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

4.37  ·  Rating Details ·  1,661 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
The Heart of the Prajaparamita Sutra is regarded as the essence of Buddhist teaching. It is recited daily in Mahayana temples and practice centers throughout the world. The Heart of Understandingoffers a recording of Thich Nhat Hanh's lecture on the Heart Sutra at the Green Gulch Zen Center in Muir Beach, California, on April 19, 1987.
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published September 1st 2002 by Parallax Press (first published May 31st 1987)
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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!
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.
Feb 21, 2017 Blaine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
No one but Thay could make the Abhidharma technicalities and mind-bending paradoxes of emptiness of the Heart Sutra read like simple breathing while looking at clouds. The highest wisdom, prajnaparamita, in Thay's hands shows you its immediacy and practicality for everyday living. After reading and reviewing six different books on the Heart Sutra, his was the one I chose to teach from.

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha!
Phuong Vy Le
Aug 18, 2016 Phuong Vy Le rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddism, philosophy
"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
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.
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,
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
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,
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!
Apr 05, 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.
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.
mia moraru
Dec 30, 2016 mia moraru rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: important
simply incredible. quietly profound, changing.
Matthew Noe
Jan 21, 2017 Matthew Noe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this back up today because I needed to read something, anything, that helped calm my hyped up emotions. Inauguration was the culmination of all the anger, frustration, and disappointment that has built up over the past political cycle - and then today... today is as if watching the first glimmers of growth from a budding seed forcing its way up and above the literal bullshit.

Thay has always had a way of bridging the gap between ancient writings - from a culture and language as far from
Wim Meeuwsen
Theoretically a good book, but not practical for me.
Ray Noyes
Oct 14, 2016 Ray Noyes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with his several other works, this is a calming, pleasurable read, but repeats almost verbatim much of what he has written elsewhere, notably the concept of 'inter-being'. That said, it is an interesting intellectual attempt at explaining the Buddhist concept of emptiness and of the sutra as a whole. Emptiness, however, is not an intellectual concept but can only be realised by experience and in that respect it falls short.
Andrew Calderon
Jan 15, 2014 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
Aug 16, 2016 Brono 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
Aug 09, 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.
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
Apr 08, 2015 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.
Sep 18, 2012 Katy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
This book is a very short commentary on the Heart Sutra. It's rich with Thay's lyrical imagery. If you've ever been puzzled by how form can be emptiness and emptiness can be form, this book has a beautiful way of approaching that issue. Beautiful. Inspirational. I will want to read it again, and maybe even again.
Tom Emerson
Jun 14, 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.
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.
Sep 25, 2008 DROPPING OUT rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Heart Sutra is short text but knotty for the Western mind (if there is such a thing) because we tend to perceive and order Reality differently. Thay's commentary takes difficult concepts and turns them into poetry of breath-taking simplicity. This book is a keeper, one to be read, contemplated, and cherished.
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.
Mar 21, 2009 Ronda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This provides a good background to the basics of Buddhism as Thich Nhat Hanh comments on the Heart Sutra, regarded as the essence of Buddhist teachings one of the key sutras (scripture-type writing. Here TNH explains the concept of emptiness and other important conceptsin a way that I finally understand.
Jun 24, 2008 Sophie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
LIFE CHANGING! I recommend this book to everyone. I don't own a copy of it because every time I buy it I end up giving it away to someone. Thich Nhat Hanh is a beautiful intellect and spirit. Invaluable teachings.
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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.” 9 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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