Sutra or Dirani
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What is a sutra?

The longer version of the Heart Sutra conforms more closely to the format in which Buddhist sutras have been recorded and presented. As Ken McLeod points out (see Ashoka course), Buddhist sutras bring together the Buddha’s mind and the seeker's in stories. These stories have a structure.

After setting the scene, the sutra usually begins with a question.

... Shariputra said to noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, "How does a son or daughter of the noble family, who wishes to practice the profound perfection of wisdom, train?"

A sutra is a question and answer session with a teacher. The teacher was often, but not always (as with the Heart Sutra) the Buddha.

Sutras usually have three elements.

  • The person asking the question — Shariputra in the Heart Sutra.
  • The person answering the question — Avalokiteshvara in the Heart Sutra.
  • A field of attention or awareness — Buddha in the Heart Sutra.

In the sutras, when asked a question the Buddha answered in four ways — depending on the nature of the question and the questioner.

  • Sometimes he just answered.
  • Sometimes he answered with a question.
  • Sometimes he would reframe the question.
  • Sometimes he didn't answer.

The sutras are not intellectual or scholastic texts. They are a record of an interaction between a student and a teacher.

If you seek to find logic in them you will miss the point.