with the Standless Gathas and Explanation of
Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua

Contemplate Own Being Bodhisattva



      Sutras have a general and a specific name. The general name is, simply, “Sutra”. The specific name is that which distinguishes one sutra from another. PRAJNA PARAMITA HEART is the specific name of this Sutra; Prajna Paramita is dharma; Heart is analogy; and Sutra is this Sutra. The PRAJNA PARAMITA HEART SUTRA is the heart inside the heart. In the Prajna division no other sutra has this name. In the last lecture I explained this PRAJNA PARAMITA HEART with a gatha of eight verses. Today the word SUTRA will be completely explained.

      What is a “sutra”? Sutra is constantly unchanging dharma. One word cannot be lost, nor can one word be added, and therefore it is Dharma, which is constant. Sutra is also defined as path, the path necessarily passed through in cultivation. If you wish to cultivate, you must move along this path; if you don’t want to cultivate, it is not necessary to follow the path. Why? Because you do not cultivate. But if you wish to cultivate, sutra is the path on which you must go. If it isn’t taken, the path will become wild and overgrown. What is meant by “overgrown”? When people don’t move on the path, then it won’t become overgrown, but every day will become smoother and brighter. Again, what is meant by “overgrown”? Originally you were able to recite this Sutra without referring to the text, but three or five months pass; you don’t read it, and forget it. This forgetting is just the path becoming overgrown.

Of what benefit is reciting sutras?

      Reciting sutras doesn’t yield any benefit. You waste a lot of time and use a lot of energy to read a sutra. For instance, what is gained by reciting the HEART SUTRA in front of the Buddha?  You read it from beginning to end, waste energy, spirit, and time, but don't see any return from it, Ahhh, cultivators, don't be so stupid. Those benefits, which you can see, are not real; all appearances are false and empty. If you grasp at a form, that which you can see, then it is not a benefit. Therefore (I say) reading sutras doesn't have any benefits.

      Don't search for benefits. Recite the sutra once, and your self-nature undergoes one cleaning. When you read the HEART SUTRA once, you have a feeling that you understand a little of the meaning of the Sutra; read it twice, three times and each time understand a little more. Reciting sutras helps the wisdom in your self-nature to grow. How much?  You can't see it; nevertheless, you can have some kind of feeling about it. So it is not possible to speak about, the benefits of reciting sutras.

      Moreover, each time you recite the Sutra, your afflictions are decreased. You shouldn't get upset during recitation by thinking, "Oh! You read it wrong. You read it too fast; I can't keep up with you. You read too slow, and I have to stand around waiting for you. The sounds you make when you read are really unpleasant; I don't like to listen to it..." No. Don't waste your effort in these directions. When reciting sutras or mantras, everyone should chant together. It is not necessary for everyone to be able to read the sutra, but able to read it or not, everyone should recite along together? This "everyone practicing together" isn't everyone practicing together, you looking for my faults, me looking for your faults.  If there are really faults, everyone should find them.  If you don't find those faults yourself because they are too great, then your cultivation will not be attuned to response.

      Therefore reciting sutras is a great help to the self-nature in opening wisdom. Reading the DIAMOND SUTRA opens wisdom; reading the HEART SUTRA opens even more wisdom. Say that there aren't any good points to reciting sutras, yet the good points are the very greatest. It's just that you don't see them. You don't see them?  Then they are truly good points.  Anything that you can see is just the skin.

      Recitation is the first meaning; the term sutra still has four meanings:

a. stringing together;
b. attracting;
c. permanence;
d. method.

      "Stringing together" represents connecting all the meanings, which are spoken to make a sutra, like using a piece of thread to string them together.

      "Attracting" is to take advantage of the opportunities for the transformation of sentient beings. This sutra can respond to the causal opportunities of all sentient beings, and give them their medicine to cure their respective diseases. What is meant by "attracting"? A strong magnet can attract iron from a great distance. A sutra is like a magnet; it draws in all sentient beings. We sentient beings are like iron, hard and stubborn, with large tempers and many faults. But as soon as we are pulled into the magnet, we begin to be slowly softened so that our faults fall away. This is the meaning of "attracting".

     “Performance” refers to the eternally unchanging,--without beginning and end. In ancient times and in the present, living beings cultivate according to this sutra.

      "Method" is the method used in cultivation, the path followed in cultivation. In the past, present, and future, the three periods of time, one cultivates according to this Dharma. What is commonly honored in the three periods of time is called “method”. Not changing in the past and present is called "permanence".

      Sutra also has the meaning of a marking-line. In ancient times in China, carpenters used a tool called the "ink cup and line”. This kind of marking-line consisted of a string-inked black.  When the carpenters wanted to be sure that their construction was straight and true, they would stretch the string out, pull it back and snap it to make a straight black guideline. So sutra also has this meaning of marking-line.

      To sum it all up, a sutra is just a rule. To recite sutras is to follow the rules. If you don't recite sutras then you don't follow the rules.  Since you now are studying Prajna, you certainly want to respect the rules of Prajna. If you respect the rules of Prajna, you will certainly open your wisdom. These are the meanings of "sutra".


      I have spoken about the Sutra title in general, and now I will speak about the translator. For everything that we understand of this Sutra we should give great thanks to the translator. If the translator had never existed, then we would not have been able to see this Sutra or even hear its name. If this were the case, how could we cultivate in accord with the methods of this Sutra? It would not be possible to find this path of cultivation. Therefore, we should thank the person who translated this Sutra, since from that time until the present moment, every generation has benefited from his compassionate teaching and transformation. It follows that the merit derived from translating sutras is inconceivable.

      Who translated this PRAJNA PARAMITA HEART SUTRA?


T’ang refers to the T'ang Dynasty in China.

      Tripitaka. The Tripitaka or Three Storehouses is composed of the sutras, vinaya, and sastras. Sutras teach samadhi; the vinaya contains the precepts and the sastras are discussions of the doctrine of the Way.

(Dharma) Master has two meanings: it is both to take the Dharma as master and also to use the Dharma to teach others. One who takes the Buddhadharma as one’s master is called Dharma Master, and one who uses the Buddhadharma to teach and transform living beings is also called Dharma Master. This Dharma Master, Hsuan Chuang, took the Dharma as his master, and also used Dharma to transform sentient beings; he perfected both of these, so either way you use the term Dharma Master, it applies to him.

      Dharma Master Hsuan Chuang's roots were especially deep, thick, and wonderful. He existed in an inconceivable state. From that time till now he is Buddhism's greatest Dharma Master. One might ask, "How can you say that he is the greatest?" When he went to India to get sutras, the vast transportation network of buses, planes, boats, and trains did not exist...There was nothing like it at all.  What did he use for transportation? A horse. He used a horse to go from China through Siberia to India. This kind of journey is extremely long and involves much suffering, for there had been no others who had made this kind of trip. Even though there were no mountains where he lived, T'ang Master Hsuan Chuang, before he left to get the sutras, practiced running and mountain climbing every day. What did he do? He piled up his chairs and tables, piled them all up and jumped from one to the next, from table to chair back and forth, and thus was able to practice the work of mountain climbing. Then he traveled from China to Siberia and on through the snowy South Central Mountains to India. Because he had practiced at home before undertaking this extremely long journey, he finally attained his aim in India. He lived there for fourteen years and collected many sutras, which he carried back to China.

When he returned from India, he received an imperial edict to translate the sutras from their original Indian language into Chinese" Now there are several Upasakas here who know Chinese, English, Sanskrit, German, and several other languages. If they are able to translate the sutras into the languages of the West, the merit they will derive will be measureless, for it will give benefit not only to their own lives, but will be cause for the gratitude of generations of people in the West. Everyone can be included in this work of translation; nobody should fall behind in learning Chinese. You Westerners should have an offering for the people of the West.

Now, it can be said that this world has gone bad. Only if people understand the Buddhadharma can the evil kalpa be turned back. If people don’t understand the Buddhadharma, then I am afraid this world will arrive at its time of destruction. Like the Protestants talking about the Judgement Day: this Judgement Day won’t be very far off. However, if the Buddhadharma is translated into English, if everyone understand the Buddhadharma, if everyone knows not to be lazy, and if people go forward with open hearts to cultivate the Way, the Judgement Day will be very far away in the doesn’t know how many great kalpas.

      Basically, there isn't any "end of days". Why? Because this turning of the great Dharma wheel of the Buddhadharma will even pull in the sun, which will be unable to set on a Judgement Day...There won't be any ending day. All such matters are living, not fixed, certain, and dead. Don't think that what is called the final day is the final day, for then in fact there will be a final day. Now, is it possible that there will be, or will not be, a final day?  If everyone studies the Buddhadharma, then the day of destruction won't come, If people don't study the Buddhadharma, then it will come.  It is all very alive.  Do not see it as fixed and dead.

      For example, from time to time people have spread the rumor that San Francisco was going to have an earthquake and move into the sea. For several years people have been talking about the dangers of earthquakes in San Francisco, and a lot of wealthy people moved away, many people with money who were afraid of dying went away. They were afraid that San Francisco would move into the sea. I spoke about this last year too, and at that time a disciple in San Francisco sent a disciple in Seattle a letter saying that I couldn't go to Seattle because if I did, San Francisco would fall into the sea. So I couldn't buy a plane ticket, and even though they were going to give me a plane ticket, I couldn't go. At that time I told everyone, "If you truly study the Buddhadharma, then San Francisco won't be allowed to move, because I haven't lived here long enough. Why die". I speak like that? Well, this yea): I said to everyone, "Relax. All you have to do is recite the Surangama Mantra with a sincere heart, and with a sincere heart study the Buddhadharma, and I will guarantee that San Francisco will not move..." I said this. Until now, why has San Francisco not moved?  Because there are some people who have changed a little.  Everybody recites the Surangama Mantra and studies the Buddhadharma with a very sincere heart.  So the gods, dragons, and the eight divisions (of ghosts and spirits) are here to protect our Bodhimandala and allow no disruptions to spring up. Here again the meaning is the same as that of the Judgement Day. If It is possible for Judgement Day not to be Judgement Day, how much the more that even though San Francisco wants to move, it won’t! Just like us: we haven’t found a suitable place to move, so we haven’t moved. San Francisco, too, can’t find a suitable place. It has already found such a good place that it isn’t moving. San Francisco hasn’t found another place to rent.


Contemplate Own Being.  You laugh.  Are you contemplating your own being?  If you are, then you are allowed to laugh.  If you are not contemplating own being, then you can't laugh.  Contemplate Own Being Bodhisattva.  Own being: if one is free and at ease, everything is very happy, without obstacle or worry. To be without impeding obstructions is just contemplating own being.  Returning the light to shine within is contemplating own being.  If there are obstacles, then one is not contemplating own being.  If the light is not turned to contemplate inwardly, then one is not contemplating own being.

      How is the light turned to shine inwardly? Regardless of what the situation is, examine yourself. If someone has wronged you, you should think to yourself, "Oh, basically I was wrong." This is called turning the light to shine inwardly.

      "If people don't act right toward me, I don't look to see whether I'm right myself, I just smash them right away, smash their heads in so the blood flows."  You have not won a victory, but only shown your lack of principle and wisdom.  To turn the light to illumine within is to have principle and wisdom.

Therefore the gatha says:

Returning the light shining within, contemplate own being.  You should turn the light inward to contemplate whether you are free and at ease or not.

      Do you have free and easy own-being or not? I will explain (the Chinese for) it, (tzu tsai) character by character. This tzu is oneself; the tsai is where one is. I’ll state it word for word. Are you right here or not? This means, do you produce false thinking or not? If you are producing false thinking, then you are here. You are right here. It is very simple. Return the light shining inwardly is just seeing whether or not you have false thinking. If you have false thinking then you don’t have own-being; if you do not have false thinking, then you are free and at ease in own-being. Oh, this is so wonderful! This principle has not been badly explained at all!

The enlightenment of all sentience, such is sattva, What is a Bodhisattva? A bodhisattva is one who wants to enlighten those with sentience. The Chinese word is chiao, to enlighten people, to make them understand. It is not the chiao, which means to stir up trouble. Add a "hand radical" to chiao, and it turns into a lot of trouble: what is good, I'll make bad for you. This "stirring up trouble chiao" is not to enlighten sentient beings, but to cause them to be stupid.  Here, chiao means to cause all sentient beings to understand.

What is sentience?  Be careful not to misunderstand the text here by hastily assuming that where it talks about sentience, it is talking about emotional love. No, to enlighten sentience is to empty your emotional love.  Empty your love-view.  This is being a Bodhisattva.  So the gatha says: Thus, thus, unmoving--heart, the superior one at peace.  Thus, thus, unmoving is no dharma that is not thus.  All dharma is thus dharma, and all affliction and trouble do not exist.  Being unmoved is having samadhi power.  Heart, superior one at peace. Doesn't the DHARMA FLOWER SUTRA say, "His heart is at peace"?  This "at peace" is a state of being very happy, of having great tranquillity.

Final understanding, eternally bright, host and master.  You should have the final understanding of the eternally bright prajna wisdom. If you don't understand, then you are not bright; not bright, then you don't understand.  Therefore you should understand and understand even more, be bright and be bright even more. Complete understanding, illumining brilliance, illumining brilliance completing understanding—that is to understand."

      What is very clear? Very clear is not being all confused, not being stupid. If you understand that to do such and such a thing is wrong, and you still go ahead and do it, that is piling up stupidity on top of stupidity. Doubly stupid. It is because you are not equal to being host. Being host and master is being able to be in control.

      "I am master; I am host. I tell everyone else to do anything I think they should be doing. I am not controlled by other people. I control others. I won’t do anything. I will just tell people to help me do my work and won’t help them do theirs.” No, host and master is not like this. Host and master is a state of not being confused, not doing any confused things. To be in control at all times is to have genuine wisdom. Thus, you are not prejudiced and don’t do things based on deviant knowledge and deviant views. You do not take drugs, or do anything improper or disruptive. If you act improperly, then you get a chance to take a look at stupidity. I speak Chinese and yet cause all these people who do not understand to enjoy it. This is a little bit interesting.

      Six divine penetrations, common coursing leisure. If you can be in control, you will naturally have the six powers of spiritual penetration. These six powers are:

a. penetration of the heavenly eye;
           b. penetration of the heavenly ear;
     c. penetration of past lives;
     d. penetration of the minds of others;
     e. penetration of spiritual fulfillment;
     f. penetration of the extinction of outflows.

If you do not have these six spiritual penetrations, it is because you are not in control, because you are turned by all the external states you meet.  You are turned by people, and have no influence to affect the states that come to you.  When you are able to turn the states,

then no matter what comes, you are not moved. Don't be bold and say that you (already) know, for not to be moved means that even in a dream you are not turned by states of consciousness. This is the host and master. If you are not turned, if you have real wisdom and the six powers of spiritual penetration, then you have a very ordinary talent going for you...nothing spectacular, just a very ordinary matter.

The winds and rains of the eight directions no more cause alarm.  The wind and rain of the eight directions in the last two lines of a famous poem by Su Tung P'o: "The eight winds blow, upright I sit in a purple-gold lotus." Su Tung P'o sent his poem to the Great Master Fo Yin who in reply criticized him saying, "fart, fart".  As soon as Su Tung P'o saw these words, he could not put them down, and went off to find the Great Master Fo Yin to chastise him.  He wanted to tell the Master that he had written an enlightened poem:

I bow to the god among gods;
His hair-light illumines the world.
Unmoved when the eight winds blow,
Upright I sit in a purple-gold lotus.

How could he possibly reply "fart, fart"?

      When the Great Master Fo Yin criticized him, not only did Su Tung P’o fart, but he blazed, and wanted to scorch Fo Yin to death. So he ran from south of the Yangtze River to north of the Yangtze to scold  this Dharma Master Fo Yin. When he arrived he burst into the Master’s quarters without ceremony. “Oh, how can you possibly scold a Bodhisattva like that, and slander him like that saying, fart, fart?”

"Sit quietly then", Fo Yin the Great Master said, "Who was I slandering?  You said that you were unmoved by the winds of the eight directions, but just let go two small farts and you're blown all the way from south of the Yangtze to north of the Yangtze.  You still say that the winds of the eight directions don't move you?  Don't say eight winds, it is but my two farts that have bounced you all the way up here."

As soon as Su Tung P'o had the thought, "That's right, I am unmoved by the blowing of the eight winds", only two words have been enough to make him burn with anger.  Thereupon, he kowtowed, bowed his heart, sought repentance, and went back home.  This explains "unmoved when the eight winds blow".

      What are the winds of the eight directions?

1)    Praise. For example, “Oh, Upasaka, you are a really good man; you really understand the Buddhadharma, and your wisdom is really bright. Furthermore, your genuine is without limit and your eloquence without obstruction.”

2) Ridicule.   For example,  "Now it is the scientific age, and you study Buddhism.  Why do you study that old superstitious rubbish?"  Truly ridiculous ridicule, and yet you think, "They arc right.  How can I study Buddhism now in the scientific age?  Cause and effect, no me and no you, how can such metaphysical theories be worth anything in the scientific age?  I am me and people are people."  You become confused and are moved by this wind blowing.

3) Suffering.   The suffering wind causes you to suffer.  To do ascetic practices ceaselessly and be unmoved is an example of not being moved by the wind of suffering.

4) Happiness.   To eat well, to wear good clothes, have a good place to live, to be especially happy all day long, thinking, "this certainly is good", is to be moved by this wind.

5) Benefit.   All I do is go to a lot of trouble cultivating.  I don't even have any false thinking; as a consequence people come to me and make an offering of a million dollars to build a temple, and they are very, very happy. This is to be moved the wind of benefit. (that was yesterday)

      6) Destruction. (maybe tomorrow) There are people who come and destroy.  They say, "this monk is not a good monk.  Don't believe him.  He will do anything. Believe me instead."

7) Gain.

8) Loss.

These eight are the winds.  The eight winds blow and I don't move. The winds and rains of the eight directions no more cause alarm. This means the eight winds blow, and I don’t move.

Roll it up, it secretly hides away. When you close this Sutra, you should store it in a good place, not a disrespectful place.  You should respect it.

Let it go, it fills the whole universe. When you open it up, this Prajna wisdom fills up the six-fold union. The six uniteds are the four directions plus up and down and represent the universe.  This prajna dharma-door is very wonderful.

1. (constant, permanent, eternal).

2. The two words are related graphically and have the same sound. Chinese definitions are frequently plays on words and do not necessarily indicate full equivalence of the word and its definition.

3. At the Sino-American Buddhist Association, sutras are sometimes read in Chinese with romanization provided for those who cannot read the original text.

4. (Chinese)


6. a. originally referred to stringing pieces of money together
      through holes in their centers.

   b. means to draw in and unite, therefore "attract".

   c. see note #l.

      Vol.  1,
Series 2, Issue #8, (November, 1970), pg. 13.

7. (lit. “opportunity-conditions”).

8. is literally a marking line but also refers to rules for

9. (Chinese)

10. The compound is generally used to refer to the rules of proper,
    accepted behavior; however, similar to above, its literal
    meaning is compass and T-square.

11. also pronounced Hsuan Tsang.

12. Tripitaka is a Sanskrit, word meaning three baskets. The
translated it which means three storehouses. Within
    them are contained the entire written teaching of Buddhism.
The title Tripitaka Master should be applied only to one who
    has mastered the teachings of all three divisions.

13. The "Dharma" has been omitted in the English translation of his

14. i.e. Himalayas.

15. Most Buddhist sutras were written down in a language fairly
    similar to Sanskrit which belongs to the family of Indian
    prakritic languages.

16. Our world is now in a time of decline: mankind is progressing
    losing its vision of the light of the Dharma and is ever
    plunging itself deeper into the misery and despair of war and
    destruction. (Judgement Day is a rendering of the Chinese)

17. Contemplate Own Being  Bodhisattva is Avalokitesvara, the
    Bodhisattva of Compassion, and the disciple and future
    successor of Amitabha Buddha in the Pure Land of the West.
    Usually, he is referred to in Chinese as the Bodhisattva Who
    Contemplates the rounds of the World.
    "Contemplate Own Being" more explicitly refers to the
    meditational process itself.  Through looking inward into one's
    own heart, one is enlightened to all existence. Everything is
    created from the heart.
    can be explained as, "to contemplate".  The viewing is inward
    as opposed to, "view" or "seeing", which is of outward
    appearances. is impossible to translate into English with a
    single equivalent. It  means “own-being” or the “I am here”
    beneath the false “I”, an existence truly free and easy without
    obstruction. In order to make the explanation in the text more
    readable, no one standard term has been used in the
    There is little scholarly agreement over the meaning of the
    Sanskrit “Avalokitesvara”. Roughly “Avalokita”-means the act of
    looking. “Isvara” means lord or master from the root “is”-to
    own or be master of. Later Isvara became one of the names of
    Sakra, Lord of the Heaven of the Thirty-three (trayastrimsa).

18. For further comments on see note #17, in the first HEART SUTRA
    Lecture, V.B.S., Vol. I, Series 2, Issue #6, (November, 1970),

19. Sentience generally refers to all living beings as opposed to
    the material world. As it says in the DIAMOND SUTRA:
        “The Lord said: Here, Subhuti, someone who has set out in the
     vehicle of a Bodhisattva should produce a thought in this
     manner: ‘As many beings as there are in the universe of
     beings, comprehend under the term “beings”-egg-born, born from
     the womb, moisture-born, or miraculously born; with or without
     form; with perception, without perception, and with neither
     perception nor non-perception,--as far as any conceivable form
     of beings is conceived: all these I must lead to Nirvana, into
     that Realm of Nirvana which leaves nothing behind. And yet,
     although innumerable beings have thus been led to Nirvana, no
     being at all has been led to Nirvana.’ And why? If in a
     Bodhisattva the notion of a “being” should take place, he
     could not be called a “Bodhi-being”. And why? He is not to be
     called a Bodhi-being, in whom the notion of a self or of a
being should take place, or the notion of a living soul, or of
     a person.” (IN Edward Conze, Buddhist Wisdom Books, George
     Allen and Unwin, Ltd., London, 1958, p. 25.) which leaves
     nothing behind.
The nature of the Bodhisattva will become clearer as we delve
     deeper into the HEART SUTRA.

20. “Suchness unmoving” is the true heart. Nowhere does it come;
        nowhere does it not come. Nowhere does it go; nowhere does it
    not go. So it is.

21. The heart is the king who directs all, yet himself remains at
    rest, blissfully at peace. The heart is the wise and venerable
    old man, the “boss”.


23. The entire passage is a good illustration of the difficulties
        encountered in translation such as this. There are so many
    meanings it would be hard even to list them at all.

24. The powers of spiritual penetration are often also translated as “psychic powers” or “superknowledges”. The YING-LO SUTRA says:
“Spiritual is the heart of heaven; penetration is called the wisdom nature.”
a. divya caksus
b. divya-srota-jnana
c. purva-nivasanusmrti-jnana
d. para-citta-jnana
e. rddi-vidhi-jnan
f. asrava-ksaya-jnana

All the gods of the Triple World have to some degree the first five. Ghosts and spirits also have some small degree of penetration. And those who cultivate the “outside ways” (that is, non-Buddhist religions) can at the most only attain the first five. Only upon giving proof to the fruit of enlightenment does one achieve the sixth. On the Arhat level, these penetrations are still small; if an Arhat wants to use one of them he must make a point of stilling himself, sitting quietly for a while. Only then can find out what he wishes measure or limit. This is the inconceivably wonderful fruit of the Mahayana.

25. The Chinese have two common compounds equivalent to the English
    “ordinary”: which literally means “penetrating universally”
    and which literally is “level-eternal”.

26. a famous Buddhist poet of Sung Dynasty China.

27. (Chinese)

28. (Chinese)

29. (Chinese)

30. (Chinese)

31. The “it” here and in the gatha does not only refer to the text
    of the sutra; “it” is also the self-nature store.

32. What is translated “universe” in the gatha, is also this six-
    fold union.

The Sino-American Buddhist Association will officially move to its new quarters on February 1st, 1971.