The Nerdya Shingyo

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This aims to be a nerd-friendly version of the Sino-Japanese rendition of the Heart Sutra. The current primary aim of this document is to make it easier for me to memorise the sutra for ceremonial purposes. Five years of needing a cheat sheet is getting a bit embarassing.


  1. Chinese characters : helps differentiate words that sound alike
  2. Word segmentation : makes sounds easier to remember in chunks
  3. Beat separation : useful for chanting to mokugyo
  4. Stanzas : adds structural support to aid memorisation

The Sutra

Sutra by itself

摩訶 ma∙ka 般若 han∙nya 波羅蜜多 ha∙ra∙mi∙ta 心経 shin∙gyo

観自在 kan∙ji∙zai  菩薩 bo∙satsu
行 gyō   深 jin   般若 han∙nya  波羅蜜多 ha∙ra∙mi∙ta    時 ji    照 shō
見 ken   五 go    薀 on    皆 kai   空 kū
度 do    一切 is∙sai   苦 ku    厄 yaku

舍利子 sha∙ri∙shi
色 shiki 不 fu    異 i 空 kū
空 kū    不 fu    異 i 色 shiki
色 shiki 即 soku  是 ze    空 kū
空 kū    即 soku  是 ze    色 shiki
受 jū    想 sō    行 gyō   識 shiki
亦 yaku  復 bu    如 nyo   是 ze

舍利子 sha∙ri∙shi
是 ze    諸 sho   法 hō    空 kū    相 sō
不 fu    生 shō   不 fu    滅 metsu
不 fu    垢 ku    不 fu    浄 jō
不 fu    増 zō    不 fu    減 gen

是 ze    故 ko    空 kū    中 chū   無 mu    色 shiki
無 mu    受 jū    想 sō    行 gyō   識 shiki
無 mu    眼 gen   耳 ni    鼻 bi    舌 zes   身 shin  意 i
無 mu    色 shiki 声 shō   香 kō    味 mi    触 soku  法 hō
無 mu    限 gen   界 kai   乃 nai   至 shi   無 mu    意 i 識 shiki 界 kai
無 mu    無 mu    明 myō   亦 yaku  無 mu    無 mu    明 myō   尽 jin
乃 nai   至 shi   無 mu    老 rō    死 shi
亦 yaku  無 mu    老 rō    死 shi   尽 jin
無 mu    苦 ku    集 shū   滅 metsu 道 dō
無 mu    智 chi   亦 yaku  無 mu    得 toku

以 i 無 mu    所 shō   得 toku  故 ko
菩提薩埵 bo∙dai∙sat∙ta  依 e 般若 han∙nya  波羅蜜多 ha∙ra∙mi∙ta    故 ko
心 shin  無 mu    罣 ke    礙 ge    無 mu    罣 ke    礙 ge    故 ko
無 mu    有 u 恐 ku    怖 fu
遠 on    離 ri    一切 is∙sai   顛 ten   倒 dō    無 mu    想 sō
究 ku    竟 kyō   涅 ne    槃 han

三 san   世 ze    諸 shō   仏 butsu
依 e 般若 han∙nya  波羅蜜多 ha∙ra∙mi∙ta    故 ko
得 toku  阿 a 耨 noku  多 ta    羅 ra    三 san   藐 myaku 三 san   菩提 bo∙dai

故 ko    知 chi   般若 han∙nya  波羅蜜多 ha∙ra∙mi∙ta
是 ze    大 dai   神 jin   呪 shu
是 ze    大 dai   明 myō   呪 shu
是 ze    無 mu    上 jou   呪 shu
是 ze    無 mu    等 tou   等 dou   呪 shu
能 nou   除 jo    一切 is∙sai   苦 ku
真 shin  実 jitsu 不 fu    嘘 ko
故 ko    説 setsu 般若 han∙nya  波羅蜜多 ha∙ra∙mi∙ta    呪 shu
即 soku  説 setsu 呪 shu   曰 watsu
揭 gya   諦 te    揭 gya   諦 te    波羅 ha∙ra    揭 gya   諦 te
波羅 ha∙ra    僧 sou   揭 gya   諦 te
菩 bo    提 ji    薩 so    婆 wa    訶 ka

般若 han∙nya  心経 shin∙gyo

Doofus alert

Warning! Everything about this (even the premise) could be wrong, in that special a-little-knowledge-is-a-dangerous-thing way. Don't take it too seriously. The important thing is if makes the sutra easier to learn or not.

Note that I don't actually know Chinese, and I made this by reconciling two versions of a sutra I had, one which appeared to be word-segmented, and one which appeared to be beat separated. So watch out for mistakes!


This presentation of the sutra is done with the help of a small computer program. Right now, it just spits out Chinese words next to their pronunciation. Over time, I hope to make it a bit fancier, for exmaple, making certain parts optional (eg. the Chinese), or putting them above the pronunciation, enabling a gloss, etc…

Below are some elaborations on the things I think would make this presentation of the sutra easier to learn.

Chinese characters

Having the kanji could make life a bit easier if you've had a little exposure to Chinese or Japanese.

Even if not, by looking at their shape, you could maybe spot the symmetries in the sutra a bit better. For example, knowing that there are different words that sound the same, for example, “shiki” could (by eliminating red herrings) make it easier to see where all the “shiki”'s that mean “form” turn up.

Word segmentation

Chinese words are written with these square characters, one character per syllable, for example, “电脑” for “computer”. Individually, the characters mean “electricity” and “brain” but in Chinese, the word isn't “electric brain”; it's “computer”. It's not a “电”…”脑”; it's a “电脑”, one word, a bit like “cordon bleu”. Unfortunately for English speakers, there isn't any separation between the characters. Something like “I have a computer”, would be written like “我有一个电脑” (apologies if my Chinese is bad there), whereas the word segmented version might instead look like

  我 有    一   个            电脑
  I  have  one [measure-word] computer

So in this version of the heart sutra, we try to keep separate words separate.

Beat separation

We chant the heart sutra to the beat of a mokugyo. But it's not always one syllable per beat, so how do you know? I think for the most part the beats respect the the word segmentation boundaries, but that there are some multisyllable parts within a word that can get chanted with a beat each.

In the case where this happens, we insert a little hyphen character to indicate that while the two syllables are still part of the same word, they ought to be chanted separately.


The stanzas here are arbitrary. They're just meant to help me find my place in the sutra. I can't learn a big blob of sounds effectively; has to have a structure…

Help improve the Nerdya Shingyo

The source code is hosted on darcsden. If you don't feel like writing Haskell, or you just want to make corrections or other suggestions, shoot me an email.


This presentation of the sutra was made by combining Brad Warner's version with the one used in the Brighton Soto Zen Group.

No explicit permission was granted to use these for this project, but I'm sure it's not a big deal. And as far as I'm concerned, you can do whatever you please with both this presentation of the sutra and the source code that made it.