The Uselessness of the Heart Sutra

As we study and discuss the Heart Sutra one might wonder, what the heck does this have to do with the realities of my day-to-day life? I think I would observe that the Heart Sutra has nothing whatsoever to do with the material realities of day-to-day life. That is one of its great values.  As the sociologist Robert Bellah said (and I paraphrase a bit) no one can stand to live in everyday working life for very long; we need to take regular breaks from that reality.

"Form is emptiness, emptiness is form, form is not different from emptiness, emptiness is not different from form."  If engagement with form (ie, matter) is everyday life, we need to contemplate emptiness to take a wholesome break from everyday life.  Form and emptiness are not fundamentally different, they are simply different perspectives on the same phenomena. I think we need both perspectives to stay sane, and that is the point of the Sutra.  Most of us are conceptually mired in our relationship to form. I, for one, need to take several breaks from materialism every day.

The Taoists point out that the value in a cup is found in the empty space which we can fill with water (or, in the morning, coffee for me). The value of the Heart Sutra is precisely its material uselessness.

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