Perfect Wisdom Sutra (ASV#19)

Here’s Allen recorded by Mellon Tytell in 1993, on the occasion of Carl Solomon‘s passing, at a memorial event at the St Mark’s Church, reading the Prajnaparamita Sutra (the Perfect Wisdom Sutra, the Heart Sutra), in the translation that he had adopted (and adapted) from Shunryu Suzuki (with the roshi‘s consent).

His accompanist here, the man standing next to him, is, of course, poet and Fug, Ed Sanders.

Allen chants the Sutra also in a noisy New York City nightclub, around the same time, in recordings made by Jill Abrams, (here and, continuing, here)

There’s also, for the intrepid, a further recording here (from a “Dharma Poetics” class (with Anne Waldman), a little over an hour into the class).

And, here’s a little on the background
from the interview he made with David Chadwick about Shunryu Suzuki):

AG: ” the late sixties – mid sixties, I had memorized his (Suzuki‘s) translation of the Prajnaparamita Sutra. Slowly I had worked out a melodic intonation for it…I made a few changes with Gelek Rinpoche later. “No attainment because no non-attainment”. Topsy-turvy extremes instead of views. ‘Cause what do you mean? Extremes of nihilism or extremes of mind only. In ’68 I was really intrigued by Suzuki-roshi‘s translation. Sort of like telegraphese compared to others I’d read. It was so succinct. So I went to him and sang it to him and asked him his permission to sing it in public. He said, sure. I was adding a little American melody and flavor there. Using inflections and notes to emphasize – “no suffering, no cause of suffering”. Very operatic there. Also “no non-attainment”. Which I found emotionally the heart of it, in a way. So I got his permission to do it in public. I didn’t know if I was messing around with something I didn’t understand and appreciate. Just thought I’d better tell him what I was doing and wouldn’t do any brain damage to anybody. He was very nice about it..”

A “Chant Card” (from 1962) used for services at the San Francisco Zen Center in its early days (this one, on the occasion of “officially installing Suzuki as the abbot of Sokoji..”) may be examined here.


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