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Deshimaru Roshi chanting the Heart Sutra

18/01/2014

Deshimaru Roshi, Dharma heir of the zen master Kodo Sawaki, leads the Maka Hannya Haramita Shingyo (Heart Sutra) sometime in the 1970s, probably in Paris.

The Heart Sutra is about Avalokiteshvara (known in other cultures as Chenrezig, Tara, The Dalai Lama, Na-tha, Cundi, or Chandi) and tells Sariputra (a student of Lord Buddha) about reality, form and emptiness.

The Bodhisattva of true compassion,
Through deep practice in Great Wisdom,
Understands that the body and the five skandas are only emptiness.
And with this understanding, he helps all who suffer.

Oh Sariputra,
Phenomena is no different than ku, ku no different from phenomena.
Phenomena becomes ku, ku becomes phenomena.
The five skandas too are only phenomena.

Oh Sariputra,
All things are ku.
There is no birth, no death,
No purity, no impurity,
No increase, no decrease.

This is why in ku there is no form, no skandas,
No eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind.
There is no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no thought.
There is no knowing, no ignorance, no illusion, no cessation of illusion.
No withering, no death, no end to withering and death.
There is no beginning to suffering, no end to suffering.
There is no knowledge, no profit, no non-profit.

Because of this wisdom which leads beyond, the Bodhisattva is fearless.
All illusion and all attachment are dropped off, and he can grasp the final end to life, nirvana.

All Buddhas of the past, of the present and of the future,
Through this incomparable, unparalleled and authentic incantation,
Can attain understanding of this supreme wisdom which frees us from suffering
As it does away with all suffering, it allows us to find reality, true ku.

Go, go, go together, beyond, fully beyond, to the shore of satori.


The chanting reminds me of my stay at Sogenji many years ago. Our days began with chanting Sutras accompanied by percussion. Amazing! I’ve made a point to listen to Deshimaru Roshi’s Heart Sutra first thing each morning. What a way to start each day!

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