- being the verse summary of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8000
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
Call forth as much as you can of love, of respect and of
Remove the obstructing defilements, and clear away all your
Listen to the Perfect Wisdom of the gentle Buddhas
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,
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,
pupils, if genuine, have been well trained in it.
experience, derived from their training, they teach it,
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 thought of enlightenment either.
When told of this, if not
bewildered and in no way anxious,
A Bodhisattva courses in the
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
Nor do they grasp at them - the Jina’s Bodhi they are bound
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
To course in the skandhas, in form, in feeling, in perception,
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
But when he does not course in form, in feeling, or perception,
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,
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
What exists not, that non-existent the foolish
Non-existence as well as existence they fashion.
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,
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’?
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
This gnosis shows him all beings as like an illusion,
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
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.
to Nirvana,’ but no one can say where he went to.
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
Time’s three dimensions nowhere touch him.
Quite pure is he,
free form conditions, unimpeded.
That is his practice of wisdom,
Wise Bodhisattvas, coursing thus, reflect on non-production,
yet, while doing so, engender in themselves the great compassion,
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
‘Suffering I shall remove, the weal of the world I shall
Beings are then imagined, a self is imagined, -
of wisdom, the highest perfection, is lacking.
He wisely knows that all that lives is unproduced as he himself
He knows that all that is no more exists than he or any
The unproduced and the produced are not distinquished,
is the practice of wisdom, the highest perfection.
All words for things in use in this world must be left behind,
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,
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
Change or no change, suffering or ease, the self and the
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
The Leader himself was not stationed in the realm which is free from
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 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
Those who have won the fruit of an Arhat, a Single Buddha, or a
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,
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.
Buddha-dharma alone he trains for the sake of all-knowledge.
training is his training, and no-one is trained in this training.
Increase or decrease of forms is not the aim of this training,
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,
perceptions feeling or in will.
They are not wisdom, and no wisdom is
Like space it is, without break or crack.
Of all objective supports the essential original nature is
Of beings likewise the essential original nature is
As the essential original nature of space has no
Just so the wisdom of the World-knowers is boundless.
‘Perceptions’ - mere words, so Leaders have told us;
forsaken and gone, and the door is open to the beyond.
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:
all I said and did at last agreed with perfect wisdom,
prediction I received from Him who went before me:
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