Hannya Shingyō

the Heart Sutra

This sutra is short and by far the most popular in Japan today. It is chanted in Zen temples, and also in Shingon. Kūkai himself wrote a treatise on the Heart Sutra.

The basic insight here is that nothing exists as essential form. Even the teaching of the Buddha is only a statement about reality—it is not reality. True wisdom (the perfection of wisdom) perceives reality directly, without conceptual attachment.

The sutra is in the form of Avelokitesvara (Guan Yin) addressing Sariputra (Sharishi) with these words.

Hannya Haramita Shingyō

The Heart of Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra

It is said that Guan Yin, deep in meditation,

saw that the five elements of reality are fundamentally empty.

And by this deep insight,

realized all may be saved from suffering.

Hey Sharishi—

Stuff is no different from void.

Void is no different from stuff.

Stuff, in fact, IS void.

Void, in fact, IS stuff.





In fact, Sharishi, EVERYTHING arising through karma is void.

Nothing is born; nothing destroyed.

No such thing as purity; no such thing as defilement.

Nothing is gained; nothing lost.

In void, stuff is nil, sensation nil, perception nil, impulse nil, consciousness nil.

No eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind, and so 

no color to see, no sound to hear, no smell to smell, no flavor to taste, no touch to feel.

All the stuff in all the worlds is nil, and so is the mind.

There is no ignorance, there is no end to ignorance.

There is no decay and death; there is no end to decay and death.

Suffering exists—but no sufferer is there.

Deeds exist—but not the doer.

Wisdom is not grasped

Because there is nothing to grasp.

You, seeking truth, can rely on perfect wisdom for enlightenment.

Your mind, free from attachment, finds no obstruction and is fearless.

You transcend delusion to discover Nirvana.

The enlightened ones of past, present, and future all rely on this wisdom

of the Perfected Wisdom Sutra

the wonderful mantra

the shining mantra


genuine, not false

and able to eradicate suffering.


Gyate gyate hara gyate, hara sō gyate Boji sowaka

The wisdom that ferries sentient beings across the ocean of delusion to the farther shore of Nirvana.

Going, going, on beyond, totally beyond, grounding in enlightenment.

translation: Liza Dalby