My quest to learn to write the Heart Sutra

When I started, at the end of May, to try to write the Heart Sutra, I had little idea what a huge task this would be.  I can write it in Korean now, but to write it in traditional Chinese Hanja characters will require a great deal of learning.

Let me give you one character as example.


In simplified Chinese, 无 (not) is 4 strokes.  In traditional script, 無 is 12 strokes.  This character appears 21 times in the Heart Sutra.  Therefore, every time I do the Heart Sutra app, I am tracing those 12 lines with my finger 21 times (252 strokes).  To do it right, I need to know the stroke order for each character.   There are 240 characters in the Heart Sutra, so that gives an idea of how much effort is involved.

noheartAs I learn how to draw each character, I also want to understand what the character means.  To infuse the character with emotion, I need to know what it is I am writing. Maintaining focus for the entire Heart Sutra app tracing with my finger is exhausting.  By the end my hand is cramped and my lines are not straight.

I haven’t even progressed yet to drawing each character with a brush and ink.  I am practicing with a pen first. I am still at the point of looking up the stroke order for each character.  I want to memorize the Heart Sutra in Korean, and English too of course. However, at least I can chant along comfortably now with daily practice.

(I have not tried writing vertical and right to left, which at this point would probably make my brain melt down. Then again, handwriting Hangul was hard for me last year, and now it is easy. That remains one of my most popular posts, when really all I do is grouse.  Haha. Maybe with another year of practice, writing Heart Sutra in Chinese will be an equally simple task.)

I have a new appreciation for monks in the temples sitting in deep concentration writing the Heart Sutra.


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