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The Heart Sutra Paperback – August 9, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (August 9, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593760825
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593760823
  • Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 0.4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The Heart Sutra, a mere 35 lines, is one of Buddhism's best-known teachings, "Buddhism in a nutshell," according to Red Pine, an award-winning translator of Chinese poetry and religious writings. But when he was asked to prepare a fresh translation, he found himself reconsidering its origins, reexamining every word, and reassessing every nuance. The result is a meticulous line-by-line interpretation that will radically deepen readers' understanding of not only the sutra but also Buddhism's underlying structure, Abhidharma, or the Matrix of Reality. Red Pine begins by noting that while no one knows where the Heart Sutra came from or who composed it, he has come to believe that its roots are in Northern India, and that "the noble Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva" named in the first line is none other than an incarnation of Maya, the Buddha's mother. Red Pine then proceeds to explicate the Heart Sutra in its concentrated entirety, including its most cited pronouncement, "form is emptiness, emptiness is form," a feat that will engage and enlighten every serious student of the Dharma. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

It was an enjoyable read, well thought out and very, very thought provoking.
Jim Schibik
Pine divides the Heart Sutra into four sections each of which are explored in the four commentarial sections of his book.
Robin Friedman
For those just exploring the heart sutra or wanting to study it in depth, this book is highly recommended.
A. Dearry

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

145 of 151 people found the following review helpful By Charlie Calvert on November 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This thoughtful and well written book is a commentary on an important, and very short, Buddhist text called The Heart Sutra. The entire sutra is presented on the first two pages of the book. A short introduction to the major themes of the sutra takes up the next 30 pages. The bulk of the book consists of a hundred and forty page, line by line, analysis of the sutra. The commentary on each line of the text varies in length from one page, to as many as seven or eight, with the majority in the area of three to five pages. The analysis of each line usually consists of several pages of comments by the author, followed by a few more pages of carefully selected commentary by ancient chinese authorities. The author's ability to collect these commentaries is one of the book's chief charms.

Red Pine is the pseudonym of Bill Porter, a non-academic author who lives in Port Townsend, Washington. He has spent the majority of his adult life in Asia, where he went after dropping out of graduate school at Columbia in 1972. During his stay in Asia he lived at times in Buddhist monasteries, and went on several long retreats into the mountains. His style of writing is an interesting and somewhat quirky combination of academic rigor and humorous, and quite orthodox, Buddhist commentary. He is obviously in earnest about the texts that he discusses. Unlike a traditional academic, he takes the texts literally, and clearly believes in the literal truthfulness of the text and the historical background from which it emerged. His commentary may be overly detailed and overly rigorous from the point of some readers, but there is little doubt that he is a sincere seeker who delves into the text in a personal search for revelation.
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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The most famous of all Buddhist Scriptures, the Heart Sutra encompasses endless wisdom and spiritual guidance within its enigmatic 35 lines. The Heart Sutra is chanted several times daily at Mahayana Buddhist monasteries and temples throughout the world. It is work that will reward repeated and sustained attention. The Heart Sutra has been the subject of extensive commentary, both ancient and modern. One of the finest modern commentaries is the work of the American scholar and translator Red Pine which I will discuss in this review.

Red Pine's translation and commentary on the Heart Sutra is a worthy successor to Pine's earlier translation and commentary on the Diamond Sutra, a work emanating from the same "Perfection of Wisdom" group of Buddhist teachings as does the Heart Sutra. Both of Pine's studies work carefully and closely with the text, and both helped me in my approach to these difficult teachings.

Pine's study opens with his own translation of the text of the Heart Sutra. This is followed by an introduction in which Pine discusses what is known about the composition, date, and original language of the work. He reviews some of the scholarly controversies over these matters and places the origin of the Sutra in Nortwest India in about 150 A.D. He believes that the work was originally written in Sanskrit, in contrast to some recent scholars who believe it of Chinese origin.

Pine follows his historical review with an overview of the text and its purpose. Fundamentally, the Heart Sutra is concerned with teaching wisdom rather than mere knowledge. Specifically, the Sutra is concerned with transcendent wisdom which, as Pine explains it, "is based on the insight that all things, both objects and dharmas, are empty of anything self-existent.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Phillip A. Hernandez on May 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In The Heart Sutra: The Womb of Buddhas, Pine presents a very thorough, rigorous, and enlightening exegesis of the Heart Sutra. First, he introduces his own translation of the Heart Sutra, which is, by far, the best English translation available, which is easy and helpful to commit to memory. Then, he provides a very informative historical background of the Heart Sutra, where he introduces the idea that the Heart Sutra is a rejection of the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma, an idea he returns to throughout the book, so much so, that it seems to be his main thesis. Next, he goes through the four parts of the Heart Sutra line by line, where he also details the Sarvastivadin concepts of skandhas, abodes, elements, causal connections, the Chain of Dependent Origination, the Four Truths, and much more. After providing an exegesis of each line, each section is punctuated by quotes from other various commentaries. Finally, there is a helpful index of names, terms, and texts.

This book is a good read for philosophers (especially existentialists), psychologists (especially those interested in meta-cognition), historians, and, of course, Buddhists or anyone interested in Buddhism. This book is a great introduction to Buddhism, with more substance than any "for dummies" book could offer, but the depth of this book will also appeal to Buddhist scholars. The reading can be abstract-sometimes too abstract. There are few concrete examples, so the reader needs to be comfortable with abstract concepts. Pine makes a good faith effort at citing sources, which is helpful for further research. I wish he included more content about the concept of dharma matrixes, which Pine only mentions in passing.

After reading this book, the reader will have gained, first, a deeper appreciation overall for the Heart Sutra, and second, a fresh perspective and a new way of looking at things, perhaps viewing the world "in the light of prajnaparamita" and even expanding one's worldview.
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