Providence Press presents, The Heart Sutra

The Heart Sutra, Providence Press
by Sarah Bennett
15/9/2020

Providence Press in California is publishing a new translation of one of the most profound and revered texts in Buddhism, The Heart Sutra.

Understood to be "the most frequently used and recited text in the entire Mahayana Buddhist tradition" (Brunnhölzl, Karl, September 29, 2017) The Heart Sutra has been translated into English dozens of times from Chinese, Sanskrit and Tibetan as well as other source languages.

In the sutra, Avalokiteśvara addresses Śariputra, explaining the fundamental emptiness (śūnyatā) of all phenomena, known through and as the five aggregates of human existence (skandhas): form (rūpa), feeling (vedanā), volitions (saṅkhāra), perceptions (saṃjñā), and consciousness (vijñāna). Avalokiteśvara famously states, "Form is Emptiness (śūnyatā). Emptiness is Form", and declares the other skandhas to be equally empty—that is, dependently originated.

This is the third publication offered by Providence Press and is written by Stephen Mitchell. This beautiful, letterpress printed scroll measures 6 inches wide by 62 inches long. Housed in a bamboo cylinder, it is accompanied by an introduction by their sponsor, John Windle, which we quote:

 

As a boy growing up in England in the 1950s it was most unlikely that I would come across any Buddhist teachings in the small provincial town of Hove, where I lived. However, in my early teens I discovered a book at home one rainy day that transfixed me and its effect is immanent even today, sixty years later. My father had been at Cambridge with Christmas Humphreys and although my father (indeed family) had no interest in Buddhism, he had a copy of Humphreys’s book Zen: A Way of Life in the aptly-named “Teach Yourself” series. I read this book again and again, teaching myself sitting and breathing techniques, simple yogic poses and exercises while pondering Zen philosophy.

Initially, thanks to Humphreys, I was drawn to Zen practice but did not find a teacher to whom I felt connected. In 1981 I met Geshe Gyeltsen in Los Angeles and through him my Guru Zong Rinpoche under whom I studied for three years, culminating in helping sponsor the visit to Los Angeles of His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama. Shortly thereafter, Zong Rinpoche died and I went to India to be present at his funeral. At that time, I took robes as a fully ordained monk. I received an invitation to go on to Dharamsala to stay and participate in retreats at the Dalai Lama’s monastery in McLeod Ganj. It was there that I was fortunate enough to receive many blessings and initiations before returning to America and my former life as a rare book dealer.

I have long wanted to give back to the spiritual community as well as to my friends and colleagues in the world of rare books. To help produce Buddhist texts in a simple yet beautiful format for the benefit of all sentient beings seemed a good path to follow. I chose the Heart Sutra as the first production of the venture, as it meets the two basic criteria I aspired to fulfill. The sutra is generally held to be the shortest, simplest, yet most profound teaching in the Buddhist canon.

Stephen Mitchell, the eminent scholar and Buddhist practitioner, has adapted prior presentations of the text into a short version worthy of the deepest contemplation, and it is presented here for the first time. It is with humility and a sense of fulfilling my vows as a monk that I present this newest version of some of the oldest wisdom available to humanity. My colleague and friend Norman Clayton embraced the project from the first, and together we offer this in the hope that it will bring blessings to all sentient beings.

 

The Heart Sutra scroll was designed and printed by Norman Clayton on a KSBAZ Heidelberg Cylinder in four colours. The sutra is set in Lithos Pro. Hand lettering by Thomas Ingmire. The paper is Crane’s Lettra Text Ecru with Ruche Blue and Natural and it has a PVA adhesive.

It is available for $145 (additional tax and shipping may apply) and more information can be found at www.providencepressojai.com

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