Heart Sutra commentary Khenpo Migmar
Now first of all create good motivation, thinking that you are going to engage in this activity of listening to the teaching for the sake of attaining highest enlightenment, in order to benefit all sentient beings. Remain with this motivation throughout the course
of listening to the teaching. Now the text we are going to deal with today is the Heart Sutra, which is a sutra in the Prajnaparamita literature. It is one of the smaller texts among the teachings given by the Buddha on the perfection of wisdom, the highest
enlightened wisdom. These teachings on the prajnaparamita or the perfection of wisdom were given mainly at Vultures' Peak in Rajagriha, in what is now Bihar State of India and the teachings come under the category of the second turning of the wheel of the Dharma.
All the teachings of the Buddha are subsumed in the three turnings of the wheel of the Dharma. Generally, we say that the first wheel of the four noble truths was turned at Sarnath, near Varanassi. The second wheel turning was on the teachings based on non-
characteristics or teachings based on emptiness and were given mainly at the Vulture's Peak. These teachings were of an analytical nature, while in the first wheel turning of the Dharma, Buddha mainly taught on the existence of all phenomena on the basis of explaining
that one has to accept cause and result in samsara, as well as that which lies within nirvana. In other words, the cause and result of samsara and of nirvana. So these four truths are to be accepted on the basis of the existence of phenomena. In other words the
negation of phenomena was not taught in the first wheel turning of the Dharma, as the disciples were of the Hinayana level. This teaching was mainly meant for the level of disciples with a lower faculty of mind.
The second wheel turning of the Dharma, which was called the teaching of non characterics, consisted of teachings on emptiness and prajnaparamita. Now emptiness is taught from the point of view of the object of transcendental knowledge. This is what is to be
understood by the teaching on emptiness, whereas prajnaparamita, or the perfection of wisdom, is the transcendental knowledge on the basis of which one understands the state of emptiness. So the madhyamika texts which are commentaries to the sutras of the Buddha are
also commentaries related to this prajna paramita literature. The same prajnaparamita sutras which were taught at Vultures' Peak by the Buddha have as their commentaries the Madhyamika literature, as well as the rest of the prajnaparamita literature. The
prajnaparamita sutras explicitly show the aspect of emptiness, the object to be realised by the transcendental knowledge, not the levels of realisation. These are said to be taught in the prajnaparamita sutra in an implicit way.
Acharya Nagajuna, who was the foremost expounder of the madhyamika literature, the one who first taught the theory of emptiness and in this way began the philosophical school of madhyamika, explained the prajnaparamita sutra by means of it's explicit meaning. That is,
the state of emptiness or the ultimate nature of all phenomena. So Nagarjuna commented on the explicit meaning of the prajnaparamita sutras and these texts came to be known as the madhyamika literature, madhyamika philosophy. Whereas, the Bodhisattva Maitreya wrote
commentaries on the implicit meaning of the prajnaparamita literature, which deals with the levels of understanding. With respect to emptiness, which is the object, it is always accompanied by the knowledge which understands that particular level of emptiness.
So there are different levels of establishing this state of emptiness, it is not something which one can see in a moment. There is no fast method. So these works by Maitreya deal with the gradual method. In the course of this gradual method there will be different
levels of object used to establish the state of emptiness and different levels of knowledge of realisation in the course of understanding the state of emptiness. So these different levels of realisation are in connection with the five paths. The realisation of a
practitioner at the time of the path of accumulation, the path of application, the path of seeing, the path of meditation and the path of no more learning are explained in the prajnaparamita literature.
These texts are called the five teachings of Maitreya, the main text being the Abhisamaya alankara , which is studied as the main subject when it comes to studying prajnaparamita literature. The main prajnaparamita commentary in such a course of study of prajnaparamita
literature would be the Abhisamaya alankara. Now the madhyamika literature is a commentary to the same prajnaparamita literature from a different perspective. You see, the name for the prajnaparamita sutra was given on the basis of the knowledge, not on the basis of
the object, which is emptiness. But the contents of the sutra deal with both the object and the subject in implicit and explicit ways. So two systems of commentaries came about in order to explain the broader meaning of the prajnaparamita sutras, particularly these
commentaries written by Maitreya. Not only the Abhisamaya alankara but such works as the Sutra Alankara, and then the Uttara Tantra, are also studied as important texts in order to understand the meaning of the prajnaparamita sutras.
When the five teachings of Maitreya are explained then some of these texts such as Sutra alankara are said to be commentaries to the mahayana sutras in general. This means that not only the prajnaparamita sutras are appraised, but they also comment on some other
sutras, such as the Samdhinimochana sutra. The sutra of explaining the intention of the Buddha. But the Abhisamaya alankara, the Ornament of Realisation, deals particularly with the prajnaparamita sutras which are collected or subsumed in the large, the middle and
the concise prajnaparamita sutras. Generally, we say the large, the middle and the concise Mother Literature, which refers to the Prajnaparamita sutras taught by the Buddha at Vultures' Peak.
Now to classify the prajnaparamita sutras. According to some ancient Tibetan scholars this literature is classified into two sections, that of Mother and Son Literature, as it is called. The Mother literature has six sutras, the large sutra of one hundred thousand
verses, one of twenty five thousand verses, one of eighteen thousand verses and then two others which have more than eight thousand verses. The sixth sutra has a similar number of verses. The main sutras are the one hundred thousand, the twenty five thousand and the
eight thousand verse sutras. There are some sutras which have a little more or less verses. Two others are counted with these main ones and they are classified as the Mother Prajnaparamita sutras. The shorter ones which also deal with the same subject, are the
prajnaparamita sutra with seven hundred verses, the sutra of four hundred verses and the other shorter versions of prajnaparamita, including the Heart Sutra and Vajracchedika sutra. These are considered as the Son Literature of Prajnaparamita.
The distinction made between mother and son literature is on the basis of whether all the eight topics are dealt with or not. When it comes to explaining the levels of realisation, then as explained in the Abhisamaya alankara, eight topics are dealt with. Firstly,
there are three types of knowledge referred to here, omniscient knowledge, the knowledge of path and fundamental knowledge. In fact these are first explained on the basis of the foundation of learning, not in the form of practice. Then, there are four applications
which are the actual different levels of realisation which a practitioner will attain in the course of practise. Beginning with the application of complete aspects, which begins with the realisation at the time of accumulation and then comes the application of
instantaneous practise which is the realisation at the time of the bohisattva on the tenth bhumi. After that comes the eighth topic, the result which is called the dharmakaya or the body of truth. So the first of these topics is named omniscient knowledge, but it is
not explained on the basis of being what one will first of all realise or attain. This is mentioned as the first topic, so that one will know about the result of the practise one is going to be engaged in.
When someone sees the benefit or good qualities of an object or aim which one is wishing to achieve, then naturally they will have joy or happily engage in the method to achieve this result. So for that reason the first topic is called omniscient knowledge. A sutra
which deals with all these eight topics is called a mother sutra, whereas the prajnaparamita sutra which deals with some but not all of these eight, is considered as son literature.
So we can classify the prajnaparamita sutras under these two classifications, but most scholars say that it is not necessary to classify into mother and son sutras, because all prajnaparamita sutras can be accepted as mother sutras or mother literature. As in the
title of this sutra, the name ' mother ' is to symbolise or indicate the transcendental wisdom which is the prajnaparamita. It is called mother because as a result of this transcendental knowledge, the bodhisattva arises. One can become a bodhisattva. One can become a
Buddha. In other words, four types of arya, or superior beings arise as a result of prajnaparamita, as a result of this transcendental knowledge. So, in accordance with the level of this ultimate knowledge, this prajnaparamita, a different realisation is attained, or
one obtains different results.
Of the three types of knowledge, the knowledge of omniscience is the highest realisation which an Arya Buddha achieves. When it comes to dividing the Arya, or superior beings, then we have four types. The Shravaka Arya, Pratyeka Buddha Arya, Bodhisattva Arya and Arya
Buddha. The Arya in mahayana is divided into two: Arya Bodhisattva and Arya Buddha. So these four Aryas arise as a result of the perfection of wisdom and the levels of perfection are in the form of the knowledge of omniscience, knowledge of the path and fundamental
knowledge. Now of the three types of knowledge explained in the eight topics of prajnaparamita literature, the fundamental knowledge is the cause of two types of Arya. The Arya Shravaka and Arya Pratyeka Buddha. Fundamental knowledge refers to the knowledge which
realises the emptiness of the aggregates, which are the basis of the 'self ', but does not include the realisation of the emptiness of all phenomena. The knowledge of the path refers to the knowledge of a bodhisattva which understands all three paths of the three yanas, or vehicles. The path of the Shravaka, of the Pratyeka Buddha and the path of a Bodhisattva. This realisation of these three paths is called knowledge of the path, which is the realisation of the Arya Bodhisattva. The knowledge of omniscience, is the knowledge
by which one becomes an Arya Buddha. So here, the prajnaparamita, which is the perfection of wisdom, is divided into these three types of knowledge, as a result of which we have the four types of Arya.
As the perfection of wisdom functions as a cause for the attainment of these four types of Aryas, then the perfection of wisdom is called the mother and the four Aryas are referred to as the sons. That is, the mother referring to the knowledge and the son referring to
the Aryas. How a mother produces an Arya as a son is explained from two aspects. This mother is also further divided into the mother which produces an arya and that which assists the arya in functioning in his or her activity. The mother which is the producing mother
and in a way the benefiting mother is explained in terms of different moments.
For example. The understanding of the aggregates as emptiness on the level of path of application is also called a mother because in the next moment the realiser will attain the stage or level of Shravaka Arhat. So this Arhat which arises one moment later than the
accumulated fundamental knowledge is the result of the previous accumulation of this fundamental knowledge. So this fundamental knowledge is the mother with respect to producing the Shravaka Arhat or Arya. So this idea of mother and son with respect to the mother
prajnaparamita producing the Arya is explained in terms of two different moments.
Now the knowledge itself can not produce the Shravaka Arhat, the one who already possesses this knowledge because this knowledge and the arya who possesses it exist at the same time. Two things which are simultaneous cannot act as a cause and a result. Cause and result
have to be explained in terms of different moments because the cause comes one moment before and the result one moment later. This fundamental knowledge which the Shravaka Arhat possesses cannot become a mother which produces that Arya because they exist at the same
time. But as a result of that fundamental knowledge, that Shravaka Arhat can function or engage in his or her particular activity, which is remaining in nirvana.
The Shravaka Arhat can remain in nirvana which is free from the sufferings of samsara because of possessing this fundamental knowledge. So the fundamental knowledge which one possesses now acts as an assistance or a condition by which one remains in Nirvana. So it is
called the mother of assisting or benefiting. The mother and son relationship is explained in the context of the mother prajnaparamita producing an Arya or a mother helping an Arya in his or her function. These are the two contexts in which it is explained.
Since the term mother is used to indicate the prajnaparamita or the perfection of wisdom itself, then to have the name ' mother ' for a sutra, it is not necessary that the sutra should deal with all the eight topics because being named mother the knowledge itself
becomes a mother in relation to the four Aryas or superior beings.
So the Heart Sutra, is also named a mother sutra because it deals with the topic of prajnaparamita, which is the mother to all the Aryas. It is also called the mother of all the Buddhas of the three times. (The past, present and future.) It is said in the sutras, as
well as many commentaries, that the attainment of Buddhahood by all the Buddhas of three times depends on this prajnaparamita. So the importance of prajnaparamita is explained in the different sutras and shastras by saying that only by depending on this prajnaparamita
is one able to become a Buddha. So whether it is the present Buddha, a Buddha in the past or a Buddha yet to come, this result is due only to the prajnaparamita. This refers not only to the Arya Buddha, but also the other three types of Aryas. If the attainment of Buddhahood depends on prajnaparamita then naturally the attainment of the level of Bodhisattva depends on it as well.
The other two Aryas, the Shravaka Arya and Pratyeka Buddha Arya, who are called the hinayana realisers, those who have attained the hinayana result, also depend on the prajnaparamita because as explained earlier, prajnaparamita consists of these three knowledges. It
does not mean only the omniscient knowledge, but all three. As explained earlier, the attainment of the two hinayana results depends on fundamental knowledge. In respect of the order of explanation in the text, omniscient knowledge comes first and then the knowledge of
path and then fundamental knowledge.
So fundamental knowledge is the knowledge of the two hinayana realisers. Without attaining or gaining this knowledge one cannot become a hinayana realiser. The attainment of hinayana results definitely depend on the prajnaparamita. To gain any kind of realisation or
attainment, in any of the three yanas, whether it is Shravaka yana or Pratyeka Buddha yana, or Mahayana, prajnaparamita becomes indispensable. It is because of this that it is considered very important.
This particular sutra, the Heart Sutra, is of particular importance because it is concise and very short with respect to the number of words, but it has all the meaning explained that one can find in the large, middle and concise prajnaparamita sutras. The large
sutra of one hundred thousand verses has twelve volumes in the Tibetan translation, the middle sized sutra of twenty five thousand verses has three volumes and the concise sutra of eight thousand verses has one volume. The same meaning can be found in the Heart sutra
as is contained in the large sutra of one hundred thousand verses.
Whenever there is more than one sutra on the same subject, there is argument about the purpose of the other sutras. It is argued that there is no need for repetition, if a meaning is taught in one sutra, then another sutra on the same subject seems superfluous. This
argument is also applicable to the commentaries. All kinds of teachings were given by the Buddha in the sutras, there is no other form or method that the Buddha did not teach, so there won't be any special meaning or content in the commentaries, it is argued.
However, as there are people with different levels of mental faculties, a particular teaching that can be understood by one person cannot be understood by another. This is due to the different levels of their mind. A teaching that a practitioner of a particular level
may understand at one point in time may not be understood by a practitioner on the same level at another point in time.
So in order to enable people of different levels of mind to understand the meaning explained in the sutras, the commentaries are written. Those who have a natural inclination towards lengthier explanations will find the longer prajnaparamita helpful. Those of sharper
mental faculties, who do not have a natural inclination for lengthier explanations, but strive for the meaning, who have the intellect to understand, will find such sutras as this Heart sutra more beneficial.
It is for these reasons that the Heart sutra is considered so important in all Tibetan monasteries, by all Tibetan Buddhists. All monks recite it regularly, whenever a religious function commences, it is usual that it begins with the recitation of the Heart sutra. This
is followed by another ritual prayer, which is recited to dispel obstacles.
Generally, the benefit of recitation of this sutra, which is applicable to the chanting of all sutras, is the accumulation of merit. The chanting of even one verse of Dharma that was taught by the Buddha, in this case, the Heart sutra, has great merit, as one is
expressing the ultimate meaning of prajnaparamita. The mind will also focus on the meaning of the words. Even if one does not understand the meaning of the words one still accrues merit. There will be others who hear the chanting of the words, thereby naturally
imprinting on their minds what they hear. By helping others in this way, one also accumulates merit.
So the chanting of this sutra is a common traditional practise in Tibetan monasteries. When we explain the prajnaparamita in its direct application, we divide it into three sections. causal prajnaparamita, resultant prajnaparamita and textual prajnaparamita.
The word paramita literally means that which has gone beyond, and prajna means transcendental wisdom, the ultimate knowledge. So, 'the knowledge that has gone beyond', is the literal meaning of prajnaparamita.
It is only the omniscient knowledge of the Buddha that has gone beyond the limits of samsara and nirvana, which is the exact meaning of prajnaparamita The word prajnaparamita can be used on different levels, but the actual prajnaparamita is to be understood in terms of
resultant prajnaparamita. The causal prajnaparamita is all the knowledge which the realisers of all three yanas possess, like the knowledge of path, which is, as was explained earlier, only a cause by which one will obtain the omniscient knowledge, it is not the result.
There are two levels to this, the knowledge at the time of the path of accumulation and that at the time of the path of application. This is not as direct as the knowledge one has as an Arya, but it is still considered as prajnaparamita. All the texts, the sutras
dealing with prajnaparamita as well as the commentaries, (shastras ) are called textual prajnaparamita.
A text, for instance, this Heart sutra, is not ' the knowledge which has gone beyond ' samsara and nirvana, so it is not the definitive, or actual prajnaparamita. It is however named prajnaparamita because it expresses this , it deals with the subject of prajnaparamita.
When the word ' mother ' is used it is generally more pervasive in meaning than the word prajnaparamita. Prajnaparamita refers solely to the omniscient knowledge whereas mother can even refer to the knowledge of the path, the knowledge which a Bodhisattva and the other
lower Aryas possess. This knowledge functions as a cause, functions as a mother to produce these realisers or Aryas. As they are still in the process of attaining the highest enlightenment their knowledge does not fit the definition of ' the knowledge that has gone
A text does not have the definition of a ' mother ' either. A text cannot produce an Arya, one will not become an Arya because of the text. Neither will the text assist in the functioning of an Arya. However, because it deals with the topic of Mother Prajnaparamita or
the knowledge which is the ' mother ,' it is also called prajnaparamita.
So these explanations are in relation to the naming of things as prajnaparamita. There are instances of giving the name of the result to the cause, giving the name of the cause to the result, giving the name of the expressed meaning to the expression and giving the
name of the expression to the expressed meaning. When we say sun referring to the sun's rays, the light rays of the sun, then the name sun is given to the sun's rays on the strength of the name of a cause being given to the result.
The sun's rays are the result of the sun, they are not the actual sun. So here we have an example of the name of a cause being given to the result. Similarly, when the name prajnaparamita is given to the knowledge of the lower Aryas, it is done on the strength of
giving the name of the result to the cause.
The prajnaparamita is the result, not the cause !
When dealing with the text, it is named on the basis of giving the name of the meaning to the words, it is named because of the relationship between the expressed meaning and the expression. In the Tibetan text, the sutra begins with the Sanskrit title, Bhagavati
Prajnaparamita Hridaya, which translates as, The heart of the transcendent and victorious perfection of wisdom. As in every Tibetan sutra or shastra, it always begins with the Sanskrit title, firstly to show that this is an original teaching of the Buddha who gave the
original teaching in the Sanskrit language and secondly, as it has been translated from Sanskrit, we must remember the kindness of the translators who have translated it into Tibetan, in this case.
Then comes the title translated into Tibetan. The purpose of having a title is that just from this, one can have a glimpse of the meaning of the text which one is going to study. Prajnaparamita has already been explained. Heart or essence, (Hridaya), is used in the
title as this sutra contains the essential meaning of all the other Prajnaparamita sutras. Bhagavati, the feminine of Bhagavat, is translated as transcendent and victorious and in some other works as the blessed one. She who has transcended both the extremes of samsara and nirvana. By getting rid of the sufferings of samsara one has gone beyond samsara, and the one with omniscient knowledge does not remain in the pacified state of nirvana, in order to work for the benefit of sentient beings. This state is called victorious because it
has destroyed the four maras, the four negative forces. The Devaputra mara, (the demon of the god's son), skhanda mara,( the demon of the aggregates), klesha mara,( the demon of the delusions) and mriti mara,( the demon of death.) Mara refers to a negative force which
acts as an obstacle to the achievement of the highest enlightenment. Devaputra mara is associated with evil spirits, a particular type of deva beings, who because of their previous karma cause obstacles and hindrances to anyone who is engaged in a virtuous activity. If
the merit of the practitioner is not strong enough, then there is the chance of obstacles coming during the performance of a good activity. This happens even in ordinary cases. If you don't look further than a direct cause and result of an activity, then one may think
one is doing very good things, accumulating virtuous merit, but still one faces many problems. Whereas those who are indulging in non-virtuous activities, very sinful activities, seem to be prospering in their daily lives. It is not guaranteed that a good action will
have an immediate result, neither is it guaranteed that the one who is performing the good action is strong enough to drive away the obstacles. One may have good motivation and perform a good activity, but one may require another quality to conquer the obstacles. One
must have accumulated the necessary merit from previous lifetimes.
In Vajrayana, there are many methods mentioned to deal with different obstacles. The destruction of the obstacles is not the main objective, but in order to reach the highest enlightenment these need to be overcome. When one becomes an enlightened being, one has
overcome all of these Devaputra mara obstacles. Through practice, when one is able to get rid of all one's delusions of hatred, desire and ignorance, the sufferings of samsara, this means that one has destroyed the mara of delusions. As long as one has these delusions,
one cannot have the ultimate state of enlightenment. One cannot progress in one's practice because the delusions will obstruct one's way.
After one has attained Buddhahood, because one has gone beyond the cycle of birth and death in samsara, one is no longer under the influence of uncontrolled death. The realiser has more control over death than death has control over the realiser. In the case of an
ordinary sentient being, death has control. When the time of death comes, nobody has a chance to escape from death, or postpone it. In the case of an enlightened being, one can perform the activity of passing away or dying, whenever one wishes. Coming in the form of a
human being, one can have the lifespan one wishes, one can lengthen one's lifespan according to one's wish. In the case of Shakyamuni Buddha, it is said that he lengthened his lifespan by three months. As he had destroyed the mara of death, he had control over death
and was able to postpone the occurrence of death.
When one passes into the nirvana of no remainder, when an enlightened being shows the manifestation of dying, one discards the five aggregates, one is said to have destroyed the mara of the aggregates, which will not occur again. An ordinary sentient being at the time
of death discards the five aggregates of this life, but because one has not got rid of the entire cycle of birth and death, there will be a new set of five aggregates in the next life.
Because of a Buddha's possession of the transcendental, omniscient knowledge, which is the prajnaparamita, he is said to have overcome the four maras. Thus the Buddha is victorious ! There are different ways of giving a title to a sutra or shastra. Sometimes the title
is given on the basis of the number of verses in the particular text. For example, the Prajnaparamita with one hundred thousand verses. This type of title is called the title given on the basis of expression. Another way of giving a title can be on the basis of who
requested the teaching. For example, the Upaliparipriccha sutra, the sutra requested by Upali, the Indraparipriccha sutra, the sutra requested by Indra. These are sutras, particular teachings given by the Buddha at the request of a certain disciple. Another way of
giving a title can be on the basis of the name of the place, or the circumstances under which the particular sutra was given. For example, the Lankaravatara sutra, the sutra given while travelling to Sri Lankar.
But generally, the title is given from the context of the content of the text. So this is this case here. The text is divided into three sections. The first part is the homage or salutations by the translator, the second part, the actual text followed by the third
part, the conclusion.
The homage or salutations is paid to the prajnaparamita itself. The homage is inserted by the translator, it is not part of the original Sanskrit sutra itself. In order to accomplish the task of translation and in order to show that the translators are noble beings,
they always pays homage to a holy being or a holy quality. By paying homage to a holy being or quality, in this case the prajnaparamita, merit will be accrued and this merit will enable one to accomplish the task of translation without obstacle. In shastras or
commentaries, there will usually be two lines of salutation. One is by the translator and one is by the author of the commentary. The explanation of the actual text has two outlines. The first is the background of the teaching of this sutra, which is again divided into
two, the common background and the uncommon background.
The second outline is the main bulk of the teaching itself. This first section is to be found in all sutras of the Buddha, particularly those sutras related to Vinaya, teachings on the moral discipline of those who have taken vows. The circumstances under which the
Buddha gave these teachings are mentioned at the beginning of the teachings and these serve as the background.
The text states, ' Thus I have heard at one time , the transcendental victorious one was abiding at Vulture's Peak in Rajagriha, together with a great assembly of monks and bodhisattvas.' This is the common background. All the teachings of the Buddha were collected
later by his disciples, the Arhats. Soon after the para nirvana, the passing away of the Buddha, all the remaining Arhats gathered at Rajagriha.
Upali, Kasyapa and Ananda mainly collected the teachings of the Buddha and this was the origin of what is known as the Tripitaka, the three baskets of the teachings. The teachings which deal with transcendental wisdom are known as the Abhidharma pitaka. The teachings
which deal with meditation or absorption, (samadhi ), are called the Sutra pitaka. The teachings which deal with moral discipline of those who have taken vows, novice and fully ordained bhikshus and bhikshunis, are called the Vinaya pitaka.
Arhat Kasyapa, who was the first of the seven successors of the Buddha who are listed, was responsible for collecting the Abidharma pitaka. The Sutra pitaka was compiled by Arhat Ananda, while the Vinaya pitaka was collected by Arhat Upali. When they collected these
teachings, it was in the form of recitation more than putting them into written form. There are several different versions of how the teachings of the Buddha first came to be written down in book form, but the first collection of the teachings was done by the chanting
of all the teachings by these three Arhats.
This is the reason why all the sutras begin with the phrase, 'Thus I have heard at one time ', because the Arhat is reciting the words which the Buddha taught at a certain time and a certain place. So this sutra is said to have been collected by Ananda. As it deals
with transcendental knowledge it can be considered as part of the Abhidharma pitaka, but the distinction as to which sutras are in which pitaka is not that definite, because one sutra can deal with all three topics.
Any sutra which is explained through question and answer between the Buddha and one of his disciples, or between two of his disciples are called sutra pitaka, the basket of discourses. This Heart sutra expresses the prajnaparamita through a dialogue between Shariputra
and the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Shariputra, one of the main disciples among the Hinayana practitioners and Avalokiteshvara, one of the main disciples among the Mahayana practitioners. This dialogue took place in front of the Buddha, under his direct supervision,
as a direct blessing of the Buddha, so the teachings that have come from this are considered to be the teachings of the Buddha. When Ananda recited this sutra it was reporting an account of part of Buddha's life.
Generally, we divide the teachings of the Buddha into three categories. The permitted teaching, blessed teaching and teachings spoken directly. Permitted teaching are those teachings in the sutras not directly spoken by the Buddha, but have been blessed as the teaching of the Buddha, such as those that commence, ' Thus I have heard at one time.' Now this line was not actually spoken by the Buddha, but in the course of his teachings, Buddha himself said that after his paranirvana, when the teachings needed to be collected, this was
the form they should take. He directed his students to compile the teachings in this manner.
Blessed teachings are the actual conversations of his disciples, such as the question put by Shariputra, or the answer given by Avalokitesvara. These were not the direct teachings of the Buddha, but Buddha was said to have blessed them. The blessed teachings of the Buddha can cover such things as all the different types of miracles performed by a Pratyeka Buddha. It is even more applicable to the Bodhisattvas, as they work for the benefit of all types of sentient beings, they pursue all types of methods, sometimes teaching
directly, sometimes through another person, sometimes enabling inanimate objects to have the 'sound of the Dharma.'
An example of this, is the drum in the thirty third heaven, which occasionally makes the sound which is called the four seals of the teachings.
(i) That all compounded things are impermanent,
(ii) everything that deterioates is suffering,
(iii) nirvana is peace and
(iv) all phenomena are selfless and empty.
So one can obtain the same meaning from the sound of this drum that one can get by hearing a teaching expressed through the mouth. These are considered as the different methods of teaching pursued by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for the sake of subduing disciples.
Spoken teaching is those words in the sutras that were directly uttered by the Buddha, such as the section in the Heart sutra after the dialogue between Avalokitesvara and Shariputra, where Buddha praised Avalokiteshvara, saying that his reply to Shariputra was exact
and perfect. At the time when the Buddha was turning the second wheel of the Dharma, the prajnaparamita teachings at Vulture's peak in Rajagriha, simultaneously through a miraculous form, he is said to have been giving another teaching on Vajrayana at another place.
Vulture's peak, which is still called this today, in present day Rajki, is where Buddha gave a whole series of teachings, the second wheel turning of the Dharma was not only for one day or one session. So the compilation of teachings called the second wheel turning was
given on different occasions, this division was made mainly on the basis of the subject, which deal with non-characteristics, or ultimate emptiness.
The place mentioned in connection with the third wheel turning of the Dharma, when the Buddha taught the Vajrayana, is usually Vasali, in the present day state of Bihar, but this is not the only place specified. Otherwise, one may assume that Buddha only taught at
these three places, Sarnath , Vulture's Peak and Vasali, but this is not so. He also taught at Sravasti, which is a very important holy place in the present state of Uttar Pradesh. Buddha is said to have spent twenty three rainy season retreats there.
The disciples of Buddha included both Hinayana and Bodhisattva practitioners. When the text says 'surrounded by a large assembly of Bhikshus ', it mainly refers to these Hinayana disciples. To the appearance of the outer world, we say that most of his disciples were
Hinayana practitioners, such as Shariputra and Maudgaliyaputra, who were considered the two most excellent disciples