The Heart Sutra (뜻으로 푼 반야심경) – Day 1

By the memorial pagoda to Daehaeng Kun Sunim. The stone is engraved with a brief record of her life.

The Heart Sutra (뜻으로 푼 반야심경)
(from the Hangul translation by Seon Master Daehaeng)

One mind,
deep all-embracing wisdom

shining forth throughout all realms of the living and the dead,
seeing everything,
functioning freely everywhere.

두루 차고 깊은 지혜 한마음은 밝았으니
저 세상과 이 세상을 두루 살펴
자재로이 행하시는 한마음이
죽은 세상 산 세상 한데 비추어 보시니

[Looking back over what I wrote below, my commentary got a bit more academic than I’d intended! Still, the goal here is to remember to recite these out loud several times a day, the more the better. Not only does it lead towards memorization, it helps input the meaning deep within us, enabling it to arise when we need it.]

This first verse of Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s translation of the Heart Sutra seems to be quite different from traditional translations. I was a bit concerned about this, not so much for the “truthfulness” of it, because this and the next verse are deeply incredible (“tune in tomorrow!” lol), but because I was worried about people not accepting it.

However, when I actually did a careful comparison with the Chinese characters (for a paper I wrote), I found that it was actually possible to read the Heart Sutra as Daehaeng Kun Sunim had translated it. Here’s the relevant section from the paper:

Instead of following tradition and using the characters commonly translated as “Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva(觀自在菩薩)” as a proper noun, Seon Master Daehaeng expresses them as verbs describing the function and essence of their object, Prajnaparamita. Viewing this phrase in terms of the concepts it contains, gwan,(觀) is to observe, jajae(自在) is to function across all realms without limitation, and bosal(菩薩) means the manifestation of our inherent essence.
Likewise, instead of following the common tradition of explaining “Prajnaparamita” as “supreme wisdom,” she gave a longer description of its essence and functioning.[1] This is quite a departure from traditional translations, but one that is actually consistent with the style that Shakyamuni Buddha used in the sutras when relating a story of a Buddha or Bodhisattva from the past — the names he gives them are descriptions of their characteristics rather than mere labels of social convenience.

Thus in the Lotus Sutra, there is the Buddha “Pure Flower Constellation King Wisdom” and the Bodhisattvas “Wonderful Sound,” “Flower Virtue,” and “Never Disparaging,” among many others. These titles are actually descriptions of their behavior and characteristics, and should not be mistaken for regular names.

[1]            “One mind, deep, all-embracing wisdom, shining forth”

2 thoughts on “The Heart Sutra (뜻으로 푼 반야심경) – Day 1”

  1. I am always tuning in, lol. I wanted to share my humble opinion, if I may please, about “people not accepting it”. Kun Sunim’s version is in perfect harmony with Tibetan commentaries on Heart Sutra, which means that Vajrayana people could accept it and appreciate it. I am trying to connect/acquaint these two ( although mostly without any success, yet, lol) because I am deeply disturbed about the Earth’s possible fate. Together, harmoniously, we can do something to help the situation.

    Looking at that picture feels like a silent vow.

    1. I’ve also heard that her translation of the Diamond Sutra is a bit closer to the Tibetan version than the Chinese version, though I have compared them myself.

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