The Perfection of Wisdom in Eighteen Thousand Lines
Chapter 4: Equal to the Unequaled
Degé Kangyur, vol. 29 (shes phyin, ka), folios 1.a–300.a; vol. 30 (shes phyin, kha), folios 1.a–304.a; vol. 31 (shes phyin, ga), folios 1.a–206.a
Translated by Gareth Sparham
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
First published 2022
Current version v 1.0.13 (2022)
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The Perfection of Wisdom in Eighteen Thousand Lines is one version of the Long Perfection of Wisdom sūtras that developed in South and South-Central Asia in tandem with the Eight Thousand version, probably during the first five hundred years of the Common Era. It contains many of the passages in the oldest extant Long Perfection of Wisdom text (the Gilgit manuscript in Sanskrit), and is similar in structure to the other versions of the Long Perfection of Wisdom sūtras (the One Hundred Thousand and Twenty-Five Thousand) in Tibetan in the Kangyur. While setting forth the sacred fundamental doctrines of Buddhist practice with veneration, it simultaneously exhorts the reader to reject them as an object of attachment, its recurring message being that all dharmas without exception lack any intrinsic nature.
The sūtra can be divided loosely into three parts: an introductory section that sets the scene, a long central section, and three concluding chapters that consist of two important summaries of the long central section. The first of these (chapter 84) is in verse and also circulates as a separate work called The Verse Summary of the Jewel Qualities (Toh 13). The second summary is in the form of the story of Sadāprarudita and his guru Dharmodgata (chapters 85 and 86), after which the text concludes with the Buddha entrusting the work to his close companion Ānanda.
This sūtra was translated by Gareth Sparham under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The Translator’s Acknowledgments
This is a good occasion to remember and thank my friend Nicholas Ribush, who first gave me a copy of Edward Conze’s translation of The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines in 1973. I also thank the Tibetan teachers and students at the Riklam Lobdra in Dharamshala, India, where I began to study the Perfection of Wisdom, for their kindness and patience; Jeffrey Hopkins and Elizabeth Napper, who steered me in the direction of the Perfection of Wisdom and have been very kind to me over the years; and Ashok Aklujkar and others at the University of British Columbia in Canada, who taught me Sanskrit and Indian culture while I was writing my dissertation on Haribhadra’s Perfection of Wisdom commentary. I thank the hermits in the hills above Riklam Lobdra and the many Tibetan scholars and practitioners who encouraged me while I continued working on the Perfection of Wisdom after I graduated from the University of British Columbia. I thank all those who continued to support me as a monk and scholar after the violent death of my friend and mentor toward the end of the millennium. I thank those at the University of Michigan and then at the University of California (Berkeley), particularly Donald Lopez and Jacob Dalton, who enabled me to complete the set of four volumes of translations from Sanskrit of the Perfection of Wisdom commentaries by Haribhadra and Āryavimuktisena and four volumes of the fourteenth-century Tibetan commentary on the Perfection of Wisdom by Tsongkhapa. I thank Gene Smith, who introduced me to 84000. I thank everyone at 84000: Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and the sponsors; the scholars, translators, editors, and technicians; and all the other indispensable people whose work has made this translation of The Perfection of Wisdom in Eighteen Thousand Lines and its accompanying commentary possible.
Around me everything I see would be part of a perfect road if I had better driving skills.Where I was born, where everything is made of concrete, it too is a perfect place.Everyone I have been with, everyone who is near me now, and even those I have forgotten—there is no one who has not helped me.So, I bow to everyone and to the world and ask for patience, and, as a boon, a smile.
Acknowledgment of Sponsors
We gratefully acknowledge the generous sponsorship of Matthew Yizhen Kong, Steven Ye Kong and family; An Zhang, Hannah Zhang, Lucas Zhang, Aiden Zhang, Jinglan Chi, Jingcan Chi, Jinghui Chi and family, Hong Zhang and family; Mao Guirong, Zhang Yikun, Chi Linlin; and Joseph Tse, Patricia Tse and family. Their support has helped make the work on this translation possible.
Chapter 4: Equal to the Unequaled
Then venerable Śāriputra, venerable Mahāmaudgalyāyana, venerable Subhūti, venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaṇīputra, and venerable Mahākāśyapa, as well as other monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen celebrated for the state of their clairvoyance, and very many bodhisattva great beings said to the Lord, “This, Lord—that is, the perfection of wisdom—is the great perfection of bodhisattva great beings. This perfection of wisdom, Lord, is the vast perfection of bodhisattva great beings. This perfection of wisdom, Lord, is the highest perfection of bodhisattva great beings. It is the special perfection, it is the best perfection, it is the superb perfection, it is the sublime [F.54.b] perfection, it is the unsurpassed perfection, it is the unrivaled perfection, it is the unequaled perfection, it is the perfection equal to the unequaled, it is the calm and gentle perfection, it is the matchless perfection, it is the perfection for which no example does justice, it is the space-like perfection, it is the perfection of the emptiness of particular defining marks, it is the perfection endowed with all good qualities. This, Lord—that is, the perfection of wisdom—is the uncrushable perfection of bodhisattva great beings.
“Lord, bodhisattva great beings practicing in this perfection of wisdom have bestowed a gift equal to the unequaled. They have fulfilled the perfection of giving equal to the unequaled. They have obtained a body equal to the unequaled. And they will obtain this, namely, the dharmas of unsurpassed, perfect, complete awakening equal to the unequaled.
“Similarly with morality, patience, perseverance, and concentration, and they have developed wisdom equal to the unequaled.108 They have obtained a body equal to the unequaled. And they will obtain this, namely, the dharmas of unsurpassed, perfect, complete awakening equal to the unequaled.
“The Lord, too, practicing this very perfection of wisdom came to acquire a form equal to the unequaled; and he came to acquire feeling, perception, and volitional factors equal to the unequaled, and consciousness [F.55.a] equal to the unequaled. He fully awakened to an awakening equal to the unequaled. He turned the wheel of the Dharma equal to the unequaled. Similarly, past, future, and present buddhas, having practiced this very perfection of wisdom, have fully awakened, will fully awaken, and are awakening to unsurpassed, perfect, complete awakening. Therefore, Lord, bodhisattva great beings who want to perfect all dharmas should make an effort at the perfection of wisdom. Lord, the world with its gods, humans, and asuras rightly bows down to any bodhisattva great being who has practiced in this perfection of wisdom.”
Those great śrāvakas having spoken thus, the Lord said to them, and to those very many bodhisattva great beings, “Exactly so, children of a good family, exactly so. It is just as you say.109 The world with its gods, humans, and asuras rightly bows down to any bodhisattva great being who practices this perfection of wisdom. Śāriputra, it is thanks to bodhisattva great beings that the human realm appears in the world and that the realm of gods appears in the world. Similarly, that great sāla tree–like royal families, great sāla tree–like brahmin families, great sāla tree–like business families, and wheel-turning emperors; the Cāturmahārājika gods; the Trāyastriṃśa, Yāma, Tuṣita, Nirmāṇarati, [F.55.b] Paranirmitavaśavartin, Brahmapurohita, Brahmakāyika, Brahmapārṣadya, Parīttābha, Apramāṇābha, Ābhāsvara, Parīttaśubha, Apramāṇaśubha, Śubhakṛtsna, Bṛhatphala, Asaṃjñisattva, and Śuddhāvāsa—Avṛha, Sudarśana, Sudṛśa, Atapa, and Akaniṣṭha—gods; and the gods in the Ākāśānantyāyatana, in the Vijñānānantyāyatana, in the Ākiṃcityāyatana, and in the Naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatana appear in the world, and that stream enterers appear in the world, and that once-returners, non-returners, worthy ones, pratyekabuddhas, bodhisattvas, and tathāgatas, worthy ones, perfectly complete buddhas appear in the world. Śāriputra, it is thanks to bodhisattva great beings that the Three Jewels appear in this world, and that ordinary requirements for sustaining oneself—food, drink, beds and seats, and medicines for sicknesses, tools, gems, pearls, beryl, conch shells, crystals, corals, silver, and gold—appear in the world. Śāriputra, all the requirements for all the happiness of gods and humans, the happiness of existence, and the happiness of nirvāṇa, they all, Śāriputra, appear in the world thanks to bodhisattva great beings. And why? Because bodhisattvas practicing the bodhisattva practice, standing in the six perfections, personally give gifts and connect others with giving as well, personally protect morality and connect others with morality, personally develop patience and connect others [F.56.a] with patience, personally work hard at perseverance and connect others with perseverance, personally produce concentration and connect others with concentration, and personally develop wisdom and connect others with wisdom. Thereby, Śāriputra, bodhisattva great beings have set forth for the benefit and happiness of all beings.”
This was the fourth chapter, “Equal to the Unequaled,” of “The Perfection of Wisdom in Eighteen Thousand Lines.” [B5]