Preface One: Disciple Nien An

When four assemblies jointly invited the great master of Chan Sham to expound The Heart Sutra at the Buddhist Library of China, he made an all-out effort, although his lecture series was to last nine grueling days and even though he was already eighty-four years old. He enjoyed teaching Buddhadharma, and those who came to listen were delighted. During those nine days, there was standing room only every time he lectured, a clear sign of the greatness of that Dharma assembly in this five-kasaya period of turbidity. The old master explained the Sutra directly, eluding conventional restrictions. Although he used the traditional divisions of the Buddhaís teaching into classes, on many occasions he dealt broadly with the general idea. Initially, his aim was to explainThe Heart Sutra, but he commented, likewise, on The Lotus Sutra; and while discussing The Doctrine, broached the topic of the world situation as well. And why? Because all dharmas are Buddhadharma, and all sutras are one sutra.

Buddhadharma is never separated from the world. All phenomena are Buddhadharma, and whoever understands completely does not have a single mote of dust settle on him or her. All oneís words and thoughts are thereby freed from obstacles. Each of oneís statements, whether harsh or delicate, is always exact and to the point. Sentient beings receptive to the Dharma will have their Wisdom Eye opened upon hearing this teaching, but those with distorted vision are bound to be bewildered and, most likely, will miss the whole point. Some individuals excel in the knowledge of every rule and every convention, and their words flood forth without surcease. They may have acquired mastery over the divisions and classifications of the Buddhaís teaching; but not understanding its meaning, they cannot avoid getting entangled. Playing with words and turning them about, they are bewitched; and even though their speech is systematic and orderly, they fail to understand the ultimate and lose sight of the truth. According to one of the early Buddhist sages, the entire universe is one sutra of a sramana; and, also, the entire universe is the eye of a sramana. Although an enlightened person might spend a lot of time reading a sutra, he or she will not carry it around in his or her mind. One might say one is reading sutras not with oneís eyes but with oneís wisdom, and, though reading all day long, there are really no sutras to read.

My great old teacher explained The Heart Sutra by highlighting its salient points in a prologue. According to his explanation, all is really Buddhadharma, and every single form and each tiny bit of color is the Middle Way. Speaking naturally and freely, he received support from all sides, precisely because all is Buddhadharma. The great old teacher expounded The Heart Sutra every day for nine days, yet The Heart Sutra itself was never mentioned. This is truly the way to expound The Heart Sutra.

The master lectured in Mandarin, and Upasaka Wang Kíai translated into Cantonese, making the Cantonese people very happy. Because of these lectures many of them now understand The Heart Sutra. Those who knew both dialects praised him for the integrity of his translation. Having read his notes he made while translating, I concluded, in my turn, that Upasaka Wang Kíai made every effort to retain the original meaning. Every sentence and every word is exactly as it was used by the great old master. Only the dialect is different. The translatorís descriptions convey even the sounds and the nuances to such a degree that reading them is equal to hearing them spoken. Upasaka Wang stood outside the adamantine door and eventually made a breakthrough, using his superior knowledge and skills the way one would use an ax to break down any ordinary door. People entered and discovered what The Heart Sutra holds. I believe he understands what his treasury is and what his virtues are. Wouldnít you agree?

Disciple Nien An 
The year of Wu Hsu, 
June 1958