Home / Blog / The Heart Sutra by Khenpo Gawang Rinpoche

We are honored to have Khenpo Gawang Rinpoche teaching and giving commentary on the Heart Sutra. Below is an excerpt adapted from his book, “Your Mind is Your Teacher,”  followed by his outline of the day and a half online retreat he is offering Oct 17 – 18. 

The Heart Sutra, the distilled essence of the Prajnaparamita sutras, is chanted in every Mahayana Buddhist country. Prajnaparamita means Perfection of Wisdom and is often used to refer to a specific group of about 40 teachings (sutras) by the Buddha Shakyamuni on the wisdom of emptiness and the path of the bodhisattva.

Heart Sutra MantraThe Heart Sutra is the essence of these Prajnaparamita sutras. It is talking from the ultimate or absolute point of view of the realization of the Buddha. The Buddha entered a profound prajnaparamita Samadhi (Concentration) on emptiness. When the Buddha entered into that direct perception of emptiness, Avalokiteshvara was blessed, and so was able to attain the same understanding and realization as the Buddha.

Then through the Buddha’s blessing, Venerable Shariputra had the courage or the heart to ask Avalokiteshvara a question regarding emptiness. He does not directly ask the Buddha, since the Buddha is in samadhi or meditation. Shariputra is thinking about future students and how they should meditate on emptiness. This is what the Heart Sutra text describes.

Avalokiteshvara responds to Shariputra’s question expressing how to understand the prajnaparamita, and describes in detail how one should meditate on emptiness. Emptiness does not mean nothingness but is showing that all which appears is without a discrete self entity. It is the absence of inherent existence in all phenomena. Emptiness is complete openness without obstruction which allows everything to occur. Apparent yet empty; empty yet apparent.

Interdependence is a way of expressing the underlying energetic emptiness pervading all that exists. Everything is always changing yet forms arise, dwell, and cease in their place and time. Through the appearance of form you have the connection to emptiness. It is very difficult to understand the meaning of emptiness, because it’s not our common experience.

When we realize emptiness, we realize that all phenomena is pervaded with emptiness. Through the energy or manifestation of emptiness, there is the appearance of form. Modern science and technology has shown that forms, when viewed at a stronger and stronger microscopic level, lose all attributes conventionally given to objects. At the deepest atomic level forms are made from the same particles which become space.

In this weekend I will explain how the Heart Sutra includes:

  • An understanding of both the relative and absolute view of reality,
  • The 5 Skandas – Form, Feeling, Perception, Formation and Consciousness,
  • Karma – cause and effect,
  • The 18 Dhatus, which are the six sense facilities, the six consciousnesses, and the six objects of the sense facilities, 
  • The 12 Nidanas or the 12 links of dependent origination which express how the circle from lifetime to lifetime occurs,
  • The 4 Noble Truths – Suffering, Origin of suffering, Cessation of suffering, and the Path to the cessation of suffering and,
  • A discussion of each syllable of the Prajnaparamita mantra and its meaning.

Each session will include time for questions and answers. Along with the talks, exercises and contemplations to help deepen understanding of the Heart Sutra will be given that can be explored during the weekend and after.

Buddha ShakyamuniThe Heart Sutra is speaking directly about the fundamental nature of all phenomena. Free from complexity or elaboration, it is the union of emptiness and clarity beyond word and concept.

To understand directly its meaning is the study of lifetimes and the path of the bodhisattva from this moment until reaching the ultimate perfection of Buddhahood. We have the ability innately within us but it must be discovered, cultivated and allowed to mature.

Join Khenpo Gawang Rinpoche for ONLINE Teachings of the Heart Sutra.


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