THE PRAJNA PARAMITA HEART SUTRA
With the Standless Gathas and Explanation of
Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
by Upasaka I Kuo Jung
BECAUSE THER IS NOWHERE TO ATTAIN, BY FOLLOWING PRAJNA PARAMITA, THE HEART OF THE BODHISATTVA HAS NO IMPEDING OBSTRUCTION.
THERE IS NO CULTIVATION, VERIFICATION, OR ATTAINMENT.
AND THE CONDITIONED HAVE THEIR TIME OF EXTINCTION.
IN ENLIGHTENING TO THIS TRUTH
TO PRAJNA TO EVEN WITH THE OTHER SHORE.
HEART WITHOUT IMPEDING OBSTRUCTION LEAVES RETRIBUTION'S BLOCKING.
TOTALLY, TRULY EMPTY PUTS AN END TO WORDS AND THOUGHT.
I SEND THESE WORDS TO THOSE OF FUTURE WORTH, "SEEK IT IN YOURSELF.
PILED ON TOP OF HEAD IS STUPIDITY'S HEIGHT."
the Sutra says NO KNOWING AND NO ATTAINING. NO
KNOWING refers to not having the 'store teaching' Bodhisattva's
wisdom paramita of the six phenomenal paramitas. NO
ATTAINING means not attaining the nirvana with residue of the two
THERE IS NOWHERE TO ATTAIN. "Nowhere to
attain" is the principle and tendency of this Sutra. The beneficial
function of 'the Prajna Paramita Sutra is .the removal and destruction
of your attachments, so: that your heart has no attachment to verifying
the fruit. In verifying you should not verify; in not verifying you
should verify. What is called 'in verifying, not verify'? Although you
verify the attainment of the fruit, you do not want to be attached to
its attainment. This is genuinely attaining ultimate nirvana. Therefore,
'having nowhere to attain' is this Sutra's principle and tendency.
BY FOLLOWING PRAJNA PARAMITA. THE HEART OF THE BODHISATTVA...
relies on the deep wisdom of the prajna paramita Dharma to
cultivate. What is attained by cultivating? It is the heart, which HAS
NO IMPEDING OBSTRUCTION. We cannot attain 'own
being' because we have impeding obstructions. If you do not have any
impeding obstructions, you can attain 'own being'. HAS NO IMPEDING
OBSTRUCTION means removing and destroying the retribution's
obstacles. There are three obstacles, which are removed and destroyed
through the use of NOWHERE TO ATTAIN. This is a
kind of power which the Sutra has. NOWHERE TO ATTAIN
is the Sutra's principle and tendency, and removing and destroying the
three obstacles is the Sutra's beneficial function.
THERE IS NOWHERE TO ATTAIN, BY
FOLLOWING PRAJNA PARAMITA, the Dharma door of
profound prajna the Bodhisattva, therefore, obtains the removal
and destruction of retribution's obstacles.
HEART...HAS NO IMPEDING OBSTRUCTION refers
to retribution's obstacles. The three obstacles are the retribution
obstacle the karma obstacle, and the affliction obstacle, if you have
impeding obstructions then you cannot destroy retribution's obstacles.
What is meant by NO IMPEDING OBSTRUCTIONS? If you
want to attain the emptiness of both people and dharmas, verify this
state in which THE HEART...HAS NO IMPEDING
IS NO CULTIVATION, VERIFICATION, OR ATTAINMENT.
this level, there is no cultivation. Why? Because you have finished
cultivating, there is nothing to verify. Why? Because you have already
there was to be done is already finished;
undergo no further existence."
that you were supposed to do is finished. Because the big business is
all over, the gatha says, 'NO VERIFICATION OR ATTAINMENT.' No
cultivation and no verification means that although one is unable to
have a place of attainment, there is nowhere to attain. If you were to
have a place of attainment, then you would have a place of attachment.
Therefore, below the gatha says:
AND THE CONDITIONED HAVE THEIR TIME OF EXTINCTION.
If you are attached to appearances of conditioned dharmas, there is a time of extinction. You cannot eternally be without a time of extinction. If you do not want there to be extinction, there must be NO CULTIVATION, VERIFICATION OR ATTAINMENT. At the time when you have nothing at all which is attained, there are no impeding obstructions.
Mind karma comes from greed, hatred, and delusion.
BODHISATTVAS IN ENLIGHTENING TO THIS TRUTH, TRUST TO PRAJNA TO EVEN WITH THE OTHER SHORE.
BODHISATTVAS. What is meant by ‘Bodhisattva’? 'Bodhi' is translated 'enlightenment', and 'sattva', 'sentient being'. So the Bodhisattva causes all beings to be enlightened. What are sentient beings? All those who have blood and breath are called sentient beings. Sentient beings refers not only to people, but also to all creatures with a life-span. Those without life are called non-sentient beings. 'Enlighten sentient beings' is to cause all sentient beings to attain to an enlightenment, which is the same as that, which he himself has attained. Not only can he recite the Surangama mantra himself, but he also wants other people to be able to recite it. This is not to say, "Only I can recite it, and I do not like other people to be able to recite it, because this demonstrates that I am not the same as other people." It is not like this. If you get some benefit, then you like other people to get it too. I listen to Sutras myself and derive the benefits of listening to Sutras. Because I understand the principles of being a person and of studying Buddhadharma, I also urge my relatives and friends all to come and listen to the Buddhadharma, to study the Buddhadharma, so all obtain equal benefit. This is what is called 'enlightening sentient beings'.
is another way to speak about it. That is, the Bodhisattva is an
enlightened one among sentient beings. Originally what is a Bodhisattva?
He is just a living being with sentience; nonetheless, he has attained
enlightenment. He is an enlightened one among living beings, because he
is one who has attained enlightenment from among living beings. Now he
also wants to enlighten all sentient beings. This is the meaning of
to Bodhisattvas, there are Bodhisattvas of the connecting 'teaching and
those of the special teaching. Each of the four teachings—store,
connecting, special and perfect--has its own type of Bodhisattva. If the
measure of your heart is a little bigger, then you are a Bodhisattva of
the connecting teaching. If the measure of your heart has grown so that
you are like Samantabhadra Bodhisattva or Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva or
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva or Manjusri Bodhisattva you are a Bodhisattva of
the perfect teaching. If you are just a little short of perfect, then
you are a Bodhisattva of the special teaching. There are also ten
grounds of Bodhisattvahood: first ground Bodhisattva, second ground
Bodhisattva, third ground Bodhisattva, fourth ground Bodhisattva, fifth
ground Bodhisattva, up to tenth ground Bodhisattva. Among Bodhisattvas
there are myriad distinctions, which are like the various classes among
people. To sum it up, the Bodhisattva is enlightened to the
Way-principle of nowhere to attain, to the Dharma of the heart without
impeding obstructions, and therefore, understands this doctrine.
TO PRAJNA TO EVEN WITH THE OTHER SHORE
(relying upon) the deep prajna, they become even with the other
shore, equal to the other shore. Just this is paramita, arriving
at the other shore.
HEART WITHOUT IMPEDING OBSTRUCTIONS LEAVES RETRIBUTION'S BLOCKING.
your heart has no impeding obstructions, you have left the retribution
obstacle. What is the retribution obstacle? Our body. Why do we have
this body? We have it because of impeding obstructions. If there are no
impeding obstructions, "suffering and bliss are one thus."
There is no suffering and no bliss. "Birth and death are one
thus." There is no birth and no death. Birth is death, death is
birth. In the midst of birth and death, you do not move. In other words,
"compliance and opposition (going downstream and upstream) are one
thus." Going along with states, it is like this; going against
states is also like this.
along and going against are one thus;
sum it up, there is not anything at all which can move or shake this
HEART WITHOUT IMPEDING OBSTRUCTIONS.
is the heart immovable? Just because there are no impeding
obstructions'. You have your hang-ups; he has his obstructions. No
hang-ups is just no obstructions. 'Impeded' is just 'hung-up' right
here. In the midst of obstructing obstacles you are not hung up
anywhere. Since there fundamentally are no hang-ups, how can there be
any obstructions? Therefore, it is said, "No impediments and no
impeding obstruction is just the end of birth and death. So it is said,
"Birth and death are nirvana; affliction is bodhi." If you
meet with those of the two vehicles who have not understood this
doctrine, when you tell them that affliction is bodhi and birth
and death are nirvana, they will become very frightened and nervous and
run off saying, "I never heard this Dharma before. How is
affliction bodhi and birth and death nirvana? I do not believe
it." And not believing, they will want to leave.
Bodhisattva, on the other hand, is enlightened to affliction being bodhi
and birth and death being nirvana. All you have to do is turn your head
and body around, and that is it. As soon as you turn your body around,
then that is it!
do we not understand bodhi? Because we have turned our backs on
enlightenment and are together with the dust. If you can turn your back
on the dust, then you are together with enlightenment. This is being
without impeding obstructions. When your heart is without impeding
obstruction, in the midst of all states—birth and death, suffering and
happiness, compliance and opposition—you remain unmoved. Just this is
called NO IMPEDING OBSTRUCTIONS. At this time you are
apart from retribution's obstacles, which signifies being able to leave
the obstruction of your body.
are we unable to leave our bodies? Why do we see our bodies as so
important? All people seek for fame and profit. Day in and day out they
"scurry about like the restless waves." Why? It is all for the
sake of their bodies. They think of methods to be very fine slaves for
their bodies, to be very fine horses or cows. They do not want to offend
this body is so impolite to you. How? The better you are to it, the
worse it is to you. It is just as King Prasenajit said to the Buddha,
"World Honored One, in the past when I was a young child, my
complexion was soft and shining and when I reached my prime, my blood
and breath were full. Yet now as my years decline, I am oppressed by the
decay of old age and my countenance is wizened and worn. My spirits are
gloomy, my hair white and my face wrinkled.
Now I have not long to wait."
hair was white and his face had row after row of wrinkles, like waves on
the great sea. He did not have much time left and would be dead very
soon. All this is because of impeding obstructions. If you do not have
impeding obstructions, then you are not attached to this body which
comes as karmic retribution, a retribution obstacle. Because you have a
body, you have retribution obstacles. If you do not have any impeding
obstructions, then you do not have a self. If you do not have a self,
then there are no retribution obstacles. Therefore the gatha
HEART WITHOUT IMPEDING OBSTRUCTIONS LEAVES RETRIBUTION'S BLOCKING.
TOTALLY, TRULY EMPTY PUTS AN END TO WORDS AND THOUGHT.
Buddha nature, your self-nature, is the realization of the doctrine of
the actual appearance of emptiness. But since there is nothing to say
about your self-nature's original substance of true suchness, the gatha
says, PUTS AN END TO WORDS AND THOUGHT. There is nothing to say and no
thoughts to think.
I SEND THESE WORDS TO THOSE OF FUTURE WORTH: "SEEK IT IN YOURSELF."
now have some words for all the worthies who cultivate in the future,
"SEEK IT IN YOURSELF." If you wish to have nowhere to attain
and no impeding obstructions, you must seek it in yourself and not
outside. You need not go outside to look for it. This doctrine of NO
CULTIVATION, VERIFICATION, OR ATTAINMENT is to be sought in oneself. You
yourself must return the light to illumine inwardly. "SEEK IT IN
PILED ON TOP OF HEAD IS STUPIDITY'S HEIGHT."
you want to look outside for the Way, then you are really stupid.
That is like piling a head on top of your head. Is that not
really stupid? You should not pile head on top of head and look outside, but
should return the light to illumine inwardly. You should turn your head
and body around, then you will attain. If you cannot turn the body
around, then you will not attain.
IT HAS NO IMPEDING OBSTRUCTIONS, THERE IS NO FEAR, AND UPSIDE-DOWN DREAM
THINKING IS LEFT FAR AWAY.
one occasion Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua said: "Don't waste your
thoughts—let each be one of Bodhi."
IMPEDING OBSTRUCTIONS IS CALLED 'THE TRUE LETTING GO’.
THERE IS NO MORE FEAR, KARMIC OBSTACLES DEPART.
THE UPSIDE-DOWN LEFT FAR AWAY, THE MARKS OF PRODUCTION PERISH.
DREAM THOUGHTS, BOTH COARSE AND FINE, SUCH ARE DELUSION'S SANDS.
THE THREE OBSTACLES ARE DISSOLVED, THE THREE VIRTUES ARE PERFECTED.
SIX ROOTS' MUTUAL FUNCTION VERIFIES SIX PENETRATIONS.
CAPABLE OF THE WONDERFUL TRUTH, YOU PERSONALLY ENJOY ITS USE.
THOSE WHO KNOW EASILY ENLIGHTEN THE DARK AND DIFFICULT PATH.
other words if you do not have any impeding obstructions, then you will
have no fear. Fearless, you leave far away upside-down dream thinking.
Everything which is upside-down and all dream thinking both do
not exist. Your not having
fear is to have destroyed and gotten rid of your karma obstacles. Your
not having any upside-down dream thinking is to have destroyed and
removed your affliction obstacles.
no impeding obstructions is not at all easy. For instance, "I do
not think about anything at all. I only think about my father and
mother." Not bad; this
is the way of filial piety; nonetheless, it is also a kind of impeding
obstruction. Although it is a good impeding obstruction, it still is an
obstruction. Perhaps you say, "I have a friend whom I have not seen
in a long time. Although day in and day out I am always thinking about
him, I do not get to see him." This is also an impeding
obstruction. To sum it up, what you do not let go of is an impeding
obstruction. If you can let go of it, then it is no impeding
obstruction. So the gatha
says: NO IMPEDING OBSTRUCTION IS CALLED 'THE TRUE LETTING GO'.
this point in lecturing, I remember when I was in China, on Ling Yen
Mountain, Su Chou Province, where I met a monk who had genuinely let go
of everything. He practiced the investigation of dhyana
meditation and was called Ta Hsiu. Last year during the summer vacation,
I spoke about him once; however, there are a lot of people who did not
hear, so I will talk about him again. Perhaps there are not a lot of
people, but only one or two people who did not hear, so I will talk
about him for these one or two people. The many people can listen one
more time and remember a little more clearly.
speaking on Sutras you should not be afraid of talking a lot. For
instance when a certain person was lecturing on the Lotus Sutra
(Saddharmapundarikasutra) last night, he said that there were a
lot of people, who knew about Mahakasyapa, so he would not talk about
him. When you first give Sutra lectures, no matter whether people
understand or not, if you understand yourself, then you should speak. If
you do not understand, you should not say that a lot of people
understand. If you do not understand, then you should say that you do
not understand. You should not speak in such an unclear way saying,
"Everybody understands, so I do not want to talk about it."
When you first practice lecturing on Sutras you should 'put your foot
down on the actual ground'. It Saying one sentence should be like a
hundred pounds of rocks coming down and making a hole in the ground.
Whoever does not want to listen, cannot (fail to listen), "I am
going to put this one sentence in your heart, and your heart will have
no way not to accept it." So whether there are people who have
heard or who have not heard, you can always talk about it one more time.
To tame the monkey: have him swim in Vajra Bodhi Sea.
should not 'steal time off from work and scrimp on materials. For
instance, if you are building a house and should clearly use eight-inch
beams, you say, "Oh, it will be all right if I use four-inch beams;
not using big ones will be a little cheaper," this is what is
called "scrimping on materials."
time off from work." For instance, you are supposed to work for
eight hours and you only work for six. "Those two hours I will just
be all muddled and say that I worked eight." This is what is called
"stealing time off from work and scrimping on materials." In
lecturing on Sutras you should not be like this. You must actually
speak. Not only at the beginning should your Sutra lectures be like
this, but in the future, not paying any attention to whether people
understand or not, you should still lecture in this way. Do you
understand? Perhaps what I say is even clearer than your doctrine. I
will talk with all of you some more about what you should be like. You
should not only explain the doctrines about which I tell you to lecture.
Since Americans speak about the development of freedom, you can develop
your own freedom. Express
yourself according to your wisdom. Then there can be new and creative
is being like Dharma Master Tao Sheng. Most other people in lecturing
Sutras said that icchantikas have no Buddha nature and cannot
become Buddhas. But he declared," Icchantikas have the
Buddha nature too, and can become Buddhas! Is it not this way?"
Everybody was opposed, but the rocks nodded their heads in agreement.
This is what is meant by "noble Sheng spoke Dharma and the
insensate rocks nodded their heads. Why did they nod their heads?
Because he had brought forth something new.
You should not only follow my road. I am a genuinely democratic teacher. Was I not a democratic teacher, then this would not be allowed. You certainly would have to follow after me. "If you do not follow me, then you are on a confused road and are doing the greatest evil and in the future will go down to the hells." I am not like this. I am (for) the development of freedom. Because I have now come to America, there is the development of freedom. Everybody has their own wisdom. I cannot cover up your wisdom, as if putting it in a teacup and not letting it out. You see now that unless you lack wisdom and are incredibly stupid and have no new developments, then, having wisdom, just pay attention to letting the new developments develop. Therefore anyone is fine; Kuo Tsun is fine, Kuo Ning is fine, Kuo Ch'ien (fruit in front) is also fine, and Kuo Hou (fruit in back—no such person) is also fine, Kuo Hsiu (fruit cultivation) is also fine, Kuo not Hsiu (fruit no cultivation——no such person) is also fine. Whoever has development is all right. I am democratic.
Hsiu of Ling Yen Mountain exclusively cultivated dhyana
meditation and afterwards he truly let go of everything. What is the
meaning of letting go of everything? I'll tell you. He wrote a couplet,
which said, "There is no great and no small, no inside or
outside." You say, "What is this? No great, no small; no
inside or outside. What is this?" Then it says, "The self
cultivates, self ends, self takes care of oneself." I cultivate
myself, I end (understand) by myself, I take care of my own business.
business did he have to take care of? In a stone wall he made a hole
which was just big enough for one person to sit down in. Then he used
rocks to make a stone door, which also had iron hinges so that it could
be opened and closed. Then by himself he sat down inside, closed the
door and ended, "Self cultivate, self end, self take care of
oneself." He sat down inside, closed the door and perfected the
stillness, entered nirvana. Would you not say this is so simple? His was
true letting go. He had not accepted any disciples, so there were not a
lot of troublesome matters either. This is what is called NO IMPEDING
OBSTRUCTIONS. Having disciples is also having impeding
obstructions; it is having a lot of trouble. In the future I do not know
how much trouble there will be. But I do not pay any attention, because
trouble is also not trouble and impeding obstructions are also not
—To be continued—
1. tsung ch'u. See VBS #8, PP.7-8, AND P.14, NOTE 21.
2. See VBS #8, pp. 8-9
The Chinese first transliterated "Bodhisattva" as
The Chinese translation for "Bodhisattva" is
These four teachings are the classification of the Hsien Shou
Ch.: p'u hsien p'u sa;
kuan shih yin p'u
The Master said:
can become enlightened. Put down whatever it is that you can’t put
down—and put it down the hardest.”
9. See also VBS #8, pp. 7-8
is a translation of the Sanskrit paramita, one analysis of which
is ita “gone to” (root i go”) and param
“the further shore”, the final –a resulting from
grammatical agreement with the feminine noun prajna.
11. Kua ai (Skt. avarana from the root vr “cover” or “conceal”). Conze, (1958) op. cit., translates the Sanskrit as “thought-coverings”. “Impeding” (from the Latin “impedire”—to entangle or ensnare) is suggestive of the Chinese etymology.
Prasenajit, king of Kosala, was born on the same day as the
14. ling yen shan, su chou.
16. lit. lung t'ung, as in the expression
20. Although the Mahaparinirvanasutra stated that iccantikas do not possess the Buddha nature, Master Tao Sheng insisted that they did. Ostracized for his view, he went to live in the mountains and lectured to rocks, who bowed their heads in support of his contention. He was later justified when the second section of the Mahaparinirvanasutra was translated into Chinese. See Master Tao Sheng’s biography in kao seng chuan (T. 2059, p. 366b). The story is also recounted in VBS #19, p. 29 (“The Collected Lectures of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua on the Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma Jewel Sutra”).
22. tzu liao both "self-end" and "self-understand".
Criticize us and advise usBecause of the time and extensive labor involved in the construction of Gold Mountain Dhyana Monastery and other related activities, Vajra Bodhi Sea has fallen several issues behind. The editor and staff are now endeavoring to catch up, and will be publishing issues at more frequent intervals over the next few months. Readers will find, along with recent articles, material and news which was scheduled for earlier publication but which did not reach print because of unforeseen delays. The editor and staff sincerely apologize for the delays.