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The Heart Sutra, music and healing

Updated: May 15, 2023

drum, incense, flame

It's two weeks since I left Terrealuma, and the Heart Sutra is still resonating in my head. It started with the mantra and a bassline, then music and more words from the text built up around it until we ended up with some sweet harmonies and a heavy metal epiphany. Listening to different versions of the same thing constantly for days (or weeks) on end while recording can drive you slightly crazy, which could well be a prerequisite for the result being any good. When the repetition involves a mantra - an altered state is pretty much guaranteed.

Music is a vitally important part of the healing mission of Terrealuma. As is the power of words, and of mantras. And close engagement with the Heart Sutra is a wonderful thing. It tells us that form is no different from emptiness, and emptiness is not different from form. In other words, everything is utterly real and important - and at the same time nothing really exists in the way we think things do.

Things are not solid or separate or isolated, they do not have existence from their own side. They are places where interconnections of circumstances meet.

This is how I used to experience the world when I was a child. School tried its best to educate me out of it, teaching me how to split the world into units, identify them with names, manipulate them. This is of course exactly what you need to do in mathematics, in technology, in building. But it just doesn't fit human experience. We aren't units like this. We are left with a longing for something, a knowing of something, and we don't know what it is, because it doesn't have a name.

Buddha built up a good, solid technology for liberation from this illusive, yet painful, state of affairs. Then with the Heart Sutra, through the experience of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion, Buddhism had its Dylan-goes-electric moment. The text states that there is no way to enlightenment, thereby invalidating the whole analytical path that had previously been laid out. The spiritual technology was not sufficient. It still worked on its own terms. But at the end of the day, life just wasn't that simple.

The techniques were shot through with emptiness.

Healing trauma, whether through music, meditation, relationship, or any other way, always involves returning to original experience - that things are real, they function as objects, yet at the same time they are not separate from you. This naturally leads to compassionate action, as no one really wants to hurt themselves, and it also leads to relief at giving up that whole energy-consuming pretence, and at no longer being isolated and alone - and to joy. Which provides energy, for more compassionate action.

I think this is the way to go.

Sarah Luczaj, PhD

therapist, writer, artist, reiki master, creative regenerator and co-founder of terrealuma.

offers online reiki healing/chanting sessions, here

sarah luczaj

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