The Heart of Buddhism

May 4, 2022 Empathy - Compassion No Comments

Many Buddhists find the core of their worldview being expressed in the chanting of the Hannya Shingyo (ancient Japanese). In many Buddhist monasteries, it is chanted at least every day.

You can listen to the entire (few minutes) Hannya Shingyo in this nice video. You can read a fine translation (one of many slightly different) from London Zen Group.

With a modern Western eye

At the core of this core lies the Eastern notion of ‘Emptiness‘ (sunyata) ― not just a nothingness or void, but the opposite: container and source of all conscious experience.

This is what I write about as subconceptual mental processing. It is what modern Western neurocognitive science increasingly discovers as mental-neuronal patterns formed in the mind/brain.

This way, the ancient East and modern West fit together.

“Kan ji zay bo satsu

These are the first words of the sutra. Literally: the bodhisattva Guan-Shi-Yin (or Kannon or Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig) ― otherwise said, the human-figured metaphor of Compassion, the one who ‘listens to the suffering of the world’ in a special way: from the inside out (conforming to AURELIS coaching).

The chant begins with an invocation of this figure/metaphor, who then goes about realizing Emptiness and thus achieves the end of all suffering. After this, the chant goes on with the heart, describing Emptiness mainly through the negative.

Hannya Shingyo

Hannya = (ancient Japanese for) Prajna or ‘wisdom.’

Pra = pre, what comes before; jna = thinking; prajna is what comes before any conscious thought. This is the forming of the mental-neuronal patterns before their crystallization as thoughts, feelings, and motivations.

The conscious level is what results from this ― therefore running behind it, and when what comes to it has already been decided or is ending this process. This conforms to modern Western science in the cognitive domain. The problem is that this insight is so mind-boggling that the science doesn’t escape well from its original silo. Meanwhile, for instance, Western psychosomatic medicine acts in comfortable numbness.

Shingyo = ‘sutra’ or chant.

“Emptiness is form; form is Emptiness.”

There are no concepts in the mind/brain apart from the results of mental/neuronal processing. This is obvious since all we have in our brain are cells (neurons, glial cells) and products deriving from these cells. There is no conceptual database under the skull. It’s all patterns. Any concept that reaches consciousness emerges from this and is also a pattern.

Conceptual mental processing does not stand apart from subconceptual processing. They are the same, but the chant also says further on:

“Given Emptiness, there is nothing.”

No thinking, no sensual awareness, not even consciousness itself. This concept from the chant is about pure meditation, then also about a meditative mindstyle that may pervade any moment of every day. It’s not contradictory to the previous point. Take Emptiness, and you have everything.

Form is one way in which Emptiness shows itself. Plato would say: it is one way in which Emptiness remembers itself. We call that ‘pattern recognition and completion.’

The chant shows this Emptiness-related insight/realization to be the cause of the end of all suffering. This conforms to the end of what I describe as inner dissociation. Otherwise said, the cause of all suffering lies here and can be avoided. Moreover, Deep Listening is the way to do so, being literally what Guan-Shi-Yin is about.

The sutra ends with:

“Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha.”

(Emphatically): “Go, please go, to the other side of awakening!”

This is the awakening to the existence and importance of subconceptual processing.

The awakening by itself isn’t enough, though. Surely, it can lead to Compassion, but not necessarily. This is probably why the chanting of the Hannya Shingyo is frequently followed by a recitation of the four vows of the bodhisattva.

Thus, it all leads to Compassion in the way that is central to Buddhism and AURELIS.

No magic is required.

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