Heart Sutra

(ca. 250–400)

The Heart Sutra is one of several texts that are classed as Prajnaparamita Sutras, or “Perfection of Wisdom” texts. Perfection of Wisdom scriptures are associated with the first expression of the ideas related to a radical shift in the focus of Buddhism that arose in India around the beginning of the first millennium. Adherents promoted this new perspective by calling it Mahayana (translated as “great vehicle”) as a way to express their sense of the superiority of their views over earlier forms of Buddhism. Perfection of Wisdom scriptures are the hallmark of the Mahayana movement. Mahayana Buddhists took their texts and teachings outside India to China, where this form of Buddhism eventually spread across Asia. Devoted followers of Mahayana Buddhism attribute all Perfection of Wisdom scriptures to Nagarjuna (ca. 150–250 CE). Nagarjuna is regarded as a second Buddha by most East Asian Mahayana Buddhists. The Heart Sutra concisely summarizes key principles that are...

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Silk textile depicting the Buddha (Library of Congress)

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