The Heart Sutra

Preface #2

The BuddhaDharma is profound and wonderful, but to expound the unfathomable doctrine in all its depth is far from easy. Some people devote most of their energy and thought to Dharma, teaching or explaining sutras; deducing, searching for terms and supportive quotations, they have not yet reached the level of the Buddha’s mind. The one who has not climbed Mount Tai (Tai Shan) can only say “How majestic!” Someone who has not seen the Yellow River, yet describes how great, how vast it is, is not speaking from experience. If one’s view regarding Dharma is based on speculation, one’s understanding will not be clear and one is not going to be in a position to explain the Dharma successfully to others. When the teacher lacks understanding of the Dharma, it is hard on the students. They must study too hard to make up for the incomplete guidance; they might even become discouraged and give up, fearing failure, and that would be such a pity! When the great master expounded the Heart Sutra in the Buddhist Library of China, I translated his lectures from Mandarin into Cantonese. I had taken refuge in the Three Precious Ones from my master many years ago, and Le Kuo, another master, had taught me Buddhadharma. Obliging and kind, he did not abandon me although I was foolish. He guided me patiently to the right path. Bound by my fixed karma I am constantly in a hurry and do not devote enough time to the Tathagata’s teachings. It is difficult to reduce my ignorance and change my habits and my mind is as dull as it was before I started aspiring to Buddhadharma. The great master T’an Hsu’s practice of the Tao, of Bodhi is most serious. He thoroughly comprehends the unsurpassed Dharma in its implications and his Tao is of the highest integrity. His great reputation has been long established. My goal while learning Buddhadharma was to work with an all-out effort, to follow faithfully and to be authorized to translate. I feel, nevertheless, uneasy about my own limited knowledge. Prior to his systematic explanation of the sutra, the master presented in everyday language and with perfect freedom of expression the results of thorough and exhaustive study, bringing into play all the subtlety of the wondrous and profound Dharma. It seemed as easy as if he peeled a plantain or stripped a cocoon, using many carefully chosen examples along the way to make his discourse more relevant in terms of daily life. The audience was very impressed and deeply moved. If the great master did not climb Mount Tai, had not seen the Yellow River with his own eyes, how could he express himself so lucidly, so consistently?

During those nine days of his lectures the entire Dharma assembly experienced a deep sense of wellbeing, and at the conclusion of the series they all agreed to make a collection toward the publication of the master’s discourses, to be used as an offering to all mankind and to provide a Dharma condition in the future. I have accepted the responsibility for arranging and organizing my notes of the master’s discourses. Other commentaries I have read so far were brief and to the point, but that approach did not suit all readers. Consequently, I chose not to edit my record of those lectures and handed them over complete, integral with the great master’s teaching; I did not avoid or dodge any of the problems. I presented the minutes in a straight-forward manner, because people have been having difficulty at times with literary language. I did not take the liberty to emphasize, exaggerate or add anything for fear of losing the meaning and the expressions characteristic of the great master’s discourse. May I be forgiven for my awkward presentation.

Disciple of the Three Precious Ones

The year of Wu Hsu, April, Hong Kong.