Articles by alphabetic order
 Ā Ī Ñ Ś Ū Ö Ō
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

Prajnaparamita perfection of Wisdom

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search



Emptiness, Form and Wisdom in the Heart Sūtra

REL 645: Indian Mahāyana Buddhism

Professor: Dr. Miroj Shakya

Presented by: Hongye Peng (a.k.a. Ven. Dang Hou)

Mar 2th, 2019

Prajñāpāramitā is a Sanskrit word for the perfection of wisdom. Prajñā means wisdom, intelligence or discrimination; Pāram means other; and Itā means gone. Another way to translate Pārami and ta means perfect and “tion”. This Sūtra existed for over 1,000 years is one of the oldest Sūtras in the Mahāyana tradition. Prajñāpāramitā texts became more condensed as newer versions came into existence with the most extended version having about 125,000 verses and date as far back as 100 BCE. Xuan Zang’s version contains only 262 words and it has been translated and summarized in China in 654 AD with the title as the Heart Sūtra. The Heart Sūtra is one of the most critical Sūtras in Buddhism. It is being chanted to daily in monasteries throughout China, Korea, Japan and so on. Even though it has been existent for thousands of years until now, and it still inspires a lot of people. This short Sūtra refers to the enlightenment of the Aṣṭasahaśrika, a famous Bodhisattva of compassion. The three significant elements of enlightenment as detailed in the Heart Sūtra are emptiness, form, and wisdom.

The first essence of the heart Sūtra is emptiness which describes the origination of this world. This conception of the emptiness is based on Mādhyamaka belief which is an ancient Buddhist school. Emptiness has several meanings such as air or nothing. However, in the Heart Sūtra, emptiness is meant as an existence but it could not be seen. According to the Heart Sūtra, emptiness is a form yet also not a form. For example, although a room without light could be dark, there are also a chair, desk or other. In this room seems emptiness, but it also has many things inside. Similarly, when a person considers one thought, even this thought could not be seen, the truth is that thought creates something. An early Indian scholar, Nāgārjuna, claimed it is dependent origination that we call emptiness. A Buddhist claim that people suffer because they do not understand the way things really are; the reason why people are in trouble is ignorance. For instance, an individual wants to buy a luxurious house, but does not have enough money, so he desires to have a lot of money. Based on these desires, he will have no time to take care of himself or others but to only make money. Thus, suffering will accompany him. The key to these suffering is that he has never asked himself whether he really need such a house. In fact, the true nature of entities is depending on an activity of mind of conceptual construction. Although emptiness could not be seen or heard or felt, it can relate with others as an existence.

Form was the second significant element in the Heart Sūtra because it referred to creation. The form can be seen, heard or felt, but it is not a true existence. This conception originated from an ancient Indian school, Yogācāra. Though it dated back to a couple of thousand years ago, many scholars developed this conception. Especially, Xuanzang studied Yogācāra at Nalanda and upon his return to China, transplanted this Sūtra to his homeland. According to the Heart Sūtra, form was emptiness, but form was not emptiness. The form was deeply divided into five aggregates which meant skandha in Sanskrit. These consisted of form, feeling, cognition, formation, and consciousness. These five aggregates provide everything people need in their spiritual explorations. It includes eyes ears, nose, tongue, body, mental sense and [[[visible]]] forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, phenomena, and eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness, tongue consciousness, body consciousness, and mental consciousness. People relied on their experiences to classify them as positive, negative, or neutral. And then form would define them as good or bad. The scholar, J. Kalupahana, explains that in dreams people experience the existence of objects at particular places, and not everywhere. For example, if someone wants to go to a restroom and then the toilet will be found at that moment. This object of dream experience is also temporally determined. It is perceived only at a specific time, not always. The same thing may happen in everyday life, where there may be no real objects. As for the last objection of the realist, Vasubandhu points out that fruitful activity, too, results from unreal dream objects, for the sight of a dream tiger causes real fear and an erotic dream is followed by consequences which are physically real. Actually, form changed each moment depending on a different feeling, knowing or perception. It does not indeed exist and makes people know that creating is not reality.

Wisdom is the final essence and also the most important concept in the Heart Sūtra. Scholar Lopez describes wisdom as beyond understanding. It is also the meaning of Prajñāpāramitā which is the perfection of wisdom. Thus, people need to gradually carry out their spiritual training so that their spiritual and spiritual development towards a high degree of self-discipline and profound understanding of the mentality. Everywhere one can see this gradual process of development, whether in the material world or in the inner spiritual space. In fact, gradual development seems to be a natural law, the inevitable result of the law of causation. This gradual spiritual transformation and development must take a place to be based on what Buddhists call the combination of wisdom. The Heart Sūtra is a brilliant presentation of wisdom, and people have conducted in-depth research on it. Based on the above statement, emptiness and form can be existent or nonexistent. Understanding of emptiness or form is also the wisdom which will produce a true perception.

According to Lopez, truths can be divided into three types: the mundane, the supramundane, and the ultimate supramundane truths. In this regard, the mundane truth is to understand that the five collections are of origin and that aging, and death is painful. The supernatural truth is to understand pain, origin, cessation and the path. Understanding the supernatural truth of superiors without generating sets is the understanding of the truth of suffering. The understanding of the original truth is that secular existence has been destroyed.

As Tenzin Gyatso said, from the Buddhist point of view, the most effective way is to guide other beings into the Buddhist gate. However, in order to guide them to achieve this goal, people must have their own knowledge and practical realization. In this way, we realize that in order to ensure the ultimate well-being of all sentient beings, we must ourselves be enlightened. Buddha has told people in heart Sūtra that is to a perception of emptiness and form. It has both the desire to bring happiness to others and the desire to become Buddha for this purpose. A person who has wisdom can balance between emptiness and form beyond secular understanding to get supramundane and the ultimate supramundane truths.

In conclusion, based on the above statements, although it is only a corner, emptiness, form, and wisdom are essences in hear Sūtra. These versions let people to truly know about themselves such as their body their mind their action. When people percept emptiness, they might know nothing does not means no. One thought could not be seen, but it will cause other consequence. If people truly understand form, they might realize everything will change and also change by every moment. This person will become a wise individual who will go beyond understanding to recognize the truth. Thus, emptiness, form, and wisdom are significant.


Pine,Red.the heart Sūtra the womb of buddhas.USA: Washington, D.C, 2004.

Gyatso,Tenzin, the fourteenth Dalai Lama. Essence of the heart Sūtra. Boston, 2005.

Lopez, S.Donald. The Heart Sūtra explained.State. University of New York Press: Albany,1988.

Williams, Paul. Mahāyana Buddhism. USA and Canada: Routledge,1989.

Burton, David.The heart Sūtra explained: Indian and Tibetan Commentaries.New York: Albany Press, 1988

Kalupahana,J.David. Buddhist Philosophy A Historical Analysis.University of Hawaii Press: Honolulu, 1976)