‘Heart Sutra’


For many Indonesian 90s kids, most of us are familiar with a Hong Kong TV drama series ‘Journey to the West‘ (in Indonesia, we know it as “Kera Sakti”.) Journey to the West is one of the most well-known saga in Buddhism — a story about a monk, Tang Sangzang, with his three disciples in retrieving sutra, Buddhist sacred texts, in Central Asia and India. Monk Tang’s journey is filled with perils, humor, and adventures — facing demons and gods alike. This work of literature has been adapted to many shows and series, spawning many variations in music, literature, and films; even manga (Dragon Ball included 😄)

In the TV series, monk Tang always saying, “isi adalah kosong, kosong adalah isi” — form is emptiness, emptiness is form. At that time, I didn’t think much about that saying as I see the series as entertainment source. I thought that it’s a neat way of thinking in Buddhism, but that’s it. I didn’t probe further on what it’s all about.

This morning, I watched my friend’s Instagram Stories. Recently, all Instagram Stories and posts are the same. Folks facing self-quarantines, lockdowns, words of prayers, hopes, despairs, and trying to make sense of all this madness.

In one of her stories, she posted a clip from a music video. The singer, however, is not a singer that commonly expected. The singer in the video is a Japanese Zen Buddhist monk. From the way he sings, I presumed he’s chanting a sutra.

“May I know the song title? Is this a sutra?”

“Yes. It’s really soothing ya. It makes me feel calm.”

Later, I found out that the song is from the Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya). Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

I have a very limited knowledge about Buddhism, let alone a wisdom to understand the Heart Sutra. But to say that the sutra didn’t move the being, it would be an insult. What we able to see, to touch, the ones that hold a form, are actually empty. However, things that we unable to see, seemingly empty, are filled with form.

And I guess, I need this more than I thought.


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