The Heart Sutra has always been a strong aspect of the practice routine at my Sangha (Laughing Teabowl) as well as for my home-practice. Recited in both the Japanese and English; it was, to me, mostly a meditative tool through the medium of chanting. The same as sitting, walking or working only louder and out of tune.
That doesn’t denigrate the sutra, in my opinion, but applies it in a manner that is more applicable to my situtation. “Don’t worry too much about the words…rather stick with the sounds.” Whether through the Japanese or English translations that I chanted or the Korean version that I listened to (you really can’t beat Korean chanting. Its like butter), the same reflection and focus resulted.
After chanting this for a year or so. As well as listening to it in my car while commuting every morning or while walking before my morning meditation, the chant fell into the background of my daily routine. However, the whole meaning became perfectly clear on time while in my car when I heard the words “No old age and death and no extinction of old age and death” for probably the hundredth time. The fact that I am unable to express this meaning is a lacking of my own ability but that moment of clarity was nice.
It clarified, for me, the difference between the studying of the words of a sutra and studying the practice of it. After the practice the meaning becomes more clear but sometimes the meaning itself is worthless without the practice. You don’t need to be academic in order to gain some insight from these sutras or commentaries. Ignore the big words and just focus on the recitation and application of it. What needs to be clarified will be eventually. It may take a little longer but hell, I got nothing more pressing to do.
Great link to some resources on the Heart Sutra is you want to dive deeper into the meaning or practice. Enjoy.