Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche
The Heart Sutra and the Nature of Mind
Online from Khyentse Labrang, Bir, India
June 5, 2020 (Saga Dawa1Saga Dawa (Tibetan: ས་ག་ཟླ་བ་) = Vesak, also known as Buddha Jayanti, Buddha Purnima and Buddha Day. One of the four major Buddhist holidays, which is celebrated by Tibetan Buddhists on the full moon (15th day) of the fourth Tibetan lunar month. It celebrates Buddha Shakyamuni’s birth in Lumbini, enlightenment at Bodhgaya and parinirvana at Kushinagara - see Saga Dawa.)
Note 1: This transcript is not an official publication of Siddhartha's Intent. Every effort has been made to ensure that this transcript is accurate both in terms of words and meaning, however all errors and misunderstandings are the responsibility of the editors of madhyamaka.com. Please see note.
Note 2: This transcript includes footnotes with clarifications and more information about Tibetan and Sanskrit Buddhist terms used in the teaching. Please click on the superscript number to read the footnote. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche's name is abbreviated to "DJKR" throughout.
- Our mind is powerful and ever-present, but we don't take advantage of it
- We go astray and get entangled
- The Buddha refers to himself as Tathagata
- DJKR recites Heart Sutra mantra [AUDIO]
- Tathagata means coming and going
- We need to be mindful of this mind
- But we dare not do this because we're scared of the simplicity
- So we use techniques such as mindfulness to help us not stray too far from this mind
- The Heart Sutra describes this mind that is so difficult to describe
- Thank you for taking part in this online practice
- Let's take this difficult occasion and turn it into something meaningful
The Heart Sutra and the Nature of Mind
Our mind is powerful and ever-present, but we don't take advantage of it
You know, there's nothing better to recite than the Heart Sutra2Ed.: The text of the Heart Sutra is available on the Practice page - see Heart Sutra., from every point of view. I think we all know how much we should really contemplate and look into our mind and our heart. I think you must know this. All of you have heard lots of Buddhist teachings, so you know this very well.
The world really needs to look into this mind. And this mind is just incredibly powerful. It's so near and it's so close. It's there all the time. You cannot sort of “pause” it. You cannot take leave from the mind. It's there. But we're just not able to take advantage of this [mind]. We go astray. We go away from this mind. This mind that is like an ocean, that is so deep and vast and still. It’s actually very clear. Pristine. Clear. But we are not able to take advantage of that, and we get so distracted by the surface. On the surface [of the ocean] there are a lot of waves. And we have lots of waves [in our mind].
I think that you and I should consider ourselves quite lucky because at least we are talking about these things. At least we are talking about this subject. I mean, how many people are talking [about these things] today? Most people don't even know that this [mind] exists. I don't know whether people even know that there's something called mind, something so precious and so sublime. So pristine. So abundant. So rich. There's so much creativity and so much light.
And [this mind has] so much potential. “Potential” is even not the right word. I think words like “potential” aren’t doing service to express what mind can do. We [already] have it. You don't have to buy it. You don't have to download it. You just have it.
We go astray and get entangled
But as I was saying, we just go astray. And we get entangled. And then we end up creating so many stories. And then we get more entangled. And then we have more hope and fear. And we just never give ourselves a chance to reach this mind that's there all the time.
As I speak, it’s there. As you listen, it’s there.
We are always thinking [things like], “Oh, I have to do this. I have to do that". "I’ve got to do this. I've got to do that”. This kind of thing. And then usually you drift, so to speak, and then you get you get pushed and pulled by this wind [like the wind creates the waves on the ocean].
The Buddha refers to himself as Tathagata
We are chanting the Heart Sutra mantra:
TADYATHA OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA3Ed.: This is the Sanskrit mantra (Sanskrit: गते गते पारगते पारसंगते बोधि स्वाहा, Tibetan: ག༌ཏེ༌ག༌ཏེ༌པཱ༌ར༌ག༌ཏེ༌པཱ༌ར༌སཾ༌ག༌ཏེ༌བོ༌དྷི༌སྭཱ༌ཧཱ།) at the end of the Prajñāpāramitāhṛdayasūtra (“Heart Sūtra”), which means "Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, awakened existence" - see GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA.
The word GATE has been translated as “gone”. [It forms part of the word "Tathagata"]. If today Buddha Shakyamuni was receiving a phone call, he would say “Tathagata is speaking”. That's what he used to call himself. He called himself “Tathagata”. [He said things like] “Tathagata wishes to go and beg for alms”, “Tathagata wishes to teach”, “Tathagata can remain on earth for as long as he wishes. But Tathagata is going to pass into parinirvana”. And so forth. He always calls himself "Tathagata".
And this “Tathagata” is actually quite an interesting word4Ed.: DJKR explains the meaning of Tathagata in more depth in his three-day teaching "The Way of the Tathagata" - see The Way of the Tathagata.. It’s a bit like if you were receive a call and you announced yourself as “Okay, DNA is speaking” or “Molecule is speaking” or “Atom is speaking”.
You know that Shakyamuni Buddha has several names? I mean, he never called himself “Buddha”. He would never say, “Okay, Buddha is speaking”. He also doesn't say, “Siddhartha is speaking”. That is his given name, Siddhartha. And his surname is Gautama. He never calls himself “Gautama”. He calls himself “Tathagata”.
Tathagata means coming and going
The word “gata” is actually quite rich5gata (Sanskrit: गत) = gone, departed, arrived at, being in, situated in - see gata.. It means both “coming" and “going", or arrived and gone. Sanskrit words are just so rich. It’s such a beautiful language. "Gate" means come and gone, both together.
And “tatha” means “what it is” or “this” or “such”. Or in the context of what we were talking about earlier, it [refers to] the mind. This pristine, clear, unexplainable and unnameable [mind]. But it's there. You have it. I have it. It’s very, very cognizant. Very alive.
This is where he arrived. And where he is gone. We have to understand this [mind]. [Whereas] for us, we haven't arrived and we haven't gone. We are kind of roaming [around] on the surface, somewhere else. Our flight is going round and round somewhere else [DJKR indicates a plane circling round and round]. We haven't gone and we haven't arrived there.
We need to be mindful of this mind
As you know, mindfulness is such a big tool in Buddhism. And what are we mindful of? Basically, it boils down to being mindful of mind itself.
We are not [trying to be] mindful of this or that [DJKR indicates various objects around him in the room]. We are being mindful of this mind that I was talking about. The ocean-like mind. That unshakable, unfabricated, uncontrived [mind], that is just so deep, vast, rich, vibrant, colorful, creative, loving, compassionate, bodhichitta, whatever, … [it has] so many names.
This [is what] we need to be mindful of. But we are so used to going astray. We are so used to going round and taking trips. Tripping. Basically going on a voyage but never coming and not arriving anywhere.
But we dare not do this because we're scared of the simplicity
First of all, we don't even know that there is mind. You know, [the mind that] I was talking about, that beautiful mind that we can arrive [at]. And some of us, like you and me probably, even though we know “Wow, that is quite beautiful. That is so rich and so wonderful”. But even though we [know] that, we are so accustomed and habituated and addicted to voyaging, traveling, not arriving, not coming, not going. We're so addicted.
We just dare not [be mindful of this mind]. It's understandable, because to reach [this mind], to come there and to stay there. it's also kind of scary. Because it's so simple. That simplicity. Wow.
Suddenly you are not a man. You're not a woman. You are not Spanish. You are not Chinese. You are not American. You are not black. You are not white. You are not yellow. You are not blue. All those labels are on the surface. That is kind of scary for a lot of us. So there's always resistance to going there, going to this fundamental nature, or whatever you want to call it.
So we use techniques such as mindfulness to help us not stray too far from this mind
So there are a lot of techniques [in Buddhism] to put a leash on ourselves so that we won't go too far [astray]. And I think today [for the past] twenty-four hours we have managed to put on a leash called the Heart Sutra, with chanting, with a sort of sing song.
And this is what mindfulness is all about. [You are] really trying to tie a leash on [yourself], so that even though you may go [astray], you [do] not go too far. So you will always come back, always come back.
Of course, every day is a special day. Every day is a holiday. Every day is the Buddha’s Day. Of course. But for human beings like you and me, it’s good to have a designated time such as today, the day of the Buddha’s birth, his parinirvana, his enlightenment, and so forth. And this is all designed to hopefully at least keep you closer to this mind that I was talking about.
The Heart Sutra describes this mind that is so difficult to describe
And if you read the Heart Sutra, and you have read it many times now, you [will] know that it really explains [this] so well. “No increasing, no decreasing, no birth, no death”. Basically, this is talking about your mind. “No eyes, no ears, no nose”. All of that. It’s really fundamental.
Obviously you know that the Heart Sutra is not like a nihilistic negation of everything. It's definitely not. It is very much a description of the mind that you have and I have. [This mind] is difficult to describe, but the Heart Sutra has probably has done the best job.
Thank you for taking part in this online practice
At least for me, this has been the first time that the Heart Sutra has been chanted straight through the very special day of Saga Dawa in a twenty-four marathon, which is fantastic.
Thank you for joining us. I sure some people really want to practice, and some people also just want to sing songs, which is fine. Many people are already talking about wanting to do more of this, so I'm sure we will think about a lot of things [we could do]. If you have any ideas about what we could do using Zoom, this kind of medium, please write to us, to me.
And yes, please wash your hands. And, I guess, social distance. And moisturizers.
Let's take this difficult occasion and turn it into something meaningful
And also I think we should pray and aspire that collectively our leaders, and us of course, [that] we will all really take this opportunity to look at the world in a different way. Not just always talk about the economy, because I think we have a good chance now to jumpstart and restart [in a different way]. Like computers have “boost” or something? I think maybe [there is a different way] environmentally. Because I think this situation that we have had [for the] past few months now, and now especially in America, all this has really made us realize that we are just so fragile. We are like a dewdrop.
So that's also kind of important. Yes, of course, for emotional human beings like us, it's very painful and unpleasant. But I think it's important to take advantage [of this]. Take this occasion and turn it into something meaningful, at least individually for ourselves. Well, that's it.
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Note: to read footnotes please click on superscript numbers.
Transcribed and edited by Alex Li Trisoglio