Reflections on The Heart Sutra, part 2

In “The Heart Sutra” by Buddha Shakyamuni [ii] begins with the paragraph:

This did I hear at one time. The Bhagavan was abiding on Pile of Vultures Peak in Rajagriha together with a great sangha of monks and a great assembly of bodhisattvas. At that time the Transcendent Victor was absorbed in a samadhi on the categories of phenomena called ‘perception of the profound.’ Also at the time, the Bodhisattva, the Mahasattva, the Superior Avalokiteshvara was observing the practice of the profound perfection of wisdom and saw that those five aggregates also are empty of inherent existence.

This paragraph introduces the five excellences:
(a) The time: “at one time” indicates that the teachings were heard in the past.
(b) The teacher: “Bhagavan was abiding” indicates that the teacher was Buddha Shakyamuni who has transcended both samsara and nirvana.
(c) The place: “Pile of Vultures Peak in Rajagriha”.
(d) The retinues or audience: “a great sangha of monks and a great assembly of bodhisattvas”.
(e) The teachings: The Dharma itself. Everything following this paragraph constitutes this type of excellence.

In “The Heart Sutra” by Buddha Shakyamuni [ii] contains the mantra:

Tadyatha om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha

This mantra matches the 5 Paths:

(a) The first “gate” means “go”. This indicates the Path of Accumulation.
(b) The second “gate” also means “go”. This indicates the Path of Preparation.
(c) “Paragate” means “go beyond”. This indicates the Path of Seeing.
(d) “Parasamgate” means to “go completely beyond’. This indicates the Path of Meditation.
(e) “Bodhi svaha” means be founded in enlightenment. This indicates the Path of No More Learning.

Tendar Lharampa [iii] [pg.19] describes the rest of the mantra in the following way:

“Tadyatha means it is so; that is, it is so that samsara and nirvana are of one taste in being without true existence.”
“Om and svaha bless the mantra with power.”

[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).

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