(IPA: [pjɪ̀ɴɲà pàɹəmìta̰])
(pinyin: bōrě bōluómìduō)
(shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa)
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Prajñāpāramitā is a central concept in Mahāyāna Buddhism and its practice and understanding are taken to be indispensable elements of the Bodhisattva path.
- 1 History
- 2 Prajñāpāramitā in visual art
- 3 Selected English translations
- 4 References
- 5 Literature
- 6 External links
Western scholars have traditionally considered the earliest sūtra in the Prajñāpāramitā class to be the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra or "Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines", which was probably put in writing in the 1st century BCE. This chronology is based on the views of Edward Conze, who largely considered dates of translation into other languages. The first translation of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā into Chinese occurred in the 2nd century CE. This text also has a corresponding version in verse format, called the Ratnaguṇasaṃcaya Gāthā, which some believe to be slightly older because it is not written in standard literary Sanskrit. However, these findings rely on late-dating Indian texts, in which verses and mantras are often kept in more archaic forms.
Additionally, a number of scholars have proposed that the Mahāyāna Prajñāpāramitā teachings were first developed by the Caitika subsect of the Mahāsāṃghikas. They believe that the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra originated amongst the southern Mahāsāṃghika schools of the Āndhra region, along the Kṛṣṇa River. These Mahāsāṃghikas had two famous monasteries near Amarāvati and the Dhānyakataka, which gave their names to the Pūrvaśaila and Aparaśaila schools. Each of these schools had a copy of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra in Prakrit. Guang Xing also assesses the view of the Buddha given in the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra as being that of the Mahāsāṃghikas. Edward Conze estimates that this sūtra originated around 100 BCE.
In 2012, Harry Falk and Seishi Karashima published a damaged and partial Kharoṣṭhī manuscript of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā. It is radiocarbon dated to ca. 75 CE, making it one of the oldest Buddhist texts in existence. It is very similar to the first Chinese translation of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā by Lokakṣema (ca. 179 CE) whose source text is assumed to be in the Gāndhārī language. Comparison with the standard Sanskrit text shows that it is also likely to be a translation from Gāndhāri as it expands on many phrases and provides glosses for words that are not present in the Gāndhārī. This points to the text being composed in Gāndhārī, the language of Gandhara (the region now called the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan, including Peshawar, Taxila and Swat Valley). The "Split" ms. is evidently a copy of an earlier text, confirming that the text may date before the first century of the common era.
In contrast to western scholarship, Japanese scholars have traditionally considered the Diamond Sūtra (Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra) to be from a very early date in the development of Prajñāpāramitā literature. The usual reason for this relative chronology which places the Vajracchedikā earlier is not its date of translation, but rather a comparison of the contents and themes. Some western scholars also believe that the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra was adapted from the earlier Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra.
Examining the language and phrases used in both the Aṣṭasāhasrikā and the Vajracchedikā, Gregory Schopen also sees the Vajracchedikā as being earlier than the Aṣṭasāhasrikā. This view is taken in part by examining parallels between the two works, in which the Aṣṭasāhasrikā seems to represent the later or more developed position. According to Schopen, these works also show a shift in emphasis from an oral tradition (Vajracchedikā) to a written tradition (Aṣṭasāhasrikā).
Overview of the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras
An Indian commentary on the Mahāyānasaṃgraha, entitled Vivṛtaguhyārthapiṇḍavyākhyā, gives a classification of teachings according to the capabilities of the audience:
[A]ccording to disciples' grades, the Dharma is [classified as] inferior and superior. For example, the inferior was taught to the merchants Trapuṣa and Ballika because they were ordinary men; the middle was taught to the group of five because they were at the stage of saints; the eightfold Prajñāpāramitās were taught to bodhisattvas, and [the Prajñāpāramitās] are superior in eliminating conceptually imagined forms. The eightfold [Prajñāpāramitās] are the teachings of the Prajñāpāramitā as follows: the Triśatikā, Pañcaśatikā, Saptaśatikā, Sārdhadvisāhasrikā, Aṣṭasāhasrikā, Aṣṭadaśasāhasrikā, Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, and Śatasāhasrikā.
The titles of these eight Prajñāpāramitā texts are given according to their length. The texts may have other Sanskrit titles as well, or different variations which may be more descriptive. The lengths specified by the titles are given below.
- Triśatikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra: 300 lines, alternatively known as the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (Diamond Sūtra)
- Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra: 500 lines
- Saptaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra: 700 lines, the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī's exposition of Prajñāpāramitā
- Sārdhadvisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra: 2500 lines, from the questions of Suvikrāntavikrāmin Bodhisattva
- Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra: 8000 lines
- Aṣṭadaśasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra: 18,000 lines
- Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra: 25,000 lines, alternatively known as the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Sūtra
- Śatasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra: 100,000 lines, alternatively known as the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Sūtra
According to Joseph Walser, there is evidence that the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (25,000 lines) and the Śatasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (100,000 lines) have a connection with the Dharmaguptaka sect, while the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (8000 lines) does not.
In addition to these, there are also other Prajñāpāramitā sūtras such as the Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya), which exists in a shorter and longer versions. Regarding the shorter texts, Edward Conze writes, "Two of these, the Diamond Sūtra and the Heart Sūtra are in a class by themselves and deservedly renowned throughout the world of Northern Buddhism. Both have been translated into many languages and have often been commented upon.". Though the Heart Sutra is now known to be an apocryphal text composed in China from extracts of the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā and other texts ca 7th century and, as above, many scholars consider the Diamond Sutra to be much earlier than Conze does.
Tāntric versions of the Prajñāpāramitā literature were produced from the year 500 CE on. Additionally, Prajñāpāramitā terma teachings are held by some Tibetan Buddhists to have been conferred upon Nāgārjuna by the Nāgarāja "King of the Nāgas", who had been guarding them at the bottom of the sea.
Prajñāpāramitā in Central Asia
By the middle of the 3rd century CE, it appears that some Prajñāpāramitā texts were known in Central Asia, as reported by the Chinese monk Zhu Shixing, who brought back a manuscript of the Prajñāpāramitā of 25,000 lines:
When in 260 AD, the Chinese monk Zhu Shixing chose to go to Khotan in an attempt to find original Sanskrit sūtras, he succeeded in locating the Sanskrit Prajñāpāramitā in 25,000 verses, and tried to send it to China. In Khotan, however, there were numerous Hīnayānists who attempted to prevent it because they regarded the text as heterodox. Eventually, Zhu Shixing stayed in Khotan, but sent the manuscript to Luoyang where it was translated by a Khotanese monk named Mokṣala. In 296, the Khotanese monk Gītamitra came to Chang'an with another copy of the same text.
Xuanzang and the Mahāprajñāpāramitā
Xuanzang returned to China from India with three copies of the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Sūtra which he had secured from his extensive travels. Xuanzang, with a team of disciple translators, commenced translating the voluminous work in 660 CE using the three versions to ensure the integrity of the source documentation. Xuanzang was being encouraged by a number of the disciple translators to render an abridged version. After a suite of dreams quickened his decision, Xuanzang determined to render an unabridged, complete volume, faithful to the original of 600 fascicles.
Prajñāpāramitā in visual art
The Prajnaparamita is often personified as a bodhisattvadevi (female bodhisattva). Artifacts from Nalanda depict the Prajnaparamita personified as a goddess. The depiction of Prajnaparamita statue as a goddess is also can be found in ancient Java and Cambodian art.
Prajñāpāramitā in Ancient Indonesia
Mahayana Buddhism took root in ancient Java Sailendra court in the 8th century CE. The Mahayana reverence of female buddhist deity started with the cult of Tara enshrined in the 8th century Kalasan temple in Central Java. Some of Prajnaparamita's important functions and attributes can be traced to those of the goddess Tara. Tara and Prajnaparamita are both referred to as mothers of all Buddhas, since Buddhas are born from wisdom. The Sailendra dynasty was also the ruling family of Srivijaya in Sumatra. During the reign of the third Pala king Devapala (815-854) in India, Srivijaya Maharaja Balaputra of Sailendras also constructed one of Nalanda’s main monasteries in India itself. Thereafter manuscript editions of the Ashtasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra circulating in Sumatra and Java instigated the cult of the Goddess of Transcendent Wisdom.
In the 13th century, the tantric buddhism gained royal patronage of king Kertanegara of Singhasari, and thereafter some of Prajnaparamita statues were produced in the region, such as the Prajnaparamita of Singhasari in East Java and Prajnaparamita of Muaro Jambi Regency, Sumatra. Both of East Java and Jambi Prajnaparamitas bear resemblance in style as they were produced in same period, however unfortunately Prajnaparamita of Jambi is headless and was discovered in poor condition.
The statue of Prajnaparamita of East Java is probably the most famous depiction of the goddess of transcendental wisdom, and is considered the masterpiece of classical ancient Java Hindu-Buddhist art in Indonesia. It was discovered in the Cungkup Putri ruins near Singhasari temple, Malang, East Java. Today the beautiful and serene statue is displayed on 2nd floor Gedung Arca, National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta.
Selected English translations
|Edward Conze||Selected Sayings from the Perfection of Wisdom ISBN 978-0877737094||Buddhist Society, London||Portions of various Perfection of Wisdom sutras||1978|
|Rabten, Geshe||Echoes of Voidness ISBN 0-86171-010-X||Wisdom||Includes the Heart Sutra with Tibetan commentary||1983|
|Edward Conze||The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom ISBN 0-520-05321-4||University of California||Mostly the version in 25,000 lines, with some parts from the versions in 100,000 and 18,000 lines||1985|
|Lopez, Donald S.||The Heart Sutra Explained ISBN 0-88706-590-2||SUNY||The Heart Sutra with a summary of Indian commentaries||1987|
|Thich Nhat Hanh||The Heart of Understanding ISBN 0-938077-11-2||Parallax Press||The Heart Sutra with a Vietnamese Thiền commentary||1988|
|Edward Conze||Buddhist Wisdom Books ISBN 0-04-440259-7||Unwin||The Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra with commentaries||1988|
|Thich Nhat Hanh||The Diamond that Cuts Through Illusion ISBN 0-938077-51-1||Parallax Press||The Diamond Sutra with a Vietnamese Thiền commentary||1992|
|Lex Hixon||Mother of the Buddhas: Meditation on the Prajnaparamita Sutra ISBN 0-8356-0689-9||Quest||Selected verses from the Prajnaparamita in 8000 lines||1993|
|Edward Conze||The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines and its Verse Summary ISBN 81-7030-405-9||Four Seasons Foundation||The earliest text in a combination of strict translation and summary||1994|
|Lopez, Donald S.||Elaborations on Emptiness ISBN 0-691-00188-X||Princeton||The Heart Sutra with eight complete Indian and Tibetan commentaries||1998|
|Geshe Kelsang Gyatso||Heart of Wisdom ISBN 0-948006-77-3||Tharpa||The Heart Sutra with a Tibetan commentary||2001|
|Red Pine||The Diamond Sutra: The Perfection of Wisdom; Text and Commentaries Translated from Sanskrit and Chinese ISBN 1-58243-256-2||Counterpoint||The Diamond Sutra with Chán/Zen commentary||2001|
|Edward Conze||Perfect Wisdom; The Short Prajnaparamita Texts ISBN 0-946672-28-8||Buddhist Publishing Group, Totnes. (Luzac reprint)||Most of the short sutras: Perfection of Wisdom in 500 Lines, 700 lines, The Heart Sutra and The Diamond Sutra, one word, plus some Tantric sutras, all without commentaries.||2003|
|Red Pine||The Heart Sutra: the Womb of Buddhas ISBN 978-1593760090||Counterpoint||Heart Sutra with commentary||2004|
|14th Dalai Lama||Essence of the Heart Sutra, ISBN 978-0-86171-284-7||Wisdom Publications||Heart Sutra with commentary by the 14th Dalai Lama||2005|
|R.C. Jamieson||The perfection of wisdom, ISBN 978-0-67088-934-1||Penguin Viking||Foreword by H.H. the Dalai Lama; illustrated with Cambridge University Library Manuscript Add.1464 & Manuscript Add.1643||2000|
|Geshe Tashi Tsering||Emptiness: The Foundation of Buddhist Thought, ISBN 978-0-86171-511-4||Wisdom Publications||A guide to the topic of emptiness from a Tibetan Buddhist perspective, with English translation of the Heart Sutra||2009|
|Doosun Yoo||Thunderous Silence: A Formula For Ending Suffering: A Practical Guide to the Heart Sutra, ISBN 978-1614290537||Wisdom Publications||English translation of the Heart Sutra with Korean Seon commentary||2013|
|Kazuaki Tanahashi||The Heart Sutra: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classic of Mahayana Buddhism, ISBN 978-1611800968||Shambhala Publications||English translation of the Heart Sutra with history and commentary||2015|
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- Buswell, Robert; Lopez, Donald S. Jr., eds. (2014), The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton University Press pg. 945 "In the PRAJÑĀPĀRAMITĀ literature and the MADHYAMAKA school, the notion of production comes under specific criticism (see VAJRAKAṆĀ), with NĀGĀRJUNA famously asking, e.g., how an effect can be produced from a cause that is either the same as or different from itself. The prajñāpāramitā sūtras thus famously declare that all dharmas are actually ANUTPĀDA, or “unproduced.”"
- King, Richard (1995), Early Advaita Vedānta and Buddhism: The Mahāyāna Context of the Gauḍapādīya-kārikā, SUNY Press pg.113 "It is equally apparent that one of the important features of the Prajnaparamita positition is that of the nonarising (anutpada) of dharmas."
- Williams, Paul. Buddhist Thought. Routledge, 2000, pages 131.
- Williams, Paul. Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations 2nd edition. Routledge, 2009, pg. 47.
- Mäll, Linnart. Studies in the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā and other essays. 2005. p. 96
- Guang Xing. The Concept of the Buddha: Its Evolution from Early Buddhism to the Trikaya Theory. 2004. pp. 65-66 "Several scholars have suggested that the Prajnaparamita probably developed among the Mahasamghikas in Southern India, in the Andhra country, on the Krsna River."
- Guang Xing. The Concept of the Buddha: Its Evolution from Early Buddhism to the Trikaya Theory. 2004. p. 66
- Harry Falk and Seishi Karashima, A ﬁrst‐century Prajñāpāramitā manuscript from Gandhāra — parivarta 1 (Texts from the Split Collection 1). Annual Report of the International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology at Soka University XV (2012), 19-61.
- Williams, Paul. Mahāyāna Buddhism: the Doctrinal Foundations. London, UK: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-02537-0. p.42
- Schopen, Gregory. Figments and Fragments of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India. 2005. p. 55
- Schopen, Gregory. Figments and Fragments of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India. 2005. pp. 31-32
- Hamar, Imre. Reflecting Mirrors: Perspectives on Huayan Buddhism. 2007. p. 94
- Williams, Paul. Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. 2008. p. 6
- Conze, Edward. The Short Prajñāpāramitā Texts. 1973. p. 9
- Jan Nattier. 1992. The Heart Sūtra : a Chinese apocryphal text? Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. Vol. 15 (2), p.153-223.
- Heirman, Ann. Bumbacher, Stephan Peter. The Spread of Buddhism. 2007. p. 100
- Wriggins, Sally Hovey (2004). The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang. Boulder, Colorado: WestviewPress. ISBN 0-8133-6599-6. p.206
- Wriggins, Sally Hovey (2004). The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang. Boulder, Colorado: WestviewPress. ISBN 0-8133-6599-6. p.207
- Asian Art[dead link]
- Karashima, Seishi (2010). A Glossary of Lokakṣema's translation of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpr̄amitā (PDF). Bibliotheca philologica et philosophica Buddhica. Vol XI. The International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology, Soka Univ. ISBN 978-4-904234-03-7.
- Müller, F. Max, trans (1894). Buddhist Mahâyâna texts Vol.2, Oxford, Clarendon Press. (The Vagrakkedikâ, the larger Pragñâ-pâramitâ-hridaya-sûtra, the smaller Pragñâ-pâramitâ-hridaya-sûtra)
- Orsborn, M.B. (2012). Chiasmus in the Early Prajñāpāramitā: Literary Parallelism Connecting Criticism & Hermeneutics in an Early Mahāyāna Sūtra (PDF) (PhD Dissertation). alias 釋慧峰 Shi Huifeng. University of Hong Kong. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
- Qing, Fa (2001). The development of Prajna in Buddhism from early Buddhism to the Prajnaparamita system: With special reference to the Sarvastivada tradition (PDF) (PhD Dissertation). Advisor: Kawamura, Leslie S. University of Calgary. ISBN 0612648362. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Prajnaparamita.|
- Mahāprajñāpāramitā Mañjuśrīparivarta Sūtra: English Translation, Lapis Lazuli Texts
- The Prajnaparamita Literature Bibliography of the Prajnaparamita Literature
- Lotsawa House Translations of several Tibetan texts on the Prajnaparamita