The Perfection of Wisdom in Eighteen Thousand Lines
Chapter 77: Teaching the Purification of a Buddhafield
- Yeshé Dé
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
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 the Lord, understanding in his mind the thoughts occurring to Subhūti, said to Subhūti, “Subhūti, the six perfections are the path of the bodhisattva great beings; the thirty-seven dharmas on the side of awakening are the path of the bodhisattva great beings; and the fourteen emptinesses, nine serial absorptions, eight deliverances, ten tathāgata powers, and eighteen distinct attributes of a buddha are the path of the bodhisattva great beings. Furthermore, Subhūti, all dharmas are the path of the bodhisattva great beings.
“What do you think, Subhūti, is there a dharma in which bodhisattva great beings do not train, without training in which they will fully awaken to unsurpassed, perfect, complete awakening? Subhūti, there is no dharma in which bodhisattva great beings do not train, because without training in all dharmas, bodhisattva great beings are not able to reach the knowledge of all aspects.”
Then venerable Subhūti asked the Lord, “Lord, if all dharmas are empty, how will bodhisattva great beings train in all dharmas? Lord, if they say ‘there are this many,’ [F.121.a] or ‘they are these,’ or that these dharmas are ordinary or extraordinary, or with outflows or without outflows, or compounded or uncompounded, or the dharmas of ordinary people, or worthy one dharmas, or pratyekabuddha dharmas, have they elaborated on what cannot be elaborated, or else are they not one?”
Venerable Subhūti having asked that, the Lord said to him, “Exactly so, Subhūti, exactly so! All dharmas are empty. Subhūti, were all dharmas not to be empty, bodhisattva great beings would not fully awaken to unsurpassed, perfect, complete awakening. But, Subhūti, all dharmas are empty, so bodhisattva great beings do fully awaken to unsurpassed, perfect, complete awakening.
“Again, Subhūti, in regard to what you have asked—‘if all dharmas are empty, how will bodhisattva great beings make distinctions between all dharmas such as “there are this many,” or “they are these,” up to or the dharmas of ordinary people, or worthy one dharmas, or pratyekabuddha dharmas?’—Subhūti, were these ordinary beings to know ‘all dharmas are empty,’ then since they would know, bodhisattva great beings would not, having trained in all dharmas, reach the knowledge of all aspects.828 But, Subhūti, these beings do not know ‘all dharmas are empty,’ so bodhisattva great beings, having fully awakened to unsurpassed, perfect, complete awakening, make a presentation of all dharmas and teach [F.121.b] the doctrine to beings.
“Subhūti, there, right from the beginning, bodhisattva great beings practicing the awakening path should reflect deeply on the fact that here, except for its being an enactment, there is no dharma at all that can be apprehended through its own intrinsic nature. And when they thus reflect deeply on the nature of those dharmas, they do not settle down on the perfections, or the thirty-seven dharmas on the side of awakening, or the result of stream enterer, or the result of once-returner, or the result of non-returner, or the state of a worthy one, or a pratyekabuddha’s awakening, or unsurpassed, perfect, complete awakening, or any dharma at all. And why? Because all dharmas are empty of an intrinsic nature of all dharmas, so emptiness does not settle down on emptiness. And when even emptiness cannot be apprehended, what need is there to say more about emptiness settling down on emptiness?
“Subhūti, bodhisattva great beings thus abide without settling down on all dharmas. Standing in that training they think, ‘What are these beings doing?’, and looking at what all beings are doing, think, ‘They are grasping at nonexistence.’ It then occurs to the bodhisattva great beings to think, ‘Oh! I will free these beings well from grasping at the unreal.’ So, standing with skillful means in the perfection of wisdom, they give them advice: ‘Come here, all of you! Give gifts, and through that you will get richer and richer. But do not project a sense of false superiority because of those riches. They are totally worthless.’ Similarly, they advise them to guard morality but not project a sense of false superiority because of that morality: ‘It too is totally worthless.’ [F.122.a] Similarly patience, similarly perseverance, similarly concentration, and similarly̛, they advise them to cultivate wisdom but not project a sense of false superiority because of that wisdom: ‘It is totally worthless.’ Similarly, they advise them to meditate on the result of stream enterer, similarly the result of once-returner, similarly the result of non-returner, similarly the state of a worthy one, similarly a pratyekabuddha’s awakening, and similarly, up to all buddhadharmas: ‘But do not project a sense of false superiority because of those dharmas. They too are totally worthless.’