The Perfection of Wisdom in Eighteen Thousand Lines
Chapter 78: Teaching the Skillful Means for 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.
“Lord, are bodhisattva great beings [F.128.b] who have produced the first thought destined [to be in the buddha group], or are those who are irreversible from awakening destined, or are those who are in a last existence destined?”
“No, Subhūti. Subhūti, bodhisattva great beings who have become destined do not take birth in terrible forms of life. What do you think, Subhūti, does the Aṣṭamaka, or stream enterer, or once-returner, or non-returner, or worthy one, or pratyekabuddha take birth in terrible forms of life?”
“Similarly, Subhūti, bodhisattva great beings who have become destined also do not take birth in terrible forms of life. Subhūti, it is impossible that bodhisattva great beings who, starting from the first production of the thought, give gifts, guard morality, make a practice of being patient, make a vigorous effort, become absorbed in meditative stabilization, cultivate wisdom, cultivate love, compassion, joy, and equanimity toward all beings, and remain in order to eliminate all unwholesome dharmas would take birth in terrible forms of life. It is impossible that they would take birth among the long-lived gods. It is impossible that they would take birth in areas where the wholesome dharmas are practiced incorrectly or with a sheep-like obtuseness. It is impossible that they would take birth in areas where there are robbers and barbarians, at the outer limits of society. It is impossible that they would take birth in families with wrong views. [F.129.a] It is impossible that they would take birth where there is no word Buddha, no word Dharma, and no word Saṅgha. It is impossible that they would take birth where they follow the view that action has no consequences. It is also impossible, Subhūti, that bodhisattva great beings, having set out from the first production of the thought for unsurpassed, perfect, complete awakening with a surpassing aspiration, would ply the ten unwholesome actions.”
The Lord having said that, venerable Subhūti asked him, “Lord, if bodhisattva great beings with such wholesome roots do not take birth in those places—namely, the negative ones—then where were those wholesome roots when the Tathāgata took birth in the animal world, as you personally have taught in your birth stories?”