Exploring the Heart Sutra offers readers an interdisciplinary philosophical approach to this much-loved Buddhist classic, with a new translation and commentary. Situating the Heart Sutra within a Chinese context, Sarah A. Mattice brings together voices past and present, Asian and Western, on topics from Buddhology, translation theory, feminism, religious studies, ethnography, Chinese philosophy, and more, in order to inspire readers to understand the sutra in a new light. Mattice’s argument for the importance of appreciating the Heart Sutra from a Chinese philosophical context includes a new hermeneutic paradigm for approaching composite texts; an argument for translating the text from the Chinese, rather than the Sanskrit; an extended discussion of the figure of Guanyin, bodhisattva of compassion and main speaker of the Heart Sutra, as a distinctively Chinese figure; an inquiry in to the history of women’s practice, with a special focus on China; and a commentary on the text that draws on philosophical resources from Chinese Buddhist, Ruist, and Daoist traditions. Mattice presents the Heart Sutra in its depth and complexity, inviting readers to return to this classic text with fresh perspectives and new insights into its relevance for living well in the contemporary world.
Sarah A. Mattice is associate professor of philosophy at the University of North Florida.
The Heart Sutra
Chapter One: Sampling Authenticity
Chapter Two: Perspectives on Translation
Chapter Three: Guanyin
Chapter Four: Voices of Women
Chapter Five: A Chinese Interpretive Context
Chapter Six: Translation and Line Commentary
"Exploring the Heart Sutra is an object lesson on the world of correlative thinking that it purports to engage. The north star is Sarah Mattice's philosophical translation of the Heart Sutra together with the expansive line commentary she provides in explanation. And the pedagogical constellation that pays the Heart Sutra homage are her chapters on authorship, historical context, translation issues, the iconic Guanyin, women practitioners, and the interpretive context necessary to take this text on its own terms. Mattice dishes out the cosmos in a spoon."
"In her Exploring the Heart Sutra, Sarah Mattice reveals to us all the benefits of a multi-disciplinary approach to translating and re-engaging with classical texts of such profound importance for Buddhist practitioners. Music sampling, ancient and modern translation theories, historical and philosophical analysis, and ethnographic field interviews all inform Mattice's new and compelling presentation of the Heart Sutra. Her work discloses just how fundamental the text was for Buddhist thought and practice, in the ancient and modern worlds, and for women in both periods."
"A fascinating study and new translation of the Heart Sutra, Exploring the Heart Sutra sheds new light on this classic Mahayana text. Mattice’s nuanced interdisciplinary philosophical analysis brings together history, translation theory, feminist gender analysis, ethnographic interviews, and Chinese philosophy. Through the lens of her interdisciplinary analytic philosophical approach, Mattice offers us not only new ways of understanding, interpreting, and analyzing the Heart Sutra and its rich history, but also much-needed new ways of understanding and appreciating the Heart Sutra’s place in women’s practice, in contemporary lived experience, and what it has to offer us today."
"Sarah Mattice's outstanding new translation and commentary gives readers a living and breathing Heart Sutra. With attention to philosophical context, while taking seriously the text's Chinese heritage, and while centering women's voices and experiences, Mattice allows the text to speak to us as it speaks to the millions of practitioners who chant it daily worldwide."
"Exploring the Heart Sutra is an innovative, clear, well-researched and argued examination that opens new pathways of understanding the Heart Sutra. Many years in the making, Sarah Mattice reflects not only on the Heart Sutra itself, but on how to encounter this enigmatic text through an interdisciplinary philosophical approach. As she makes novel sense of this sutra, her approach includes music, literature, history, hermeneutical analysis, and feminist philosophy. Mattice positions Guanyin, a bodhisattva of compassion and principal voice in the sutra, in neoteric light as she displays with sensitive expertise her range as a comparative, cross-cultural philosopher and teacher. Her translation of the Heart Sutra from the Chinese version at the book’s end brings illuminating light to the Sutra’s challenging avowals of emptiness and form. Not only is Exploring the Heart Sutra a valuable contribution to academic research, but it is also an attentive resource for students and practitioners alike."