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These collected oral teachings by Gelek Rimpoche and guests on various dharma topics are easily downloadable for a minimal fee.

Heart Sutra
Heart Sutra

Heart Sutra

13 number of lessons in high quality MP3

Perhaps no other Buddhist text, either spoken or written, has been more popular than the Heart Sutra. It is recited daily in Tibetan, Chinese and Korean temples and monasteries. The statement, “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form” is among the most famous lines in Buddhist literature and the subject of more commentaries than other sutra.

The most famous and widely recited mantra Buddhist mantra is the mantra which is the essence of the Heart Sutra – “Tayata, gate gate paragate parasamgate Bodhi soha”. This translates approximately to mean, "Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, enlightenment, lay the foundation.”

This audio series contains Gelek Rimpoche’s lucid and easily accessible teaching on the Heart Sutra in Litchfield, CT at Wisdom House in 2002.

Heart Sutra
Heart Sutra: Lesson 1

Heart Sutra: Lesson 1

Lesson Number 1 of 13

The Heart Sutra is the essence of Buddhist teaching, speaking directly to wisdom and emptiness — absolute bodhimind. To understand and apply this teaching, an appropriate motivation is essential: the wish to become fully enlightened to help other sentient beings. Rimpoche discusses the five bodhisattva paths traveled sequentially on this journey to enlightenment: "accumulation," "action," "seeing," "meditation" and "no more learning." We are not yet on any of the five paths. We're on the layperson's path, a preliminary stage to entering the bodhisattva path of accumulation. (21:01)

Heart Sutra: Lesson 2

Heart Sutra: Lesson 2

Lesson Number 2 of 13

The Heart Sutra calls us to generate bodhimind. Why? Because we are all connected across countless lifetimes in so many ways — as friends, enemies, lovers, parents, children, etc. Yet with our change of identity from one lifetime to the next we no longer recognize each other. We simply forget. Nevertheless, the connection is real. That's why we cannot exclude from our concern any single sentient being. As human beings connected to a great spiritual path we have both the opportunity and capacity to care. (15:00)

Heart Sutra: Lesson 3

Heart Sutra: Lesson 3

Lesson Number 3 of 13

Who truly "speaks" the Heart Sutra? In the text, maha-bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is given the main speaking role. But in ultimate reality the teaching comes from the wisdom-natured mind of Buddha, a mind that simultaneously knows every phenomenon that can be known. Yet for the teaching to take place, perfect dedication, prayer and karma must already have ripened in the minds of those listening. Today, we lack the pure karma from our side to receive a Buddha's teaching in such a direct way. For us, the teaching has become a "message" and the teachers "messengers." (22:55)

Heart Sutra: Lesson 4

Heart Sutra: Lesson 4

Lesson Number 4 of 13

Rimpoche reiterates that the Heart Sutra is a category of direct teaching inspired and blessed by Buddha. While opinions differ as to when the teaching took place, there's no dispute about the location: Vulture Peak in Rajagriha, where a great assembly of monks and Bodhisattvas had gathered. The Heart Sutra represents the essence or heart of the prajnaparamita (perfection of wisdom) teachings. (21:25)

Heart Sutra: Lesson 5

Heart Sutra: Lesson 5

Lesson Number 5 of 13

The Heart Sutra's name can be more fully characterized as "heart of wisdom," meaning the mind that has gone beyond cyclic existence and truly sees reality. Wisdom is the method that takes us beyond, clearing obstacles in the mind that obstruct our view of reality. Every effort made by a Buddha is focused on making our minds perfect, enabling us to go beyond the sufferings of samsara. (11:59)

Heart Sutra: Lesson 6

Heart Sutra: Lesson 6

Lesson Number 6 of 13

In analyzing the Heart Sutra's setting — who is gathered at Vulture Peak and for what purpose — Rimpoche discusses the deeper meanings of some key terms, including "bodhisattva," represented in Tibetan by "chyang-chub-sem-pa" (byang chub sems dpa). Each syllable of this word has specific meaning: "Chyang" signifies perfection; "chub," possession of all qualities; "sem," mind always thinking about others; and "pa," the hero who destroys all external and internal obstacles. (22:05)

Heart Sutra: Lesson 7

Heart Sutra: Lesson 7

Lesson Number 7 of 13

Establishing the Heart Sutra's setting is important because the sutra refers to a very specific time — a moment when the gathered disciples are each spiritually prepared and ready from a karmic point of view to receive the teaching. Continuing his definition of terms, Rimpoche identifies Avalokitesvara — in Tibetan, Chenrezig — as one whose eyes are totally focused on all sentient beings at all times. The fundamental reality of emptiness encompasses all of the aggregates — not just "me" but everything connected to me. (22:38)

Heart Sutra: Lesson 8

Heart Sutra: Lesson 8

Lesson Number 8 of 13

At the heart of the Heart Sutra is the notion of emptiness. In emptiness, something is missing — but what is this "something" that is missing? What is this lack that defines emptiness? Posing the question in this way is more helpful than simply asking: What is emptiness? Using the analogy of a dream, in which a house is perceived but is not real, Rimpoche notes that our perceptions are the key to understanding what is missing. In seeking to understand emptiness, therefore, we must look into the perceiving aspect of our functioning. Yes, we do exist — not independently, but in a "collective" manner. (21:26)

Heart Sutra: Lesson 9

Heart Sutra: Lesson 9

Lesson Number 9 of 13

Our existence depends on the combination of the five skandhas or aggregates: body or form; sensations or feelings; perceptions or discriminations; conditioning factors; and consciousness. They provide our identity and enable us to function. But in an absolute sense, "I" or "me" cannot be found among them. Our sense of our existence depends on the collective functioning of the aggregates. (15:36)

Heart Sutra: Lesson 10

Heart Sutra: Lesson 10

Lesson Number 10 of 13

"Form is emptiness, emptiness is form." This famous tenet of the Heart Sutra should not be interpreted metaphorically but accepted "as is" — a statement of reality. As mentioned earlier, our perceptions are central to understanding the true nature of emptiness. This understanding at first presents itself as a conundrum. When we see something, we believe it to be there. But in reality, because we see something (as a solid existence), it is not there. This seems completely counter-intuitive, but it's the reality of the relativity of our functioning. People often ask if impermanence and emptiness are the same. No, they are not. But subtle impermanence does help us to understand emptiness better. Even if we do not understand emptiness right now, at least we have a better understanding of the direction in which to look for it. (15:10)

Heart Sutra: Lesson 11

Heart Sutra: Lesson 11

Lesson Number 11 of 13

Why does the Heart Sutra focus so much on form? Because form is not only the container of the reality we perceive but also the basis on which we develop attachment. We have a very strong attachment to this existence. "Form is emptiness" cuts the existentialist viewpoint that depends on attachment; "emptiness is form" blocks us from falling into the opposite extreme of nihilism. The middle path between the two is the interdependent nature of reality. (19:19)

Heart Sutra: Lesson 12

Heart Sutra: Lesson 12

Lesson Number 12 of 13

The presence of a mantra raises the question: is the Heart Sutra sutrayana or tantrayana? In fact, it's a combination of both, with the capacity to deliver everyone to the level of enlightenment. Achieving this depends on more than an intellectual understanding of emptiness. Purification, accumulation of merit, and simply being fortunate also are absolutely required. Accumulation of merit will help us develop the strong positive karma that will take us beyond a good samsaric rebirth to Buddhahood. (21:27)

Heart Sutra: Lesson 13

Heart Sutra: Lesson 13

Lesson Number 13 of 13

On the path of seeing at the meditative level there is no relativity at all. Meditator, subject of meditation and meditation itself all become one. In this state of absorption, you see the truth, you have no more desire, and you are free from attachment. When there's no attachment there's no rebirth. The meditative focus, as mentioned earlier, is the lack of true existence. Finding this point of focus requires analytical meditation and, when the focus is found, concentrated mediation. The five bodhisattva paths are all represented in the Heart Sutra mantra: tayatha gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi soha. (24:39)