The Perfection of Wisdom in Eighteen Thousand Lines
Chapter 5: Tongue
- Yeshé Dé
Degé Kangyur, vol. 29 (shes phyin, khri brgyad, ka), folios 1.a–300.a; vol. 30 (shes phyin, khri brgyad, kha), folios 1.a–304.a; vol. 31 (shes phyin, khri brgyad, ga), folios 1.a–206.a
Translated by Gareth Sparham
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
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.
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.
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.
Then at that time the Lord extended his tongue and with it covered the great billionfold world system. Then from his tongue light beams of many colors, various colors, issued forth. Having issued forth, a great illumination spread through as many world systems as there are sand particles in the Gaṅgā River to the east. Similarly, a great illumination spread through as many world systems as there are sand particles in the Gaṅgā River to the south, west, and north, in the intermediate directions to the northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest, below and above.
Then those infinite countless bodhisattva great beings in as many world systems as there are sand particles in the Gaṅgā River to the east saw that array of light and asked the lord buddhas of each of their respective buddhafields, “Lord, through whose power has such a great illumination spread through these worlds like this?”
Those lord buddhas said to those bodhisattva great beings, “In the western direction, O children of a good family, there is a world system called Sahā. There the tathāgata, the worthy one, the perfectly [F.56.b] complete buddha Śākyamuni has extended his tongue in order to demonstrate the perfection of wisdom to the bodhisattva great beings, causing this great illumination to pervade as many world systems as there are sand particles in the Gaṅgā River in each of the ten directions.”
Connect this in the same way with as many world systems as there are sand particles in the Gaṅgā River in the south, west, and north, below, and above, up to in all the ten directions in the same way.
The bodhisattva great beings then said to those lord buddhas, “Lord, we will also go to that Sahā world system to see, salute, and honor that tathāgata, worthy one, perfectly complete buddha Śākyamuni, to see those bodhisattva great beings who have gathered from the ten directions, and to listen to the perfection of wisdom.”
Those lord buddhas replied, “Go then, you children of a good family, if you feel that now is the right time.”
Those bodhisattva great beings then bowed their heads to the feet of those tathāgatas, worthy ones, perfectly complete buddhas, circumambulated them seven times, and, carrying many parasols, flags, and banners, flowers, garlands, incense, creams, powders, and robes, and gold flowers and silver flowers, proceeded toward the tathāgata, worthy one, perfectly complete buddha Śākyamuni with a great chorus produced by a marching band with instruments and drums112 from the ten directions.
Then the Cāturmahārājika gods, up to the Akaniṣṭha gods, took [F.57.a] celestial flowers, garlands, incense, creams, and powders; celestial blue lotus, lotus, red lotus, white lotus, mandārava, big mandārava, and nāgavṛkṣa flowers; and tamāla leaves and approached the tathāgata, worthy one, perfectly complete buddha Śākyamuni. Then those bodhisattva great beings and those gods strewed near, strewed in front, and strewed flowers all around the body of the tathāgata, worthy one, perfectly complete buddha Śākyamuni those flowers, garlands, incenses, creams, powders, robes, parasols, flags, and banners.
Those flowers and so on then rose up and stayed there suspended in the sky over the great billionfold world system—a second floor of flowers, square with four corners and four pillars, equidimensional, and perfectly proportioned, delightful and pleasing to the mind.
Then from that retinue hundreds of thousands of a hundred million billion beings rose from their seats, cupped their palms together in a gesture of supplication to the Lord, bowed forward to him, and said to the Lord, “Lord, in a future time may we too obtain just such attributes as the tathāgata, worthy one, perfect, complete Buddha has acquired; may we impart moral instructions113 to the śrāvaka community just as the Tathāgata teaches today; and may we teach the Dharma to just this sort of retinue.”114
Then the Lord, aware of the aspiration of those children of a good family, and aware of their forbearance for all dharmas that are not produced,115 do not occasion anything, and do not appear, smiled. [F.57.b]
“Ānanda,” replied the Lord, “from this retinue a hundred thousand one hundred million billion beings have gained forbearance for dharmas that are not produced. In a future time in sixty four ten millions eons,116 during the Puṣpākara eon they will arise in the world as tathāgatas, worthy ones, perfectly complete buddhas called Bodhyaṅgapuṣpa.”
This was the fifth chapter, “Tongue,” of “The Perfection of Wisdom in Eighteen Thousand Lines.”117