What better place to study the Heart Sutra?

Leaving Stanford ,meandering along the narrow Walker Bay coast road, the complexity and intricacy of daily life falls away behind you.

 The drive to Bodhi Khaya is dazzling.  The dirt road through the milk wood forest and fynbos is winding, undulating -urging you to slow down.  The strong smell of Cape fynbos and the sour odour of milk woods is thick in the air.  You ‘drop down’ onto Bodhi Khaya almost unexpectedly; a sudden dip down in the road and there it is, below you.   Very green and secluded, Bodhi Khaya is a beautiful old farm dating back to 1791.  Now converted to a retreat centre, it is a sanctuary, a peaceful haven to rest and reflect.

 What better place to study the Heart Sutra?

What better place?

Buddhist monk, Gen Kelsang Sangdak, who is the Resident Teacher at Mahasiddha Kadampa Buddhist Centre in Durban and the National Spiritual Director of the New Kadampa Tradition in South Africa lead the retreat.

The Buddhist text , the Heart Sutra,  is the distillation of all teachings on Emptiness. “Form is empty, emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than form; form also is not other than emptiness”

 Understanding the fundamental truth of the Buddhist teachings on emptiness is an incredibly profound subject.   There are no forms (things) that are not empty; and there is no emptiness that exists in and of itself.

 The word “emptiness” is a Buddhist philosophical term that in this context has nothing to do with “nothingness”, but is a way of describing how things exist from an ultimate point of view, to find their true nature or ultimate way of existing.

The challenge is always how to use teachings in daily life.  To understand the Heart Sutra is  wonderful -to know fully that no thing, including us, our mind or our existence, has any solid substance  or permanence, that nothing in this world is independent but rather interconnected – in a constant state of change.  But how to maintain the concentration on emptiness?

After thinking about the Heart Sutra and how to use it whilst preparing this blog, I came to a personal realization that our mind should not only be grounded in emptiness but also in compassion.

 We all try so hard to achieve a perfect life, practicing  the Heart Sutra, getting the kids to school in time, cooking perfect scrambled eggs, making important decisions, focusing on compassion.  Sometimes we get it right, sometimes it all goes wrong!  Accepting ourselves we can also see that, even when something goes wrong and we know what we have done is wrong, if we have the right intention and some understanding of the true nature of things, a ‘wrong’ can also just be a fleeting moment  with no permanent nor independent existence.  Accepting ourselves in those ‘wrong’ moments, it will be so much easier to have love and compassion for others.

Gen Sangdak has returned to Durban. Those interested, have the opportunity to continue learning with resident teacher, Gen Pagpa.   http://www.meditateincapetown.org

Maja Heynecke

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