The Perfection of Wisdom in Eighteen Thousand Lines
Chapter 66: A Demonstration of Skillful Means
- 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 venerable Subhūti inquired of the Lord, “Lord, bodhisattva great beings who do not attend on the lord buddhas, do not plant wholesome roots, and are not looked after by spiritual friends—those bodhisattva great beings would not gain the knowledge of all aspects, would they?”
“Subhūti,” replied the Lord, “bodhisattva great beings who have not attended on the lord buddhas, have not planted wholesome roots, and have not been looked after by spiritual friends would not gain the knowledge of all aspects. And why? Even bodhisattva great beings who have attended on the lord buddhas, have planted wholesome roots, and have been looked after by spiritual friends will not be able to gain the knowledge of all aspects, never mind bodhisattva great beings who have not attended on the lord buddhas, have not planted wholesome roots, and have not been looked after by spiritual friends. It is impossible that they will gain the knowledge of all aspects. Therefore, Subhūti, bodhisattva great beings [F.24.a] should attend on the lord buddhas, plant wholesome roots, and rely on spiritual friends.”
“It is because of being separated from skillful means. It is because they have not heard that method from those lord buddhas and have not planted wholesome roots and not relied on those spiritual friends who are the spiritual friends that would teach them that method.”
Venerable Subhūti having asked that, the Lord said to him, “Subhūti, here, starting from the production of the first thought, when bodhisattva great beings practice the perfection of giving they give gifts to the lord buddhas, the pratyekabuddhas and śrāvakas, and to those in human form and nonhuman form, with attention connected to the knowledge of all aspects. But, endowed with attention connected to the knowledge of all aspects, they do not entertain the notion that giving is giving, do not entertain the notion that the recipient is a recipient, and do not entertain the notion that the giver is a giver. And why? Because they see all dharmas as empty of their own mark, as not thoroughly established, and as not having come into being. They enter into the mark that marks all dharmas as dharmas, entering into all dharmas marked as being without the capacity to function and not occasioning anything. [F.24.b] Endowed with those skillful means they grow and flourish on wholesome roots; growing and flourishing on wholesome roots, they practice the perfection of giving; and practicing the perfection of giving they bring beings to maturity and purify a buddhafield, but without hoping for a result from giving—a result from giving that they would enjoy in saṃsāra. On the contrary, they practice the perfection of giving in order to protect beings and in order to liberate beings.”
This was the sixty-sixth chapter, “A Demonstration of Skillful Means,” of “The Perfection of Wisdom in Eighteen Thousand Lines.”