The Wisdom of the Heart Sutra
The Heart Sutra is a relatively well-known Buddhist text, considered to include some of the most core tenets or foundational teachings of the Buddhist system of belief. The Heart Sutra is the shortest of the sutras, but like a magical seed that contains the whole world, the Heart Sutra is a small phrase that contains a complete canon of spiritual teaching: Gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā.
There are many possible literal translations of the sutra itself, but at its core the Heart Sutra is a tool for moving beyond the limits of consciousness. Pāragate means to go to the other shore; the shore beyond. The place beyond our knowing, beyond our understanding, beyond even our comprehension.
As is recognized in many holy writings, it is impossible to put into words the experience of enlightenment, Union with the Divine, or arrival in the heart of the most pure part of consciousness. It is also held to be true by many spiritual teachers, and especially teachers of Buddhism, that reaching for words to define these states or stations – awakening, union, arrival, enlightenment – hinders our ability to be present in them as they arise. Moreover, attachment to ideas about how one may experience these states – how the states are supposed to come about, or how they may feel – can prevent the actual experience itself.
Eternal awakening to the eternal moment is not based on the circumstances you are in. it is not about striving for bliss or clinging to hope. Awakening means coming present in this moment as it is, unhinged from past experience or future expectation.
Gate, gate… Gone, gone… Gone is past. Gone is future. Gone is expectation. Gone is attachment.
Paragate… Arriving on the other shore means moving beyond our ideas of awakening, and thereby actually waking up to the present moment. It means letting go of thought, releasing attachment, letting go of both cognition and sensate “knowing,” and arriving at that point beyond all of this.
Through awakening fully, you have released yourself from suffering – if only for a moment. But when truly awake, the Moment is eternal without being static. You have arrived on the other shore.
Parasamgate… Sam is a reference to the community of beings. Parasam gate means all beings have gone, or are going, beyond. Implicit in this sutra is the fact that everyone is already – and is always – arriving on the other shore. Eternally awakening to the eternal moment. Mirroring the Fourfold Bodhisattva Vow, the Heart Sutra states that by releasing ourselves from attachment and awakening into presence, we do the same for all beings.
By going beyond, and going beyond, we are always awakening to the truth of the moment. There is no way that enlightenment is supposed to look, no one way that it will feel. Every moment has equal likelihood for producing or allowing for awareness. There is no striving where there is presence.
Bodhi svaha! You have awakened to wisdom. So it is!
Lasara Firefox Allen is an author, educator, activist, and coach. Lasara’s first book, the bestselling Sexy Witch (Llewellyn Worldwide), was published in 2005 under the name LaSara FireFox.