The Sanchon Hunjang
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♥ Sutras

The other day the Sanchon Hunjang was re-watching 김기덕's masterpiece of beautiful cinematography, 봄여름가을결 그리고봄. Of course the floating hermitage is still as stunningly beautiful as ever. Just like a lotus in a viewing pond, with its roots in grimy reality but has risen above the filth to bloom on the surface. It's a shame that the hermitage doesn't exist in the
real world...

Anyhow, the thing that struck the Sanchon Hunjang this time was the older monk's young disciple, who comes back after a prodigal foray into the defiled world, pursued by the police with a warrant for his arrest for murder. It is obvious to all that the younger disciple's emotions have run amok and wreaked havoc with his life. The older monk persuades the police to wait while he has the young disciple carve the 반야심경 Prajna Heart Sutra in good sized characters right there on the wooden patio in front of the floating hermitage.

This is because "the Heart Sutra has the power to calm the emotions," he explains. So the young disciple stays up all night carving the 260 characters of the monk's running script calligraphy into the patio before he is taken into custody, a changed man.

There seems little doubt that the disciple needed to reign in the emotions that were driving him. But the implication that, because the name of the Heart Sutra contains the word "heart," it should naturally be good at controlling affairs of the heart seems a bit tenuous. Not being too familiar with Buddhism, the Sanchon Hunjang wasn't sure how much credence to give this interpretation. But fortunately he has a native informant who is of a scientific and analytical bent both in life and business, and who also happens to be Buddhist. CP confirms that the Heart Sutra is an abridgment of the Diamond Sutra 금강경, and thus is a crystallization of the "heart" of the teachings of the Buddha.

CP then went on to expound upon how hanging a painting of the Bodhi-dharma has the power to dissipate harmful electromagnetic waves and ensure the health, happiness and wish fulfillment of the owner. Provided that it was painted by a monk with true spiritual power. Not a charlatan. This he knows because he saw it proved using the scientific method on television. Just for completeness, they also tested photostatic copies of the paintings and found that the copies do not possess the power of the originals. And these can be had, frame included, for a very reasonable KRW 3oo,ooo. Um... So much for "scientific and analytical approach to life and business." ㅡ.ㅡ;;;;;;;;;;

It does not appear that they tested electronic Internet images, however. And, since the Sanchon Hunjang is in desperate need of health and fulfillment of wishes, here I hang my very own image of the Bodhi-dharma. Neatly pirated from some random website. Hmmmmm. Interestingly, not only was Mr. Dharma the founder of the meditational school of Buddhism, but according to this highly authoritative website, it appears that he may also dabbled in the way of the empty hand...

At any rate, the Heart Sutra is short and sweet enough. And by its shape, anyone can easily see that it was destined to have a great effect on the people of a certain peninsular nation:

Here in Korea, you can even get it being chanted as a ring tone for your phone. And its influence on Korean cinema stretches far beyond 김기덕. There was that ever-forgettable 색즉시공 色卽是空 that took its name from a line in the Heart Sutra and then punned its English name, Sex is Zero, on the titillating word 色 (in the original it would seem to mean something like "visual form"). Before that, the legendary 임권택 directed a movie where 강수연 looses her locks, that took its name from the Heart Sutra, 아제아제바라아제. If you would prefer that in Chinese graphs, it is 揭諦揭諦 波羅揭諦. Is that helpful?

Maybe with character glosses? 揭: 높이 들 게, 諦: 진리 제, 波: 물결 파, 羅: 벌릴 라.

I thought not...

All the funny Sanskrit (or maybe its Pali?) loanwords peppered in Buddhist texts mean that the non-expert can never be sure whether to take words at what they appear to mean, which makes for extremely slow reading. This is true even though Charles Muller has put the Soothill dictionary and his own Digital Dictionary of Buddhism on line to help out.

Give it a taste yourself on the Prajna Heart Sutra (with parsing hints provided but Pali/Sanskrit left untranslated):

Avalokiteśvara 觀自在 bodhisattva菩薩 was practicing 行 deep 深 prajnaparamita 般若波羅密多 At that time 時, [he] illuminated 照 and saw 見 the five 五 skandhas 蘊, that they were all 皆 empty 空. [He thus] crossed beyond 度 all 一切 suffering 苦 and difficulty 厄.

Shariputra 舍利子! Form 色 is not 不 different 異 from emptiness 空; emptiness 空 is not 不 different 異 from form 色. Form 色 straightway 卽 is 是 emptiness 空; emptiness 空 straightway 卽 is 是 form 色. Reception 受, thought 想, action 行, and cognition 識 are also 亦復 like 如 this 是.

Shariputra 舍利子! These 是 all 諸 dharma 法 are empty of 空 aspect 相: [they] are not 不 born 生, are not 不 extinguished 滅, are not 不 impure 垢, are not 不 pure 淨, are not 不 increased 增, are not 不 reduced 減. For this reason 是故, in emptiness 空中 there is no 無 form 色, there is no 無 reception 受, thought 想, action 行 or cognition 識. There are no 無 eyes 眼, ears 耳, noses 鼻, tongues 舌, bodies 身, nor wills 意. There is no 無 form 色, sound 聲, scent 香, taste 味, touch 觸, nor dharma 法. There is no 無 eye-field 眼界 up to and including 乃至 that there is no 無 field of will or consciousness 意識界 there is no 無 lack of 無 brightness 明 and also 亦 there is no 無 end to the lack of brightness 無明盡 up to and including 乃至 that there is no 無 old age 老 or death 死 and also 亦 there is no 無 end to old age and death 老死盡. There is no 無 suffering 苦, accumulating 集, extinguishing 滅, nor way 道. There is no 無 wisdom 智 and also 亦 there is no 無 obtaining 得. Because there is nothing which is obtained 以無所得故, the bodhisattva 菩提薩, relies on 依 prajnaparamita 般若波羅密多. Thus 故 [his] heart 心 has no 無 obstacles 碍. Because [it] has no obstacles 無碍故, [he] lacks 無 having 有 fears 恐 or trepidation 怖. [He] leaves far behind 遠離 the inverted 顚 and upside down 倒 dreamy 夢 thoughts 想, [reaching] the end of 究竟 nirvana 涅槃.

The myriad Buddhas of the three spheres 三世諸佛 rely on 依 prajnaparamita 般若波羅密多. Thus 故 [they] obtain 得 nuttara-samyak-sambodhi 阿耨多羅三 三菩提. Thus 故 know 知 that prajnaparamita 般若波羅密多 is 是 a great 大 spiritually forceful 神 incantation 呪. It is 是 a great 大 brilliant 明 incantation 呪. It is 是 an untopped 無上 incantation 呪. It is 是 an unequaled 無等等 incantation 呪 that is able to 能 eliminate 除 all 一切 suffering 苦. [It is] true 眞 and real 實, not 不 empty 虛. Therefore 故 [did he] speak 說 the prajnaparamita 般若波羅密多 incantation 呪. [He] namely 卽 spoke 說 the incantation 呪, saying 曰: "Gaté Gaté Paragaté Parasamgaté Bodhi Svaha! 揭諦揭諦波羅揭諦波羅僧揭諦菩提娑婆訶."

☞ The actual mantra is usually repeated 3 times, and sounds like this in Korean: 아제아제 바라아제 바라승아제 모지 사바하.

And that, dear friends, is another reason that, even after many years invested in libraries pouring over dusty 한문 texts, one can still get disparaging comments like, "oh, I thought you knew Chinese" by well-meaning acquaintances if they find you unable to respond coherently to their request to extemporaneously translate the cursive calligraphy on random pillars at a Buddhist temples. Now you can never say that you weren't warned. ^^

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