In Memory of Wayne Knight


The Heart Sutra

The Heart Sutra is chanted daily in Buddhists Monasteries in China, Japan, Tibet, Korea and right here in Mendocino County. Also known as the Great Prajna Paramita Sutra, the name refers to the intuitive wisdom that can be experienced by the mind that has gone over to the far shore. A sutra is not a prayer to a supreme being, for Buddhists do not experience a supreme being. Rather, a sutra is a discourse, a homage to how things are. This discourse concerns “heart-mind”, the indissoluble linkage between thinking and feeling, between mind and matter. Wayne Knight experienced this linkage and expressed it in his portraits of Cambodians. Please suffer with me for a moment as I try to explain the inexplicable.

The convergence between science and mysticism, between Eastern thought and Western pragmatism became apparent in the Post-Einsteinian revelations of Quantum Physics, which confirmed what the Mahayana Buddhists discovered about 350 CE. Matter was found to be essentially empty of materiality and subatomic particles were found to be packets of light, or of waves, without mass. The solid indestructible blocks of matter upon which our Newtonian/Cartesian science has comfortably rested all these years was badly shaken in the 1920s by Bell’s Theorem and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. When looked at under an electron microscope, instead of particles of matter, physicists found nothing but a continuous dance of energy particles. The elementary particles were not independently existing entities but merely sets of relationships with no inherent separate existence. Nagarjuna, in 200 CE had already explained this: “Things derive their being and nature by mutual dependence and are nothing in themselves”. As all is transitory, it changes from one form to another, none of which have lasting permanence. Yet we can only observe this continuousness of change by being aware of the changing forms through which all passes. Thus we come to the Heart Sutra, where all of this is wrapped up in 260 Chinese characters. These characters do not convey the experience of emptiness, only our own experience and meditation can reveal this.

_The Great Prajna Paramita Sutra_

“Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva when practicing deeply the Prajna Paramita perceives that all five skandas, (forms, feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness) are empty and is saved from all suffering and distress.

“Form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. That which is form is emptiness, that which is emptiness form. The same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness. All teachings are marked with emptiness. They do not appear or disappear, are not tainted or pure, do not increase or decrease. Therefore in emptiness, no form, no feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness. No eyes, no ears, no nose, no sound, no smell, no tastes, no touch, no object of mind, no realm of eyes and so forth until no realm of mind consciousness. No ignorance and also no extinction of it and so forth until no old age and death and also no extinction of them.

“No suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path, no cognition, also no attainment with nothing to attain.

“The Boddhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita and the mind is no hindrance. Without any hindrance, no fear exists. Far apart from any perverted views, one dwells in Nirvana.

“In the three worlds, all Buddhas depend on Prajna Paramita and attain Annutra Samyak Sambodhi – perfect unexcelled awakening.

“Therefore know that the Prajna Paramita is the great transcendent mantra, is the bright mantra, is the utmost mantra, is the supreme mantra which is able to relieve all suffering and is true not false. So proclaim the Prajna Paramita mantra, proclaim the mantra which says:

“Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha. Gone, gone over, gone beyond to the other shore of suffering, awaken to the emptiness. “