心经 Heart Sutra

Perfection of Wisdom Mantra

From the Chinese version by the Buddhist classics scholar Kumaragiva (4th century AD)

摩诃般若波罗蜜大明咒经

姚秦三藏法师鸠摩罗什译

English translation by Estel Vilar

with the support of Xu Feng

When the Bodhisattva who listens to the voice of the world1 entered the perfection of wisdom2 and realised the emptiness of the five shadows3 transcended all suffering.

观世音菩萨,行深般若波罗蜜多时,照见五阴空,度一切苦厄。

Sariputra4! As form is empty, there is no such thing as what seems degradation; as sensations are empty, what seems felt is not there; as cognition is empty, there is no such thing as what seems knowledge; as volition is empty, what seems doing is not there; as consciousness is empty, what seems perception is not there. How is that? Sariputra, no-form differs from emptiness, no-emptiness differs from form; form is emptiness, emptiness is form. The same happens with sensations, cognition, volition and consciousness.

舍利弗,色空故,无恼坏相;受空故,无受相;想空故,无知相;行空故,无作相;识空故,无觉相。何以故?舍利弗,非色异空,非空异色,色即是空,空即是色,受想行识亦复如是。

Sariputra, all things are an empty appearance. They are not born nor extinguished, not dirty nor clean, they don’t increase nor decrease. And so there is no past, future nor present. That is why in emptiness there is no form, sensations, cognition, action nor consciousness. There is no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body nor mind5. There is no form, sound, smell, touch nor concept6. There is no visible world, nor invisible world. There is no ignorance7, nor end of ignorance. There is no ageing and death, nor end of ageing and death. There is no path to dissolve desire and suffering8. Emptiness can’t be known nor obtained.

舍利弗,是诸法空相,不生不灭,不垢不净,不增不减。是故空法,非过去,非未来,非现在。是故空中无色,无受想行识,无眼耳鼻舌身意,无色声香味触法,无眼界乃至无意识界,无无明亦无无明尽,乃至无老死,亦无老死尽,无苦集灭道,无智亦无得。

Having nothing to obtain, the Bodhisattva listens to the perfection of wisdom, her heart has no worries. Having no worries, she has no fears and moves away from all suffering of crazy dreams. The result is nirvana9.

以无所得故,菩萨依般若波罗蜜故,心无挂碍;无挂碍故,无有恐怖,远离一切颠倒梦想苦恼,究竟涅槃。

As all budhas from the three worlds10 listen to the perfection of wisdom, they reach the highest wisdom and awakening.

三世诸佛依般若波罗蜜故,得阿耨多罗三藐三菩提。

So they know that the Perfection of Wisdom Mantra is the great mantra, the supreme mantra, the unequal mantra, that can remove all suffering, that is true and not false.

知般若波罗蜜是大明咒、是无上明咒、是无等等明咒,能除一切苦,真实不虚。

So they say the Perfection of Wisdom Mantra in this way:

故说般若波罗蜜咒,即说咒曰:

gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā11

Gone, gone, crossed over, reached the other shore, awakened, svaha12.

竭帝竭帝 波罗竭帝 波罗僧竭帝 菩提僧莎呵

1观世音 guān shì yīn – Guanshiyin, literally “who hears the sound of the world”, also known as Guanyin, Kuan Yin or Bodhisattva of Compassion. Is the equivalent of Avalokiteśvara in Sanskrit, “the lord who looks down (the world)”, the Bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all budhas.

2般若波罗蜜多bō rě bō luó mì duō – Bore Boluomiduo (pinyin), Chinese transcription of the Sanskrit “Prajñā Pāramitā”. It refers to perfecting the way to see the nature of reality. It is often translated as Perfection of Wisdom or Transcendent Wisdom.

3五阴wǔ yīn – Equivalent to 五蕴 wǔ yùn or five skandhas in Sanskrit, usually translated as “five aggregates” in English. A technically imprecise yet more straightforward translation has been chosen here to describe the concept as the “five shadows”, which cloud perfect wisdom, namely form, sensations, cognition, volition and consciousness.

4舍利弗 shè lì fú – Shelifu, Chinese transcription of the Sanskrit Śāriputra, one of the main disciples of Budha.

5六根 liù gēn – Six roots or six senses; eyes (眼yǎn), ears (耳ěr), nose ( 鼻bí), tongue (舌shé), body (身shēn) and mind ( 意yì); the six senses of physical perception that root us to the illusory world.

6六境 liù jìng – Six perceptual dimensions: form (色sè), sound (声shēng), odour (香xiāng), flavour (味wèi), touch (触chù), and thought ( 法fǎ).

7无明 wú míng – Avidyā in Sanskrit. It refers to ignorance or incomprehension of reality, it is considered the deep cause of human suffering and dissatisfaction.

8苦集灭道 kǔ jí miè dào – “The Four Noble Truths”, Buddhist notion that states that life is suffering (苦), the cause of suffering is desire (集), emancipation consists in eliminating passions (灭), and the path of emancipation is the “Noble Path of the Eight Corrections” (八正道 bā zhèng dào)

9涅槃 niè pán – Chinese transcription of the Sanskrit term nirvana. The Buddha’s great nirvana implies the revelation of eternity, glory, true being, and the purity of emptiness where there is no birth nor death.

10三世诸佛 sān shì zhū fó – It refers to all budhas from the past, the present and the future.

11 The Chinese Pinyin transcription from the original Sanskrit mantra is “jiedi jiedi boluojiedi boluosengjiedi puti sengshahe”.

12Svāhā is an expression used at the end of certain mantras. It’s function is similar to that of “amen”.