My Heart Sutra
A World in 260 Characters
A cultural and personal journey into the famous sutra that teaches "form is emptiness; and emptiness is form."
Author Frederik L. Schodt has had a mysterious, half-century-long fascination with the simple mantra that is chanted at the end of the Buddhist “Heart Sutra.” On a normally routine flight that unexpectedly developed mechanical difficulties, he resolved to memorize the sutra and to finally seriously study it.
The Heart Sutra, beloved by millions in East Asia for over 1,400 years, is used as solace, protection, and a gateway to another mode of thinking. Schodt realized that it could also be his entry into a world of faith.
In My Heart Sutra, Schodt explores his lifelong fascination with the sutra: its mesmerizing mantra, its ancient history, the “emptiness” theory, and the way it is used around the world as a metaphysical tool to overcome chaos and confusion and reach a new understanding of reality—a perfection of wisdom.
To help put this ancient sutra into a modern context, Schodt's journey takes him to caves in China, American beats declaiming poetry, speculations into the sutra's true origins, and even a robot Avalokiteśvara at a Kyoto temple.
# of Pages
5 x 7"
"Like the Heart Sutra itself, Schodt’s words are prismatic—stories of a lifetime of personal encounter with this ancient sacred text are set alongside historical, cultural, and linguistic commentary, each facet both intriguing in itself and an invitation to further inquiry."
"The very personal nature of My Heart Sutra is what gives this book its readability, especially to the uninitiated."
"Schodt’s obsession with the sutra and expertise as a translator shows in his ability to decode academic conversations and practical religious concerns into accessible language.”
"My Heart Sutra is a love letter to the Heart Sutra, as well as a trip through time, and to the far corners of the Buddhist world where it’s popularity remains unabated."
—Maryse Cardin, The Pacific Rim Review of Books
"Unique...an engaging read to anyone with the slightest interest in the subject."
“This is not merely a book about the Heart Sutra. It’s about the stories that grew up around it, its journey through human civilization like a self-replicating meme, a scrap of wisdom whispering in temples, shopping malls, and movies.”
—Jonathan Clements, author of A Brief History of China
"Reading My Heart Sutra, I imagined pulling a loose thread at the end of a one-page sutra and unraveling enough yarn to weave together a life, with enough left to make a new robe for the Buddha."
—Red Pine, author of The Heart Sutra: The Womb of Buddhas
“Frederik Schodt has created a magical weaving of two stories of wonder: how the Heart Sutra arose from somewhat fantastic origins to become the most recognizable Buddhist scripture in China and Japan today through new forms of expression, and how the enigmatic teachings of this “sutra concerned with negating everything” has served as a kind of moving goalpost within the author, challenging, inspiring, and guiding him as his religious consciousness unfolds.”
—Mark L. Blum, professor of Buddhist Studies and Shinjo Ito distinguished chair in Japanese Studies, University of California, Berkeley; editor of Cultivating Spirituality, Rennyo and the Roots of Modern Japanese Buddhism, translator of The Nirvana Sutra, vol. 1
"I am not sure I have read another book in which the author is as sensitive as Schodt to the quality of the spoken or chanted version of [The Heart Sutra]."
—Leanne Ogasawara, Kyoto Journal
“Frederik L. Schodt skillfully weaves together personal anecdotes, details of Buddhist teaching and history, and many other facts and stories, giving readers a compelling reason to study the Heart Sutra and make the wisdom of Emptiness part of their lives."
—Daigaku Rummé, Sōtō Zen priest at the Confluence Zen Center St. Louis
"Schodt has found the Heart Sutra to be the most transformative spiritual influence in his life, and this book is his tribute for others to experience the scripture’s magic for themselves."