The Lesson of the Heart Sutra

The Heart Sutra states it very clearly: "The bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara, while coursing in the deep prajnaparamita, saw that all five skandhas are empty and thereby transcended all suffering." The real point of the Buddhist way is not just to understand suffering, but also to see the emptiness of suffering. We can use the teaching of the five skandhas to clarify the different dimensions of suffering, to realize the empty nature of the skandhas, and thereby to transcend our own suffering.

When we perceive the five skandhas in the same way as Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, simultaneously there is liberation. This is because upon seeing the true nature of our existence, we see that it is simultaneously suffering, impermanence, emptiness, and selflessness. What is the relationship between these four? First, there is impermanence. When one does not penetrate into the reality of impermanence, there is suffering. Being in suffering, one feels that there is an 'I' experiencing suffering. But for Avalokitesvara, the nature of suffering was revealed in a three-fold way. It is impermanent, empty and selfless, without the suffering. Why is that? Because by developing penetrative insight in Buddhadharma practice, one is freed from suffering. Through insight into the workings of impermanence, we come to recognize selflessness. In this way the Avalokitesvara perceived impermanence and emptiness, and, through emptiness, understood that there is no self. But with a deluded view we only experience suffering, as very real, permanent, and 'mine.' And because of our clinging and attachments we cannot escape.

Source : "Setting in Motion the Dharma Wheel"