Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Chapter 1
I salute the buddha within you. You may not be aware of it, you may not have ever dreamed about it – that you are a buddha, that nobody can be anything else, that buddhahood is the very essential core of your being, that it is not something to happen in the future, that it has happened already. It is the very source you come from; it is the source and the goal too. It is from buddhahood that we move, and it is to buddhahood that we move. This one word, buddhahood, contains all – the full circle of life, from the alpha to the omega.
But you are fast asleep, you don’t know who you are. Not that you have to become a buddha, but only that you have to recognize it, that you have to return to your own source, that you have to look within yourself. A confrontation with yourself will reveal your buddhahood. The day one comes to see oneself, the whole existence becomes enlightened. It is not that a person becomes enlightened – how can a person become enlightened? The very idea of being a person is part of the unenlightened mind. It is not that I have become enlightened; the “I” has to be dropped before one can become enlightened, so how can I become enlightened? That is absurdity. The day I became enlightened the whole existence became enlightened. Since that moment I have not seen anything other than buddhas – in many forms, with many names, with a thousand and one problems, but buddhas still.
So I salute the buddha within you.
I am immensely glad that so many buddhas have gathered here. The very fact of your coming here to me is the beginning of the recognition. The respect in your heart for me, the love in your heart for me, is respect and love for your own buddhahood. The trust in me is not trust in something extrinsic to you, the trust in me is self-trust. By trusting me you will learn to trust yourself. By coming close to me you will come close to yourself. Only a recognition has to be attained. The diamond is there – you have forgotten about it, or you have never remembered it from the very beginning.
There is a very famous saying of Emerson: “Man is a God in ruins.” I agree and I disagree. The insight has some truth in it – man is not as he should be. The insight is there but a little upside down. Man is not God in ruins, man is God in the making; man is a budding buddha. The bud is there, it can bloom any moment: just a little effort, just a little help is needed. And the help is not going to cause it – it is already there! Your effort is only going to reveal it to you, help to unfold what is there, hidden. It is a discovery, but the truth is already there. The truth is eternal.
Listen to these sutras because these are the most important sutras in the great Buddhist literature. Hence they are called the Heart Sutra; it is the very heart of the Buddhist message.
But I would like to begin from the very beginning. From this point only does Buddhism become relevant: let it be there in your heart that you are a buddha. I know it may look presumptuous, it may look very hypothetical; you cannot trust it totally. That is natural, I understand it. Let it be there, but as a seed. Around that fact many things will start happening, and only around that fact will you be able to understand these sutras. They are immensely powerful – very small, very condensed, seedlike. But with this soil, with this vision in the mind, that you are a buddha, that you are a budding buddha, that you are potentially capable of becoming one, that nothing is lacking, all is ready, things just have to be put in the right order, that a little more awareness is needed, a little more consciousness is needed The treasure is there; you have to bring a small lamp inside your house. Once the darkness disappears you will no longer be a beggar, you will be a buddha; you will be a sovereign, an emperor. This whole kingdom is yours and it is just for the asking; you have just to claim it.
But you cannot claim it if you believe that you are a beggar. You cannot claim it, you cannot even dream about claiming if you think that you are a beggar. This idea that you are a beggar, that you are ignorant, that you are a sinner, has been preached from so many pulpits down the ages that it has become a deep hypnosis in you. This hypnosis has to be broken. To break it I start with: I salute the buddha within you.
To me, you are buddhas. All your efforts to become enlightened are ridiculous if you don’t accept this basic fact. This has to become a tacit understanding, that you are it! This is the right beginning, otherwise you go astray. This is the right beginning. Start with this vision, and don’t be worried that this may create some kind of ego: “I am a buddha.” Don’t be worried, because the whole process of the Heart Sutra will make it clear to you that the ego is the only thing that doesn’t exist – the only thing that doesn’t exist! Everything else is real.
There have been teachers who say the world is illusory and the soul is existential – the “I” is true and all else is illusory, maya. Buddha says just the reverse: he sees only the “I” is untrue and everything else is real. And I agree with Buddha more than with the other standpoint. Buddha’s insight is very penetrating, the most penetrating. Nobody has ever penetrated into those realms, depths and heights of reality.
But start with the idea, with this climate around you, with this vision. Let it be declared to every cell of your body and every thought of your mind; let it be declared to every nook and corner of your existence: “I am a buddha!” And don’t be worried about the “I,” we will take care of it.
“I” and buddhahood cannot exist together. Once the buddhahood becomes revealed the “I” disappears, just like darkness disappears when you bring a light in.
Before entering into the sutras, it will be helpful to understand a little framework, a little structure.
The ancient Buddhist scriptures talk about seven temples. Just as Sufis talk about seven valleys, and Hindus talk about seven chakras, Buddhists talk about seven temples.
The first temple is the physical, the second temple is psychosomatic, the third temple is psychological, the fourth temple is psycho-spiritual, the fifth temple is spiritual, the sixth temple is spirituo-transcendental, and the seventh temple and the ultimate – the temple of temples – is the transcendental.
The sutras belong to the seventh. These are declarations of someone who has entered the seventh temple, the transcendental, the absolute. That is the meaning of the Sanskrit word, pragyaparamita – the wisdom of the beyond, from the beyond, in the beyond; the wisdom that comes only when you have transcended all kinds of identifications – lower or higher, this worldly or that worldly; when you have transcended all kinds of identifications, when you are not identified at all, when there is only a pure flame of awareness left with no smoke around it. That’s why Buddhists worship this small book, this very, very small book; and they have called it the "Heart Sutra" – the very heart of religion, the very core.
The first temple, the physical, can correspond to the Hindu map with the muladhar chakra; the second, the psychosomatic, with svadisthan chakra; the third, the psychological, with manipura; the fourth, the psycho-spiritual, with anahatta; the fifth, the spiritual, with vishudha; the sixth, the spiritual-transcendental, with agya; and the seventh, the transcendental, with sahasrar. Sahasrar means one-thousand-petaled lotus. That is the symbol of the ultimate flowering: nothing has remained hidden, all has become unhidden, manifest. The thousand-petaled lotus has opened, the whole sky is filled with its fragrance, its beauty, its benediction.
In the modern world a great work has started in search of the innermost core of the human being. It will be good to understand how far modern efforts lead us.
Pavlov, B. F. Skinner and the other behaviorists, go on circling around the physical, the muladhar. They think man is only the body. They get so involved in the first temple, they get so involved with the physical that they forget everything else. These people are trying to explain man only through the physical, the material. This attitude becomes a hindrance because they are not open. When from the very beginning you deny that there is anything other than the body, then you deny the exploration itself. This becomes a prejudice. A communist, a Marxist, a behaviorist, an atheist – people who believe that man is only the body – their very belief closes doors to higher realities. They become blind. And the physical is there, the physical is the most apparent; it needs no proof. The physical body is there, you need not prove it. Because it need not be proved, it becomes the only reality. That is nonsense. Then man loses all dignity. If there is nothing to grow in or to grow towards, there cannot be any dignity in life. Then man becomes a thing. Then you are not an opening, then nothing more is going to happen to you – you are a body: you will eat, and you will defecate, and you will eat and you will make love and produce children, and this will go on and on, and one day you will die. A mechanical repetition of the mundane, the trivia – how can there be any significance, any meaning, any poetry? How can there be any dance?
Skinner has written a book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity. It should be called "Below Freedom and Dignity," not "Beyond." It is below, it is the lowest standpoint about man, the ugliest. There is nothing wrong with the body, remember. I am not against the body, it is a beautiful temple. The ugliness enters when you think it is all.
Man can be conceived of as a ladder with seven rungs, and you get identified with the first rung. Then you are not going anywhere. And the ladder is there, and the ladder bridges this world and the other; the ladder bridges matter with godliness. The first rung is perfectly good if it is used in relationship to the whole ladder. If it functions as a first step it is immensely beautiful: one should be thankful to the body. But if you start worshiping the first rung and you forget the remaining six, you forget that the whole ladder exists and you become closed, confined to the first rung, then it is no longer a rung at all – because a rung is a rung only when it is part of a ladder. If it is no longer a rung then you are stuck with it. Hence, people who are materialistic are always stuck, they always feel something is missing, they don’t feel they are going anywhere. They move in rounds, in circles, and they come again and again to the same point. They become tired and bored. They start contemplating how to commit suicide. And their whole effort in life is to find some sensations, so something new can happen. But what “new” can happen? All the things that we go on being occupied with are nothing but toys to play with.