The Heart Sutra is so called because it is the pith, essence, essential heart-teaching of how things truly are. Simply attempting to understand it intellectually can make our minds boggle – and expand beyond what we might think possible. Yet the ‘heart’ aspect also brings out that it is with our hearts, with love, warmth and the whole of our being, that we can know reality – and that to know also means to love. Both the love and the clarity are essential and we’ll explore both aspects during the week.
“The Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra or Heart Sutra is the heart or essence of the Perfection of Wisdom … It represents, it constitutes the heart or the essence of the Prajnaparamita or the Perfection of Wisdom teaching, and it gives us in a concentrated, a highly condensed and concentrated form, the essential meaning of all the Perfection of Wisdom sutras. No wonder therefore … it is recited and chanted so often. If we really know this, if we really know the Heart Sutra, in a sense we know everything.”
Sangharakshita (1967) Lecture 73: The Heart Sutra.
We recite the Heart Sutra at the core of each puja and yet do we even begin to understand the depth of its meaning? The retreat will include: meditations leading us deeper into direct experience and towards the wisdom mind; talks and discussion groups to explore the Heart Sutra and what it might mean for us; some days of silence; and devotion, ritual and chanting.
We can only know the deeper meanings of this sutra by immersing ourselves in it and becoming receptive and open to the teaching. As a practice in heart-opening, we will learn to chant the Heart Sutra in the original language of Sanskrit. This is a centuries-old tradition, and a practice which happened on a daily basis in the early days of the Movement. Come and approach the heart of ourselves, and the heart of reality!
The content of this sutra – six great statements or six great thunderclaps which shatter and destroy knowledge and reveal true wisdom (prajna) – is available to us. Can we hear it? Can we allow ourselves to feel those six great thunderclaps throughout our being?