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Meditation on the Heart Sutra
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|David Shea||Meditation On The Heart Sutra|
The Sutras are written texts that appeared about 400 years after the Buddha died and are recorded words of comments on the Dharma, the insights and teachings that Buddha shared, which sparked the foundation of all Buddhist traditions and cultures.
The Diamond, Lotus and Heart Sutras are three of the central texts of formal occasions where teachings, questions and applications of those teachings for the communities of monks and nuns, followers of Buddha and for each of us who explore the 3 Marks of Existence and practice meditation.
The Heart Sutra is the shortest and most condensed of the Sutras and most likely is a mix of other teachings transformed and complied through centuries of translations. It is a meditation on the connection of all things, on the emptiness of the belief in a separate and disconnected self.
The Sutra explore the experience of this knowledge that is outside thought. A practice of the quietness of the mind as the expression of insight and intelligence. In other words, the intelligence of the mind begins when the mind is still, an intelligence that all living things possess that comes into operation only when going beyond the limits of what can be known by thought alone. A wisdom beyond wisdom known by words and actions.
The Sutra is also at the centre of the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism in and although originally written in Sanskrit and traded throughout Asia across the many silk roads has transformed through centuries of transformation and translation. It is also a meditation on the non-self, and awareness that there is no separate self, no existence without connection to all other things that we were formed from and return to. We are a collage of these influences of forms and things which all change, die and transform. The I is a crossroads of these connections because it is empty and has no distinct life separate from other lives and forms.
The Heart Sutra is also a song, a repeated mantra, often a sung ritual, to quiet the mind so it might be receptive to divine influences – or perhaps the interconnections that make us up, to use less mystical words. This song of changing vibrations is a signpost to look beyond knowledge, beyond self or non-self, form or limitlessness, beyond birth and death, beyond even the teachings that proclaim this. This paradox is only a paradox when expressed in words and thought. The direct experience may be sensed in sound, in vibration, in listening and looking at the process of who is the listener and how do these experiences become practical in living every day and in relationships with our own heart and those we share it with.
As in all Buddhist teachings, the Sutras are intended to be heard with the intention of being practiced every day in the middle of the chaos and suffering in and around us, a practical guide to explore in our own time, culture and conditioned mind. The Sutras are a path to follow which is adaptable and changed each time we engage with the rituals they were first expressed. The meanings may transform from culture to culture, language to language, era to era, but none of these applications contain any wisdom nor are they sacred. The path is beyond wisdom, empty, in that sense, without form or distinct form to be compared or measured, as it has no distinction to mark it from the whole.
The mantra - Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bohdi Svaha is a music of realization, that we are that whole now, formless, and there is nowhere to search for the formless and no path to it.
This was the starting point for these three pieces I am now composing - the Heart, Lotus and Diamond Sutra. To create music influenced my own practice, my history and influences and the experience of the teachings. Composing in the form of a collage, realized in music, vibration, words and traditions/translations. A modern set of sound commentaries on the texts and a meditation influenced by the changing historical/cultural traditions in the past, and new possible rituals connected to the Sutras. The sketch here “Meditation on the Heart Sutra” is a section of the larger work performed and recorded with singing bowls made from metal and quartz crystal.