The Heart of Wisdom Sutra

This sutra is one of the shortest and the most popular sutras. Stating that all phenomena are empty of inherent existence yet exist dependently, it presents the Buddhist view of both the ultimate and conventional natures. Gaining a full understanding of this sutra takes time, dedicated study, and meditation.

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  • Statue of Avalokiteshvara

    Avalokiteshvara (Photo by GiaScala)

    Thus I have heard: at one time, the Blessed One was dwelling in Rajagriha on Vulture’s Mountain together in one method with a great assembly of monastics and a great assembly of bodhisattvas. At that time, the Blessed One was absorbed in the concentration of the countless aspects of phenomena called Profound Illumination.

    At that time also Superior Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva, the great being, was looking perfectly at the practice of the profound perfection of wisdom, perfectly looking at the emptiness of inherent existence of the five aggregates also.

    Then, through the power of Buddha, Venerable Shariputra said to Superior Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva, the great being, "How should a child of the lineage train who wishes to engage in the practice of the profound perfection of wisdom?"

    Thus he spoke, and Superior Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva, the great being, replied to Venerable Shariputra as follows:

    "Shariputra, whatever son or daughter of the lineage wishes to engage in the practice of the profound perfection of wisdom should look perfectly like this: subsequently looking perfectly and correctly at the emptiness of inherent existence of the five aggregates also."

    "Form is empty; emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than form; form also is not other than emptiness. Likewise, feeling, discrimination, compositional factors and consciousness are empty."

    "Shariputra, like this all phenomena are merely empty, having no characteristics. They are not produced and do not cease. They have no defilement and no separation from defilement. They have no decrease and no increase."

    "Therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no feeling, no discrimination, no compositional factors, no consciousness. There is no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no tactile object, no phenomenon. There is no eye element and so forth up to no mind element and also up to no element of mental consciousness. There is no ignorance and no exhaustion of ignorance, and so forth up to no ageing and death and no exhaustion of ageing and death. Likewise, there is no suffering, origin, cessation or path; no exalted wisdom, no attainment and also no non-attainment."

    "Therefore Shariputra, because there is no attainment, bodhisattvas rely on and abide in the perfection of wisdom; their minds have no obstructions and no fear. Passing utterly beyond perversity, they attain the final state beyond sorrow. Also, all the Buddhas who perfectly reside in the three times, relying upon the perfection of wisdom, become manifest and complete Buddhas in the state of unsurpassed, perfect and complete awakening."

    "Therefore, the mantra of the perfection of wisdom, the mantra of great knowledge, the unsurpassed mantra, the equal-to-the-unequalled mantra, the mantra that thoroughly pacifies all suffering, since it is not false, should be known as the truth. The mantra of the perfection of wisdom is proclaimed:

    tayata gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi soha1

    "Shariputra, a bodhisattva, a great being, should train in the profound perfection of wisdom like this."

    Then the Blessed One arose from that concentration and said to Superior Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva, the great being, that he had spoken well. "Good, good, O child of the lineage. It is like that. Since it is like that, just as you have revealed, the profound perfection of wisdom should be practiced in that way, and the tathagatas will also rejoice."

    When the Blessed One had said this, Venerable Shariputra, Superior Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva, the great being, and that entire assembly of disciples as well as the worldly beings—gods, humans, demi-gods and spirits—were delighted and highly praised what had been spoken by the Blessed One.

    Heart of Wisdom Sutra chant

    • Recorded by the Sravasti Abbey Sangha in April, 2010

    Heart Sutra chant (download)


    1. Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, awakened, so be it! 

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