Atanu Dey On India's Development

Happy Birthday, Gautam Buddha

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Gautam, aka Sakyamuni (the sage of the Sakyas), became a buddha around 2,500 years ago. Today, known as Buddha Purnima, the day of the full moon in May, is celebrated as his birthday. So here’s the Chinese singer Imee Ooi singing the Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra, aka The Heart Sutra. Listen.

The maha-mantra of the Heart Sutra, “om gate, gate, para-gate, parasum-gate, bodhi svaha om”, appears around the 3:35 time stamp.

About the Heart Sutra, Wikepedia says:

Briefly the sutra introduces the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteśvara, who in this case is representing the faculty of prajña (wisdom). His analysis of phenomena is that there is nothing which lies outside the five aggregates of human existence (skandhas) — form (rūpa), feeling (vedanā), volitions (samskārā), perceptions (samjñā), and consciousness (vijñāna).

Avalokiteśvara then addresses Śariputra, who in this text — as with many other Mahāyāna texts — is a representative of the Early Buddhist schools, described in many other sutras as being the Buddha’s foremost disciple in wisdom. Avalokiteśvara famously states that, “form is emptiness (Śūnyatā) and emptiness is form” and declares the other skandhas to be equally empty — that is, without an independent essence. Avalokiteśvara then goes through some of the most fundamental Buddhist teachings such as the Four Noble Truths and explains that in emptiness none of these labels apply. This is traditionally interpreted as saying that Buddhist teachings, while accurate descriptions of conventional truth, are mere statements about reality — they are not reality itself — and that they are therefore not applicable to the ultimate truth that is by definition beyond dualistic description. Thus the bodhisattva, as the archetypal Mahāyāna Buddhist, relies on the perfection of wisdom, defined in the larger Perfection of Wisdom sutras to be the wisdom that perceives reality directly without conceptual attachment. This perfection of wisdom is condensed in the mantra with which the Sutra concludes.

Also check out “Form is Emptiness” post from May 2007 in which I have the full text of the Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra.

“Form is emptiness, emptiness is also form” is a line from the sutra which I had used in a letter to Abhishek in June 2005.

  • Satya

    Thanks a lot Atanu for posting the video. It is soothing…very soothing…had a disturbed mind today and the impact was tremendous…

    Thanks again.

  • Hari

    I believe there is no way of understanding the world other than through the mind, the instrument given to us. And the instrument is subjective; there is no way out of it. There is probably no objective reality out there (only degrees of subjectivity), no purpose or meaning to life. Nature is continuously unfolding a script that is totally unknown to us or any other species. It is only the arrogance of us humans (an extension of the individual ego) that leads us to believe we are here for some special purpose, to discover the true nature of reality etc. Out of this arrogance come theories — religious, economic, scientific etc. Some are probably better than others, but in the end, even science will never capture anything about “life”, because science is also subjective — science is also a product of the subjective mind.

    Once this delusion disappears (and this perhaps what the Buddha was trying to do), life, now stripped of an abstract unknowable purpose and “how to” philosophies, can become very simple and easy.

    I like your criticism or religious ideologies and people like Sri Sri, but economic theories (no matter how attractive or mathematically sound) are futile too.

  • Srini

    Thanks for such a wonderful post Atanu. My belated Birthday wishes to dear Gautam Buddha.