Buddhism shows up in the funniest places

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Go look for the lyrics to the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Life Changes” song, their tribute to ODB.

Most of the sites on the Internet have “Asian language”, “Man speaks Mandarin” or something equivalent at the end of the song in lyrics transcription.

It’s actually Sifu Shi Yan Ming, a refugee from China who escaped and sought asylum in the US in 1992. He’s reciting the Heart Sutra in Mandarin.

When you think about it, that’s kind of funny. Millions of Wu-Tang fans are being exposed, if surreptitiously, to an age-old Buddhist text that some say has positive, life-changing effects even for those who hear it, but don’t understand it.

Here’s the translation that I’ve learned, via Stephen K. Hayes:

Kanon Bodhisattva
Steeped in transcendental wisdom
Saw five heaps as empty
Knew this ended suffering
Shariputra, form is empty
Emptiness is form
Form’s nothing but void
Void’s nothing but form
Feel, see, think, mind are the same
Shariputra, empty aspects
Birthless, endless
No spoiled, no pure
No gain, no loss
Emptiness has no form, feel, see think, or mind
No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind
No color, sound, smell, taste, touch, think
No vision on to
No mind to think
No delusion
No making bright
So forth to no age and death
No conquering age and death
No pain, cause, cure, path
No wisdom to gain
Nothing to attain
Enlightened ones know
Transcendent wisdom is key
Mind is no block
With no blocks there are no more fears
On beyond delusion’s pull to enlightenment
All enlightened ones grasp transcendent wisdom
So attain perfect supreme unsurpassed enlightenment
Perfect wisdom is found in the
Great divine phrase
Great bright mantra
Unsurpassed phrase
Matchless mantra phrase
That ends all suffering
All truth
Nothing false
Transcendent wisdom mantra is the mantra that goes
Going beyond
Going on beyond
Wakened to all
Heart of wisdom

Translation by Stephen K. Hayes

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