Vulture Peak is the name of the hill where he gave the teaching. There was a small seat for the Buddha, a slab of stone, where he sat while he thought. In the sutra it is referred to as his "throne-like seat," but one should be aware that it was merely a slab of stone.
The Buddha gave the teachings on the Heart Sutra to those who were present - followers of the Theravada and followers of the Bodhisattva path. Followers of this aspect of the Theravada are called Shravakas in Sanskrit. There were many present who received this teaching. As we all know, the major part of today's India is flat land; only in the Northern part do you find mountains.
Rajgir is located in the flat land. Vulture Peak is referred to as a great mountain, only because most people in India are not familiar with real mountains, since most of the country is flat. Therefore they refer to a hill as a "great mountain," like the "Sky Mountain" found in Denmark. It is a hill outside of Copenhagen, elevated only meters feet above sea level.
I am telling you this in case you go to Rajgir some day and are surprised to find just a hill, when the literal wording in the Sutra mentions a great mountain. At this particular place, Buddha Shakyamuni gave all the teachings of the Prajnaparamita - the perfection of ultimate wisdom. For a period of seven years, during three months in the summer retreat, he stayed at this place and gave these teachings. The great Sangha who was present was made up of a monastic community - those who had taken full monastic vows.
Both monks and nuns were part of it. The sutra speaks first of the monastic community, the ordinary individuals who have not yet attained fruition in the Therevada approach, then about the great Sangha, great spiritual community, which is made up of those who had attained fruition in the Therevada - the state of an Arhat. Each of the three stages that occur prior to attaining the state of an Arhat involve a particular level of realization.
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There are four levels of fruition note 2 in the Theravada. All approaches in the Buddhist path Theravada, Mahayana, etc. On the first level of the four levels of fruition in the Theravada there is an initial glimpse of the true nature of reality - that is the path of seeing the nature of reality in this particular approach.
It includes 16 successive instances note 4 where the insight into the essences of the individual progressively expands to come to full fruition. The first of the four levels in the Shravaka approach is the stage where the person, for the first time, directly perceives the essencelessness of the individual - that there is no real person. In general, samsara, or conditioned existence in which we are trapped according to Buddhism, is made up of three different kinds of existences called: the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the realm of no form.
To be reborn in the desire realm, certain causes and conditions must come together. After an individual who practices the Theravada approach attains the second of the four levels of realization on that path, he has not yet completely eliminated all causes for rebirth in the desire realm, therefore he will again return to the desire realm. However, one should not misunderstand what it means when it is said that he will again be reborn in the desire realm. We all live in this realm, but the practitioner who has attained this level does not have the strong, obscuring states of mind like we do.
These individuals, though they are reborn in the desire realm, are developed to the extent that they automatically continue the practice which will result in their attaining the state of an Arhat. The amount of effort the practitioner at this level makes will determine how long it will take to attain the third stage of realization, at which point he no longer will be reborn in the desire realm.
For those practitioners who are able to put a lot of effort into their practice, it takes only one more lifetime. For those of middling capacity, it may take seven or eight lifetimes. For those who are not able to make a lot of effort, who are by nature more lazy, it may take about fourteen lifetimes. But for the person who has attained the second level of realization, the time to attain the third stage will never be longer than 14 lifetimes.
When referring to the person who does not make much of an effort, one should be aware that it is "lazy" speaking figuratively, not literally. Having attained the third stage of realization on the Shravaka path, the practitioner will never again be reborn in the desire realm. At this stage, he will have eliminated all causes that would produce that rebirth. However, it is possible that he may be reborn in either of the two other realms, which make up conditioned existence - the realm of form and the realm of no form.
The fourth level of realization, the state of an Arhat, is the ultimate goal of the Theravada path. At this point, the individual will never again be reborn into samsara. One may wonder how an Arhat awakens to the Mahayana path. Bodhisattvas and Buddhas come back to work for the benefit of others.
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How does the Arhat, having awakened to the Mahayana, come back to benefit others in this world? The answer is that they manifest an illusory form, in this or any other world where, beings are to be taught and trained but they are not able to be reborn into this world. You have these two different Sanghas, so to speak.
There is the Sangha at large, the ordinary Sangha. This sutra refers to them as the monastic Sangha. These are people who have not attained any of these levels of realization. Then there is the great Sangha, which is made up of people who have attained these levels of realization. Those people were present when the Buddha gave the teachings on the Heart Sutra. The same two divisions exist among the students of the Buddha who were following the path of the Bodhisattva.
Profound Wisdom of the Heart Sutra and Other Teachings by Bokar Rinpoche
There were ordinary Bodhisattvas and those who have attained one of the ten stages of a Bodhisattva. There were men and women in both groups. When speaking of the community of ordinary Bodhisattvas, one is speaking of people who have generated a state of mind determined to attain Buddhahood in order to benefit others. A Bodhisattva is someone who has developed what is called Bodhicitta. The first two stages are the path of accumulation and the path of unification, and individuals on either of these paths are members of the community made up of ordinary Bodhisattvas.
Then, there are great Bodhisattvas. This term always refers to those who have attained the third of the five paths - the path of seeing - direct perception of the nature of reality. Here one has insight into the essencelessness of both the individual and all other phenomena. In fact, when speaking of great Bodhisattvas, one refers to those on the three last stages of the Bodhisattva path, the 8th, 9th, and 10th stages. Then you have Bodhisattvas on the first seven of the ten stages, starting with those who have attained direct perception of reality.
Those on the first seven stages are referred to as ordinary. When Buddha gave the Heart Sutra teachings, some of those who were present were of the Theravada and some were of the Mahayana schools. In terms of the Buddhist community at large, there were four divisions at the time of Buddha Shakyamuni. The same principles are applied to today's Buddhist community. There is the group of lay practitioners who would have a lifestyle that may include a range of commitments. Traditionally, there are five vows that a lay practitioner can take, but he does not have to commit himself to all five.
He could also commit himself to just one thing, for example not to lie.
Within this group there are two groups - male and female lay practitioners. Then there are those who have taken full monastic ordination, a group of males and a group of females. In that respect, the Buddhist community is made up of four groups. The Sutra mentions those members of the Buddhist community who were present, and one would find members of all four groups.
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These were people who had already developed insight to a great extent, had developed a lot of compassion, and had very good karmic potentials for receiving and understanding the particular teachings that were given, the Heart Sutra. The Heart Sutra expounds on the Prajnaparamita - the perfection of wisdom. In terms of how teachings were given, there were two different aspects. Some teachings were spoken by the Buddha himself. Others were given through the Buddha's inspiration to one of his students, such as a great Bodhisattva or an Arhat.
The Buddha, while resting in samadhi, a stable meditation state, would influence this disciple to give a teaching. This particular sutra came about on the basis of that type of inspiration generated by the Buddha.
New Heart Sutra translation by Thich Nhat Hanh
The particular samadhi - the meditation state he was resting in at this time - is referred to as the "dawn of the profound. Through the power of his meditative state, the Buddha was able to inspire and influence the student who was giving the teaching to the point where the "profound", the meaning of emptiness, dawned in the mind of that student.
The Buddha was able to give the teaching about emptiness in this way. Two students of the Buddha, inspired in this way by the power of Buddha's meditation, were the great Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Chenrezig , and the great Arhat Shariputra. Through the inspiration of the Buddha, these two had a discussion about emptiness that would clarify the nature of emptiness to those present and listening. Guides for both facilitators and participants to support you in offering this course in an in-person group setting.
Practices and contemplations to help students integrate the teachings into their daily lives. Any questions about this group study version of the course? Lesson 1 Encountering Enigma. The Heart Sutra is an enigma—a millennium-old enigma that is yet to be solved. In this first lesson of the course, Kaz and Roshi introduce their translation of the Heart Sutra and begin to unpack the enigma. You will have an opportunity to chant the sutra and consider your own first encounter with this scripture. The main part of the shorter version Heart Sutra corresponds to a tiny portion of the 25,line Prajna Paramita scripture.
That means the main part of the Heart Sutra —the teaching of wisdom beyond wisdom—is nearly 2, years old. In this lesson you will explore this teaching of wisdom beyond wisdom. This lesson dives deeper into the history of the Heart Sutra and examines a recent theory of its origin. You will examine the linguistic origins of bodhisattva and Avalokiteshvara and consider their personal meanings for you. All things are interconnected. Lesson 5 Freedom. An experience of wisdom beyond wisdom is to become free from our normal view of the world.
The freedom that the Heart Sutra calls for is freedom from duality and, at the same time, freedom from nonduality. In this lesson, you will consider the cultural basis of the negative expressions common to traditional translations of the Heart Sutra and examine how this type of negation can be an expression of freedom.
Lesson 6 Mantra. This final lesson of the course provides an opportunity to deepen your understanding and experience of this mantra. A peace teacher and environmentalist, he is also the editor of several volumes of the writings of the Zen master Eihei Dogen, including the definitive translation of the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye.