Prajna Paramita Hrdaya Sutra
Translated by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Tsang of the Tang Dynasty
with Commentary by Grand Master T'an Hsu
Of the seven known translations of The Heart Sutra, the one by the Tripitaka Master Hsuan Tsang (600-664 C.E.) is the most popular. Tripitaka is a Sanskrit term designating the whole Buddhist canon, which consists of three sections: 1) the Sutras, which are the original texts of the Buddhadharma; 2) the Vinaya, or rules of discipline; and 3) the Sastras, or commentaries, related to theory and practice, as well as to the teachings in relation to non-Buddhist argument. Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang understood the Tripitaka thoroughly, and, therefore, thetitle of Tripitaka Master was bestowed upon him. He did not study canonical texts primarily for personal satisfaction; his purpose was to make them available to others, and he acted in compliance with a direct order from the emperor. Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang was a very famous sage in the Tíang Dynasty. The description of the arduous way by which he obtained the scriptures is known to every family and household, and there is no need to delve into it at this time.
The Prajna literature is very extensive; it covers approximately twenty years of the Buddhaís teaching career. The seven translations of the Sutra display minor differences, but the essential meaning was respected in each case. There is no major difference among them. According to Tripitaka Master Kumarajivaís translation, this Sutra was spoken by the Buddha. Every translation ofThe Heart Sutra includes a commentary which consist of three parts: 1) The reason for the Sutra; 2) the method used to convey the meaning; 3) the Sutraís history. The Heart Sutra was composed of excerpts from the Mahaprajna Paramita texts, and simple words were carefully employed to convey profound meanings. Although the Chinese version contains only two hundred sixty single characters, it nevertheless, embodies the entire Prajna literature in all its depth and subtlety. As to the reason for this Sutra, we only need to look at the method used to put the text together to realize that the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara was chosen as a model for the rest of us and that the Sutra was spoken by the Buddha. To understand it thoroughly is to understand all of the Prajna literature. We are not going to address the Sutraís history at this time.