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Embodying Emptiness: (Anti-) Aesthetics of the Prajnaparamita-Hrdaya Sutra

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  1. Introduction
  2. Upaya of the Bodhisattva
  3. Chant as Mahayana Praxis
    1. The Heart Sutra
    2. The Mahayana chants of Chinese Buddhism
  4. Mimesis of emptiness in the Heart Sutra
    1. The Heart Sutra as a story
    2. The Heart Sutra's expression of emptiness to specific audiences
  5. A comparison of Lex Hixon's expansion to Nalanda's Sutra
  6. The mantra of great insight
  7. Conclusion
  8. Works cited

The Prajna-paramita Hrdaya Sutra, the 'heart' of the Mahayana tradition, represents the Buddhist anti-aesthetic of complete enlightenment in which the perception of any dualistic reality is a view of the deluded mind. The Heart Sutra is Avalokitesvara's explanation of the ?worldview? of a Bodhisattva dwelling in the state of sunyata (emptiness). In the sutra, the non-aesthetic quality of emptiness is described by Avalokitesvara: ?Sariputra, in emptiness there is no form, nor feelingNo eye, ear?; No forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables or objects of mind; No sight-organ elementNo mind-consciousness element.? In sunyata there is no duality to create the condition of any subject to have an aesthetic experience of any object. And yet ?through the power of the [Awakened Being],? the awakening being Avalokitesvara conveys the experience of sunya-ta by means of upaya, 'skill in liberative technique' (Thurman). Avalokitesvara engages the sonic structures of conditioned language to relay how one courses in the unconditioned.

[...] Mandala of Sound. (Dissertation) 1979. U. Wisconsin- Madison. Fox, Douglas. The Heart of Buddhist Wisdom. NY, Mellon: 1975. Hixon, Lex. Mother of the Buddhas. Wheaton, IL, Quest Books: 1993. Humphries, Jeff. Reading Emptiness. Albany, SUNY: [...]


[...] Mimesis of Emptiness in the Heart Sutra As the exemplary work of the Second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma, the vast Prajna-paramita literature introduces the concept of sunyata to the Buddhist canon (Dutt, 274). These Mahayana Sutras negate the entire Path presented in the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma. In its via negativa, the Heart Sutra's form consists of the negation of each traditional Buddhist category, from the five skandhas through the twelve links of the pratitya-samutpada to the four Noble Truths that mark the Theravadin path: emptiness there is no path, no wisdom, no attainment? and so on. [...]


[...] For example, Sanskrit reader's reading of the mantra is ambiguously enhanced by knowing that the root gam means not only but 'understand': ?Understood, understood, understood what is beyond, completely understood what is beyond, enlightenment, svaha' (Lopez As the same scholar discerns, presence of the mantra in the sutra indicat[es] the confluence of exoteric and esoteric elements in Mahayana Buddhism Indeed, Buswell writes that in Korean monasteries, ?many of the chants involve Sino-Korean transcriptions of original Sanskrit spells (mantra), which are recited purely for their esoteric value? (229). [...]

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