Heart Sutra Practice
The Heart Sutra presents the Buddha’s teachings on emptiness in the form of a dialogue between Avalokiteshvara (Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Shariputra (the Buddha’s disciple). This sutra is the most popular text for recitation in Mahayana Buddhist countries, chanted by both monastic and lay practitioners, individually and in groups.
Nowadays, when most people do not have the time to meditate for hours, chanting the Heart Sutra is an ideal practice because it can be recited in about five minutes. Even though it is short, yet it is profound and vast in meaning.
Emptiness is one of the Four Seals of the Dharma that is part of the practice of Contemplative Meditation. In addition to the sitting practice of contemplation, Khenpo Gawang Rinpoche recommends the chanting of the Heart Sutra, as described in the book.
Chanting the Heart Sutra with a relaxed mind is a delightful way to deepen your understanding of emptiness, which is another word for the ultimate peace and happiness of nirvana. The famous paradoxical saying from the Heart Sutra declares that “form is emptiness, emptiness also is form.” The appearance of form is inseparable from emptiness because emptiness is the complete openness without obstruction that allows everything to occur. This openness is the fundamental nature of our mind.
In the section of the book headed “Practices to Deepen Understanding of the Heart Sutra” (pages 202-6), Rinpoche explains: “There is not one single style or tune used for chanting the Heart Sutra; each country or Buddhist tradition has its own way. At our Pema Karpo Meditation Center in Memphis, Tennessee, we chant the English text together in a group, in a monosyllabic style accompanied by rhythmic percussion.”