Note: 15 Sept 2019. I’ve started a Facebook group for the Heart Sutra. I’ll be posting snippets from my research, demystifying some mysteries, and a bunch of other stuff to encourage people to think differently about the Heart Sutra.


The idea of this website is to make available all my study materials on the Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya or Heart Sūtra. Especially my transcriptions of various manuscripts in Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan that are not widely available to the public.

These are the resources that an editor uses to create an edition, which may then be translated into another language like English. The lists are mainly taken from notes in Conze’s Sanskrit edition, first published in 1948, revised in 1967, but now quite out of date. Conze’s edition contains errors, including simple grammatical errors and some editorial decisions that in retrospect now look suspect (see e.g. Nattier 1992, Attwood 2015). In order to identify and correct such errors resources such as these manuscripts must be consulted.

Of recent scholarship some is very valuable. Nattier’s 1992 article stands out. Silk’s critical edition of the Tibetan canonical text (1994). Work on the commentaries is admirable, but of more historical value than help in understanding the text. We can mention the translation and study of the Indian commentaries Don Lopez (1988, 1996);  and work on the Chinese commentaries: Hyun Choo (2006) and Shih & Lusthaus (2006). (see Bibliography)

Of the popular works on the Heart Sutra, most have few merits and even those pretending to scholarship such as recent books by Red Pine and Kazuki Tanahashi are riddled with linguistic and other errors. What is worse they have produced translations of minimal literary value and which offer very little insight into the Prajñāpāramitā texts as they would have been understood by their composers.

Conze’s Sanskrit edition is out of date and must be revised and re-translated. To be thorough we must track down all of his sources. I’m not even sure if it is possible to find the Indian manuscripts he consulted. On the other hand more Nepalese manuscripts will certainly come to light as time goes on. I suspect there may well be 20 or 30 in the catalogue the Nepalese-German Manuscript Cataloguing Project.

Other tasks that lay ahead include a proper study of the Chinese Canonical sources, including the texts embedded in the commentaries, with respect to the reconstructed Sanskrit ur-text. A stemma (or family tree) of existing manuscripts ought to be created. The short-text Tibetan manuscripts found at Dunhuang need to be studied (I will be collaborating with a friend on a small project related to this). Considerably more work needs to be done tracing the antecedents of the Heart Sutra in the wider Prajñāpāramitā literature. More background on the emergence of of the Prajñāpāramitā movement is essential to understanding the context of the Heart Sutra. Several scholars have alluded to continuities between Prajñāpāramitā and the suññatā suttas (MN 121, 122) that need to be followed up, for example. Additionally all the work done by Conze and his contemporaries must redone, though considerable work has been done on the Vajracchedikā by Paul Harrison.

If you read this and are currently working on the Heart Sutra, then please drop me a line to let me know what you are doing so that we do not duplicate efforts.

Dec 2015


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s