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Padma Hrdaya

From The Heart Sūtra of Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya



Lotuses are symbols of purity and ‘spontaneous’ generation and hence symbolize divine birth. According to the Lalitavistara, ‘the spirit of the best of men is spotless, like the new lotus in the [muddy] water which does not adhere to it’, and, according to esoteric Buddhism, the heart of the beings is like an unopened lotus: when the virtues of the Buddha develop therein the lotus blossoms. This is why the Buddha sits on a lotus in bloom. In Tantrism, it is the symbol of the feminine principle. The lotuses are usually differentiated by their colour and grouping, in three or five flowers, which may or may not be combined with leaves.

White lotus

This symbolizes Bodhi, the state of total mental purity and spiritual perfection, and the pacification of our nature. It generally has eight petals corresponding to the Noble Eightfold Path of the Good Law. It is the lotus found at the heart of the Garbhadhatu Mandala, being the womb or embryo of the world. It is characteristic of the esoteric sects, and the lotus of the Buddhas.

Red lotus

This symbolizes the original nature of the heart (hrdaya). It is the lotus of love, compassion, passion, activity and all the qualities of the heart. It is the lotus of Avalokitesvara.

Blue lotus

This is the symbol of the victory of the spirit over the senses, of intelligence and wisdom, of knowledge. It is always represented as a partially opened bud, and (unlike the red lotus) its centre is never seen. It is the lotus of Manjusri, and also one of the attributes of Prajnaparamita, the embodiment of the ‘perfection of wisdom’.

Pink lotus

This is the supreme lotus, generally reserved for the highest deity, sometimes confused with the white lotus it is the lotus of the historical Buddha.

Purple lotus

This is the mystic lotus, represented only in images belonging to a few esoteric sects. The flowers may be in full bloom and reveal their heart, or in a bud. They may be supported by a simple stem, a triple stem (symbolizing the three divisions of Garbhadhatu: Vairocana, lotus and vajra), or a quintuple stem (symbolizing the Five Knowledges of Vajradhatu). The eight petals represent the Noble Eightfold Path and the eight principal acolyte deities of the central deity on the mandalas. The flowers may also be depicted presented in a cup or on a tray, as a symbol of homage.

Small red lotus. This symbolizes the original nature of the heart (hrdaya). It is the lotus of love, compassion, passion, activity and all the qualities of the heart. It is the lotus of Avalokitesvara.

The Heart Sūtra (Sanskrit Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya) is a famous sutra in Mahāyāna Buddhism. Its Sanskrit title, Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya, literally means “The Heart of the Perfection of Understanding”.

The Heart Sūtra is often cited as the best-known and most popular Buddhist scripture of all. The text is very short, and it is generally believed to be Buddhist apocrypha written in China using excerpts of a translation of the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra;

The Heart Sūtra, belonging to the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajñāpāramitā) category of Mahāyāna Buddhism literature along with the Diamond Sutra, is perhaps the most prominent representative of the genre.
The long version of the Sanskrit Heart Sutra is a prose text of some 280 words. In the Chinese version of the short text attributed to Xuanzang (T251), it has 260 Chinese characters. In English it is composed of sixteen sentences. This makes it one of the shortest texts in the Perfection of Wisdom genre, which contains scriptures in lengths up to 100,000 lines. “The Essence of Wisdom Sutra(Heart Sūtra) is much shorter than the other Perfection of Wisdom sūtras but it contains explicitly or implicitly the entire meaning of the longer Sutras.”

This sutra is classified by Edward Conze as belonging to the third of four periods in the development of the Prajnaparamita canon, although because it contains a mantra (sometimes called a dhāraṇī), it does overlap with the final, tantric phase of development according to this scheme, and is included in the tantra section of at least some editions of the Kangyur. Conze estimates the sutra’s date of origin to be 350 CE; some others consider it to be two centuries older than that. Recent scholarship is unable to verify its existence before any date earlier than the 7th century CE.

The Chinese version is frequently chanted (in Sino-Xenic pronunciations) by the Chan, Zen, Seon, and Thiền schools during ceremonies in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam respectively. It is also significant to Shingon Buddhism, whose founder Kūkai wrote a commentary on it, and to the various Tibetan Buddhist schools, where it is studied extensively.

The sutra is in a small class of sutras not attributed to the Buddha. In some versions of the text, starting with that of Fayue dating to about 735, the Buddha confirms and praises the words of Avalokiteśvara, although this is not included in the preeminent Chinese version translated by Xuanzang. The Tibetan canon uses the longer version, although Tibetan translations without the framing text have been found at Dunhuang. The Chinese Buddhist canon includes both long and short versions, and both versions exist in Sanskrit.

This scripture has always been held in the greatest veneration in Mahayana countries. In China and Japan there are at least twenty-eight different recensions of this sacred bible of the Buddhist schools. ThePrajnaparamita-Sutra is regarded as the holy mother that feeds the bodhisattva with the amrita (nectar) of prajna (transcendental wisdom), and guides him to paramita (the other shore). It is the “utmost great perfection” which gives full enlightenment to the bodhisattva after he has successfully completed the other five paramitas: dana (charity), sila (morality), ksanti (patience, forbearance), virya (energy), and dhyana (concentration).

Prajnaparamita-Hridayam (hridaya means heart) — the most condensed recension of the Sutra — was rendered into Chinese in the year 400 AD by the famous Indian scholar and Buddhist missionary, the Venerable Kumarajiva, and even today is used as a protective spell or charm by all Buddhists of Tibet, China, and Japan, monks and laymen alike.

The complete text of the Large Sutra of Prajnaparamita was ruthlessly destroyed by Muslim incendiaries in the conflagration of the Buddhist University of Nalanda. Millions of Buddhist and Hindu manuscripts were burnt in this great fire along with the monks and artifacts. Because the original Prajnaparamita is reputed to have consisted of a hundred thousand stanzas it was called Satasahasrika Prajna-paramita. It is primarily intended for memorizing, and is believed to protect the aspirant who knows it by heart.

The Heart Sutra: Prajnaparamita-Hridaya-Sutra

Om namo bhagavatyai arya-prajnaparamitayai!

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.)

Verse 1

arya-avalokitesvaro bodhisattvo gambhiram prajnaparamitacaryam caramano vyavalokayati sma: panca-skandhas tams ca svabhavasunyan pasyati sma.
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.

Verse 2

iha sariputra rupam sunyata sunyataiva rupam, rupan na prithak sunyata sunyataya na prithag rupam, yad rupam sa sunyata ya sunyata tad rupam; evam eva vedana-samjna-samskara-vijnanam.
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).

Verse 3

iha sariputra sarva-dharmah sunyata-laksala, anutpanna aniruddha, amala avimala, anuna aparipurnah.
Here, O Sariputra, all phenomena of existence are characterized by voidness: neither born nor annihilated, neither blemished nor immaculate, neither deficient nor overfilled.

Verse 4

tasmac chariputra sunyatayam na rupam na vedana na samjna na samskarah na vijnanam. na caksuh-srotra-ghrana-jihva-kaya-manamsi. na rupa-sabda-gandha-rasa-sprastavya-dharmah. na caksur-dhatur yavan na manovijnana-dhatuh. na-avidya na-avidya-ksayo yavan na jaramaranam na jara-marana-ksayo. na duhkha-samudaya-nirodha-marga. na jnanam, na praptir na-apraptih.

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; there is no higher knowledge, no attainment (of nirvana), no nonattainment.

Verse 5

tasmac chariputra apraptitvad bodhisattvasya prajnaparamitam asritya vibaraty acittavaranah. cittavarana-nastitvad atrasto viparyasa-ati-kranto nistha-nirvana-praptah.

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.

Verse 6

tryadhva-vyavasthitah sarva-buddhah prajnaparamitam asritya-anut-taram samyaksambodhim abhisambuddhah.

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).

Verse 7

tasmaj jnatavyam: prajnaparamita maha-mantro mahavidya-mantro ‘nuttara-mantro samasama-mantrah, sarva-duhkha-prasamanah, satyam amithyatvat. prajnaparamitayam ukto mantrah. tadyatha: gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha. iti prajnaparamita-hridayam sa-maptam.

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, gone altogether beyond (to the other shore)! O enlightenment! Be it so! Hail!
This concludes Prajnaparamita-Hridaya-Sutra.

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