The Heart Sutra of Kukai

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Master Zhao Guang has said, "The origin of qi is Nothingness. Nothingness is the only origin of reality that cannot be proven. In Buddhism, it is called Emptiness."

I have always been concerned with finding practical methods and techniques. Since I am a long-time practitioner of qi, armchair philosophy on Nothingness or Emptiness has never satisfied me. In my research, I have investigated techniques, trying to find a level at which technique would give way to something more. And yet I also did want to understand the true meaning of Nothingness, or Emptiness. At first I was not sure if I understood it correctly. Now that I have reached the level of the Macrocosmic Orbit and have trained in OM qigong, which is a modern adaptation of the Grace of the Three Mysteries, I think I can explain Nothingness.

If you are involved in Buddhism or Yoga, you may have heard of the Hannya sbingyo, or Heart Sutra, an exoteric Buddhist scripture written in Sanskrit on the topic of Emptiness; it remains today one of the most popular Buddhist scriptures in Japan. Kukai interpreted this work from an esoteric point of view in his commentary Hannya sbingyo hiken ("The Secret Key to the Heart Sutra" (included in Major Works). Kukai divides the sutra into five parts, and it is the way he divided them that proves his genius. The following are a few quotes.

"When the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara was practicing profound Transcendental Wisdom, he discerned clearly that Five Psychophysical Constituents are empty and thereby became free from all sufferings." (Parti)

"O Sariputra, form is emptiness, emptiness is form; form is no other than emptiness, emptiness is no other than form. Of sensation, conception, predisposition, and consciousness the same can be said. O Sariputra, all things are characterized by emptiness; they are neither born nor do they perish; they are neither tainted nor immaculate; neither do they increase nor decrease. Therefore, in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, no conception, no predisposition, no consciousness; no eyes, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; no form, sound, scent, physical sensation, objects of mind; no realm of vision ... no realm of consciousness. There is no ignorance ... no old age and death, no extinction of old age and death. There is no suffering, no accumula-

tion, no annihilation, no Noble Paths. There is no wisdom and no attainment because there is no object to be attained." (Part 2)

"The bodhisattva has no obstacle in mind because of his dependence on Transcendental Wisdom; because he has no obstacles, he has no fear. Being free from all perverted views, he reaches ultimate Nirvana. All the Buddha of the past, present, and future, depending on Transcendental Wisdom, attain perfect enlightenment." (Part 3)

"Therefore, one knows that the Prajna-paramita is the great mantra, the mantra of great wisdom, the highest mantra, the peerless mantra, which is capable of allaying all suffering; it is true and not false." (Part 4)

"Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha." (Part 5)


Bodhisattva Avalokiesvara: A person who engages in the practice. The Five Psychological Constituents: Form, sensation, conception, volition, and consciousness.

Sariputra: Proper name; a character to whom the Buddha speaks. Nirvana: The goal of spiritual practice.

(Part 5, it should be noted, is the mystic mantra. It is chanted in Sanskrit because each word contains mystic power.)

The sutra can be briefly outlined as follows. In Part 1, a practitioner is training in an effort to learn to recognize the visible and invisible worlds, and comprehends that the five factors—form, sensation, conception, volition, and consciousness—constituting the self and all other existences are Emptiness. With this, he is freed from all suffering and misfortune. Part 2 discusses the nature of Emptiness. Part 3 outlines the way to Emptiness and the benefits to be derived from it. Parts 4 and 5 introduce the mystic formula for chanting.

Study alone does not bring real knowledge of Emptiness; this knowledge only comes with experience.

In Buddhism, the six curricula, known as the Six Paramitas, are introduced as steps in the training for people who seek profound wisdom. In modern terms, the Six Paramitas can be expressed as charity, morality, patience, effort, meditation, and wisdom.

The Six Paramitas

1. Charity Paramita: Give to others what you have, including material objects, time, money, and even qi energy. Share your knowledge with others and teach techniques. Diminish your ego.

2. Morality Paramita: Cultivate a habit of living in accordance with your conscience. Reduce the likelihood of your having cause for regret.

3. Patience Paramita: Accept others and the things that happen to us. Diminish anger.

4. Effort Paramita: Realize that everything is in the process of evolution. Do not relax your efforts.

5. Meditation Paramita: Open the window of your mind. Awaken more of the hidden capacity of your brain, which will enable you to recognize the truth of the physical world.

6. Wisdom Paramita: Train in the Six Paramitas and increase your wisdom.

If you wish to better understand the Six Paramitas, thinking of the opposite behavior will help. If your ego comes out, you will lose your sense of right judgment. If you do something that goes against your conscience, you will feel badly. If you get angry with someone, it will be hard to keep calm and you will not be able to meditate. The first four Paramitas are exoteric; the fifth contains an element of esoteri-cism—that is, practical training for body and mind. You can practice the first through fourth Paramitas each day until they become an integral part of your life. Keep your mind open and relaxed, so that harmful "data" does not have a chance to accumulate. However, all of this by itself will still not bring you knowledge of Emptiness.

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