The Heart of ‘The Heart Sutra’ (Run 8)

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Feedback From Past Runs:

Many thanks for your sharing yesterday on the Heart Sutra. Greatly appreciate it. I enjoyed it as it was conducted in a lively and fun manner… Very useful for me. I learnt a lot and better understand some of the concepts… Very grateful for your sharing… I have long started helped to promote your books and your courses. It would benefit others who are interested as well. Special thanks for your teaching and sharing. – Violet

Just want to say that this is my first time joining a soo… religious class. It’s enlightening and enriching… To share with you, because of attending the class, I’ve started to learn to see my colleague differently. Not to judge her but to empathise and sympathise with her behaviour. And to be forgiving and more tolerating of others. – Cindy

Thank you for the wonderful session yesterday. – Carrie

Thanks for the wonderful lesson today on the Heart Sutra. – Wenqing

Would also like to stress that you have been very detailed and lively during the whole sessions. – Karen

Indeed, I got a better understanding of the Heart Sutra now than before – Fengyi

Shi’an, it is really nice to receive your notes every week as I have difficulties to retain very ‘chim’ (profound) teachings. Your notes help to reinforce concepts that I will otherwise not retain. Thank you very much. – Maggie

Thank you for sharing your valuable insights with us. I enjoy your lively presentation and use of real life personal examples. I appreciate that the Heart Sutra is very complex and deep, and sometimes it is not easy to convey the meaning of the subtle nuances of this ancient text… Look forward to attending more of your courses. Thank you again for a job well done! – Kit Fun

It is very comprehensive and lays a good basis for further study as the concepts are quite ‘chim’ (profound)… Thanks for the sharing and I wish you many successful runs ahead. – Siew Fern

Really appreciate the effort you put in for this course – the tireless non-stop explanation in class, as well as the comprehensive and precious notes… Thank you. – Chiew How

Hi Shi’an, I recently attended your class on the Heart Sutra. It has been most enlightening… Once again, your sessions have always been great and they have been very enjoyable. Please keep up the good work and I look forward to further sessions soon. Cheers, William

‘Emptiness is form. Form is emptiness.’ A classic verse from the Heart Sutra. Sounds contradicting yet intriguingly true at the same time. Being a beginner learner of the Buddha’s teachings, this doesn’t sound logical to me. The Heart Sutra is the core essence of the Prajna Paramita (Perfection of Wisdom) Though it is the shortest sutra, it is also the most profound sutra. With layman intelligence, it is quite difficult to understand the real meaning behind the verses.

If you read the whole sutra literally, at the end of the reading, you might only conclude that everything is empty. There is no feeling, no perception, no volition, no consciousness, no eye, no ear, no tongue etc. Thus some people have a misconception that Buddhism teaches people to do nothing. Sorry, but this is WRONG. If doing nothing can attain Buddhahood, then why are you and I still here? Emptiness is not nothingness, but being empty of any unchanging fixed nature.

The Heart Sutra is more than just about emptiness. Every verse has a deeper meaning behind it. It contains the teachings of 4 Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Path, 12 Links of Dependent Origination… All these are teachings from Sakyamuni Buddha, meant to help all sentient beings to end their suffering… If you are keen to explore the ‘mystical’ teachings in the Heart Sutra and to have a deeper understanding behind every verse that you chant, I will recommend this course to you – ‘The Heart of the Heart Sutra’ by Shen Shi’an.

Through this course, you will get to understand the meaning behind every single word and verse. On top of that, you will get to know the origin of Heart Sutra. You will also gain insights with different perspectives of the Heart Sutra. Teacher Shi‘an will also skilfully add in some jokes to lighten the mood so as to make sure we will not fall asleep!

At the end of the course, I realised that the Heart Sutra is not as simple as it seems to be. To be able to fully understand the Sutra, it will take years of study and practice. Within the 260 words of the short Heart Sutra, it is fully packed with all the goodness of the Dharma’s amazing wisdom. – Kelly

Hi Shi’an, our deep gratitude for another round of solid edu-tainment on the Heart Sutra class! We’re really amazed at the immense effort you took to prepare your classes… – Bro. Han & Linda

I really enjoy your Heart Sutra lessons, and been trying to listen to the audio music of the Heart Sutra every day. I hope to realise the contents of the Heart Sutra one day through practising the Dharma in daily life. May your teaching be passsed on to benefit more sentient beings, and may this be the cause to help more people to remove Dukkha from their present life. – Chengding

Hi Bro Shi’an, my heartfelt gratitude to you for propagating great Buddhist classes to benefit us all. It’s indeed our blessings to have you as a Dharma teacher in Singapore. I’ve indeed learnt & truly benefited from the Heart Sutra class (5th run). I do appreciate your strenuous effort and time devoted to put across the key meaning of ‘Emptiness not being just empty or nothing’… Upon attending your lessons (also attended ‘Understanding Amituofo Via The Amitabha Sutra’), recitation of Heart Sutra and Nianfo (Mindfulness of Amituofo) has becoming more meaningful to me, strengthening my faith & aspiration to be reborn In Pure Land. Once again, thanks for the great sharing, and may this be just the beginning of the many, many sentient beings coming forward to learn from your classes. – With Metta, Tuck Khuen 

Yes! The [first] session is interesting. Going for Buddhist classes is something new to me… Your explanation is very clear and elaborate. You really make it easy for beginners to appreciate [the Heart Sutra]. – Joyce

Thanks for the effort in making the lessons interesting with the many examples. I personally benefited much from these classes and have no regret attending. Have better understanding of “emptiness” as mentioned in this Sutra and also the Three Universal Characteristics which I had learnt many years ago. Hope more practitioners from the different schools of thought can attend this class. Thanks…功德無量. – Andrew

First of all, I like to say a big thank you for your tremendous amount of work and effort in holding this class. In the past, I did not understand what is the real meaning behind the Heart Sutra, until I attended your lessons. Very informative, knowledgeable and clear… Once again, a big thank you. I believe all of us have truly benefited. – Vincent

Thank you for the detailed, comprehensive and informative materials presented in the class. Indeed, much effort and thoughtful preparation had been put forth to ensure that every single point was conveyed in a clear and easy to understood manner. While the examples given and experiences shared liven up the classes with laughter, they also taught us how to practically practise what we’ve learnt. I think you are a good student of the Buddha! – Ee

Thank you for conducting this class! I really enjoyed it and it seriously cleared many doubts of what I had when reading up on the concept of emptiness. In fact, after attending this class, I’m inspired to read up more and attend more lessons/talks on the Heart Sutra. I also like how you bring in stories and examples to illustrate the concepts, making it easier to understand… Once again, thank you for teaching this course and the notes sent every week. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from a knowledgeable teacher like you. – Stephanie

Many thanks for another interesting & well taught course! You have given a lucid explanation of the Heart Sutra which is a profound teachings of emptiness taught by the Buddha.  I like the slides and various examples you shared with us to help us understand the meaning of the Sutra better. I particularly like the story you shared during the last lesson… It serves as a reminder to me not to be emotionally affected and to remain calm… when face with ups and downs in life. I hope I can have the opportunity to attend your class again as I always enjoy and come out from the class with better understanding of the Buddha’s teachings. Thanks for sharing unselfishly your vast knowledge in Buddhism with us.  Amituofo! – With Metta, Ivy

Thank you for the wonderful lesson [1] last week. Unfortunately I’m travelling this week and next, so won’t be able to attend, but hope to return in two weeks’ time. – Steve

Thank you… Your method of instruction is a refreshing change.  What I particularly like is the way you presented the Buddha Dharma from a new angle. – Lihua

About Shen Shi’an 沈时安: 

An independent Buddhist teacher, author, translator and editor, he was one of the founding members of the Dharma Propagation Division of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery (Bright Hill Temple in Singapore) in 1997.

Holding an MA in Buddhist Studies, which covered the major Buddhist traditions, he served as a Dharma Trainer and Project Coordinator in its Community Development & Training Department until 2011, focusing on Buddhist research, writing, teaching and answering of Buddhist queries for the press.

He was the founder of the temple’s Youth Mission (now ‘KMS Youth’), a book purchaser for its Awareness Place project, and the Chief Editor of the Web (and Library) Department, which co-supported, a popular Buddhist education website.

He is the founder and editor of since 1997, one of the world’s largest independent Buddhist inspirational e-newsletters with over 29,900 members, the editor of ‘Be a Lamp Upon Yourself’, ‘The Stonepeace Book (Volume 1-2)’, ‘Awaken: Gateway to Buddhism (CD-ROM)’ and the writer-editor of ‘The Daily Enlightenment: Reflections for Practising Buddhists (Book 1-6)’ and ‘The Amazing & Amusing Adventures of Sam & Sara: The Zen of All Kinds of Stuff! (which became #1 Buddhist bestseller at Singapore’s largest bookshop).’ Along with translated sutras, he has to date, 11 published works.

He also translates sutras and commentaries, and contributes occasionally to magazines such as ‘Nanyang Buddhist’, ‘Awaken’ (for which he was a Contributing Editor), ‘For You (Information)’, and ‘Eastern Horizon’. He served with the film selection team of a Buddhist film festival, writes movie reviews for, the world’s leading Buddhist news network, and popularised Dharma@Cinema, an innovative way of sharing the Dharma through detailed reviews and discussions of both popular and offbeat films.

Specialising in the Pure Land teachings, he has taught the subject at Singapore Buddhist Federation, Kong Meng San, Pu Ji Si Buddhist Research Centre and Poh Ming Tse, while leading an ongoing weekly Pureland Practice Fellowship.

He is also frequently invited to conduct Dharma discussions for youths of tertiary institutions’ Buddhist societies (NUSBS, NTUBS, SIMBB, NYPBS, NPBS) on various subjects, and to introduce Buddhist life perspectives at Secondary Schools (St. Patrick’s School, Manjusri School), Junior Colleges (Catholic Junior College) and International Schools (UWCSEA, SJII).

He was also invited to share on Buddhism by Dharma Drum Mountain (Singapore), Fo Guang Shan (Singapore), Tai Pei Buddhist Centre, Singapore Buddhist Mission Youth, Singapore Buddhist Youth Mission, Wat Ananda Youth, Buddha of Medicine Welfare Society, The Buddhist Union, Buddhist Fellowship (Singapore) and Kampung Senang. He has also been invited to Indonesia and Malaysia to teach.

He was a committee member of the Inter-Religious Organisation, through which he served in interfaith harmony projects by writing and giving of public talks. He has represented Buddhist points of view at governmental events conducted by NACLI, NHB, NHG, SAF, SPF, MHA, ACM, SPM, STB,, IRCC and MCYS.

He also co-runs, a community blog that promotes creative sharing of Buddhism via thousands of articles. He can be reached at tde [@] for invitations to share the Dharma.

Interview In Buddhist Magazine:


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