Discovering the Heart Sutra

with Ellen Rook

June 2nd—June 16th

Date details +
  • $40
  • ...or pay what you can afford
Room: See program description for location

Form is emptiness; emptiness also is form. Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness. (The Sutra of the Heart of Transcendent Knowledge)

What in the world does this mean? Everyone is welcome to explore the Heart Sutra, also known as the Prajnaparamita sutra, in a three week seminar-style course. Although it may seem strange and esoteric, "is the heart of transcendent knowledge because it is a condensation, the pith, of several longer discourses... it tells you what you need to learn in order to have a proper ground for meditation. "(Russell Rogers) During the course, we'll work together to dig into the meaning and application of this key Mahayana teaching. The course will be offered online via Zoom. Here is the link:

Week One: History and overview of the Heart Sutra. Participants will identify areas where they have questions and want to explore further.

Week Two: Close reading of the text and exploration of emptiness and any other topics that have arisen, such as the four noble truths, twelve nidanas, five skandhas, or dependent origination. Between the first and second class, students will read commentaries on the Heart Sutra and share what they have learned relative to the sutra. See below for suggested resources.

Week Three: In this final class session, we'll continue to explore questions that have arisen in the study of the sutra and share our research and insight. We'll conclude our class with a contemplation and discussion on how can we apply the sutra to our everyday lives.

We'll use the Nalanda Translation as our principal text:

Heart Sutra:

Heart Sutra Glossary:

Recommended Resources:

Participants - please choose one commentary to study and share with the class. You're welcome to explore additional sources--there are many great writings on this classic text.

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, pp. 187-206. A discussion of shunyata.

Echoes of Voidness by Geshe Rabten (Wisdom Publications, 1983), pp. 20-45. A commentary in the traditional Tibetan style.

Selected Sayings from the Perfection of Wisdom, translated by Edward Conze. A useful anthology arranged by topic.

The Heart Sutra Explained by Donald Lopez (SUNY Press, 1988).

The Heart Sutra: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classic of Mahayana Buddhism by Kazuaki Tanahashi (Shambhala Publications)

The Heart Attack Sūtra: A New Commentary on the Heart Sūtra by Karl Brunnhölzl (Shambhala Publications)

The Heart of Understanding by Thich Nhat Hanh (Parallax Press).

Ten Talks on the Heart Sutra by Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara

Khandro Rinpoche: An Introduction to the Heart Sutra

Pema Chodron's talk on the Heart Sutra and awakened heart:

Commentary on the Heart Sutra by Thubten Chodron: (audio teachings)

Gyalwang Karmapa's Commentary on the Heart Sutra