Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Straight From the Heart (Sutra)

One of the most beloved figures in Buddhist cosmology is the bodhisattva of compassion Avalokiteśvara, who hears and responds to the cries of all sentient beings. In some countries and cultures s/he is considered to be male, and in others, female.  In China she is the goddess Kuan Yin (Guanyin; in Japanese, Kannon).  In Tibetan Buddhism, each Dalai Lama is his reincarnation.

The Heart Sutra may be the best-known and most popular of the Buddhist sutras. It describes the bodhisattva of compassion's liberating insight gained while engaged in deep meditation.

Statue of Kannon at Daien-in Temple, Japan

Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva … clearly saw that … form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form; form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form; sensation, perception, mental reaction, consciousness are also like this. … all things are essentially empty - not born, not destroyed ... Therefore in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, perception, mental reaction, consciousness; no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind, no color, sound, smell, taste, touch, object of thought; ... no ignorance and also no ending of ignorance, ... no old age and death, and also no ending of old age and death; no anguish, cause of anguish, cessation, path; no wisdom and no attainment. Since there is nothing to attain, the Bodhisattva lives by [the perfection of wisdom], with no hindrance in the mind; no hindrance and therefore no fear; far beyond delusive thinking, right here is Nirvana.

When you refer to yourself, where do you instinctively point - to your heart or to your head?

Straight from the heart: we know what this means without thinking.

Kind words spoken - direct, sincere, unrehearsed.

A compassionate act - complete before the brain has a chance to modify or muddle.

Straight from the heart: without fear, far beyond delusive thinking.

Right here is Nirvana.

The excerpt is from Robert Aitken's translation of the Heart Sutra.
The top photo is the rather sad looking stump of a sidewalk tree in North Vancouver.


  1. I appreciate your offering David. A perfect message. Love the Bryan Adams - what is about music that instantly opens the heart? Such a nice pairing with your words.

  2. Thanks, Susan! Music seems to be one of those wonderful mysteries. I love the expressions on the faces in the audience as they sing along.

  3. beautiful post, David. today my heart is sorely tested by the news coming from Penn State. I can only find compassion for the children who were to the pedophile, and his enablers, I am shaking with rage.

    What is one to do with such feelings?

  4. Thanks, Tara. That's a really tough question. The pat answers are all so easy to say - just being with the anger, practising lovingkindness meditation toward the victims, their families, the perp, his enablers, yourself, doing some physical activity, doing some charity work etc. I think these work, but I can't really say for sure. Probably better than stewing, shutting off, quitting practice or getting drunk..... Best wishes!

  5. A heart committed to sincerity - That seems like the answer. If we all responded to the world with our true, compassionate, inner selves - What harms the world would cease to have power.

    Thank you David for sharing these beautiful thoughts.

  6. I totally agree. Thanks, Bea for your kind words.

  7. Lately, I have been dealing with a difficult personal situation. My mind had elaborated various scenaris, none of which materialized. Instead, the heart did its work. Tears came, and a different resolution arose, that 'I' had not planned for.

  8. Marguerite, I'm glad that it worked out. It's interesting how the brain doesn't trust the heart.


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