The Heart Sutra to a 2 year old

Avalokitesvara, you say! Doing deep meditation all day.
A silent song, a dance in the gray.
Didn’t stop for a bowl of stew, cake or tea
Stared deep into life’s flowing sea, clearly saw that it was emp-i-ty.

Dancing around, the wind in hair,completely free from pain and care.
Things are thoughts and thoughts are things!
(I said it once, twice, thrice! Do you also dare?)
My care, my hair, the thoughts on the air all amount to Noth-i-ing.

My dreams at night, my dance all day, scrapes on knees and flowers in May
Oh, they arise and fall! It has always been this way!
No God in sky, no Devil below. No pure light, no unholy glow.

In emp-i-tiness no moss to gather on a rock that does not roll.
No gateman at the end to pay a toll.
No puzzle pieces to a-gather, no riddles in my brain to rattle.
No boogieman hidden at night. No robber lost in flight!

No weeping eye, no spying ear, no nose to twitch,
No lying tongue, body to bathe or mind to bewitch!

No auburn hair, no joke to tell, no cupboards bare, no rose to smell, no touch of angels’ wings.
None of these things!
You think this sad. A real mess. Also no realm of sight, no realm of consciousness.

No kings. No fools. Nothing in-between.
No sacred night! No as-it-ever-has-been
No grave in sight but also no immortal might.
Cradle to grave, tomb to toddler. There is no need to fight!

No tears in the eye, no pie in the sky.
No story, no song (sorry this non-sense took so long),
but in this non-song a Bodhisattva just bounces along
With no path in front. No path behind. No hindrance, no fear. We don’t mind!

With each breath a miracle, a present, a gift; I hope this rhyme provided some lift.
To make you feel not so small but really, actually, trully quite tall
Like a tree with branches that connect to all.
Like leaves that blosson, burn and then fall.

For when your branches spread ahead
and penetrate the gloom and the doom
To touch the forgotten, the remembered, the yet-to-be,
You have obtained anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

But it is a lender, meant to be shared for benefit.
Which is why the following mantra is such a perfect fit.
This silly mantra comes off sounding so glib,
It completely clears all pain; This is no fib!

Oh Dear! What would your mother say?
This very day! What would she say?
Gate! Gate! Paragate! Parasamgate!
Bodhi Svaha! Is what she would say!

But what would you say? This very day?
My mild child, my child wild?
Which words sing a silent song and dance in the gray?

Tu whit! Tu whoo! What to do?
Grab a boat. Sink or float.
Either way we cross the bay. Hooray!


The above drawing is my samsara-toddler’s copy of the Heart Sutra in Japanese. The inspiration of the poem.


11 thoughts on “The Heart Sutra to a 2 year old

  1. This is so great. It’s going up in my little meditation room next to Snyder’s Smokey the Bear Sutra.

  2. Thanks Michael and Nate. I appreciate it. Also thanks to TimmyMac, any time I am put up next to anything from Snyder (let alone The Smokey the Bear Sutra) I consider it the highest compliment. Only to be exceeded by having my writing up in your little meditation room.Cheers,

  3. Nice drawing by Samsara toddler! And I bet she’d love being bounced on the knee while you read or recite this to her. With a bigger bounce at the end of each stanza.

  4. Haha! Actually she does. She *loves* finishing the rhymes though. When I saw her answering the rhymes in "Cat in the Hat" I figured I would do my own modeled after the Heart Sutra.

  5. And not for nothing, but “things are thoughts and thoughts are things” is very simple and incredibly useful!

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