Beyond Completely Gone

9 minutes

  • 2222 | 2110 | perc | overtone vocalist* | strings (requires

In the Heart Sutra, the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokitesvara, describes a fundamental concept in Buddhism (known as the “heart” of Buddhism): “form is emptiness, emptiness is form.” Rather than go into a lengthy discussion of this seminal text, I’d like to say why it's significant to me, and the way I understand it. This emptiness, this “luminous” emptiness, is the gateway to compassionate action. If all things, ideas, and the whole of reality are truly empty, truly impermanent, then the division of self and other has less hold on the mind and compassion, ideally, is the result. Through emptiness we are inseparable.

Simply put, we are all in this together. I think we all know this already but tend toward forgetfulness — and these ideas and practices are here to help us remember. The piece uses the mantra given by Avalokitesvara at the end of the Heart Sutra as a guide on the path to exploring emptiness and compassion: “gate gate, paragate, parasangate, bodhi svaha.” Many people say mantras cannot – or should not – be translated, as they believe it is the sound of the words as a generator of consciousness that does the work...nevertheless, here it is: gone gone, beyond gone, beyond completely gone, awakened, so be it.

*the work may be performed without vocal; the composer is available for performance