Reflections on The Heart Sutra, part 1

In the “Essence of the Heart Sutra” [i] [pg.67], His Holiness describes how the Heart of the Perfection Wisdom sutra is likened to the mother of arya beings. This metaphor is appropriate because the sutra is about emptiness. It is only through the union of calm abiding and special insight that a direct realization of emptiness is achieved and one becomes an arya being.

The Tibetan text of the Heart Sutra title reads, “The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom, the Bhagavati”. The term Bhagavati has the connotation of “mother”. Thus, the Perfection of Wisdom is likened to a mother who gives birth to the aryas, or the noble beings.

His Holiness goes on to point out the use of “Perfection of Wisdom” in the title. All of the Buddha’s teachings lead up to the teachings on emptiness. From the Lower Scope teachings and Medium Scope teachings that lay the ground. In the Great Scope the bodhicitta motivation and the other 5 Perfections are the activities of a bodhisattva. Finally, the 6th Perfection is the Perfection of Wisdom.
> Perfection of Wisdom in the title indicates the subject matter of the text.

Finally, His Holiness goes on to describe how this particular sutra is a concise presentation of the teachings on the Perfection of Wisdom. Geshe Wangchen went on to describe the three versions of the Prajnaparamita sutras of 8,000, 25,000, and 100,000 verses. It is the “Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom” sutra that is the essence of all three versions.

The term heart suggests that, among the vast corpus of the Perfection of Wisdom sutras, the text at hand is the pith – a concise presentation of the teachings elaborated upon in the rest of the Perfection of Wisdom sutras. This sutra lies, as it were, at the heart of these teachings.

[i] “Essence of the Heart Sutra” by His Holiness the IVX Dalai Lama published by Wisdom Pulications (2015).
[ii] “The Heart Sutra Explained” by Donald S. Lopez, published by Sri Satguru Publications (1990).
[iii] “Commentary on the Heart Sutra, Jewel Light Illuminating the Meaning” by Tendar Lharampa published by FPMT Education Department (2005).
[iv] “The Heart Sutra Commentary” by Geshe Ngawang Dakpa at Tse Chen Ling, published by FPMT Education Department (2001).