Being a bodhisattva would be overwhelming if form, feelings, perceptions, memories, and consciousness were real. Imagine the assault on our sensory powers and the domains in which they function! Red Pine (1) explains that there are Twelves Abodes or “resting places” of our awareness: six sensory powers (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) and six domains in which they function (shape, sound, smell, taste, touch, and thought). Through these Twelve Abodes, we trace and locate what we call our experience.
And we already know the punch line. None of these exist in and of themselves, being constructed of a “constant flux” of sensory flow. That much is the typical patter of reciting the Prajnaparamita but what I really liked in Red Pine’s commentary was what should have been obvious about seeking the reality of the self.
We don’t tend to look for our sense of abiding self in the ear. Or the eye. Or nose, tongue, or body. (Well, for those of us with body image issues perhaps we do see our enduring self inappropriately in the body! Perhaps vanity and fears were localized differently in the Buddha’s time.) We tend to seek our Self in the mind and the effluent of mind, thoughts. Now, we can easily accept the insanity of saying my Self is defined by my nose and its function and yet we cannot discard the assertion of the mind that it irrevocably defines us.
(1) The Heart Sutra translation and commentary by Red Pine (Counterpoint Press)