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The Wisdom of the Heart Sutra - There are Not Two Truths

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If you have practiced in a Zen center, you may have you been exposed to the Heart Sutra. The Sutra is sometimes very difficult to understand because it appears to be negating so many things that we take for granted as real. However, it has a more subtle meaning than mere negation.

Form itself is emptiness. Emptiness itself form. The same is true of feelings, perceptions, formations and consciousness.

That is, the absolute reality of all things as lacking permanent, independent existence - which simply means they are conditional, impermanent, inter-connected, lacking eternal substance - is completely manifested in their mundane form. We see them demonstrating these principals day in and day out but, typically, it's easier to resist that daily teaching because ignorance is less threatening to our sense of a separate, autonomous self.

This is not the genius of Zen, but of all of Mahayana Buddhism, to have restated the Buddha's teachings in a way that points toward dropping the dualistic view of absolute and relative. Ironically, however, it is often used as a way of reinforcing the "two truths" view which again creates a dualism.

The beauty of Buddhism is that the teaching is, and has always been, that each one of us needs only a body and mind to realize the most profound, sacred, truths, to realize the nature of a human life, and to realize that our everyday experience can be a tool for creating more suffering and confusion or discovering the highest wisdom and peace.