Sunday, October 01, 2006

True meanings of the Heart Sutra 心經的真義

True Meanings of the Heart Sutra

The Carving of Heart Sutra at Ngong Ping of Lantau Island consists of 38 10-meter-high timber columns carved with the calligraphy of the Heart of Prajña Paramita (Wisdom) Sutra from Professor Jao Tsung I, the master in studies of Chinese ancient civilization., To symbolize the Buddhist teaching of "That which is form is emptiness, That which is emptiness is form", there is a wordless column, namely the 23rd one, which was deliberately left blank.

The Carving of Heart Sutra project was completed and opened to the public in May 2005. In just more than a year's time, various problems started to appear on the timber columns, including spreading of wood-rotting fungi, worm-holes and cracking. One may still recall clearly the pledge from the government when tens of millions of dollars were spent on the project, promising that the advance technology of nanostructured coatings could preserve the wooden carving for at least a hundreds year. The explanation from the Architectural Services Department and Tourism Commission was that cracking on timber was a long existing natural phenomenon, and fungi growing on timber placed outdoor is nothing new either. However, no word was mentioned about the wormholes.

Under normal conditions, nanostructured coatings have to be re-applied every 3 to 5 years, due to the weathering effect of rain and sunlight. Problems appear much sooner than expected, indicating that it is very likely that the initial treatments of the timbers were not done properly.

Fungi start growing on top of some of the columns, some as big as the size of a palm, white or brown in colour, while others have wormholes. But the worst part of all is that cracks appear on all columns, and each has to be crowned by steel rings at the top in order to prevent further expanding of the cracks.

The local tree expert Professor C.Y. Jim pointed out that the problems of fungi and wormholes were clearly the indication of the decaying of the softer outer layer of the timber, and poor drainage design had further speeded up the rotting process. In fact Professor Jim had advocated for the use of stone material at the initial stage of the project. The main reason for the Steering Committee of the project to rule out the usage of stone was that they were worried about a "Stone Sutra Carving would eventually fall apart" due to weathering problems. But to many people's surprise, the material finally selected was timber. Professor Jao, the initiator of the project and the idea of timber carving, had expressed his deep concerns on the situation through his daughter and the Hong Kong University Jao Tsung I Petite Ecole, and wished that the government would look into the problems as soon as possible.

Master Ma, a web-pal of mine, has an enlightening comment on which I can't agree more :

" 'All dharma arise and cease according to the law of cause and effect.' The decaying of the timber columns is a perfect example of 'Impermanent'. The fungi on the top of the columns are actually preaching Buddhist sermon by showing us their survival ability. Just for the sake of another tourist attraction, the government not only killed 38 hundred-year-old trees for the timber, but the natural beauty of the green hill chosen as the site was also destroyed. People make extraordinarily painstaking efforts and spend millions of dollars, hoping to achieve 'Eternity', but at the end, so many brains of such high I.Q. were no matches for the primitive brainless micro-organism. Perhaps the true meaning of the Heart Sutra does not lie in the calligraphy of Professor Jao, nor on that wordless 23rd column. The true meaning of the Heart Sutra exists in that little mushrooms grown out from those decaying timbers, and in those nature loving and respecting hearts."







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