I love this book. What I love most about it is that it’s not even a book, really—more the literary equivalent of yellowcake uranium, meant to blow the mind open to ultimate reality. This is book as verb, not noun—book as instigator of awareness.
The Heart Sutra is a classic text of Mahayana Buddhism, recited daily in Tibet, China, Japan and Korea. Profound and pithy, it summarises the truth of emptiness in a few brief paragraphs. Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form, go its most famous lines. Emptiness is not other than form. Form is not other than emptiness.
Author Ken McLeod takes this enigmatic text, and in a spare 150 pages provokes the reader into a direct understanding of the essence of wisdom. His unorthodox commentary opens up the work in a way that’s playful and inviting, never dogmatic. He aims not to explain the truth of emptiness, but to elicit a direct experience of it—something far less simple and far more valuable. He succeeds brilliantly.
McLeod approaches the sutra with improvisatory freedom. With each page he takes a few lines and riffs on the subject, pulling in references to Rumi, Nietzsche, Springsteen, Chuang Tzu, Lewis Carroll—Zen koans, Tibetan texts —whatever it takes to transform this 1,900-year-old text into a living, breathing experience. Here’s a quote he pulls from Henry Miller: “Reality is not protected or defended by laws, proclamations, ukases, cannons and armadas. Reality is that which is sprouting all the time out of death and disintegration.”
This is a book to ingest in nonlinear fashion. Pull it off the shelf, open to any page, read a few lines, pause, breathe, and allow concepts to collapse. It’s a direct hit of reality, as bracing as a plunge into a glacial lake. The illustrations, pen-and-ink sketches of a wildly playful arrow and its target, somehow amplify the inexpressible.
In the Dzogchen school of Tibetan Buddhism, the natural state of every being is pure primordial awareness. Meditation in Dzogchen involves removing the obstacles to this knowing, then simply resting in the natural state. By generating a gap in ordinary thinking, a space is recognized in which emptiness arises in direct experience.
Humorous, playful, profoundly subversive, An Arrow to the Heart has the power to open up your mind in a whole new way. In true Dzogchen fashion, it strips the mind bare of concepts, exposing the essence. When we drop the subject/object framework, we find the naked awareness that is always naturally present.
Perfection of Wisdom, inexpressible, inconceivable, indescribable,
Not created, not restricted, just like the sky,
The experience of pristine awareness, knowing itself:
To the mother of the buddhas of the three times, I bow.
Here’s a link to the book on Amazon.