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Heart Sutra, The

Product no.: 978-1611803129
An illuminating in-depth study of one of the most well-known and recited of all the Buddhist texts—by the renowned modern translator.

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Publisher's Synopsis
The first-century classic Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra may be the best known of all the Buddhist scriptures. It’s a key Zen text, chanted daily by many, but it is studied extensively in the Tibetan tradition too. In just forty-two lines, it expresses the truth of impermanence and the release of suffering that results from the understanding of that truth with a breathtaking economy of language.

Kazuaki Tanahashi’s guide to the Heart Sutra is the result of a life spent working with it and living it. He outlines the history and meaning and then analyzes the text line by line in its various forms (Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Mongolian, and various key English translations), providing a deeper understanding of the history and etymology of the elusive words than is generally available to the nonspecialist, yet with a clear emphasis on the relevance of the text to practice.

It includes a fresh, modern translation of the text by the author and Roshi Joan Halifax.

"For all who love the Dharma, Kaz’s study of the Heart Sutra is a true boon—it serves us as introduction, history, toolbox, and treasure chest of teachings. It reads as a love story, a detective story, and yet it is a stunning scholarly resource. As inspiration, as reference, as deep study, this work is unsurpassable!"        ~Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara  

"Kazuaki Tanahashi’s Heart Sutra: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classic of Mahayana Buddhism delivers exactly what its subtitle promises—and much more. Most books on the sutra provide expositions of the by now well-known emptiness teachings (however much those teachings continue to resist our understanding). But such exposition, though lucidly present here, is the least of what this book offers. In addition, it traces the history of the text, its translation, and its dissemination throughout Asia and the West in ancient and modern times, and it includes a discussion of important and ground-breaking contemporary scholarship. It includes a biography of Xuanzhang, the sutra’s most famous Chinese translator, who famously journeyed to India to find it, as well as the recounting of a contemporary pilgrimage to a Korean monastery to see the oldest existing woodblock prints of the text. Its longest section is a line-by-line comparison of versions of the text in English and several Asian languages, full of useful nuance. In short, this astonishing work of loving scholarship, written with Kaz’s usual deft touch, is a must-have for any serious Dharma student."          ~Norman Fischer, Co-Abbot, San Francisco Zen Center

"The various Prajnaparamita, Heart and Diamond Sutras or Perfection of Wisdom texts are compelling masterpieces of double-talk which gravely misinterpreted the Buddha's highly ambiguous teachings on sunyata (emptiness), yet ironically established the superior path of the Bodhisattva, the Eastern counterpart of the Christian Saint. Influenced by Advaita Vedanta, the Hindu school of non-duality, Nagarjuna's misperception of Buddhism further 'refined' the primary tenets of maya (illusion) to claim that even Brahman, the Supreme Being (i.e., a Buddha or Tathagata), was a misnomer. In this latest reincarnation by the scholar Tanahashi, however, we come closer to the Buddha's original intention of using Thusness or Tathata to carefully elucidate the futility of attempting to describe our Indescribable Reality. Kaz boldly replaces Nagarjuna's emptiness with boundlessness. Bravo."      ~Mandala Books

"THE HEART SUTRA is the most widely recited scripture in Mahayana Buddhism. It is a text revered by millions of people and regarded as the most succinct presentation of the dharma. In its short form, the text summarizes the selfless experience of reality in meditation, and how this transcends our usual way of thinking.

Edward Conze, an Anglo-German expert on Prajna Paramita scriptures, once characterized the Heart Sutra as one of the sublimest spiritual documents of mankind. Every Mahayana Buddhist practitioner will understand Conze’s reverent words of adoration. At the same time, the widespread and everlasting reverence and enthusiasm for this text that is full of negations is, to me, an unceasing enigma.

While understanding the meaning of each word and the teachings of the mitra enhances one’s meditation practice and life experience, it must also be said that chanting the sutra wholeheartedly, without cognitively thinking through its message, has been an important Buddhist practice throughout the centuries wherever this sutra has been encountered. Considering all of these factors, I believe it is highly useful to examine why we are chanting it today. This book presents my own encounter with, and exploration of, the Heart Sutra — its message, its history, its significance. I hope your journey through these pages will widen and deepen your connection to this extraordinary scripture.

Part One, The Heart Sutra Here and Now: presents a new translation of the text by Joan Halifax and myself. Our intention is to bring forth the sutra’s essential teaching of transcendence and freedom, which is often obscured by seemingly pessimistic and nihilistic expressions. We use the word boundlessness instead of the more common translation emptiness for the Sanskrit word shunyata. We use free of the eyes, ears, nose... instead of the usual rendition no eyes, no ears, no nose... Because we want to make the sutra accessible to non-Buddhists as well as Buddhists, we have replaced such traditional technical terms as bodhisattva and nirvana with more easily understandable words. I hope those of you who are used to chanting the common English versions of the sutra will find our translation helpful and thought-provoking. This first part also includes stories of my own affinity with the scripture and its potential to inspire us all.

Part Two, Story of the Sutra introduces ancient recountings of its use as a living text, as well as descriptions of my visits to temples in Korea and Japan, where I conducted research on the historical impact of the sutra.

Parts Three and Four, Modern Scholarship and Most Recent Scholarship: discuss scholarly findings over the course of two centuries about the formation and expansion of the text. Part Five, Globalizing the Sutra, discusses Chinese enthusiasm for and pan-Asian responses to the text, as well as examples of how the sutra has inspired modern scientists.

Part Six, Terms and Concepts: includes semantic, etymological, and grammatical analyses of the Sanskrit and Chinese terms in the text. Most of the words in the sutra have Sanskrit origins, so looking at these terms is extremely fruitful. A Chinese version has become the standard text in East Asia, however, and was the basis for some of the translations of the sutra in European languages.

Three English translations are also included here: the version by F. Max Muller from the late nineteenth century, as well as those by D. T. Suzuki and Edward Conze from the twentieth century. I believe these three have been the most influential renditions of the sutra in the Western world. You may find this part helpful for learning the meaning and linguistic background of terms in the Heart Sutra. For your reference, I have endeavored to provide, wherever I could, the linguistic relationship between the Sanskrit terms and their English counterparts.

The appendices include Texts for Comparison, which presents samples of the Heart Sutra in seven Asian languages (Sanskrit, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Tibetan, and Mongolian), followed by several of their English counterparts. Earlier texts in Sanskrit and Chinese that are regarded as the main sources of the Heart Sutra are also included. The texts of all versions of the sutra are each divided Into as many as forty or more segments. These parallel divisions are designed to facilitate finding words and comparing them across versions. As all of the non-English texts are presented in or accompanied by romanized transliterations, it is possible to cross-reference the texts even without knowing the particular languages or ideographs. Identical Expressions in the Chinese Texts shows the influence of earlier translations on each version of the Heart Sutra text."

Translator Kaz Tanahashi is one of the most renowned Zen calligraphers at work today, and one of the most prominent teachers of that art. He is also a Zen practitioner of many years in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi (Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind), and thus is himself in the lineage of Zen Master Dogen. He has published three previous translations of Dogen, as well as Brush Mind, a book about approaching Zen through the practice of art.
Author Nagarjuna
Translator Tanahashi, Kazuaki
Cotranslator Halifax, Joan
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 288 pp.
Publisher Shambhala Publications 2016
Browse these categories as well: Mahayana Sutras, Northern Buddhism, Western Buddhism, Hinduism: Gurus and Advaita Vedanta, Eihei Dōgen and the Soto School, Noteworthy Releases 2016

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