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The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra Paperback – October 1, 1988


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the best-known and respected Zen masters in the world today. He is the founder of a Buddhist university, a publishing house, an influential peace activist magazine, and the School of Youth Social Service, a grassroots relief organization that provided aid to Vietnamese citizens in the 1960s. He is also the founder of Plum Village, a Buddhist community that works to alleviate the suffering of refugees, political prisoners, and hungry families in Vietnam and throughout the third world. He is the author of Creating True Peace and Living Buddha, Living Christ, as well as a number of poems and stories.

--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 54 pages
  • Publisher: Parallax Press (October 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0938077112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0938077114
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #835,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese monk, a renowned Zen master, a poet, and a peace activist. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1967, and is the author of many books, including the best-selling The Miracle of Mindfulness.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Rinchen Choesang on January 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
In a very few words, Thich Nhat Hanh puts in very simple terms what many of us struggle to come to terms with - the esoteric Dharma-teachings on emptiness. Perhaps it's the Zen-born simplicity that makes this treatise so approachable and readable.
This would be a good book for newcomers to Buddhism who hear about emptiness and hairs stand up on the back of their neck. A gentle and skilful introduction to profundity.
A must read for anyone with an interest in emptiness as applied in our conventional world.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
He explains the sometimes frightening truths of emptiness in a manner which melts the fears away with understanding. As you read this book, you can feel how much the author wants the reader to understand the text and how much he wants to benefit the reader. It's so easy to just allow your mind to relax and rest on the Sutra as you read through it. Very enjoyable and highly recommended.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By N. McGrath on June 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
Thich Nhat Hanh sheds light on this superb Buddhist text. The paradoxical language of the scripture is important to convey the illusory qualities of emptiness and individual existence. Unfortunately this language makes it extremely difficult to understand. Hanh takes this esoteric teaching and explains it to a child. I recommend any of his sutra translations and commentaries.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jim aka on January 21, 1999
Format: Audio Cassette
This was the first book I read by Thich Nhat Hanh. I had heard a lot about him prior to this. When I read the book, I could easily see why there is so much excitement about him and his works. He writes in a very clear, very accessible style. This book is a commentary on the Heart Sutra. The Heart Sutra is said to contain the essence of Buddhist teachings. I would recommend any book written by Thich Nhat Hanh!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 1, 1998
Format: Paperback
I still cannot believe that anyone was able to explain emptiness in such a beautiful fashion. I honestly cried with joy while I read this book. Please read it!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ms Sayaka Stoddard on September 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is THE book that made me call myself a Buddhist with confidence.

I'm a Japanese who was born to a Zen Buddhist family.
Although I naturally memorised the Heart Sutra growing up listening to it being recited by monks often, I'd never really understood what it meant.

I've read several commentaries on this sutra (by Japanese monks and nuns)but none of them helped me. Some didn't make sense, others left me pessimistic. Let alone allowing me to adapt the teaching to my real life.

Now, with this Thich Nhat Hanh's little book, I finally got the "A-ha!" moment.
The Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra is not an enigma any more to me because this fantastic teacher explained it in the warmest way possible.
I will recommend this book to anyone who has been questioning the significance of this sutra (or even Buddhism generally).

One more thing...
Thich Nhat Hanh's approach towards Buddhism wouldn't give any atheist a yuk. It's got nothing to do with supernatural power or anything, like some denominations' do.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By AD on June 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Just reading the first couple paragraphs of this book was like, "aaaahhh..." Completely relaxing. The writer's message and style is simple yet poetic, and very important--how to not be afraid. This is the first Buddhist book I have ever picked up, being that I had only studied Buddhism from the classroom/historical aspect, and never viewed it in any way as something I would actually connect to or practice in my life. Now I can. This book is refreshing, short, easy to read. I would recommend it to anyone.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Doug M on March 1, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Heart Sutra is the premiere sutra, or sermon of the Buddha, in all of East Asian Buddhism. People from Tibet to Japan, and now in the West chant the Heart Sutra. Many people study it because it gets to the "heart" of Buddhism (no pun intended). As such, it's very easy to find commentaries on the Heart Sutra, but few can surpass this one.

Thich Nhat Hanh understands the Sutra inside and out. The sutra can be cryptic and times, but Thich Nhat Hanh patiently works his way through each section, allowing the reader to really get the whole picture.

I definitely recommend this book to any Buddhist, new or veteran, as (re-)discovering the Heart Sutra is a great step on the Buddhist path.
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