The Heart Sutra: The Womb of Buddhas


By Phil Catalfo  |  

Translation and commentary by Red Pine.
Shoemaker & Hoard; www.shoemakerhoard.com.

"Buddhism in a nutshell." That’s what Red Pine (Bill Porter), an independent American scholar of Buddhism and an acclaimed translator of Buddhist scriptures and poetry, calls the Heart Sutra. This text, compiled 2,000 years ago, takes its name (Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutran) from its reputation for containing the heart of Buddhist teaching.

Pine’s meticulous translation and commentary amplify the sutra’s core message—"form is emptiness, emptiness is form." He draws on many other translator-commentators and shares his own keen insights to show how the brief sutra (a mere 35 lines) is a gateway to enlightenment. By the end, the sutra’s famous concluding mantra, Gate gate, paragate, parasangate, bodhi svaha ("Gone, gone, into the gone beyond, into the gone completely beyond") may strike you just as Red Pine says: "like a magic lamp"—only "instead of bringing forth a genie, as other mantras are intended to do, this mantra draws us inside, where we become the genie."