The Bodhisattva Avalokita

While moving in the deep course of perfect understanding,

shed light on the five skandhas and found them equally empty.

After this penetration, he overcame ill-being.


Listen Shariputra,

Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.

Form is not other than emptiness,

emptiness is not other than form.

The same is true with feelings, perceptions,

mental formations and consciousness.


Listen Shariputra,

All dharmas are marked with emptiness.

They are neither produced nor destroyed,

neither defiled nor immaculate,

neither increasing nor decreasing.

Therefore in emptiness there is neither form, nor feelings,

nor perceptions, nor mental formations, nor consciousness.


The HEART SUTRA is a blessing teaching ie the Buddha blessed Avalokita and Shariputra, and the teaching took place via a conversation between them. The Sutra contains explicit teaching on emptiness, and hidden teaching on the Path, how to do it, how to realise emptiness. GESHE-LA decoded and explained the HEART SUTRA, because without explanation it is difficult to understand. 




Why is emptiness important? All religions are trying to point to Ultimate happiness. Enlightenment is the greatest, the Ultimate happiness. Everybody is looking for happiness, but they don’t know how to get it. They think, if I have husband and family, then I will be happy. But when they get husband and family, then the fighting and problems start!


The main cause of problems and suffering is our negative emotions. The more negative emotions we have, the more problems, wherever we go there will be problems, stress, no peace, no rest. The more positive emotions we have, the more peaceful and happy we will be. We want to get rid of negative emotions because they cause trouble and suffering. If we want happiness, we must get rid of our negative emotions. They are the enemy that prevents our happiness. Negative emotions are the ‘evil devil’!


Where do negative emotions come from? Self-grasping and self-cherishing. The self-grasping mind sees I as a separate, independently existing self. It grasps at I as being most important, others are not important. This gives rise to self-cherishing or negative ego and it is easy for negative emotions to arise.


Self-grasping is the root cause of all suffering. To free ourselves from self-grasping, and the suffering it causes, we need to understand emptiness. The only way to stop self-grasping = wisdom of emptiness = the antidote to self-grasping. As wisdom grows, at the same time, self-grasping gets weaker, and negative emotions get weaker. Meditation on love and compassion helps to reduce negative emotions. Understanding and meditating on emptiness helps to reduce and finally to completely remove negative emotions.




In order to properly understand emptiness, you have to use analytical meditation. You can’t just meditate or you will fall into nothingness/nihilism. If you just meditate, the I disappears. If you look for self, can’t find anything. If you look for I, can’t find it, can’t find solid self that exists separately. Where is self? How does it exist? Seems like you dissolve into nothing. Here is the danger of falling into nihilism, which is wrong view.


You must analyse and use wisdom of emptiness to come to a correct understanding of the true nature of reality. NB you must look at emptiness and dependent origination together. Self does exist, but is EMPTY of separate independent existence. Self is not a real, permanent, solid, independent entity. It depends on body and mind - there is no independently existing I that exists separately from body and mind.


FORM IS EMPTINESS AND EMPTINESS IS FORM. They cannot be separated, but we make them separate. Form and emptiness are the same entity - you can’t separate them on the side of the object. A rose is a rose is a rose. It consists of form, colour, shape, size. These qualities are not separate from the rose, but they are made separate by conceptual thought or mind. In the same way, self does not exist as an independent thing – self exists as something we impute by conceptual thought onto body and mind. 


EMPTINESS IS NOT NIHILISM. Emptiness does not mean nothingness. Self does exist. Others do exist. Everything is not nothing. But we do not exist in the way we think we do - we see things as existing separately and independently. We do not exist as independent entities - we exist in dependence upon body and mind, and in relation to other.


There is a difference between appearance and reality. What we see is not there. What is there we cannot see. This causes misconception and wrong view of reality. Sense consciousness misunderstands reality. Mind consciousness is based on information received from the senses, so if sense consciousness is wrong, then mind consciousness will also be wrong.


Because we cannot see the true nature of reality, we must use analytical meditation to see how things really exist. We can only come to understand the true nature of reality through reason that develops our wisdom mind. Understanding must be your own understanding – it must come ‘from the deep of your heart’. When you have such understanding, then real transformation happens. This transformation is stable, not up and down.


All Buddhas in the past, present, and future,

thanks to this perfect understanding,

arrive at full, right, universal enlightenment.


Therefore one should know

that perfect understanding is the highest mantra,

the unequalled mantra, the destroyer of ill-being,

the incorruptible Truth.


A mantra of prajnaparamita should therefore be proclaimed:






‘Come, come to enlightenment’. Chant the mantra and meditate on emptiness. The power of the mantra purifies ignorance, and develops wisdom to realize emptiness. This was an advanced retreat, on a difficult topic, but each time you hear teachings on emptiness, your wisdom mind grows. Things are difficult in the beginning, but with study and practice they get easier. Thanks to GESHE PHENDE for a wonderful retreat, for his time, his warm and wise presence. He gave several public talks, at Sat Chit Anand in Plett, to students of the new CIDA Country Campus near Sedgefield, and to about 150 people of the University of the Third Age in George. We look forward to his next visit and retreat in September.




J SAT CHIT ANAND namaste to you Buddha-to-be! 

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