The Heart Sutra
A Comprehensive Guide to the Classic of Mahayana Buddhism
The Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra is among the best known of all the Buddhist scriptures. Chanted daily by many Zen students, it is also studied extensively in the Tibetan tradition, and it has been regarded with interest more recently in the West in various fields of study—from philosophy to quantum physics. In just thirty-five lines, it expresses the truth of impermanence and the release from 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 of the text and then analyzes it 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 and meticulous new 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, author of Most Intimate: A Zen Approach to Life's Challenges
"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 of 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." —Zoketsu Norman Fischer, poet, Zen priest, and author of Escape This Crazy Life of Tears and Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong
"Tanahashi's book on the Heart Sutra in its primarily Chinese and Japanese contexts covers a wide range of approaches to this most famous of all mahayana sutras. It brings the sutra to life through shedding light on it from many different angles, through presenting its historical background and traditional commentaries, evaluating modern scholarship, adapting the text to a contemporary readership, exploring its relationship to Western science, and relating personal anecdotes. The richness of the Heart Sutra and the many ways in which it can be understood and contemplated are further highlighted by his comparison of its versions in the major Asian languages in which it has been transmitted, as well as in a number of English translations. Highly recommended for all who wish to explore the profundity of this text in all its facets." —Karl Brunnhölzl, author of The Heart Attack Sutra: A New Commentary on the Heart Sutra
"A masterwork of loving and meticulous scholarship, Kaz Tanahashi's Heart Sutra is a living, breathing, deeply personal celebration of a beloved text, which all readers—Buddhists and non-Buddhists, newcomers to the teaching and seasoned scholars alike—will cherish throughout time." —Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being