The Heart Sutra — Spiritual Transformation and Everyday Life
A weekend seminar with Bernd Bender, Akazienzendo Berlin
The Heart Sutra contains the central teachings of Zen.
To put it in a nutshell, the Heart Sutra teaches connectedness. Given the times we live in, completely realizing our deep connection with others and all things is, it seems, of utmost importance. Globalization has turned the world into one “global community,” showing us that everything is connected – with everything. Yet on both the level of the individual and that of societies, the experience of connectedness is increasingly met with fear and rejection, for example in the form of populist politics designed to stop “otherness” from entering what is perceived to be “our” own. Thus, we face enormous problems — climate change, an ever-widening gap between the very poor and the very rich, huge numbers of migrants — and there seem to be no workable solutions in sight.
In view of its teachings on wisdom and compassion, the Heart Sutra is of great relevance here. It shows us that we create suffering for ourselves and others as long as we only perceive the world from a viewpoint of “me” and “they,” and then act on this view. The liberating vision of the Heart Sutra lies in the insight that this kind of dualistic perception is not representative of objective truth, but is a function of the human mind. Moreover, since it is a function of consciousness, it can be changed. As human beings we can develop from an ordinary state of a strong dualistic conditioning to a realization of our inborn “unity nature,” our connectedness with all phenomena, or, to be more precise, the connectedness of all phenomena per se.
The Heart Sutra is thus a very concise, practical introduction to the Buddhist path; it takes us from our present stage of strong dualistic identification to an open, fluid and creative awareness of the unity nature of all existence. To follow this path is to embark on a journey of discovery: it takes us deeper and deeper into our experience, from gross dualistic perceptions of ourselves and others to what Zen calls “mirror wisdom,” an inborn intelligence that directly sees the connectedness of all things.
The Sutra invites us “not to fixate reality,” neither in relation to ourselves nor to others; this is expressed in the “no,” which occurs many times in the text. When it says “no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind,” it is important to understand that the Sutra is not teaching that phenomena do not exist at all, but that they exist as connected, inter-related events. Understanding that nothing exists in and of itself but only relationally is completely essential to our personal development. As long as we fixate phenomena in their apparent separateness, suffering in the form of fear, stress, feelings of inadequacy and deficiency will arise. Insight into our unity nature, however, will result in the experience of completeness, joy and fulfillment. This insight will also make us into more compassionate beings, because it allows us to see directly what the many expressions of human suffering are based on, namely the feeling that we are separate from our innermost nature.
Bernd will express his understanding of the Heart Sutra — thus initiating a dialogue with participants about the meaning of the text and how to apply it to modern life.
During the weekend we will go through the Sutra to gain a greater appreciation of it. In addition, Zen offers many practices for embodying wisdom and compassion, and we will engage in some of them, starting the deep transformational process that makes it possible to evolve from our entangled dualistic experience to an embodied insight into the unity nature of all of life.
The seminar is open to everyone – no prior meditation experience or knowledge of Buddhist teachings is required. Bernd will speak in English with Greek translation.
Bernd Bender has practised Zen since 1987. He went to California in 1994 to continue his studies at San Francisco Zen Center. He received Dharma Transmission (authorisation to teach) from Dairyu Michael Wenger and is a lineage holder of Soto-Zen. In 2012 he moved to Berlin, where he offers Zen practice, teaches courses in meditation and Buddhist thought, translates, lectures, and accompanies people on their spiritual paths.
Bernd studied literature and philosophy in Frankfurt and Berkeley.
Friday evening 20:00-22:00: Introduction into Zen-meditation: free
Saturday & Sunday 11:00-18:00: Zazen, dharma talks: 40€ both days or 25€ / day
Location: Zen Center Athens, Limpona 2 & Vasilikis, 10560 Athens
Scholarships for reduced course fees are available from Zen Center Athens. In this case, please write or speak to us.
Please register by sending an email to: email@example.com