The Heart Sutra

(Group Study Version)

Taught by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Joan Halifax
 - Online Course
Description One of the most beloved scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism, the Heart Sutra is chanted daily around the world in dozens of languages by millions of practitioners. For Zen Buddhists—and many others—the sutra expresses the nature of reality in ways both profound and paradoxical. In this online course, Kazuaki Tanahashi and Roshi Joan Halifax collaboratively explore the depths of the sutra’s teaching through talks, chanting, readings, and group discussions. Using Kaz’s recent book The Heart Sutra: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classic of Mahayana Buddhism, this course delves deep into the history and lived experience of the Heart Sutra, posing questions and drawing connections to help you integrate this precious teaching into your daily life and awareness, whether you are encountering the sutra for the first time or have chanted it for decades. We’re excited to have you with us as we join these two remarkable and wise teachers in exploring the boundless nature of all existence through this core text.
Course Materials

This group study version of the course contains everything you need to share these teachings with your community, including:

Guides for both facilitators and participants to support you in offering this course in an in-person group setting

Six video talks by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Roshi Joan Halifax—each about 45 minutes­­ to 2 hours in length—with transcripts and audio versions available

Practices and contemplations to help students integrate the teachings into their daily lives

Guided reading assignments for each lesson and a 50% discount off The Heart Sutra by Kazuaki Tanahashi

Unlimited access to all course materials for facilitators

Any questions about this group study version of the course? E-mail


In this course participants will have the opportunity to:

  • Engage with a new translation of the Heart Sutra and explore the enigma presented by this classic text
  • Consider the process of translation and the challenges of translating across languages, time, and cultures
  • Explore Sanskrit terms used in the Heart Sutra and compare them to their English translations
  • Examine the concepts of “wisdom beyond wisdom” and shunyata, or “zeroness”
  • Study the historical context of the Heart Sutra
  • Experience the Heart Sutra from a scholarly perspective and explore the limits of this scholarly approach
  • Deepen their experience of the Heart Sutra by chanting it as part of their regular practice
  • Explore a new interpretation and application of the mantra found at the end of the Heart Sutra
What You Will Learn in Each Lesson

Lesson 1
Encountering Enigma

The Heart Sutra is an enigma—a millennium-old enigma that is yet to be solved. In this first lesson of the course, Kaz and Roshi introduce their translation of the Heart Sutra and begin to unpack the enigma. You will have an opportunity to chant the sutra and consider your own first encounter with this scripture.

Lesson 2
Heart / Wisdom Beyond Wisdom

The main part of the shorter version Heart Sutra corresponds to a tiny portion of the 25,000-line Prajna Paramita scripture. That means the main part of the Heart Sutra—the teaching of wisdom beyond wisdom—is nearly 2,000 years old. In this lesson you will explore this teaching of wisdom beyond wisdom.

Lesson 3
Bodhisattva / Avalokiteshvara

This lesson dives deeper into the history of the Heart Sutra and examines a recent theory of its origin. You will examine the linguistic origins of bodhisattva and Avalokiteshvara and consider their personal meanings for you. You will also experience Kaz and Roshi’s new translation of the Ten-Line Life-Affirming Sutra of Avalokiteshvara.

Lesson 4
Zeroness / Boundlessness 

Shunyata, or “zeroness,” in Mahayana Buddhism means the lack of concrete boundaries among things and the lack of completely independent existence. All things are interconnected. In this lesson, you will explore shunyata and contemplate the translation that Kaz and Roshi offer for the word “boundlessness.”

Lesson 5

An experience of wisdom beyond wisdom is to become free from our normal view of the world. The freedom that the Heart Sutra calls for is freedom from duality and, at the same time, freedom from nonduality. In this lesson, you will consider the cultural basis of the negative expressions common to traditional translations of the Heart Sutra and examine how this type of negation can be an expression of freedom.

Lesson 6

The Heart Sutra says, “Realizing wisdom beyond wisdom is no other than this wondrous mantra.” In other words, the Heart Sutra claims that the practice of wisdom beyond wisdom can be condensed into the chanting of the mantra found at its end. This final lesson of the course provides an opportunity to deepen your understanding and experience of this mantra.

About the Instructor


Kazuaki Tanahashi is a renowned calligraphic artist and teacher whose work has been executed and exhibited throughout the world. A peace teacher and environmentalist, he is also the editor of several volumes of the writings of the Zen master Eihei Dogen, including the definitive translation of the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye. His other books include Brush MindSky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan; and The Heart Sutra: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classic of Mahayana Buddhism.


Joan Halifax, PhD, is a Zen priest and anthropologist who has served on the faculty of Columbia University and the University of Miami School of Medicine. For the past thirty years she has worked with dying people and has lectured on the subject of death and dying at Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Medical School, Georgetown Medical School, and many other academic institutions. In 1990, she founded Upaya Zen Center, a Buddhist study and social action center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1994, she founded the Project on Being with Dying, which has trained hundreds of healthcare professionals in the contemplative care of dying people.

30-Day Satisfaction Guarantee

If for any reason you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, please e-mail us within 30 days of registering for the course, and we will promptly refund your purchase price.

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Course Trailer