KIKUSUI HENRO HOUSEHannya Shingyo (Heart Sutra)by Hiroshi Kushima
(translated by David C. Moreton)

The 262 character sutra

Hannya Shingyo

The Hannya Shingyo sutra only has 262 characters with part of it containing the phrase shikisokuzekû which is well known because priests are heard saying during it funeral scenes on TV programs. This sutra is to convey the essence of the condensed version of Daihan Nyakyo (a massive 600 volumes) which expresses the idea of (empty) seen in Mahayana Buddhism and by saying this sutra it is said to have the same effect as saying all of the teachings of Buddhism. However, even though I write such things, actually I almost have no knowledge about sutras and Buddhism and thus am limited to my experience with the Hannya Shingyo. Yet, as a pilgrim, this sutra is the focal point of worshipping at a temple, it is would be good to know some details of this important sutra. The entire sutra is as follows: At the beginning of the sutra there is the phrase bussetsu which could perhaps mean 'Buddha said the following.'

仏説摩訶般若波羅蜜多心経 ぶっせつまかはんにゃはらみたしんぎょう
観自在菩薩 行深般若波羅蜜多時 照見五蘊皆空 かんじざいぼさ(つ) ぎょうじんはんにゃはらみったじ しょうけんごうんかいくう
度一切苦厄 舎利子 色不異空 空不異色 色即是空 どいっさいくやく しゃりし しきふいくう くうふいしき しきそくぜくう
空即是色 受想行識亦復如是 舎利子 是諸法空相 くうそくぜしき じゅそうぎょうしきやくぶにょぜ しゃりし ぜしょほうくうそう
不生不滅 不垢不浄 不増不減 是故空中 ふしょうふめつ ふくふじょう ふぞうふげん ぜこくうちゅう
無色 無受想行識 無眼耳鼻舌身意 無色声香味触法 むしき むじゅそうぎょうしき むげんにびぜっしんい むしきしょうこうみそくほう
無眼界 乃至無意識界 無無明亦 無無明尽 むげんかい ないしむいしきかい むむみょうやく むむみょうじん
乃至無老死 亦無老死尽 無苦集滅道 無智亦無得 ないしむろうし やくむろうしじん むくしゅうめつどう むちやくむとく
以無所得故 菩提薩 依般若波羅蜜多故 いむしょとくこ ぼだいさつた えはんにゃはらみったこ
心無礙 無礙故 無有恐怖 遠離一切顛倒夢想 しんむけいげ むけいげこ むうくふ おんりいっさいてんどうむそう
究竟涅槃 三世諸仏 依般若波羅蜜多故 くうぎょうねはん さんぜしょぶつ えはんにゃはらみったこ
得阿耨多羅三藐三菩提 故知般若 波羅蜜多 とくあのくたらさんみゃくさんぼだい こちはんにゃ はらみった
是大神呪 是大明呪 是無上呪 是無等等呪 ぜだいじんしゅ ぜだいみょうしゅ ぜむじょうしゅぜむとうどうしゅ
能除一切苦 真実不虚 故説般若波羅蜜多呪 のうじょいっさいく しんじつふこ こせつはんにゃはらみったしゅ
即説呪曰 羯諦 羯諦 波羅羯諦 波羅僧羯諦 そくせつしゅわっ ぎゃてい ぎゃてい はらぎゃてい はらそうぎゃてい
菩提薩婆訶 般若心経 ぼじそわか はんにゃしんぎょう

For sites in English about the Heart Sutra, see:

The Steps of Gongyô

In actuality, when one worships at a temple, one does not only recite the Hannya Shingyo sutra but in fact many others and there is a prescribed order. In the book, "Reijo Junpai Gongyô Shidai" [The Procedure for worshipping at a sacred site] (in other words, the sutra book) there is a 12-step procedure that begins with the 'Kaigyôge' and ends with the 'Ekômon.'

There are those who do the 'full-course' routine, however, there are many who do an abbreviated routine. Of course, there are some who just recite the Hannya Shingyo sutra, the Gohogo sutra and put their hands together.

I am not a Buddhist and participating as a henro(pilgrim) out of interest, I was embarrassed and felt some apprehension in reciting sutras that I have never said before. However, over time the feeling of wanting to say the sutras naturally arose with me.

I began to feel that after arriving at a temple after walking such a long distance that it would be a waste not to properly worship at the temple. As well, I was determined to politely offer my greetings to the Hotoke-san and Kobo Daishi because I often received curt responses from the humans at the temple stamp office.


Say the following sutra once.

無上甚深微妙法 百千万劫難遭遇むじょうじんじんみみょうほう ひゃくせんまんごうなんそうぐう
我今見聞得受持 願解如来真実義がこんけんもんとくじゅじ がんげにょらいしんじつぎ

Hannya Shingyo

Say the Hannya Shingyo sutra once.

Gohonzon Shingon

Shingon panel

One recites the Shingon sutra for each deity at each temple. The word [Shingon] is one type of incantation that is used in Mikkyô Buddhism and it differs with each deity. In the book of sutras, the [13 Hotoke Shingon] sutra is included which is the thirteen Shingon. However, within the Shikoku 88-temples there are temples which have deities not included amongst the 13 Hotoke. Usually there is a panel in front of the temple noting the Shingon of the deity, so before one begins worshipping there, it is good confirm the deity.

Kommyo Shingon

On Abokya Beiroshanô
Makabodaramani Handoma
Jinbara Harabaritaya Un


Say Namu Daishi Henjô Gongô three times. Namu means"Oh!", Daishi is Kôbô Daishi (Kukai) and Henjô Gongô is Dainichi Nyorai. In Mikkyô, Dainichi Nyorai is the foundation of the universe and Kukai through the ritual of Gakuho Konjo connected Dainichi Nyorai and Buddha. In other words, the Namu Daishi Henjo Gongo are the words admiring Kôbô Daishi and Dainichi Nyorai.


At the temple, recite "Negawakuba kono kudoku wo motte, issai ni oyoboshi warera to shujô to minatomo ni Butsudô wo jôzen."

Practicing Sutra Readings

Usually to those who do not recite sutras, one cannot imagine how to read it despite having furigana beside the characters. At first, I recited the sutras in a small voice mumbling them while listening to others. However, over time, I came to read them in my own style, but accurately. There are some who can recite them in a tune like a professional, however, it seems that the average person has been told to read them flatly without adding intonation.

Furigana (readings of each character) is provided in the sutra book and when one actually worships at a temple, it is proper to recite them. Some have them memorized while others are reading the sutra book. So, even for beginners there is nothing to worry about. For those who, in some way, want to grasp the atmosphere, please refer to these homepages where one can actually hear sutras being read.

For those who wish to practice while contemplating the meaning and learn the way to say to the Hannya Shingyo sutra, I refer you to this book that comes with a CD.

There is also software in karaoke style that allows one to memorize the Hannya Shingyo. It is offered free for 7 days.

There are also CDs which not only have the Hannya Shingyo, but all sutras.

(translated by David C. Moreton)

Glossary TOP Copyright (C)1999-2004 Hiroshi Kushima / (C)2004 David C. Moreton