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THE HEART SUTRA

A teaching on the
Sutra of the Heart of Transcendant Knowledge

In the title it's translated as transcendent knowledge.

Transcendent is the translation of the word paramita, and prajna is translated as knowledge here. When Thich Nhat Hanh teaches this, he explicitly says that the word knowledge is not a good one to use, and he also doesn't like the word wisdom. He uses the word understanding.

His reason for using the word understanding is very much the same kind of logic that I've been presenting. It's semantics, of course. He says knowledge can block. If you have knowledge about something, your mind can become closed, and you hold on to it. So, he likes the word understanding because it's more fluid —it's like a continual journey, a process, a more process kind of word.

Prajnaparamita could be translated as transcendent knowledge or transcendent understanding. This word paramita means to go to the other shore. The idea is to go to the other shore beyond any dualistic thinking, that's what it means. Going beyond any kind of this/that, right/wrong, yes/no kind of thinking.

And prajna is what Thich Nhat Hanh calls understanding, or Rinpoche calls knowledge, or in other places it's called wisdom. It's a kind of wisdom that sees things as they are, not bound up by concepts.

But still, that doesn't really tell us what it means to practice prajnaparamita.

Another thing that doesn't tell us how to practice it. I think it is interesting that prajnaparamita is personified as a woman in iconography: the mother of all the buddhas. And her epithets are that she is indescribable, inexpressible, and inconceivable. [laughs]

The Practice of Prajnaparamita
I'd like to tell you how to practice the prajnaparamita because this sutra is all about it, and the form is emptiness, emptiness is form, and so on, give you a hint about pulling out the rug, pulling out the rug.

First of all, we should know, Where is prajnaparamita found? And the answer is, It is found in each of us. This is as close as Buddhism comes to talking about channeling. We channel the prajnaparamita. If we can open our minds and hearts enough to not block it, it just automatically comes through.


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