July 1, 2010

Prajnaparamita Teachings ~ Hollie Hirst

A Journey Through Prajnaparamita Teachings

My journey with the Prajnaparamita teachings… part one.

I’ve been sitting here struggling with this post for a few hours now, writing, reading, saving, opening a new document and being basically unsuccessful at coming up with anything that I feel like I want to use on this blog. So I decided to take a break and sit with myself for a few.

What I realized while observing my thoughts and feelings:
I was attempting to write a post related to my most recent adventures/studies, but what I really wanted to post are my writings on my trip to Bloomington (IN) to attend the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on The Heart Sutra. I was hesitating to do so for a few reasons. First, since the teachings were almost a month ago, I didn’t know if people would find them still pertinent in this age of “I want information and I want it now”.  Plus, I felt like I hadn’t yet fully processed and incorporated the lessons I had learned thus far.

Upon further contemplation I had to laugh at myself because I realized that if there is anything The Heart Sutra had taught me so far is, ‘It’s all interrelated processes my dear… dependant co-arising, or dependant origination- as His Holiness prefers, it’s not something that begins or ends! (At least this is my puny understanding thus far!)

Plus, it’s The Heart Sutra! It’s been around for a few thousand years and people study it for years and years and continue to get something new out of it upon every reading. So here I go!

The first time I encountered the Heart Sutra was in the spring of 2008. I had a crush on a talented musician who I came to realize was struggling with some heavy addiction issues.  He openly admitted being a functioning alcoholic but, after seeing him play music, I came to realize his addictions probably encompassed substances that are even more dangerous than the booze.

I was devastated; sad, worried, and deeply concerned for his wellbeing.  Shortly there after, I was reading a text on Buddhism, I think something on Tara that mentioned the Heart Sutra. I knew I had to read it. After a meditation class, I asked Kevin if he knew where I could find a copy. He chuckled and told me it is chapter nine in the ‘Blue Lotus Assembly’ meditation book, which was resting right in front of me! We busted out laughing. “Ask and you shall receive,” we chortled,  “Actually, ask and you will find you already possessed it”.

I waited until I got home to read it. Within moments of beginning to read, I found myself laughing and crying all at the same time. It was beautiful, and paradoxical, as are all the profound truths I have ever experienced.

‘They should see perfectly that even the five aggregates are empty of intrinsic existence. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form; emptiness is not other than form, form is not other than emptiness.’

(I can’t seem to find my Blue Lotus book, so the above is from page 154 of  ‘The Essence of the Heart Sutra’, by HH the Dalai Lama, which I studied in March and April of 2010, in preparation for the Teachings in Bloomington.)

The relief that came over me as I read these words is inexplicable.  The Heart Sutra hit me on an essential level. A new and radiant facet was fashioned into my prespective.

Since then I have continued to study the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamita) Teachings and have gained more intellectual understanding of the teachings, although believe me, I still have my questions… thankfully, “there is no ignorance and no extinction of ignorance” ;-).
(Heart Sutra)

From the spring of 2008 to winter of 2009 I studied Red Pine’s translation of and commentary on The Diamond Sutra. It took me so long to finish because I read it in 3-4 cycles. I would read until full, then set it down to let it digest for a while, and repeat when ready to incorporate some more!

I am very much looking forward to going through these text again as I continue to share with you my journey to the Heart Sutra Teachings in Bloomington.

A little snippit of history: some may be thinking, I thought we were talking about the Heart Sutra, what does the Heart Sutra have to do with the Diamond Sutra? It’s pretty cool, really, as Red Pine Explains:

“Conze and other scholars think that the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines was the first such scripture and that it was followed by versions of the same basic sutra… in 18,000, 25,000 and 100,000 lines… it was then contracted into 4,000 and 2,500 lines, and elements of its teachings further edited into 700 lines, 500 lines, and finally into the Diamond Sutra in 300 lines.”

It is my understanding that The Heart Sutra is a further distillation of the Prajnaparamita teachings, which, as His Holiness discussed at the teachings in Bloomington, is further distilled down into one letter: ‘A’ which is Sanskrit for negation (just as it is in Latin and Greek).

Ok, I really should walk away from this computer for a while!
More to come…

Hollie has earned a BGS with a concentration in Human and Behavioral Sciences from Indiana University and a graduate level certificate in Organizational Management and Development from Fielding Graduate University. She is also a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance at the 200 level and has recently completed an extra 40 hours in Trauma Sensitive Yoga via ‘The Trauma Center’ which was founded by Bessel van der Kolk. In addition to teaching private and small group yoga classes, Hollie has also been a volunteer rape crisis hotline counselor for MESA, and is currently a volunteer legal advocate and yoga instructor at SPAN. Please see www.bloominglotayoga.com for more info.

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