Diamond Sutra, Heart Sutra
Translation by Edward Conze
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Wisdom gone, gone beyond
The Prajanparamita ("Perfection of Wisdom") consists of thirty-eight books composed between 100 B.C. and A.D. 600, including the Diamond and Heart Sutras, "two of the holiest of the holy" (p. xxviii) Buddhist scriptures. German translator Edward Conze first introduced these sutras to the English-speaking world in 1958. The Diamond and Heart Sutras "lead us to the very summit of existence," he writes. "Up there the air is rather rarified, and we are bound to feel somewhat dizzy at times" (p. 38). And like a raft allowing us to cross a great stretch of water, they carry us to a place of "No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; No forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables, or objects of mind" (p. 97).
The Diamond Sutra is said to cut "like a thunderbolt" (p. xxix), and the Heart Sutra is the "heart or essence of the Perfection of Wisdom" (p. xxi). They look deeply into "experience beyond the rigidity of concept," recognizing "the interdependence of all beings" (p. xix)and, at times, they will cause your head to reel as your mind does somersaults! Although Conze comments on these sutras phrase by phrase, he acknowledges his commentary is not intended to convey "the spiritual experience which a Sutra describes. These only reveal themselves to persistent meditation. A commentary must be content to explain words used" (p. 7). The realization of these teachings results in compassion (p. xix).
In her excellent Preface to this new edition of Conze's translation, Judith Simmer-Brown notes that "the wisdom of the Prajnaparamita sutras is mind expanding" (p. xv). I am not competent to comment on Conze's translation, and I do not presume to understand these sutras. However, I recommend this book for anyone interested in exploring the Buddhist concepts of emptiness and the absolute nature of reality, or for anyone interested in the pursuit of wisdom--"with the concern for the meaning of life, with its search for ends, purposes and values worthy of being pursued, with its desire to penetrate beyond the appearance of things to their true reality" (p. xxviiii).