Cause and effect

Creation, says Hinduïsm, is the result of a cause. That is, the highest Hindu god, by the name of Krishna, Brahman, or any other name, causes himself, or itself, to manifest in different forms. Hence Hinduïsm speaks of “result-cause“. We first see the result, and on the basis of this we infer that which caused the result: result being the manifest, and cause is he who manifests. This in contrast to the Abrahamic assumption of cause (= God) and result or effect (= the universe).

In classical Sanskrit “result-cause”, in the Vedic-Hinduistic sense is given as phalam, result, or parināma, and
adihetu, first cause, or adikārana, first cause, i.e. the divine mind.

In contrast to this Buddhism rejects the notion of causation or creation in the absolute sense of the word, whether it be in the Hinduistic sense or the Abrahamic. There is no causation-creation of the universe, no causation-creation of beings. There is an ongoing cycle of matter and time in which cycle no ultimate cause, creation, or creator can or needs to be be discerned.
Here the component hetu, as in the Sanskrit adihetu where it carries the meaning of first cause, is considered a relative designation as in the Pāli-word hetu-paccaya: cause and condition(ing) when describing the cyclical wheel of life where one link causes another to act or react. (Pratyaya in Hybrid Sanskrit)
So also the Pāli-word vipāka, product / effect, needs to be understood in the ethical sense of the word, and not as an absolute. (Vipaksa in Hybrid Sanskrit) It stands for the product of karma-producing actions, and not as the effect of ultimate causation or creation.

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Ksanti / khanti

ksanti
The illustration given has the Sanskrit word ksanti in classical Chinese script. Chinese Buddhism knows three forms of ksanti: ksanti that endures hatred, ksanti that endures physical hardship, and ksanti in pursuit of the Buddhist goal. We find this threefold ksanti in Soothill and Hodous’ “Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms” and they, as other Western translators, give “pursuing the Buddhist goal” as “pursuing the religious goal”. That’s how they were raised; beside religion you had the void.

Tolerance, says a 20th/21rst Cent. Indian writer, ought to be understood in its Latin form as tolerating the unavoidable, tolerating the perhaps even unwanted other.
Of course we find the word tolerance in health and medical circles as tolerance or intolerance to this or that medicine. In that case a purely physical process is meant, not a moral appreciation of the to be tolerated.

All three dictionaries, Soothill and Hodous (Chinese), Monier-Williams (classical Sanskrit), and Pāli Text Society (Pāli) mention the word “tolerance” when describing or translating the word ksanti (Sanskrit) or khanti (Pāli) — among other possible translations, that is.

The word tolerance however, does not apply. “Patient endurance” is a more common translation of ksanti/khanti but even this is not entirely satisfactory.

It is in Franklin Edgerton’s dictionary “Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit” that we find a fully satisfactory translation by the hand of the late Louis Finot, chronicler of the Societé Asiatique. Finot cites the Rāstrapālapariprcchā (RP 34,13-14) when giving the

“nāham … tesām … ānulomikām api ksāntim vadāmi, kutah punar buddhajnānam” as “I do not attribute to them even the intellectual receptivity that conforms (to continued religious development), still less Buddha-knowledge.”

In other words “patient endurance” is a satisfactory translation of the word ksanti/khanti, “receptivity” is even better. It presupposes a hearer who is prepared to listen with an open mind without preconceptions; i.e. s/he is receptive.
Even E. Buswell Jr. (trained in Korean Buddhism) and D.S. Lopez (trained in Himalayan philosophy) received ksanti from their masters as “Not to be overwhelmed by the profound nature of reality but instead to be receptive or acquiescent to it.”
Therefore, Mahāhāyanism throughout the Indian, Himalayan and Korean lands seems to be of the same opinion when it comes to the intrinsic meaning of ksanti. Moreover, they do not disagree with the Theravādan khanti as “patient endurance”.

Hinduïsm, that is, modern Hinduïsm sees (Skr.) ksanti in the yogic-meditative practice as the ability to abstraction.

Esoteric and exoteric

Somewhere mid-20th century a German nun (dasa-sil-mata in Srilankan parlance) undertook a voyage to Sarnath, the place where Buddha spoke his First Sermon, that is, his first official sermon. Impressed by the story of his life, and educated in translatory work Sister Vajira put herself to translating the Maha-parinibbana Sutta, the Teaching (sutta) on the last days of Buddha, how he died, how he spoke in the weeks prior to this event, and what happened afterwards.

The Maha-parinibbana Sutta is one of the texts that appears in the Pali Dīgha Nikaya, the Compendium (nikáya) containing the Longer (dīgha) Teachings.

Sister Vajira’s efforts have been put online by Thaníssaro bhikkhu (a bhikkhu is a fully ordained monk in the theravāda-tradition).
He provided a number of footnotes on difficult technical terms, but omitted a lemma on the “esoteric and exoteric” as Vajira — and by the way, a number of other translators among whom the Srilankan monk Pategáma Ñana-ráma — gave it.

In Vajira’s words the passage containing “esoteric and exoteric” runs as follows:

Thus spoke the Venerable Ānanda, but the Blessed One answered him, saying: “What more does the community of bhikkhus expect from me, Ānanda? I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ānanda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathágata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back.”

The Pali text runs as follows:
Desito Ānanda mayā dhammo anantaram abāhiram karitvā natthi
Ānanda tathāgatassa dhammesu acariyamutthi.

Anàntaram (my emphasis on the à) means “without end, exhaustive”.
Abāhiram must be interpreted in the sense of “the interior and the exterior”.

Therefore Buddha says that he taught his monks all there is to know about what goes on in our own body-mind complex, and he says that he taugt all there is to know about the world outside our body-mind complex.

To translate Abāhiram and the rest with the abbreviation “esoteric and exoteric” is totally besides the subject, especially when remembering that the Pali (= theravāda) tradition explicitely denies that Buddhism has anything esoteric, anything that could be called a hidden teaching or a concealed practice. To illustrate this point of view they cite the same given passage where Buddha says: “… there is nothing, Ānanda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathágata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back.”

Dharma

Especially in online references to the word “dharma” (Skr.) or “Dhamma” (Pāli) a number of editors see “dharma” and “religion” as interchangeable. This incorrect representation of “dharma” has in the 19th-20th century been introduced by western scholars-translators who were raised in the Christian or at least theïstic vocabulary. They were of good faith, but made a mistake as far as translation of the words dharma or dhamma go.
Somewhere in 2017 a commentator correctly stated that the Sanskrit dictionaries have no word for “religion”. In addition to that he surmised that the Western-Christian “religion” and the Arab “mazhab” were interchangeable.

This is incorrect. If we must compare at all, “dharma” and “mazhab” have more in common than “dharma” and “religion”. Mazhab, it is said, denotes a jurisprudence based on the Koran or the Hadith.
The ancient vedic word Dharma denotes a number of things, from “the natural order” over “as it should be” to, in Hinduïsm, “the established Law”.
Buddhism leaves this interpretation of dharma (or dhamma) as “the established Law” out of the list and rather replaces it with “the teachings of (the historical) Buddha.”

Some translate dharma and adharma as “valid resp. invalid ethical conduct”. In all cases the word dharma or dhamma is an untranslatable just als “allelujah” is an untranslatable.

There can be reverence (Skr. bhakti) in Buddhist practice, but there can be no “religion” in the sense of adherence to a revealed moral-philosophical system. Buddhism has no revelation. It rather leans on established knowledge or perception: things are the way we see them; things are not the way an unknown entity wills us to see them. The first is a manifestation of dharma; the latter a manifestation of religion.

Átappan; offering or offering of the self as non-Buddhist concept

In what is considered the oldest set of canonical texts, the Pali-canon of the theravāda or southern Buddhism (Hīnayāna), the compound “offering of the self” does not occur.
We find “offering”, i.e. anukula which is an offering of something for the well-being of the group / clan / family, or country.

In spite of that an early translator of the Pali canon speaks of ātappan as offering of the self. As such it appears in the Monier-Williams dictionary which will not be revised in the foreseable future.
These early translators, mainly brought together in Oxford where they established the Pali Text Society, considered what they encountered against the backdrop of their own Christian-inspired patterns of thinking and writing.
Later generations of translators, stationed in Sri Lanka and/or working for the Wisdom Library could leave the old patterns of thought behind and correctly translated the word ātappan (from Pali: ātappa, Skr.: ātāpya) as “dedicated”, “dedication”, “exertion”, and “exertion” has the Sanskrit root “tap“: giving out heat, practicing austerity.

Practicing austerity, the Christian-inspired says, is self-mortification or offering of self. The Hindu world may agree with this interpretation, but the Buddhist world does not. In the absence of abiding or enduring self it is impossible to chastise this self into submission. Here ātappa simply means putting an effort.

There’s another word that falls under the same category: uttaraná. The same early translators as mentioned above gave it as “saved” or “rescued” as in “saved by a savior”. However, uttaraná means “crossing”(the river), or “having crossed” (the river), i.e. “having arrived at the other shore” (of enlightenment.) “Saving” in the western sense of the word is not the appropriate translation.

Hexagram 24 – left-hand tantra

In the year 142 AD a Chinese alchemist produced an “important alchemical classic”, says Richard Bertschinger, the only one who translated Wei Boyang’s “The Secret of Everlasting Life” (or “Can Tong Qi“, London and Philadelphia 2011) into English. The “Can Tong Qi” deals with the “outer alchemy” (producing gold out of inferior metals), the “inner alchemy” (finding the recipe for everlasting life), and with the Yin-Yang and Ijing (Hexagrams) philosophies that preceded Daoism, as well as with the Daoist Daodejing and Kongzi’s (Confucius’) maxims. The first two mentioned philosophies, Yin-Yang and Ijing, used to be stand-alones until they were picked up by Daoist alchemists and incorporated into their thinking about material alchemy, the mental alchemy and its relation to Heaven and Earth. Kongzi’s thinking actually seems to stand in considerable contrast to the Daoist philosophy as it is laid down in the Daodejing. Nevertheless, skillful picking and choosing produced Confucian sayings that later commentators deemed useful in explaining Wei Boyang’s writings — or in reinterpreting it and turning it into a tantric manual.

In one of the first passages of Mr. Bertschinger’s translation we meet such Daoist masters as Shangyang (390-338 BCE) and Yuyan (1258-1314 AD) who seem to have been outstanding in interpreting Wei Boyang’s oeuvre.

hex24
In Mr. Bertschinger’s translation (p. 59/60), the section on “the function of shifting lines” (of the Hexagrams), he mentions Hexagram 24, Fu (see picture), which’ title he translates as “Restored”. The passage points into the direction of Laozi’s commentary who called this Hexagram 24 “the dark female” (Daodejing Ch.6).
The Buddhists, says Mr. Bertschinger, called Laozi’s “dark female”, “the gateway to life and door to death”.
Below we will see how Mr. Bertschinger’s understanding of Buddhism is that of the Vajrayana, resp. that of (left-hand) Tantra.

HEXAGRAMS

The practice of throwing Ijing-sticks is described here. The psycho-analist Carl Jung, who in the process did disservice to the Buddhist thought as a whole, and to Daoist philosophy in particular, used to have a set of Ijing-sticks in his office and threw them on a nearly daily basis in order to “read” the direction Buddhism pointed him. Useless to say that throwing divination sticks has nothing to do with Buddhism which heavily stresses on conscious delibaration, i.e. on action and result of action (karma), not on chance of “fate”.

HEXAGRAM 24

Most translators agree on the text of the “judgement” that accompanies Hexagram 24: Fu — “Restored” or “Return”.
Although both Thomas Cleary and Richard Wilhelm translate Fu with Return (and/or “turning point” according to Wilhelm), they describe it with : “When return is accomplished successfully is when firm strength returns to actions and operates harmoniously; this is how to go out and in without trouble, the companion whose coming means there will be no problem. Returning back over the Way, coming back in seven days, refers to the operation of Nature. It is beneficial to have someone to go to, in that strenght is growing. Return may be referred to as seeing the center of the universe.” (Cleary, p.37/8)

Wilhelm’s Chinese master made him write the “judgement” of Hexagram 24 as:
“RETURN. Success.
Going out and coming in without error.
Friends come without blame.
To and fro goes the way.
On the seventh day comes return.
It furthers one to have somewhere to go.”

THE DARK FEMALE

Why does Laozi calls Hexagram 24 “the dark female”, and why does Bertschinger say that Hexagram 24, the dark female, is, to the Buddhists, “the gateway to life and door to death”?
“The dark female” is taken from Laozi’s poems, Daodejing, Chapter 6. Clearly Laozi commented on Hexagram 24 after throwing the sticks. Comparison of a number of translations and commentaries of these two verses of Chapter 6 are basically identical.

The French edition of René Étièmble (philosophes taoïstes, Gallimard 1967, 1980) runs as follows:
“Le génie de la vallée ne meurt pas.
Là réside la femelle obscure.
Dans l’huis de la femelle obscure,
réside la racine du ciel et de la terre.

Subtil et ininterompu, il paraît durer.
Sa fonction ne s’épuise jamais.”

Taoistic.com translates the first of the two verses as:

“The valley spirit never dies.
It is called the mystical female.
The entrance to the mystical female
Is called the root of Heaven and Earth.”

D.C. Lau’s translation is pretty much identical to that of Taoistic.com.

Of course “la femelle obscure” is “the dark female” or “mystical female”, or in Wilhelm’s translation into German “das dunkle Weib”. There’s another translation by T. McCarroll that has “the unknown first mother”, (/whose gate is the root …)

kù-chen = the spirit of the valley. “Kù” equally connotes “gorge” as well as the female sex organ.
“The valley spirit” (or “Le génie de la vallée”) is in the translation of Dwight Goddard and Henri Borel (ed. 1919) “The Mysterious One.”

MASCULIN AND FEMININ

The alchemist Wei Boyang struggled with the mystery of birth, resp. giving birth. In his “Can Tong Qi” he mentions the coming-together of the cock (the black) and the hen (the yellow [egg-yoke]) and apparently concludes that this coupling is conception, the beginning of new life. The chaste Chinese never went as far as clearly describing the coupling of man and woman, the coming together of of yang and yin in all its practicality, but, as we shall see, the Himalaya peoples did. Hence the Chinese elegantly referred to “the act” by sayings in which there is mention of the “mystical female” which is “the root of Heaven and Earth”. Such a saying sufficed, no need to further elucidation. They furthermore incorporated “the act” concerning “the black” and “the dark female” into the Daoist philosophy and reverently called this dark female “emptiness“, a clear reference to the state of mind that accompanies this coming-together. Emptiness, the Daoist furthermore says, is potential but as yet unrealized. That is, it yet has to materialise [into an egg/chick, or an infant]. Emptiness is in Daoist parlance “wu” i.e. nothingness.

Now Richard Bertschinger says that it is precisely this: “” (the spirit of the valley), i.e. “wu“, “the dark female” (the emptiness experienced) that the (vajrayana/tantrayana) Buddhists share with the Daoists.
And here he makes a mistake: “emptiness” in the Buddhist sense of the word is not nothingness, or in Daoist philosophy mere potentiality, yet to be realized. Rather, says Buddhism, “emptiness” it is the absence of “ens” in living beings, the absence of an enduring, unchanging entity in this conglomerate of mind and body, senses and matter that is in a constant flux. The Hybrid-Sanskrit technical term is “sunyatā“. The early Buddhists rather employ the Pali term “an-atta“, not-self (which as a composite of negation [an] and name [atta] ) does not appear in the classical Sanskrit of Hinduism).

Now does Buddhism has something comparable with the Daoist “wu”, the potential-as-yet-unrealized? Does Mahāyāna Buddhist thought has it? No. What is called “the Dharma-kaya”, i.e. the Body of the Dharma (teaching) is “everything” taken together, not “nothingness” as a single concept. But again, yes it has it, as far as (Japanese) zen goes,  deeply influenced by by Taoism as it is. Zennists call it “Mind”, and consider this Mind as being the source to which one has to return to, in accord with Taoist thinking. Mind in this sense is clearly comparable with “wu“, nothingness. But nowhere in the pre-sixth century Buddhist canon do we find references to Buddha’s meditation leading to “wu” or, for that matter, to anything else that has name. The content of nirvana, if there is any, is not described, nowhere. Zen’s statement that nirvana is Mind is an assumption; it has no basis, not in the words, nor in the non-words of said pre-sixth century Buddhist canon.

TANTRAYANA

How come that Tantrists, and especially the left-hand Tantrists of the Himalayas came to see “the spirit of the valley”, resp. the “mysterious female” — i.e. the act of coupling the male and female — as being a Buddhist practice? We don’t know. They don’t know, or don’t want to know.
Yet they found a way out of their giving-in to sexual pulses while all the way — as far as (semi-)professionals in the Faith go — not leaving the Buddhist fold in giving up the life of the (semi-)ordained Buddhist professional with all its honours and accoutrements. For in practising this “to go out and in without trouble” (Cleary’s translation of the “judgment” of Hexagram 24) and yet not ejaculating in the process (pardon the rudeness) they profess(ed) to practice putting the Buddhist concept of emptiness into action. It must be stressed that post-sixth century Himalayan Buddhist thought seems to be unaware of the Daoist wu-wei (acting/not-acting). Rather they were, or are, well-versed in the non- or pre-Buddhist tantric practices of the Indian continent.

In the early Buddhist canon we find no references to the practice of accouplement (to use the French) as a way to gain at least insight, and at most nirvana. One early text speaks of a king who married a flower-vendor: “by this evening she (the flower-vendor) will be the king’s consort”, Buddha says (according to one of the Pali sutta). He did not refer to the “act” of marrying, but rather to the fact that here a high-born accepted a low-born as his wife — which was highly unusual and frankly not-done, 5-6 centuries BCE.

Therefore the left-hand Tantrists excuses for resorting to their practice are very, very thin. All these words about “the gateway to life and door to death” ( in Mr. Bertschinger’s words) are a very thin veil, a cover-up for indefensible highly sexualized practices. Therefore, don’t call left-hand Tantra Buddhism. It is not.

 

The Heart Sūtra

Part of the Perfection of Wisdom Scriptures of early Mahayana

The Heart Sūtra is part of the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajñaparamitā) literature, a collection of early Mahāyāna Scriptures. There are a number of Perfection of Wisdom collections, both long and short, and there are a number of Heart Sūtras, both long and short.

The Perfection of Wisdom collection was originally written in Buddhist Sanskrit, which is slightly different from classical Sanskrit, and in a number of Sanskrit-related languages and dialects that existed on the Silk Road.
It is quite possible that the long version of the Heart Sūtra that has been translated and published by the office of the Gyalwa Karmapa (www.dharmafellowship.org/libary/texts/heart-sutra.htm) is a most accomplished and correct rendering of one of the long versions.
Sir Leon Hurvitz, one of the early highly esteemed Sinologists discovered a short version of the Heart Sūtra that the monk-pilgrim Xuanzang (or Hsuan-tsang) transcribed from a wall in a cave in Loyang, Northern China. What Xuanzang, who died in 664 discovered must have been an transliterated version of a Sanskrit original. Transliteration means that you write down the heard syllables as faithfully as possible in the script in which your own language is expressed. To give an example of transliteration: an Anglosaxon might transliterate the French word “boutique” as “booteec”, and “pois” as “pooah”. Imagine the misunderstandings that arose in later ages when researchers tried to figure out the Sanskrit words hidden in Chinese characters.

Since Hurvitz’ discovery the short version of the Heart Sūtra has been retranslated into Buddhist Sanskrit first, and after that into English. Now (2009) a version of this Sanskrit → Chinese → Sanskrit → English text floats around in the virtual World Wide Web.
Translating such a text into English was a brave enterprise, especially in the early days of Buddhism in the West. As both the knowledge of Buddhism grew and more and more dictionaries and Sanskrit Grammars appeared, it has become possible to attempt a revised English translation of Xuanzang’s short version of the Heart Sūtra.

On the title:

“Heart” here refers to the essence of the Perfection of Wisdom-texts, being the emptiness of all phenomena. A few words are said in the observations in line 3. The stock phrase “emptiness is form, form is emptiness” is not found in this text, at least not verbatim. Instead line 5, where this phrase appears in other manuscripts, shows influences of Huayen-thinking where it emphasises the fundamental identity of forms in their being empty of “ens”, substance.

1. Prajñaparamitā hrdaya sūtra

2. arayāvalokiteshvaro bodhisattvo

3. gambhīram prajñaparamitā caryam caramano vyavalokāyati
sma panca skandhas tams ca sva bhāva sunyam

1. Sūtra on the heart of the perfection of wisdom

2. The noble bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
3. coursed in the profound perfection of wisdom; he uninterruptedly coursed (in such a way that he had a fixed view on) the empty world (,namely the emptiness of) that which has arisen, (i.e.) the five skandhas.

4. pasyati sma iha sariputra

5. rūpam sunyatā vā rūpam rūpan na prthak
sūnyatā sūnyatāya na prthak rūpam
yad rūpam sa sūnyatā ya sūnyatā sa rūpam

4. O, Sariputra, he saw uninteruptedly:
5. that which is emptied is none other than (a single) form and/or forms (plur.); those forms do not distinguish (fundamentally) among themselves; they are empty.

6. evam eva vedanā samjñā samskāra vijñānam
7. iha sariputra sarva dharma sunyatā
8. lakshana anutpanna anuruddha av(i)māla anuna aparpūna.

6. The same goes for physical feeling, the active process of understanding, establishing and maintaining of thought-stream, and consciousness as such.

7. O Sariputra, all phenomena are empty,

8. (therefore their) characteristics (too) are unarisen, (therefore there is no need for) pacifying, (and they cannot be said to be) impure, (or) inferior; (in this sense they are) certainly complete, one.

9a. ta (tada) sariputra sunyatāyam
b. na rūpam na vedanā na samjñā na samskāra na vijñāna
c. na caksuh srotam na ghrāna jihva-kaya manah
d. na rūpa sabda gandha rasa spistavya (sprstavya) dharmah
e. na caksur dhātur yā van (yāva) na mano vijñānam dhātur
f. na vidya na vidya na vidya ksayo vā vidya ksayo
g. yā van (yāva) jaramaranam na jaramana ksayo
h. na duhkha samudaya nirodha mārgajnā
i. na jñānam na prapti na (a)bhis(a)maya tamai (tasmat) na prapti.

9a. In that case, Sariputra, (in) that all encompassing emptiness
b. (is) no materiality; there is no physical feeling, no active process of understanding, no establishing and maintaining of thought-stream, no consciousness
c. (nothing belonging to the sphere of the) eye; it has no faculty of hearing, no smell, no tongue, nothing material.
d. (There is) no form, no sound, smell, taste, touching — nothing phenomenal.
e. There is no sphere in which the eye is operative, upto thinking, or a sphere in which consciousness is operative.
f. (There is) no knowing, no exhaustion of knowing or knowing that knowing has been exhausted.
g. This (holds true upto) old age and death and the extincion of old age and death.
h. There is no origin of affliction (or) extinction of the search.
i. (This all encompassing emptiness has) no supreme knowledge; there is nothing to be gained, nothing to be clearly understood; therefore there is nothing to be attained.

10. tvad bodhisattva prajñaparamitā asritya (srutya)
11. viha ratya (vihāratya) citta varano vidya ksayo na vidya ksayo

10. You, bodhisattva, heard (understood) the perfection of wisdom (thus:)

11. (it) is to be dwelt in (thus:), he chooses this (line of) thought: nor is knowing exhausted, nor is it not exhausted.

12. na duhkha-samudaya nirodha-mārgajnā
na jñānam na prapti na (a)bhis(a)maya tamai (tasmat) na prapti.
13. tvad bodhisattvanam prajñaparamitā asritya (srutya)
14. vihāratya citta varano | citta varano
na siddhitvad (nāstitvat) atrasto viparyasa ti kranto (tikranto)
15. ni sthā (nisthā) nirvāna | tya dhā vyāva stitah.

12. There is no origin of affliction, there is no extinction of the search.
(It has) no supreme knowledge; there is nothing to be gained, nothing to be clearly understood; therefore there is nothing to be attained.

13. You who (now) belong to (the line of) bodhisattvas heard (understood) the perfection of wisdom (thus:)

14. It is to be dwelt in (thus:); he chooses this line of thought | this way of thinking:
Because of non-existence of the hindrances of the mind, he is not frightened, he has crossed over distortions; |

15. indeed he will be firmly established in nirvāna.

16. sarva buddhah prajñaparamitam asritya (srutya)
17. anuttaram samyaksambodhim abisambuddhah

16 – 17. All unexcelled, perfectly enlightened, highest Buddhas heard (understood) the perfection of wisdom.

18. tasmat jñatavyam
19. prajñaparamitā-mahā-mantram mahā-vidya-mantram
anuttara-mantram asamasama-mantram.

18. Therefore they knew this.

19. The Perfection of Wisdom is a great utterance, an utterance of great knowing,
an on all levels unexcelled utterance.

20. sarva duhkha prasa manam satyam amithyātvat
21. prajñaparamitayam ukto mantrah tadhyathā

20. All afflictions are cast aside as the mind does away with falsety, unreality.

21. Thus has been declared the utterance on the perfection of wisdom.

Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate bodhi svaha

(Is) gone, (is) gone, gone to the other shore, altogether gone to the other shore; a salute to bodhi, enlightenment.

Observations:

Line 2.: — Arayāvalokiteshvaro. Āvalokiteshvara (he who reaches down (aval) to listen to voice/sound (svāra) of the earth (loka)) is Buddha’s Compassion aspect; a bodhisattva is an enlightening being, according to the Mahāyāna philosophy.

Line 3.: — sma: uninterruptedly, fixed

vyavalokāyati. Vyava in classical Sanskrit is a prefix indicating action: to fix, to do etc. Lokāyati (gramm.: infin.) = the world. Vyava-lokāyati ought to be read in conjunction with caryam and sunyam: to course/coursing (caryam) in empty/the empty (sunyam) world (lokāyati) of …

caryam caramano indicates the dynamic though wordless Buddhist meditation.

sva bhāva (svabhāva) = that which has arisen, that which has been born, the existent. In classical Hindu-thought it is often given as “the self-existent”. This, however, would not be the correct interpretation here.

Skandhas are enumerated in lines 5 and 6 as: materiality (form), physical feeling, the active process of understanding (samñjā), establishing and maintaining of thought-stream (samskāra), and consciousness as such (vijñāna).

Sūnyam here is clearly understood in the Southern Buddhist sense of absence of an unchanging, ever abiding self, soul. It indicates the ever changing nature of all phenomena including the self or the soul. It should be understood that the Perfection of Wisdom-collection is one of the first, if not the first long manuscript that expouses the early Mahāyāna philosophy.

Line 4.: — Sariputra, a contemporary of Sakyamuni Buddha, was one of the Arhats, enlightened monks, having, according to Southern or early Buddhism, the same enlightenment as Buddha, yet standing a step below him. Sariputra used to be the trainer of novices. In later ages he therefore is projected as one of Buddha’s most important partners in discussion, and is here, in the Heart Sūtra, presented as one who understood this teaching, and therefore now has joined the ranks of the bodhisattvas, enlightening beings.

Line 5.: — “Form” is described by the Daoïst as “apparatus”, “capacity”, or “ability”.

— Following the rule that verb and object have to agree in number, sūnyatāya, “is emptied”, should be considered the verb, and sa, a “pleonasm” here used in the sense of “this here” has been given the role of subject.

— There is an interplay of singular and plural in the use of rūpam (acc. sing. 3rd. masc.) and rūpan (acc. plur. 3rd. masc.).

prthak, in the original given as prithak and prithag, has the meaning of widely apart, separately, differently, singly, severally, one by one. In conjunction with na, not, it has been rendered as “none other than”, and “do not distinguish”.

Line 7.: — sarva. Lokesh Chandra (the 1000-armed Avalokiteshvara) is of the opinion that this should be read as sarpa: come.

Line 8.: — This line lacks object. The object has to be found in the word “phenomena” in line 7. Lakshana therefore has been chosen as the adjective of dharma, phenomena.

Aparpūrna does not occur in either Classical Sanskrit or in Hybrid or Buddhist Sanskrit. Hence “certainly complete, one” has been chosen as a composite of the Hybr. Sanskr. apara, “a certain”, and pūrna, “full, one”. I.e. the absence of ens, substance in both the phenomena and their characteristics IS the characteristic of the phenomena and their characteristics as we perceive them with our senses.

Line 9.: — One has tried to respect the adjectives, gerund, and datives where they occurred.
— a. sūnyatāyam has been rendered as if the adjective sunyatā were a pronoun with the additional 3rd (= we) form -tāyam.
— c. caksuh should be understood as an ablativus, just as manah.
— d. sprstavya. –tavya is a gerund.
— e. and g. van. In classical Sanskrit should be understood as moving, and van as acquiring. However, yāva in Pali should be understood as “upto” or “down to”.
Tasmai in classical Sanskrit generally means “unto Him”, and occasionally “therefore”. The latter interpretation is chosen since the first does not make sense in this line.
— d. “… upto old age and death” refers to the 12-fold chain of dependent origination (pratitya samutpāda) that starts with ignorance and ends with old age and death, after which the cycle starts again.
— h. Affliction and origin of affliction: duhkha, resp. duhkha-samudaya.

Especially this line speaks of the meditatively experienced eternal moment of now, the non-moving or timelessness. Again here Buddhist philosophy cannot be divorced from Buddhist meditation and vice versa without seriously distorting the one or the other.

— In Hybrid or Buddhist Sanskrit mārganā is “act of searching, seeking”. –jñā here should be understood as a transliteratory error, although classical Sanskrit has rasajñā, “having a taste for”, and suyajñā, “sacrificing well”. The pronounciation of – (n-dot) and –jñā is practically identical.
— i. “Nothing is clearly understood”: na abhisamaya; the original has a slight error. “Nothing to be attained” is a stock phrase of zen.

— In line 9. philosophy and meditative practice merge. It is furthermore a rephrasing of the abhidharmic teaching on the senses. It describes the senses, e.g. the eye, as a/ the physical organ, b/ as a faculty, i.e. its functioning, and c/ the field in which it is operative.
The earliest strand of Buddhism says of the senses and all that belongs to materiality and mentality: “all this is not me, myself (na me so atta)”. The later strands say: they are empty (sunya), there is emptiness (sunyatā). The Perfection of Wisdom-collection to which the Heart Sūtra belongs does not yet say that emptiness of substance equals illusoriness, though this particular Chinese manuscript leans very much towards it.

Line 11.: — Vihāratya: is to be dwelt in.
Varano from varana: choosing: he chooses / the chooser.

Line 14.: — Part of line 14. plus the first 2 words of line 15, delineated by | |, occur in a different manuscript that bears both similarities and differences. It has been translated by a Pali class of Taiwan University as: citta-avarana-na-astitvat a-trastah viparyāsa-atikrantah nisthā-nirvāna-praptah. It is rendered as: “Because of non-existence of the hindrances of the mind, he is not frightened, he has crossed over distortions, at the end he will attain Nirvana.”
Both a Sino-Korean recitation book on the 1000-armed Avalokiteshvara and the Lotus Sūtra have the compound viparyāsa-tikranta, not viparyāsātikranta. I.e. there is no negation here.

Line 15.: — It may well be that the last part of this line: tya dhā vyāva sthitah is a distortion that occurred as a result of initial rendering of Sanskrit into Chinese and retranslation into Sanskrit. Should we try to understand the line as it stands, then tya should be tyad, indeed; dhā should be understood as “holding (in place)”; and vyāva should be understood as in line 3.

Line 19.b. : — asamasama. In Classical Sanskrit sama has a number of renderings, among others “homogeneous”. Hence asamasama is translated as “on all levels”, ignoring the possibility that the initial “a” could be a negative.

Line 20.: — prasa should be prāsa: casting, throwing. Amithyātvat ought to be understood in the line of the Cl. Sanskrit mithyātva: falsety, unreality.

Line 19 – 21.: — mantrah is rendered as “utterance” since a mantra is not in all instances a spell or a short saying without meaning; in fact, it is never without meaning.

gate in the final line is the passive form as in “is done”, “is seen”, in this case “is gone”. The popular interpretation “let’s go together” cannot hold. What is given here is a salute to Avalokiteshvara, he has gone to the other shore (enlightenment).