the mantra

the mantra ch.6



     “Therefore, the mantra of the Profound Perfection of Wisdom is the mantra of great knowledge, the unsurpassed mantra.   The incomparable mantra, the mantra which thoroughly allays all suffering without fail.”

   The original text of the Heart Sutra reads: mahamantro, maha-vidya mantro, ‘nuttara mantro samasamamantrah . . . .  The meaning of the Sanskrit term mantra is “mind guardian”.   The inference is that the mind needs to be guarded or protected because somehow it is off the true course, or is susceptible to corruption or invasion.  The meditative use of the Heart Sutra mantra will be detailed later.

“. . .the great mantra . . . .”

     The Sanskrit word for great mantra in the Heart Sutra text is mahamantro.  Here great indicates something exalted, majestic, regal, or royal.

“. . .the mantra of great knowledge . . . .”

      What kind of knowledge is great knowledge? The Sanskrit words are maha-vidya mantro. Great Knowledge exceeds both mundane knowledge and supramundane knowledge and refers to unsurpassed knowledge, the knowledge of a Buddha.

“. . .the unsurpassed mantra . . . .”

    The word unsurpassed was used just previously in the Sutra text, “. . .fully awakened into unsurpassed, complete enlightenment . . . .” and here it has the same connotation. This is the mantra that can lead to bodhi; it is unexcelled, unequaled, and it is matchless. There is no other mantra that can be better for the task.

“. . .the incomparable mantra . . . .”

    Exceptional, superior, and perfect is this mantra.

   “. . .the mantra which thoroughly allays all suffering . . .”

      Completely, painstakingly, absolutely, and totally is the meaning of thoroughly in this line.   Allay means to relieve and alleviate, so when suffering is understood, it can go the way of all mental creations; it is gone, really gone, it is allayed.  The condition causing the suffering is modified in mind’s response, and the negative reactive response is eliminated accordingly.

“. . .without fail”.

   These two words are an assurance, a complete guarantee that this mantra will not be found lacking.

“Because it is not false it is known as true.”

     Here is the sum total and final statement of all that has been previously given in the Heart Sutra text and represented by the mantra.   This line hints once again at apoha, the knowing of something as it is by understanding what it is not.  The mantra is true because it is certain, definite, and genuine.  It is known as true, not merely believed in, by those who learn to use it.  Belief is a theory; knowing is experiential and direct.

     Exploring the mantra itself, and its meditative aspects, the mantra of the Profound Perfection of Wisdom is stated:

“Tadyatha Om Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha!”

“Tadyatha . . . .”

    The meaning of Tadyatha is “it is thus”.

“. . .om . . . .”

    In Buddhism om is called the “bejeweled mantra”; it is ornamented with the infinite jewels of Buddhadharma and thus bestows blessings of wisdom.   Characteristically it is used as an addition to some Buddhist mantras, becoming a symbol of spiritual knowledge, most specifically knowledge of emptiness.

“. . .gate . . . .” (pronounced guh-tay.)

    Gate means “move”, “goes”, “proceeds forward”; “ga” means “movement”; “te” is the feminine vocative ending mentioned previously. Some translators render gate as “gone” but “gone” is past tense and grammatically written with a final “a”, gata.  A common title for a buddha is tathagata, “one thus gone”.

   So what is it that moves?   The clue is in the title of the Heart Sutra, the word Bhagavati.  So we know that it is Mother Prajnaparamita who moves or goes, and as she iconographically represents prajna-wisdom, it becomes obvious that it is prajna that moves or goes, gate.

    The second repeat of the word gate is a progressive extension of the first gate, giving the meaning of prajna moving further, but in the same manner.

“. . .paragate . . . .”

   The prefix para has the meaning “beyond”.   Paragate means “prajna moves beyond”.

“. . .parasamgate . . . .”

    The Sanskrit preposition sam has the meaning of “together”, “simultaneous”, “joined”, something holistically integrated.   Parasamgate then indicates that “prajna moves beyond integrally”.                         This describes accurately the integration of the arising of srutamayiprajna, cintamayiprajna, bhavanamayiprajna, and niscayamayiprajna, which joined simultaneously together are called adhiprajna (higher understanding), which is the engenderment of bodhi.

“. . .bodhi . . . .”

    The high wisdom of adhiprajna is holistic wisdom, awakened awareness. It creates the habitual knowing that leads meditatively to the un-thinking state of awareness, the reality state of knowing beyond dependently originated mind-creation, the state of awakened enlightenment, bodhi.

“. . .svaha!”

     This is the final exclamation of the Heart Sutra mantra and has the meaning “it is just so.”   It leaves no doubt as to the validity of this “progression” that takes place.  But what exactly is happening as described in this mantra?

     There is contained here something of deep meaning.   When Prajna moves (gate) there is no one who is moving, nobody with his own self-nature going from here to there.   Wisdom itself is moving to perfection; consciousness is being purified. The completion of wisdom’s purification is personified by tathagatas who “. . .having passed completely beyond all error . . . .” are “thus gone”.   They have traversed the path, they have been there, they have seen it, they have done it, and they have winnowed the grain of its chaff and achieved the goal, moving beyond the realm of effort, having fully digested even the cleansed heads of grain, yet attaining nothing, “. .with nothing to attain.”

     Bodhi is the arrival, seeing reality.   With this arrival one no longer experiences a movement of wisdom.  One IS wisdom.  Bodhi is not a place traveled to.  Bodhi has not a location.  Bodhi is a consciousness event.  Purified wisdom is an absence of error, an ultimate achievement of seeing, a state of awareness we call nirvana.

   The first gate indicates the movement engendered through study, through language and its influence on the creative consciousness.   It might be said that gate is the portal through which one moves in the process of purification, the elimination of negative seeds permeating the storehouse consciousness. The second emphatic gate empowers a continuation of the first influential movement, but to a heightened degree of the first movement in awareness. Thoughtful reflections and meditative absorption into the nature of this movement deepen knowledge and realizations first brought into view by study.

    Paragate takes the movement of prajna beyond study and analytical reflection into the actual practice of meditation that will give direct experiential understanding, awareness beyond whatever can be known just through reasoning and analysis as enjoyed by the sensually conscious but essentially ignorant state of discrimination. Meditation produces a definitive experience of certainty regarding that previously studied and reflected upon.  The deeper the meditative state achieved, the more clear becomes the integration of wisdom.  The discriminating mind is relieved of its tasks, and seeing becomes as a mind-mirror experiencing phenomena with no thought beyond the purity of the reflection as reality being as it really is at that moment.  It is here that parasamgate is. Everything integrates.  Aspects are moved beyond. Adhiprajna!  Bodhi!  It is just SO.  Svaha!  The way it is IS the way it is, and the only way it could be. Therefore, away with dualistic language and its ever-creating confusion.  But alas, how can the Sutra or this commentary exist without those words? So, onward, because this too is “just so”.

   The movement into bodhi is in fact a movement away from perceptive error and wrong understanding.  It is a movement without a mover; it is a going without a goer.   It is a movement without any designation.  There is no place, no time, no goal, no achiever, no traveler; there is only the reality hidden beneath obscuring mental creation awaiting. The present apperceptive awareness is fact, as reality, as pure being, when the superimposed mental factors are left behind, gone beyond.  The absence of conceptive error can occur only in the present moment, just as delusion can occur only in the present.  So to plan for an awakening in some future is to deny the reality that underlies the present NOW moment, and is fuel for the continuation of rebirth and death in its manifold forms.  The importance of rightly understanding sunyata, emptiness, through this process of apoha, knowing what things are by knowing what they are not, is the very trigger mechanism allowing for the errant perceptive function’s progressive dwindle culminating in this prajna movement that reaches its apex in the purified and non-discriminating NOW bodhi moment.

    “Sariputra, Bodhisattva Mahasattvas should train in the Profound Perfection of Wisdom in just this way.”

       This way is the way of apperceptive wisdom that is beyond the interference of all residual artifacts of tendencies and proclivities.

This completes the comments on The Mantra.


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gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha

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