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Lions Roar : January 2013
CALLIGRAPHYBYBARBARABASH All dharmas are empty: no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind, no form... I WAS THUNDERSTRUCK the first time I encountered the words of the Heart Sutra. Somehow, no eyes, no ears, no nose made sense to me in a way I couldn’t explain, and I felt great relief. As a child I had always sus- pected that the world I was raised in didn’t hold up to scrutiny, and on hearing the Heart Sutra for the first time, my childhood confusion was suddenly acknowledged and addressed, even if I couldn’t explain how. It seemed intuitively to me that the sutra was affirming that the world was indeed not the way I had been taught it was. “No, it isn’t like that. It’s like this,” the sutra seemed to be saying. Shocking as it is on first hearing, the Heart Sutra won’t go away. You wonder and pon- der, perplexed and fascinated. “No eyes, no ears... nothing to attain... no hindrance and no fear...” How? Why? It has taken me many years of practice and study to begin to appre- ciate and understand the Heart Sutra’s words and put them into practice in my life. Love & Emptiness NORMAN FISCHER’s forthcoming book is Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong. At one page, the Heart Sutra is probably the briefest of all Buddhist sacred texts, and the most influ- ential. Foundational to Mahayana Buddhism, it is prized in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism and in Zen, where it is chanted every day in most temples and monasteries. But what does it mean? Can it really be denying the existence of the very nose on our face? And why is that so important to a religion that prizes compassion over all other virtues? Because of its central importance to so many schools of Buddhism, the Heart Sutra has inspired a number of commentaries in English from scholars and teachers of almost every tradition. Both the Dalai Lama (Essence of the Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lama’s Heart of Wisdom Teachings) and Thich Nhat Hanh (The Heart of Understanding: Commentar- ies on the Prajnaparamitta Heart Sutra) have taught it, and a number of younger Western- trained teachers, probably many more than I know of, have also written commentaries. Two recent books of note add some new perspectives and details to an already full pic- ture of this great text. The Heart Attack Sutra, by Karl Brunnhölzl, a German Vajrayana teacher, enthusiastically discusses the sutra from the standpoint of the Tibetan Bud- dhist tradition, with its rigorous logic and THE HEART ATTACK SUTRA: A New Commentary on the Heart Sutra by Karl Brunnhölzl Snow Lion Publications, 2012; 160 pp., $16.05 (paper) THUNDEROUS SILENCE: A Practical Guide to the Heart Sutra by Dosung Yoo Wisdom Publications, 2012; 254 pp., $17.95 (paper) REVIEWED BY NORMAN FISCHER Reviews SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2013 79