The Perfection of Wisdom in Eighteen Thousand Lines
Chapter 74: Exposition of the Sameness of Dharmas
- 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.
“Subhūti, to illustrate, a magical creation has nothing to do with greed, hatred, and confusion; it has nothing to do with form, up to it has nothing to do with consciousness; and similarly, it has nothing to do with inner and outer dharmas, has nothing to do with bad proclivities and obsessions, has nothing to do with dharmas with outflows and without outflows, and has nothing to do with ordinary and extraordinary dharmas, those shared in common and not shared in common, or those that are compounded and uncompounded; and it has nothing to do with the path and has nothing to do with the results. To have realized well what marks the dharmas as being dharmas is like that.”
“No, Lord. Lord, there is no existent thing apprehended in a tathāgata’s magical creation thanks to which it is defiled and is purified; there is no existent thing in the five forms of life in saṃsāra.” [F.88.b]
Then venerable Subhūti asked the Lord, “Lord, is all form like a tathāgata’s magical creation? Are all feeling, all perception, all volitional factors, and all consciousness like a tathāgata’s magical creation?”
“Lord, if all are like a tathāgata’s magical creation, and if a magical creation has no form, has no feeling, perception, volitional factors, and consciousness, and has no defilement or purification, and if the five forms of life in saṃsāra from which beings will be liberated do not exist, how is there going to be a bodhisattva great being’s personal heroic power?”
“What do you think, Subhūti,” asked the Lord, “earlier when bodhisattva great beings practiced the bodhisattva’s practice, did they apprehend any being to be liberated from hell, or the animal world, or the world of Yama, or from being a human or a god?”
“Exactly so, Subhūti, exactly so! Bodhisattva great beings do not apprehend any being to be liberated from the three realms. And why? Because they know, see, and are aware that all phenomena are [F.89.a] like an illusion and are like a magical creation.”
“Lord, if bodhisattva great beings know, see, and are aware that all phenomena are like an illusion and are like a magical creation, then for whose sake do they practice the six perfections, four concentrations, four immeasurables, four formless absorptions, thirty-seven dharmas on the side of awakening, and path to awakening; purify a buddhafield; and bring beings to maturity?”
Venerable Subhūti having asked this, the Lord said to him, “Subhūti, if, just on their own, beings knew that all dharmas are like a dream and are like a magical creation, then bodhisattva great beings would not practice the bodhisattva’s practice for the sake of beings for incalculable eons either. But, Subhūti, beings do not know that all dharmas are like an illusion and are like a magical creation just on their own, so bodhisattva great beings, practicing the six perfections, bring beings to maturity and purify a buddhafield.”
Then venerable Subhūti asked the Lord, “Lord, if all phenomena are like a dream, like an apparition, like an illusion, like a mirage, and like a magical creation, where are beings such that by practicing the perfection of wisdom bodhisattva great beings cause them to advance beyond that location?”
“Subhūti,” replied the Lord, “beings are located in unreal names and causal signs, so, practicing the perfection of wisdom, bodhisattva great beings cause them to advance beyond names and causal signs.” [F.89.b]
The Lord said, “Subhūti, these—namely, name and causal sign—are names plucked out of thin air. And these—namely, name or causal sign, or form, or . . . , up to consciousness, or woman, or man, or boy, or girl, or hell, or animal world, or world of Yama, or god, or human, or compounded dharma, or uncompounded dharma, or result of stream enterer, or result of once-returner, or result of non-returner, or state of a worthy one, or pratyekabuddha’s awakening, or unsurpassed, perfect, complete awakening—are made-up name designations. Subhūti, the basic nature of all dharmas is name because they point somewhere.810 All compounded phenomena are just mere names. Simple, ordinary folk are attached to them, so bodhisattva great beings practicing the perfection of wisdom dissuade them with skillful means, saying, ‘You should not get attached to this word that has arisen when there is false imagination of the unreal, on account of false imagination, and which is empty of an intrinsic nature and without any real basis. The learned do not settle down on empty dharmas.’ Subhūti, that is how bodhisattva great beings practicing the perfection of wisdom with skillful means teach the Dharma to beings.
“What, Subhūti, is a causal sign? Subhūti, that to which simple, ordinary folk become attached is a causal sign. There are two. Which two? They are the causal sign of form [F.90.a] and the causal sign of the formless.
“Subhūti, what is the causal sign of form? Subhūti, here, given that all these dharmas are momentary, when there is grasping of any gross or subtle or exemplary or vile form at all through false imagination, that is said to be the causal sign of form.