Heart Sutra Day 21 – We all become free together

Hear now the mantra that awakens
this deep one mind:
Take the path that’s no fixed path,
leave no traces behind,
hurry, hurry, and become free.
We all become free together.

이에, 깊은 한마음을 깨닫는 주문을 설하노니
발 없는 발로 길 없는 길을 어서어서 벗어나세,
우리 함께 벗어나세.

This verse has two lines that are some of the hardest to succinctly translate: 발 없는 발로 길 없는 길을, which literally would be “with feet that don’t have feet, on the path that doesn’t have a path.” The Korean is very poetic, with a very nice rhythm, but as you can see, the English is a bit… clunky, lol. In my opinion, (which should in no way be taken as all-knowing!), it seems that “path that doesn’t have a path” 길 없는 길을, means that there is no fixed path. There is no magic method that you just follow, such as “step 1, step 2, step 3,” to say nothing of some place where the mystic energy will somehow lift you beyond yourself.
You have to go forward entrusting everything to this empty place, where no fixed ideas can stick, where there’s nothing you can grab onto (intellectually or physically) and say “This is it!” For whatever you think you know, you have to let go of that as well. Unless you are completely and utterly enlightened, what you are perceiving and thinking is almost certainly contaminated with dualistic habits and views.
Even if they are good things, such as “help all other beings,” there’s likely some accidently dualistic views in there (besides the obvious), so you have to let go of even that again and again.

The first phase that was translated “Leave no traces behind” 발 없는 발로 , could also perhaps mean just “on feet that aren’t feet,” that is, this path we take isn’t a physical path, and so we travel it through mind, not through the body. Although I must have approved of this English version when this was first translated, I think it could also be expressed as:
Take the path that’s no fixed path,
traveling through mind, not the body,

I’m not sure. The second one is definitely more obvious, perhaps too much so. In the normal expression of spiritual practice, “leave no traces behind” means no trace of “I,” or “I did,” “I am,” “I deserved” “He/she/they did ___ to me,” and so on. This meaning might be the more useful one here.

4 thoughts on “Heart Sutra Day 21 – We all become free together”

  1. May I please say something about the translation? I don’t really know Korean much, just a very little bit, but the phrase “Take the path that’s no fixed path, leave no traces behind” doesn’t have the same feel as Korean version, because in Korean the image arises, image that kind of is not an image, but a feel, kind of like “walk without walking on the path that is not a path”, but in English it is more intellectual. Maybe it is just me. I think maybe Korean had KunSunim’s energy stuck to it? But reading this verse caused tears and I was reading it over and over again. I wish I could fully understand it and see like KunSunim sees it.
    I am collecting these and will print out, Heart Sutra and Morning and Noon Blessings.
    Thank you so much ( finally I have it! LOL)

  2. In Vajrayana Buddhism is said, its ‘path’ means to move like ‘dancing on the wayside, feet on clouds’. Which came to my mind reading this verse. Nothing ‘real’ to rely on; just trust the energy and be happy 🙂

  3. “that’s no fixed path” – can I change this to “that’s not a fixed path”? I wanna print out and maybe share with others. so I want to ask if it is ok to change it, because “no fixed path” doesn’t seem to go well ( for me at least)

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