Heart Sutra Part I

It’s said in the Nyingma that if you learn the thirteen traditional texts taught in shedra, the merit is the same as completing a ngondro. So after learning them, which normally takes five years, or ten, they give pointing out instructions. Today we will teach on the Heart Sutra. Last night I mentioned the three turnings. The teaching of the second turning are contained in the Prajnaparamita.

The Prajnaparamita has different versions, the large, medium and short. The large has 100,000 verses, the medium has 20,000 verses, and the short has 8,000 verses. The Heart Sutras is the essence of the Prajnaparamita. In Tibetan it is called the Sherab Nyingpo, the essence of the Prajnaparamita. When the Buddha taught the Prajnaparamita he sat on a high throne, to emphasize its importance. That is because it is the root of the profound practices of the Mahamudra and Dzogchen. There are two ways to distinguish between Buddhists and non-Buddhist, by conduct and by view. The view of Buddhism is that all composite phenomena are impermanent, all contaminated dharmas are unsatisfactory, all dharmas are empty by nature and devoid of a self, and enlightenment is peace and the cessation of suffering. Everything is impermanent. We think this building is the same as last night, but that’s not so. If it was, the building would stay brand new. Even though the change is imperceptible, it is always happening. But you don’t have to be afraid of impermanence. Because of impermanence we can hope and wish. If things were permanent, we could not change them.

Patrul Rinpoche said if you do not have stability in the four mind trainings, you cannot meditate on the view. There are three causes of realizing emptiness: pleasing the Buddhas, accumulating merit and wisdom, and meditating on selflessness. You please the Buddha by practicing bodhicitta. You should not use meat in tsok according to Patrul Rinpoche. It’s like cooking a child and offering it as a meal to its mother. If you do this, the bodhisattvas will not gather, only worldly spirits. Once a monk gained clairvoyant visions, became famous and received many offerings. He asked his lama what he should do and he said offer what he received to the dharma.. He did this and his clairvoyance disappeared. If you harm anyone, you will not please the Buddhas. Even if you hit or break things when you get angry, you are creating demerit. If you meditate on the four immeasurables instead, you will please the Buddhas.

Love and compassion also purify negative karma. You all know the story of Asangha. He saw Maitreya in the form a suffering dog. His compassion allowed him to see him in his actual form. He asked Maitreya why he hadn’t seen him during twelve years of retreat, He said, I was always with you, but you couldn’t see me. Put me on your shoulders and go through the town. No one could see Maitreya, except one woman who saw a dog’s corpse. Lord Jigten Sumgon contracted leprosy and was about to leave for a deserted area. He went to prostrate himself before a statue of the Buddha, but fell down and fainted. He woke up and suffered from his pain. He thought even though I am sick, I have received the dharma, but so many other sentient beings have not. He felt compassion for them and wept for an entire day. As a result, he was enlightened.

The next method is accumulating merit and wisdom. That is why Buddha taught the six perfections. The first three perfections, generosity, conduct, and patience, are the accumulation of merit, the last, wisdom, is the accumulation of wisdom and the other two, effort and concentration, support both.

The last method is to meditate on selflessness. There are two sorts of selflessness, selflessness of the individual and of phenomena. The selflessness of the individual is realization that the “I” is merely a name. Neither our body or mind is our I. We say my body and my mind, as if the I is something else. The I cannot be found wherever you look for it. Meditate and look for the I, you will not find it, because it does not exist. Selflessness of phenomena is seeing all phenomena are a collection of parts, and hence has no true existence. Even the so-called partless atoms must have parts or else aggregates of atoms could not have a size. The particle between two others must have a size, and hence parts, or else it could not separate the two on opposite sides. So these three are the cause of realization of emptiness. What is the good of this? Without realizing emptiness you cannot become enlightened, no matter how pure your conduct or how many mantras you recite. A commentator on Nagarjuna said if you must choose between conduct or view, you should choose view.

Prajnaparamita is the mother of the Buddhas of the three times. And not just Buddhas, also the arhats and pratyekabuddhas. Even though Hinayana doesn’t use the word emptiness, the practice is the same. Some people think visualizing the deity clearly and reciting many mantras is success in practice. But without the proper view, you can be reborn as a demon. Every deity yoga always has some emptiness meditation. It is very important to meditate on emptiness. Without understanding emptiness, it is hard to understand how to meditate on yourself as the deity. There are three characteristics of good meditation: clarity, purity, and pride. The most important is pride, which means seeing your mind as dharmakaya and hence inseparable from the deity’s mind. The form bodies are emanations of the dharmakaya. The pride of the deity is not the same as ordinary pride. In Hinayana it is said you are only liberated through selflessness. In the Mahayana it is said there are two bodhicittas, relative and absolute, and absolute is seeing emptiness.

Q: What about Vajrayana?

A: Of course, Vajrayana is inseparable from the Mahayana. Even Hindus recite mantras.

Q: Can clairvoyance be an obstacle?

A: Sometimes. It’s best to be humble.

Q: When I get up I feel very grumpy. Does that hurt my morning practice?

A: Yes, the karma of the practice will be mixed.

Q: If you become a Buddha, are you free of samsara?

A: Yes, not only a Buddhas, also bodhisattvas are free of samsara.

Q: Does that mean they will not be reborn?

A: They are reborn by their choice, because of compassion. When you see a statue of Buddha, he is seated on a lotus. This symbolized freedom from from the defilements of samsara.

Khenpo Tsultrim Tendzin
Susquehana Yoga Center
February 23, 2008

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