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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

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  2,116 ratings  ·  123 reviews
Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. In The Heart of Understanding, Thich Nhat Hanh offers a lucid and engaging interpretation of this core Buddhist text—The Heart Sutra—which is one of the most important sutras, offering subtle and profound teachings on nonduality.
Paperback, 56 pages
Published October 1st 1988 by Parallax Press (first published May 31st 1987)
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4.38  · 
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 ·  2,116 ratings  ·  123 reviews

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Dec 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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!
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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!

September 2018 Update
Don't miss Thay's new version of this book, now
Hannah Garden
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 21, 2018 rated it liked it
“To be is to inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone, you have to inter-be with every other thing. This sheet of paper is, because everything else is.”

“In the light of Buddhist meditation, love is impossible without understanding. You cannot love someone if you do not understand them. If you do not understand what you love, it is not love— it is something else.”
Phuong Vy Le
Aug 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
May 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This felt like a good introduction, but it's hard to judge its accuracy if I do not know more about what Buddhism is. I appreciate the clarity of Nhat Hanh's arguments for his interpretation, for resolving putative contradictions in the heart sutra. The writing was clear (enough) and concise. As someone trained in analytic philosophy, I have a few complaints.

One is the misrepresentation of the Problem of Evil, which cannot be resolved simply by saying that good must coexist with evil if either
Oct 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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!
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I always read books like these and wish I could be more spiritual than I am. Or maybe not even more spiritual, but more able to harness these messages in my daily life. I love the ideas of Buddhism, but I'm pretty solidly enmeshed in my passions. :) In any case, it's good to keep reading and thinking and trying. This little book has a lot about emptiness and interbeing--how everything contains everything else within it and nothing could exist without everything else. I like it.
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sienna by: Hoopla
Lovely short meditation on indivisibility.
Jul 31, 2011 rated it liked it
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,
Feb 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: important
simply incredible. quietly profound, changing.
Veena Gokhale
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was glad to read this book again after a gap of at least a decade. Thich Nhat Hanh, the renowned and revered Buddhist monk, teacher, peace activist and "engaged Buddhist" who combines various Buddhist traditions in his practice and teaching, illuminates here a foundational text.
This is a lucid, beautiful, deeply touching and wise work.
Inter-being, a central concept in this book, says that every thing is connected, intimately so. The example given is that of a single sheet of paper which is her
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hahaha, I'm guilted into not putting this below 4 stars. It touches the heart AND THUS BINDS IT.

Thich Nhat Hanh is the pocketbook version of ancient wisdom. Not literally the author himself. In a way one could say he was the words in the book, the pages and the mental formations while reading it. Most of Thich's books are short and easy. This does not betray the efforts of his translation as it is often very difficult to bridge certain gaps of understanding. Those of us in the West are notori
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thay introduces the notion of 'inter-being' to gain understanding, empathy and compassion between ourselves with other creatures in daily life. The goal is to create inner peace and societal peace, to reduce discrimination mindset and behaves which cause conflicts and violence in society.

I agree with the author that the content, lessons in the book are not about to put on the alter. It is supposed to be a tool. We, if wanting to understand it, require to practice inter-being thinking in daily me
C.K. Shaw
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I studied Buddhism in college, but always struggled to understand the meaning of the Heart Sutra. In this book Thich Nat Han provides a step-by-step analysis of the elusive elements of this sutra, including emptiness, interdependence, and impermanence. His explanations are extremely clear and his illustrations are impressively effective. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding the Heart Sutra. This book is so clear and well-written that I think it would even be a great ...more
Andreea Ureche
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Small reminder of what we should think about as humans and how our heart needs to be healed with every breath we take. How we should take care of us and others, how we should spread love and kindness, how we should think before talk about others and how we should think that a rose indeed can come out of garbage and will go to garbage sooner or later and this makes garbage important too.
We should see the forest and what it is instead of checking up every tree.
An important lesson in simple and mi
Niklas Braun
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thich Nhat Hanh has explained the lines of the Heart Sutra as I have never heard before, and expounded a lot of clarity where my understanding was hazy at best. I am always astonished at the abaility of Thich Nhat Hanh to clarify subjects with few words, yet weave them together poetically as he does.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to get into Sutra study. It's like he is teaching in person, since he seemed to answer all of my questions as they came to mind.
Melissa McGowan
Oct 19, 2018 rated it liked it
“ What was your face before your parents were born?” That bit made me think I need my Buddhist teachings to be slightly more translated for my westernized thinking. Having said that, this exploration of rejecting duality in thought patterns seemed like a good way to reflect on current events as we hurtle toward midterm elections.
Jess Morgan
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great for a morning read with your coffee. Thay explores fascinating, profound, and often taboo concepts that can resonate with anyone. I love how digestible his content is. He does not aim to convert or enlighten anyone, just to bring peace to his readers. Really comforting. I will always have one of his books in my hand, that is a given.
Whit Ewen
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
He writes with true and deep feeling and wisdom

In the depths of my heart, there is a field where we know we are all one: he writes that we "inter are." Thich Naht Hanh comes from this space in every sentence, and invites us into that field, encouraging us to live from there and invite others into it.
Maciej Sitko
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha!"

One of the most moving Mayahana sutras with excellent companion commentary and explanation. It goes in-depth into the moving lines on non-duality and emptiness as uttered by Avalokiteśvara.
Cindy Chapman
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I just re-read after a friend found a copy for me. (I loaned my original and never got it back.) My feelings about the book this time are exactly the same as my first reading: These are the truest words I have ever read. (I will not let this copy out of my sight.)
Emily Judds
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book had been sitting on my shelf unread, and I finally brought it down the other day when I was in a state of intense despair. It was exactly what I needed to read, and Thich Nhat Hanh has left me feeling inspired and at peace. He had made the Heart Sutra so easy to understand and live!
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely gorgeous. It’s a deeply Buddhist text, but I think even a non-Buddhist would be taken with the simple, gentle way that Thay teaches profound lessons. “Continuation Day” in particular really moved me.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is a book about the philosophy in the author's point of view, specifically in the Buddhist's point of view. You would like this book if you believe in Buddhism and if you like to learn more about religions.
Himilcon De
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deep and simple: a jewel

The explanations regarding emptiness, inter-being and non-duality become true teatchings on how to live without fear and make peace with yourself and the whole world.
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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
“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.” 10 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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