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Dharma Speeches
by Zen Master Y.S. Seong Do
Dharma Speeches on the Heart Sutra
Vesag Ceremony 2543
On the Heart Sutra


Since November 2016 the Ven. Zen master is giving dharma speeches on the Heart Sutra during his lecture series at International Zen-Temple gem. e. V. on Thursday evenings.

Below you find a selection of these speeches based on notes taken by his disciples.

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You find the full text of the Heart Sutra in our section on Sutras.


Your "Big Mind" is Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva
Being Released from Suffering by Perceiving Emptiness


Your "Big Mind" is Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva

The Heart Sutra says: "Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, when practicing profoundly the Prajnaparamita, perceives that all five skandhas are empty and is relieved from all suffering and distress."

When we earnestly practice, we can overcome all sufferings - Buddha has taught this time and again in endlessly many ways.

Why is Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva mentioned here?

Bodhisattvas are a central characteristic of Mahayana-Buddhism: They strive for enlightenment (bodhi) but intentionally postpone their entrance into Nirvana for the sake of saving all sentient beings (sattva).

The virtue of compassion is embodied particularly strongly by Avalokitesvara, meaning: "She, who looks down from on high in great compassion".

Buddha sits unmoved, while his transformation body in the form of Avalokitesvara is acting benevolently.

In Korean, Avalokitesvara is called Kwan Se Eum Bo Sal, which also means: "She, who perceives (with all senses) the sound of the world". The sound of the world are the laments of all sentient beings to whom she should rush to help.

She is also called Kwan Ja Jae Bo Sal: "She, who perceives free from everything", i.e. without attachment - and who can thus help others truly, for she is free from her own desires.

But where is Kwan Se Eum Bo Sal? And: Who is the very one who looks down in great compassion?

In this world there is no one but the Buddha´s dharma-kaya (one`s pure and clear nature).

To believe - as is typical for religions - that someone high above is protecting and controlling us, is a beginner´s opinion in Buddhism.

If you clear your confused mind through practice, you are Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.

When your mind is big enough to take in all the world´s suffering, when you become one with everything, your own problems will become small, virtually inexistent.

Then you can sit unmoved, like the Buddha, while emitting great compassion all the time only with the gong-an (koan), "Who am I?"


From a dharma speech by Ven. Zen master Young San Seong Do

Berlin, November 2016


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Being Released from Suffering by Perceiving Emptiness

The Heart Sutra says: "Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, when practicing profoundly the Prajnaparamita, perceives that all five skandhas are empty and is relieved from all suffering and distress".

Suffering and distress are the big problem of all people. If there were no suffering and no disaster, we would not need to hear Buddha's teachings, nor to practice, nor would we have to make money, etc. But how is it that Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, by perceiving the emptiness of all skandhas, i.e. by realizing profoundly that the body and all phenomena, as well as the mind, are empty - is completely released from all suffering and all torment?

We must first understand that the perception of emptiness referred to here is more metaphorical than just intellectual understanding of the fact that all phenomena are impermanent (kor.: gong gyeon). On the contrary: Remaining at this level is even dangerous and can cause you to fall into nihilism or hedonism. The true perception of emptiness (kor.: gong gwan) is just the perfect perceiving of the very essence of mind. So it can be said that "emptiness" is another name for "mind".

This profound teaching is impossible to understand for worldly beings. Yet, by practising intensively, you can experience this meaning by yourself: When we sit down on our cushion, relinquish all thoughts and rely only on the gong-an (koan): "What is this?", our mind gradually becomes calm and peaceful. By maintaining this state constantly, all illusions will naturally disappear. When mind thus is completely clear, you realize: "Everything, from the smallest particle of dust to the whole universe is my mind". Then, you can solve all problems and expel all suffering.

And why?

Because all things are your mind, and the very mind is a perfect clarity without all suffering and distress.

Practitioners, if you want a happy life, strive constantly to put down all other thoughts and incessantly cultivate a pure and clear mind. Then you will develop great clarity and great power that will enable you to live your life well.


From a dharma speech by Ven. Zen master Young San Seong Do

Berlin, February 2017


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