Perfection of Wisdom: Wikis


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A statue of Prajñāpāramitā personified, from Singhasari, East Java.
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Prajñāpāramitā (Devanagari: प्रज्ञापारमिता, Tibetan: ་ཤེས་རབ་ཕ་རོལ་, Traditional Chinese: 般若波羅蜜多; Simplified Chinese: 般若波罗蜜多; pinyin: bōrě bōluómìduō; Japanese: 般若波羅蜜多; Korean: 반야파라밀다; Vietnamese: Bát-nhã-ba-la-mật-đa; Thai: มหาปรัชญาปารมิตาหฤทัยสูตร; Mongolian: Төгөлдөр билгүүн, translated as the "Perfection of Wisdom", is an important practice for bodhisattvas in Mahāyāna Buddhism.

The Prajñāpāramitā sūtras are a genre of Mahāyāna Buddhist scriptures dealing with the subject of the Perfection of prajñā, or "transcendent wisdom." The term Prajñāpāramitā alone never refers to a specific text, but always to the class of literature.




Earliest Prajñāpāramitā Texts

The earliest sūtra in the Prajñāpāramitā class is the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra or "Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines", which was probably put in writing about 100 BCE and is one of the earliest Mahāyāna sūtras. More material was gradually compiled over the next two centuries. As well as the sūtra itself, there is a summary in verse, the Ratnaguṇasaṃcaya Gāthā, which some believe to be slightly older because it is not written in standard literary Sanskrit.

Longer and Shorter Texts

Between the years 100 CE and 300 CE, the early Prajñāpāramitā literature expanded into large versions in 10,000, 18,000, 25,000 and 100,000 lines, collectively known as the "Large Perfection of Wisdom". These differ mainly in the extent to which the many lists are either abbreviated or written out in full; the rest of the text is mostly unchanged between the different versions. Shorter Prajñāpāramitā sūtras were also written, including the Heart Sūtra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya) and the Diamond Sūtra (Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra). It remains uncertain exactly when these were authored. However, these two shorter texts became widely popular and have had a great influence on the development of Mahāyāna Buddhism.

Later Tantric Variations

Tantric 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 Nagarjuna by Nagaraja, King of Nāgas, who had been guarding them at the bottom of a lake.

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.[1] 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.[1] 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.[2]

Selected English translations

Author Title Publisher Notes
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 strict translation
Lex Hixon Mother of the Buddhas: Meditation on the Prajnaparamita Sutra ISBN 0-8356-0689-9 Quest A less strict interpretive translation of most of the version in 8,000 lines
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
Edward Conze Buddhist Wisdom Books ISBN 0-04-440259-7 Unwin The Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra with commentaries
Lopez, Donald S. [1] The Heart Sutra Explained ISBN 0-88706-590-2 SUNY The Heart Sutra with a summary of Indian commentaries
Lopez, Donald S. [2] Elaborations on Emptiness ISBN 0-691-00188-X Princeton The Heart Sutra with eight complete Indian and Tibetan commentaries
Rabten, Geshe [3] Echoes of Voidness ISBN 0-86171-010-X Wisdom Includes the Heart Sutra with a Tibetan commentary
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso [4] Heart of Wisdom ISBN 0-948006-77-3 Tharpa The Heart Sutra with a Tibetan commentary
Thich Nhat Hanh The Heart of Understanding ISBN 0-938077-11-2 Parallax Press The Heart Sutra with a Chan commentary
Thich Nhat Hanh The Diamond that Cuts Through Illusion ISBN 0-938077-51-1 Parallax Press The Diamond Sutra with a Chan commentary
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.
Edward Conze Selected Sayings from the Perfection of Wisdom Buddhist Society, London Portions of various Perfection of Wisdom sutras
Dr. Yutang Lin Wisdom and Compassion in Limitless Oneness Taiwan, 1995


  1. ^ a b Wriggins, Sally Hovey (2004). The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang. Boulder, Colorado: WestviewPress. ISBN 0-8133-6599-6. p.206
  2. ^ Wriggins, Sally Hovey (2004). The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang. Boulder, Colorado: WestviewPress. ISBN 0-8133-6599-6. p.207

External links

See also


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