The Heart-Essence of the Prajñā-pāramitā in One Syllable Sūtra, A Treasure Teaching (gTerma) of Guru Chöwang, Chökyi Wangchuk

The Heart-Essence of the Prajñā-pāramitā in One Syllable Sūtra

Tibetan title: shes rab kyi phra rol tu phyin pa’i snying po yi ge gcig ma)

A Treasure Teaching (gTerma) of Guru Chöwang, Chökyi Wangchuk
(gu ru chos kyi dbang phyug, 1212-1270/73)

Extracted from Dhāraṇīs Which Condense the Essence of the Kangyur

(Mantras for Scriptures from the Tibetan Buddhist Canon)

Tibetan title: bka’ ‘gyur snying po bsdus pa’i gzungs bzhugs so

Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos

In the Indian Language [Sanskrit]: Bhagavatī Prajñā-pāramitā Hṝdaya (bhagavatī-prajñā-pāramitā-hṝdaya)

In the Tibetan Language: Sheyrab kyi P’aröltuch’inpai Nyingpo (shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa’i snying po)

In the English Language: The Essence of the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight in One Syllable (The Essence of the Prajñā-pāramitā in a Single Syllable)


[The Buddha said:] “It is as follows:



This is known as the ‘Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight (Prajñā-pāramitā) in One Syllable‘.”

They [the assembled audience] deeply praised what had been spoken by the Bhagavān.


Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos.
This text was first translated in December 2009. It was later translated again in May 2018, and further revised in September 2018. Light editing done in January 2023.

Notes: This text is nearly identical in its fundamental theme and basic content to one sūtra contained in the Kangyur and translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan, known as Prajñā-pāramitā, the Mother of All Tathāgatas, in One Syllable (Skt. ekākṣaram-prajñā-pāramitā-sarva-tathāgata-ma-nāma, Tib. de bzhin gshegs pa thams cad kyi yum shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa yi ge gcig ma zhes bya ba). Its Tibetan text has also been translated and published online on this website, under the title The One Syllable Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra: The Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight, the Mother of All Suchness Faring Ones, in a Single Syllable’ (translated by Erick Tsiknopoulos, 2009/2016/2018).

The most notable difference between these two texts is that the present gTerma of Guru Chöwang’s is significantly shorter; omitting the introduction and conclusion in the original Kangyur text, which itself follows a drastically shortened yet standard sūtra narrative format. Being thus quite condensed, it perhaps serves as a sort of condensation of the Ekākṣaram-prajñā-pāramitā-sarva-tathāgata-ma. This is interesting because the original text of the latter is contained in the Kangyur; and hence originating from India more directly, was itself an incredibly concise condensation of the meaning of the vast corpus of Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra-s into nothing but one, single syllable (the broader significance and esoteric meaning of this particular syllable is, however, best left to other contexts). That the present gTerma text is a condensation or short summary of the original Single Syllable Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra is also in line with the general idea of this series of Treasure Teachings revealed by Guru Chöwang (gu ru chos dbang), featuring Mantras and Dhāraṇīs which serve as essentialized condensations that ‘extract the essence’ of the magical power, spiritual potential and positive karmic potential of various important sūtras and tantras (though mainly the Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra-s); and which also, to some extent, symbolically summarize their respective meanings.

The other (more minor) difference is that the single syllable in question is technically written as ཨཱཿ (ĀḤ) here and as ཨཱ། (Ā) in the original sūtra; that is, technically without the aspirant ‘Ḥ’, at least in the edition used here. In terms of the symbolic meaning of the syllable, the difference between the two spellings is probably nominal at most (and certainly unintentional, i.e. owing to a scribal error).

One may wonder why it was felt necessary for such a short sūtra as the Ekākṣaram-prajñā-pāramitā-sarva-tathāgata-ma, which is already an extremely concise distillation of the Prajñā-pāramitā sūtra-s, to have an even shorter and more condensed ‘gTerma version’; but so it is!

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