) feeling, perception, mental imaging, and consciousness (are devoid of substance).

4: Here, O Sariputra, all phenomena of existence are characterized by voidness: neither born nor annihilated, neither blemished nor immaculate, neither deficient nor overfilled.

5: Therefore, O Sariputra, in voidness there is no bodily-form, no feeling, no mental imaging, no consciousness; no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, or mind; no sense objects of bodily-form, sound, smell, taste, or touchable states; no visual element, and so forth, until one comes to: no mind-cognition element. There is no ignorance, nor extinction of ignorance, until we come to: no aging and death, nor extinction of aging and death. There is no suffering, no origination, no cessation, no path (this refers to the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path); there is no higher knowledge, no attainment (of nirvana), no nonattainment.

6: Therefore, O Sariputra, by reason of his nonattainment (of nirvana), the bodhisattva, having resorted to prajnaparamita (transcendental wisdom), dwells serenely with perfect mental freedom. By his non-possession of mental impediments (the bodhisattva) without fear, having surpassed all perversions, attains the unattainable (bliss of) nirvana.

7: All Buddhas, self-appointed to appear in the three periods of time (past, present, and future), having resorted to the incomparable prajnaparamita, have become fully awake to samyak sambodhi (absolute perfect enlightenment).

8: Therefore prajnaparamita should be recognized as the great mantra, the mantra of great wisdom, the most sublime mantra, the incomparable mantra and the alleviator of all suffering; it is truth by reason of its being nonfalsehood. This is the mantra proclaimed in prajnaparamita. It is:

gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate bodhi svaha!

Gone, gone, gone beyond (to the other shore); completely gone to the other shore! O enlightenment! Be it so! Hail!

This concludes Prajnaparamita Hrdayam sutra — the Heart of Transcendental Wisdom.

(From Sunrise magazine, February/March 1984. Copyright © 1984 by Theosophical University Press)

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