The Ratnaguna-samcayagatha

- being the verse summary of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8000 lines.

Homage to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas!
Thereupon the Lord, in order to gladden the four assemblies,
and to further lighten up this perfection of wisdom,
preached at the time the following verses:

Preliminary Admonition

Call forth as much as you can of love, of respect and of faith!
Remove the obstructing defilements, and clear away all your taints!
Listen to the Perfect Wisdom of the gentle Buddhas
Taught for the weal of the world, for heroic spirits intended!

The source of Subhuti’s Authority

The rivers of this Roseapple Island,
Which cause the flowers to grow, the fruits, the herbs and trees,
They all derive from the might of the king of the Nagäs,
From the dragon residing in Lake Anopatapta, his magical power.

Just so, whatever Dharmas the Jina’s disciples establish,
Whatever they teach, whatever adroitly explain -
Concerning the work of the holy which leads to the fullness of bliss,
And also the fruit of this work - it is the Tathagata’s doing.

For whatever the Jina has taught, the Guide to the Dharma,
His pupils, if genuine, have been well trained in it.
From direct experience, derived from their training, they teach it,
Their teaching stems from the might of the Buddhas, and not their own power.

The basic teachings

No wisdom can we get hold of, no highest perfection,
No Bodhisattva, no thought of enlightenment either.
When told of this, if not bewildered and in no way anxious,
A Bodhisattva courses in the Well-Gone’s wisdom.

In form, in feeling, will, perception and awareness
Nowhere in them they find a place to rest on.
Without a home they wander, dharmas never hold them,
Nor do they grasp at them - the Jina’s Bodhi they are bound to gain.

The wanderer Srenika in his gnosis of the truth
Could find no basis, though the skandhas had not been undone.
Just so the Bodhisattva, when he comprehends the dharmas as he should
Does not retire into blessed rest. In wisdom then he dwells.

What is this wisdom, whose and whence, he queries,
And the he finds that all these dharmas are entirely empty.
Uncowed and fearless in the face of that discovery
Not far from Bodhi then is that Bodhi-being.

To course in the skandhas, in form, in feeling, in perception,
Will and so on, and fail to consider them wisely;
Or to imagine these skandhas as being empty;
Means to course in the sign, the track of non-production ignored.

But when he does not course in form, in feeling, or perception,
In will or consciousness, but wanders without home,
Remaining unaware of coursing in firm wisdom,
His thoughts on non-production - then the best of all the claming trances cleaves to him.

Through that the Bodhisattva now dwells tranquil in himself,
His future Buddhahood assured by antecedent Buddhas.
Whether absorbed in trance, or whether outside it, he minds not.
For of things as they are he knows the essential original nature.

Coursing thus he courses in the wisdom of the Sugatas,
And yet he does not apprehend the dharmas in which he courses.
This coursing he wisely knows as a no-coursing,
That is his practice of wisdom, the highest perfection.

What exists not, that non-existent the foolish imagine;
Non-existence as well as existence they fashion.
As dharmic facts existence and non-existence are both not real.
A Bodhisattva goes forth when he wisely knows this.

If he knows the five skandhas as like an illusion,
But makes not illusion one thing, and the skandhas another;
If, freed from the notion of multiple things, he courses in peace -
Then that is his practice of wisdom, the highest perfection.

Those with good teachers as well as deep insight,
Cannot be frightened on hearing the Mother’s deep tenets.
But those with bad teachers, who cab be misled by others,
Are ruined thereby, as an unbaked pot when in contact with moisture.

Three key terms defined

What is the reason why we speak of ‘Bodhisattvas’?
Desirous to extinguish all attachment, and to cut it off,
True non-attachment, or the Bodhi of the Jinas is their future lot.
‘Beings who strive for Bodhi’ are they therefore called.

What is the reason why ‘Great Beings’ are so called?
They rise to the highest place above a great number of people;
And of a great number of people they cut off mistaken views.
That is why we come to speak of them as ‘Great Beings’.

Great as a giver, as a thinker, as a power,
He mounts upon the vessel of the Supreme Jinas.
Armed with the great armour he’ll subdue Mara the artful.
These are the reasons why ‘Great Beings’ are so called.

This gnosis shows him all beings as like an illusion,
Resembling a great crowd of people, conjured up at the crossroads,
By a magician, who then cuts off many thousands of heads;
He knows this whole living world as a mock show, and yet remains without fear.

Form, perception, feeling, will and awareness
Are ununited, never bound, cannot be freed.
Uncowed by his thought he marches onto his Bodhi,
That for the highest of men is the best of all armours.

What then is ‘the vessel that leads to Bodhi’?
Mounted upon it ones guides to Nirvana all beings.
Great is that vessel, immense, vast like the vastness of space.
Those who travel upon it are carried to safety, delight and ease.

The transcendental nature of Bodhisattvas

Thus transcending the world, he eludes our apprehensions.
‘He goes to Nirvana,’ but no one can say where he went to.
A fire’s extinguished, but where, do we ask, has it gone to?
Likewise, how can we find him who has found the Rest of the Blessed?

The Bodhisattva’s past, his future and his present must elude us,
Time’s three dimensions nowhere touch him.
Quite pure is he, free form conditions, unimpeded.
That is his practice of wisdom, highest perfection.

Wise Bodhisattvas, coursing thus, reflect on non-production,
And yet, while doing so, engender in themselves the great compassion,
Which is, however, free from any notion of a being.
Thereby they practice wisdom, the highest perfection.

When the notion of suffering and beings leads him to think:
‘Suffering I shall remove, the weal of the world I shall work!’
Beings are then imagined, a self is imagined, -
The practice of wisdom, the highest perfection, is lacking.

He wisely knows that all that lives is unproduced as he himself is;
He knows that all that is no more exists than he or any beings.
The unproduced and the produced are not distinquished,
That is the practice of wisdom, the highest perfection.

All words for things in use in this world must be left behind,
All things produced and made must be transcended -
The deathless, the supreme, incomparable gnosis is then won.
That is the sense in which we speak of perfect wisdom.

When free from doubts the Bodhisattva carries on his practice,
As skilled in wisdom he is known to dwell.
All dharmas are not really there, their essential original nature is empty,
To comprehend that is the practice of wisdom, perfection supreme.

Where Bodhisattvas Stand

He does not stand in form, perception or in feeling,
In will or consciousness, an any skandha whatsoever.
In Dharma’s true nature alone is he standing.
Then that is his practice of wisdom, the highest perfection.

Change or no change, suffering or ease, the self and the non-self,
The lovely and repulsive - just one Suchness in this emptiness they are.
And so he takes not his stand on the fruit which he won, which is threefold -
That of an Arhat, a Single Buddha, a Buddha fully enlightened.

The Leader himself was not stationed in the realm which is free from conditions,
Nor in the things which are under conditions, but freely he wandered without a home.
Just so, without support or a basis a Bodhisattva is standing.
A position devoid of a basis has that position been called by the Jina.

Wherein Boddhisttvas Train

Those who wish to become the Sugata’s Disciples,
Or Pratyekabuddhas, or likewise, Kings of the Dharma -
Without resort to this Patience they cannot reach their respective goals.
They move across, but their eyes are not on the other shore.

Those who teach dharma, and those who listen when it is being taught;
Those who have won the fruit of an Arhat, a Single Buddha, or a world-saviour;
And the Nirvana obtained by the wise and the learned -
Mere illusions, mere dreams - so has the Tathagata taught us.

Four kinds of person are not alarmed by this teaching:
Sons of the Jina skilled in the truths; saints unable to turn back,
Arhats free from defilements and taints, and rid of doubts;
Those whom good teachers mature are reckoned the fourth kind.

Coursing thus, the wise and learned Bodhisattva,
Trains not for the Arhatship, nor on the level of the Pratyekabuddhas.
In the Buddha-dharma alone he trains for the sake of all-knowledge.
No training is his training, and no-one is trained in this training.

Increase or decrease of forms is not the aim of this training,
nor does it set out to acquire various dharmas.
All-knowledge alone he can hope to acquire by this training.
To that he goes forth when he trains in this training, and delights in it’s virtues.

The Facts of Existence

Forms are not wisdom, nor is wisdom found in from,
In consciousness, perceptions feeling or in will.
They are not wisdom, and no wisdom is in them.
Like space it is, without break or crack.

Of all objective supports the essential original nature is boundless;
Of beings likewise the essential original nature is boundless.
As the essential original nature of space has no limits’
Just so the wisdom of the World-knowers is boundless.

‘Perceptions’ - mere words, so Leaders have told us;
Perceptions forsaken and gone, and the door is open to the beyond.
Those who succeed in ridding themselves of perceptions,
They, having reached the Beyond, fulfil the Teacher’s commandments.

If for aeons countless as the sands of the Ganges
The Leader would himself continue to pronounce the word ‘being’:
Still, pure from the very start, no being could ever result from his speaking.
That is the practice of wisdom, the highest perfection.


And so the Jina concludes his preaching, and finally tells us:
‘When all I said and did at last agreed with perfect wisdom,
Then this prediction I received from Him who went before me:
"Fully enlightened, at a future time thou shalt a Buddha be!"

From The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines and its Verse Summary, trans. Edward Conze, Four Seasons Foundation, San Francisco 1983, pp.9-14