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The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra
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The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra

4.37  ·  Rating Details ·  1,524 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
Comprised of only 632 Chinese characters, the Heart Sutra is Buddhism in a nutshell. Despite its brevity, this powerful work covers more of the BuddhaOCOs teachings than any other scripture, and its influence is more profound and wide-reaching than any other text in Buddhism. Thich Nhat HanhOCOs translation and commentary is regarded as the most simple, clear, concise, and ...more
ebook, 60 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Parallax Press (first published May 31st 1987)
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Hannah  Messler
Jan 07, 2009 Hannah Messler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Y0u can't really three-star a sweet little treatise 0n h0w t0 be m0re kind and m0re aware 0f the hearts 0f pe0ple ar0und y0u, s0 this gets f0ur stars, because Thich Nhat Hanh, I like y0u m0re in the0ry than in practice, y0u 0l' dry-t0ngued devil.
Dec 19, 2008 Bryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
my favorite book of last summer. it's short so read it three times in a week. it will help you realize that you are a tree!
Phuong Vy Le
Aug 18, 2016 Phuong Vy Le rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"What/ who you think you really know?"

Over the past one year, whenever encounter anyone who sounds wise and open, I always ask s/he that question. I wonder whether we ever truly know anything/ anyone in this world, since everything & everyone change every single second. And if we hardly know anyone/anything, why we even bother trying to get-to-know or to learn because mastery of something or truly knowing someone are all illusions. (This question arose from some personal experiences during
Joel Palma
Apr 23, 2016 Joel Palma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shed tears while reading this commentary by Thich Nhat Hanh of the Prajnapamarita Heart Sutra for our Buddhism 101 class in Leiden University. One of the most endearing- without feeling the heavy academic vibe- kind of read about this significant sutra in Mahayana Buddhism.
Tentatively three-starred since I am, at the moment, unable to agree with the author's writings. Or perhaps it is more of a matter of understanding.

I can see how a piece of paper encompass the sun, trees, a speck of dust. So can I see the farmer's toil, his time, her sweat, a bull's labour, the sun's energy, the rain, in every grain of rice I eat.

But I am unable to see me myself in others, others in me. Though this much I know: that I am defined by everything else in the universe - my siblings,
Apr 18, 2010 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Short, simple, and deeply insightful commentary on the core sutra of mahayana Buddhism. The Heart Sutra is the heart of the prajna paramita literature, the great deepening of the Buddha's original teaching. This work demystifies the concept of "emptiness" by substituting the idea that we "inter-are." no one if us, no concept, nothing exists independent of the rest of us. You could read this book in an hour, and keep returning to it for a lifetime.
The heart of Buddhism (with Zen leanings) is encapsulated in this slim and poetic volume, but this book is for everyone. If you don't know Buddha from butter, it won't matter. It's probably the best introduction to the fundamental concepts of dependent origination and emptiness I have come across, without the didacticism or defensiveness that often accompanies more scholarly "explanations." It's simple, the way it's supposed to be. The way it is!
Bruno Falce
Aug 16, 2016 Bruno Falce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One morning at Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland where I was attending a yoga retreat I heard: "Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form. Form is not other than emptiness, emptiness is not other than form." What does that all mean? I was confused...and it's ok to be confused because where there's confusion there's room for questioning, investigating and understanding.
That was a passage my teacher read from this book and it was enough to get me to read it.
The understanding of inter-being explain
Robbie Blair
Oct 06, 2014 Robbie Blair rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While not a flawless book, this rendition and discussion of the Heart Sutra is an accessible entry-point for some of Buddhism's key philosophies. For those who find those philosophies resonant, this work is also replenishing and profound.
Jul 10, 2014 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my gosh. Profound. Everything contains everything else. When you really take the time to absorb the meaning of this book, it's quite life changing.
It's possible to read this slim book in one hour, but not to assimilate it. Tich Nhat Hanh does his best to simplify the heart sutra for western readers. Maybe oversimplify is a better word. Some of his insights into Buddhist teaching are marvelous and clear; others are maddening. 'This is, because that is' does little to explain, e.g., how wealth consists of poverty and vice versa except in the grand sense of everything being part of everything else. Still, there are many lessons worth learning ...more
Andrew Calderon
Mar 08, 2015 Andrew Calderon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think much of what the author said is not practicable. In the abstract, it very-well makes sense to assert that all things are interconnected and we must learn to notice the connections between us and the world around us in order to attain comprehensive understanding. That's all good, but how does apply in the context of fundamental moral disputes or other instances of contention?

Certainly, we must exercise empathy, patience, and holistic thinking in order to find connections and compromises
Jan 26, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read several books from Thich Nhat Hanh and have enjoyed them all. The Heart of Understanding is more of a vignette style than the other books I've experienced (since it is a commentary), but doesn't detract from the information therein.

If you've read much of his work (or works of other Buddhist authors), most of the book will seem like a review, but it puts all the thoughts around inter-being and the idea of emptiness into one place. I usually take away a thought or phrase away from each
Sparrow Knight
May 02, 2015 Sparrow Knight rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dharma
Really a brief booklet collection of some of Thay's talks on the Heart Sutra. Brief, avoiding most of the technical Buddhist language around the concept of emptiness, interdependence, & causation. As usual, Thay gives his own spin to some classic Buddhist tales, & introduces some nice metaphors for the simultaneity of emptiness & existence. A good introductory text.
Lenny Balacco
Sep 18, 2016 Lenny Balacco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book by one of the great teachers of the 20th Century. I begin each day with this prayer (along with others).
The way it is presented and the significance behind it is well explained and sets u on a journey of finding your inner self and of emptiness
A must read for anyone interested in the Buddha and Zen
Feb 13, 2016 Geert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Compact and powerful. This book can change how you view everything, including yourself. Read it with an open mind. I can see myself reading this tens of times over the course of my life. For me it's a quick reset to how I think I should approach reality. I find a sunny day, outside, with a cool drink by your side helps.
Tom Emerson
Jun 20, 2015 Tom Emerson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
This was my first real exposure to the Heart Sutra and I found it unsatisfying; the commentaries are short and only provide clarity to the first couple of fathoms of a very deep ocean.

This brevity stimulates the desire to go deeper, to ruminate on each section and contemplate its mean in your life. I just wish I had a more solid grasp of the sutra before this.
Jun 03, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anther good explanation of emptiness AKA interconnectedness from Buddhist thought. A little repetitive. Some interesting examples. Recorded in the late 1970s - early 1980s.
Jul 01, 2016 Kaitlyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The single most precise and comprehensible teachings I've ever read or heard on emptiness.
Bethwyn (Butterfly Elephant Books)
this book cracked my head open, but in a kind of wondrous way. very short and very interesting.
Deki Choezom
Emptiness is what we say but, just don't understand.
Sandra Rae
Jul 12, 2016 Sandra Rae rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Heart Sutra in plain English.
Oct 07, 2015 Weathervane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Key Buddhist text. Lovely.
Jul 08, 2012 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this for a class on Buddhism, and even though I am Christian, the ideas presented here were really amazing. The Heart Sutra was set forth as not just a Buddhist text, but a meditation on how to live a life of basic human decency. The idea of interbeing (far from a simple new-age philosophy) makes sense and shows a way to live unselfishly.

This books transcends culture and religion, and gets at some of the most basic problems in society today. Thich Nhat Hanh, with the ideas he stands for,
Ron Davidson
Oct 24, 2014 Ron Davidson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sep 03, 2008 Maureen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: buddhism
The Heart Sutra is an essential Buddhist text on non-duality, or as Thich Nhat Hanh calls it, interbeing. The connectedness of all things is a life-changing realization. It takes away an "us versus them," or "man versus nature" relationship with the world. There is no distinction between being and nothingness. Like many of the Buddha's teachings, the concept presented here is deceptively simple, and worthy of many hours of contemplation.
Ben Vogel
See what I wrote here:

It applies to this book as well.
Feb 18, 2016 Saoirse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
what a beautiful book spoken by such a peaceful voice.

I could see myself meditating on each of these short chapters (2-5pgs per concept) and letting them sink in one by one..

I loved quote about the tree and the leaf, as well as the rich girl and the poor prostitute girl. They're one and the same. Without one, there cannot be the other. mindblown.
Nov 02, 2013 Tenzin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not usually my cup of tea but since it was assigned for us to read for one of my classes, I decided to read it and it was great. May I say, this was such a fast, easy read but gave me such insightful thoughts and learned a whole new spectrum of understanding. I loved it! Definitely recommend reading this text, if you don't mind repetitiveness. (:
William Woods
Dec 09, 2013 William Woods rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books by Thay. Must of read this 5 or 6 times already. It is a very short book and good for an introduction into Buddhism and the Prajnaparamita, and good for one who has practiced Buddhism for many years. Thay's words are refreshing and clear, as if he was speaking to you. The opening paragraph is forever etched into my memory.
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Thích Nhất Hạnh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist who now lives in southwest France where he was in exile for many years. Born Nguyễn Xuân Bảo, Thích Nhất Hạnh joined a Zen (Vietnamese: Thiền) monastery at the age of 16, and studied Buddhism as a novitiate. Upon his ordination as a monk in 1949, he assumed the Dharma name Thích Nhất Hạnh. Thích is an honorary ...more
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“If we take something to be the truth, we may cling to it so much that when the truth comes and knocks on our door, we won't want to let it in.” 7 likes
“So, while driving in the car with the person sitting right next to us, we think about other things. We aren't interested in him anymore. What arrogance! The person sitting there beside is really a mystery! We only have the impression that we know her, but we don't know anything yet.” 7 likes
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