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Showing posts from November, 2011

The Heart Sutra - Compassion and the Cessation of Suffering (Part 5 of 5)

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Last week’s post left just two questions outstanding: One, what does the realization of emptiness have to do with the cessation of suffering; and, two, how is it that the realization of emptiness gives rise to compassionate action? In order to focus more completely on these questions, I’ll change the format of this final post in the Heart Sutra series just a little bit by concentrating on Rosan Yoshida roshi’s translation at the beginning and then presenting the three translations in full at the close of this post.


Recall that we left off last week with the realization that, with respect to ultimate reality, even the Four Noble Truths are empty; and there is nothing, not even knowledge, to be gained. After all, our conception of knowledge presupposes a knower and a known, and our conception of gain requires that something with a determinable identity enjoy some enhancement of some kind. Clearly this is all solidly in the mundane realm where qualitative and quantitative judgments stil…

The Heart Sutra and the Two Levels of Truth (Part 4 of 5)

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The previous post explored the nature of emptiness, shunyata, and closed with a few observations that could be thought of as either clarifying descriptions or logical conclusions, as the case may be. Essentially, when we’re experiencing emptiness we realize that our usual quantitative or qualitative judgments about things simply don’t make sense anymore. Ideas regarding young and old, small and big, bad and good, are just that – ideas; and ideas need not necessarily be grounded in reality.

Thich Nhat Hanh (1988) illustrates this quite well with his examination of the life cycle of one of our most beloved flowers, the rose. We normally think of a bunch of plump blossoms in full bloom as being the ultimate state of existence for roses. After due consideration, however, we can see that the subsequent wilting, dying, and decaying of those very blossoms creates ‘new’ soil that makes possible ‘new’ life – ‘new’ roses, ‘new’ food, ‘new’ habitat for animals. Thus, the wilting of flower bloss…