Date and Place Written: 1233, Kannon-dōri-in temple (Fukakusa)
Fascicle number and English title in Hubert Nearman translation: 2. On the Great Wisdom That Is Beyond Discriminatory Thought
Fascicle number and English title in Nishijima/Cross translation: 2. Mahā-prajnā-pāramitā
Fascicle number and English title in Tanahashi translation: 2. Manifestation of Great Prajna
Fascicle number in 12, 28, 60 and 75 fascicle editions: 2 (60), 2 (75)
Commentaries: Deepest Practice, Deepest Wisdom chapters 1,2 and 7, Don’t Be A Jerk chapter 3
Audio reading:


This fascicle contains Dōgen’s thoughts on the Heart Sutra (Skrt. Mahā-prajñā-pāramitā-hrdaya-sūtra), a short sutra which is a distillation of the larger Perfection of Wisdom sutras, and chanted daily in many Zen centres around the world.

Going beyond the presentation of the Heart Sutra, in which the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara  (Jp. Kannon) is liberated by finding the five skandhas (here called matter, feeling, thinking, enaction and consciousness) are empty of inherent existence, Dōgen instead declares them to be themselves instances of prajñā.  Likewise, he concludes that all of the sense organs and consciousnesses, said by the sutra to be empty, to be instances of prajñā, and also the six perfections (pāramitās: giving, pure observance of the precepts, patience, diligence, meditation and prajñā itself), the six elements (earth, water, fire, wind, space and consciousness) and the four ways of being (walking, standing, sitting and lying down). 

Dōgen fully understood the teachings of the Heart Sutra but here is, as he often does, turning the teaching on its head to look at it in a different way.  He continues by pointing out that far from seeing Buddhist teachings as empty, as the sutra does, it is an act of veneration to see them as prajñā.  Nothing, in fact, is separate from wisdom (prajñā) itself, and Shakyamuni Buddha points out to Shariputra that prajñā-pāramitā (the perfection of wisdom) is nothing other than the buddha-bhagavats themselves and real dharmas.

The fascicle concludes with a translation of The Heart Sutra.

Kōans and Stories

The god Indra converses with Subhuti (one of the Buddha’s monks who features in the Diamond Sutra, another Perfection of Wisdom sutra) asking him how the profound prajnā-pāramitā (Perfection of Wisdom) should be researched.  Subhuti replies that it should be researched as space.  He also explains to Indra’s question of how to guard the profound prajnā-pāramitā that it is guarded by abiding in it. 

Important passages

“The bhikṣhu’s secretly working concrete mind at this moment is, in the state of bowing in veneration of real dharmas, prajñā itself – whether or not real dharmas are without appearance and disappearance – and this is a veneration bow itself.”

“My late Master, the eternal Buddha [Tiantong Rujing] says:

Whole body like a mouth, hanging in space;
Not asking if the wind is east, west, south or north,
For all others equally, it chatters prajñā:
Chin Ten Ton Ryan Chin Ten Ton.

This is the chattering of prajñā transmitted by Buddhist patriarchs from rightful successor to rightful successor.  It is prajñā as the whole body, it is prajñā as the whole of others, it is prajñā as the whole self, and it is the prajñā of the whole east, west, south, and north.”

“So buddha-bhagavats are the prajñā-pāramitā, and the prajñā-pāramitā is these real dharmas.  These real dharmas are bare manifestations: they are neither appearing nor disappearing, neither dirty nor pure, neither increasing nor decreasing.  The realization of this prajñā-pāramitā is the realization of buddha-bhagavats.  We should inquire into it, and we should experience it.  To serve offerings to it, and to bow in veneration is just to serve and to attend buddha-bhagavats, and it is buddha-bhagavats in service and attendance.”

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