The Long Explanation of the Noble Perfection of Wisdom in One Hundred Thousand, Twenty-Five Thousand, and Eighteen Thousand Lines
Explanation of the Detailed Teaching
- Daṃṣṭrasena (Diṣṭasena)?
- Yeshé Dé
Degé Tengyur, vol. 93 (sher phyin, pha), folios 1.b–292.b
Translated by Gareth Sparham
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The Long Explanation of the Noble Perfection of Wisdom in One Hundred Thousand, Twenty-Five Thousand, and Eighteen Thousand Lines is a detailed explanation of the Long Perfection of Wisdom sūtras, presenting a structural framework for them that is relatively easy to understand in comparison to most other commentaries based on Maitreya-Asaṅga’s Ornament for the Clear Realizations. After a detailed, word-by-word explanation of the introductory chapter common to all three sūtras, it explains the structure they also all share in terms of the three approaches or “gateways”—brief, intermediate, and detailed—ending with an explanation of the passage known as the “Maitreya chapter” found only in the Eighteen Thousand Line and Twenty-Five Thousand Line sūtras. It goes by many different titles, and its authorship has never been conclusively determined, some Tibetans believing it to be by Vasubandhu, and others that it is by Daṃṣṭrāsena.
This commentary was translated by Gareth Sparham under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
I thank the late Gene Smith, who initially encouraged me to undertake this work, and I thank all of those at 84000—Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, the sponsors, and the scholars, translators, editors, and technicians—and all the other indispensable people whose work has made this translation possible.
I thank all the faculty and graduate students in the Group in Buddhist Studies at Berkeley, and Jan Nattier, whose seminars on the Perfection of Wisdom were particularly helpful. At an early stage, Paul Harrison and Ulrich Pagel arranged for me to see a copy of an unpublished Sanskrit manuscript of a sūtra cited in Bṭ3. I thank them for that assistance.
I also take this opportunity to thank the abbot of Drepung Gomang monastery, Losang Gyaltsen, and the retired director of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, Kalsang Damdul, for listening to some of my questions and giving learned and insightful responses.
Finally, I acknowledge the kindness of my mother, Ann Sparham, who recently passed away in her one hundredth year, and my wife Janet Seding.
We gratefully acknowledge the generous sponsorship of Kelvin Lee, Doris Lim, Chang Chen Hsien, Lim Cheng Cheng, Ng Ah Chon and family, Lee Hoi Lang and family, the late Lee Tiang Chuan, and the late Chang Koo Cheng. Their support has helped make the work on this translation possible.
Thus, first of all, along with a teaching of miraculous powers and along with a teaching of the results, the intermediate explanation of the perfection of wisdom has been completed. As explained,1078 the Tathāgata in this perfection of wisdom1079 gives a threefold teaching: brief, middling, and detailed. Of them, the teaching in brief and middling modes based on trainees is finished.
From here on, having brought unmatured trainees to maturity by removing doubts that have arisen, a detailed teaching in two parts, divided into the conventional and ultimate modes, causes those who have been brought to maturity to realize the meaning of true reality.
and so on. Why is it also teaching that they are all assembled on the occasion of a discourse powered by the Tathāgata?
You should know that this teaching of the perfection of wisdom is unprecedented, so there has to be a brief teaching about the retinue assembling, as a prior indicator that there is going to be an unprecedented teaching of the Dharma. Also, the show of light where he demonstrates emitting light rays and arraying light is done as a prior indicator that there is going to be an explanation of the Dharma.
The answers to these three questions are explained below.
There, previously, taking the knowledge of all aspects as the point of departure, it gave a middle-length explanation based on the nonconceptual perfection of wisdom. Here, taking the knowledge of path aspects as the point of departure, it teaches the conceptual and nonconceptual perfection of wisdom that is the practice of bodhisattvas.
Take this as saying that those fixed in a state of error are, for the time being, without good fortune.
If they hear this explanation it will not be in vain, because a scripture says, “On the other side of infinite, countless thousands of hundreds of one hundred million billion eons they will enter into buddhahood.”
and so on. This is the middle of the three questions but is being taught here first because if it is taught thus, it is easier to understand.
Even though it is true that this perfection of wisdom is the all-knowledge side for the śrāvaka and pratyekabuddha levels and the knowledge of path aspects side for the bodhisattva levels, here in this knowledge of path aspects that has to be taught to a bodhisattva who wants to attain the knowledge of all aspects there are both.
There, in regard to the all-knowledge side, you should know that
In regard to the knowledge of path aspects side, it teaches that, with the nonapprehending attentions to the
“the distinct attributes,” P25k
and so on.
because what has not come into being comes into being, and what has come into being becomes nonexistent. They are
because they have as their nature the three sufferings and because they become a cause for the suffering of others. They are
because, since they are without any agency and so on, they do not have their own defining mark. They are
like the trunk1086 of a plantain tree because they are hollow inside, and hence empty of an inner self. They are a
because like a disease they require many conditions for a cure and are the root of physical and mental suffering. They are a
because like a boil they oppress with obsession, drip with the pus of the afflictions, and gradually swell up, ripen, and burst with birth, old age, and death. They are a
because like a thorn they pierce with inner and outer trouble and are hard to treat. They are a
because like the wicked they are to be criticized and they become oppressive. They are
because they labor in the face of conditions and they labor in the work of ‘making it mine,’ so they have no agency except from others. They are
they are thoroughly destroyed by sickness, old age, and death. They are
because it is in their inner nature to be destroyed and because they are destroyed by something harming them. They are
because “the absence of hazards”1087 is peace, is pleasure, and is the antidote, and they are the cause of all fears. They are
because even when they are not felt, they persecute in various harmful ways. They are
because they hurt in many ways like a nagging demon1088 and a headache.
and so on, construe them as “selfless” because they are devoid of the mark of a self; “calm” because all suffering is calmed;
because they are without afflictions;
because they are endowed with the emptiness of a self and what belongs to a self;
because they are without all the causal signs of compounded phenomena;
because they do not wish for anything in the three realms; and a
because karma does not bring anything about later.
and so on—“putting together” is paying attention to the thought of awakening, the thought of the wholesome root, and the thought of dedication touching each other. They
when they pay attention to the meaning that has already been explained that all three are “inconceivable because they are not thought, not thought because they are inconceivable.”1090
completely. This is the fourth detailed and thorough analysis of all the dharmas as selfless.
What does this teach?
Earlier bodhisattvas, having made a dedication in general with conventional attention—”I dedicate these wholesome roots [F.175.b] to unsurpassed, perfect, complete awakening”—after having made an examination in the ultimate mode, since the thought of the wholesome root, the thought of awakening, and the thought of dedication do not touch1092 each other, they examine whether, since they do not touch, dedication exists or not.
Here some say the thoughts have not touched, but still a specific volitional factor produced through the force of an earlier thought, simultaneous with the later thought, does touch, so all the volitional factors become complete in the final thought of all. In this way, therefore, thoughts have touched.
To eliminate that, it says
and so on. It means that thought is not in the other thought, by way of a volitional factor left as a residual impression and so on. It says this because having thus taught that the actual thought does not exist, there is no volitional factor left as a residual impression and so on, like an entity that is the sharpness or dullness of a rabbit’s horn.
and so on. This is because when it is seen as just suchness there is no such investigation.
and so on, teaches that it is just mere suchness. From the perspective of its own true dharmic nature, thought is free from falsely imagined thought so the intrinsic nature that is the nonexistence of thought comes to be known as the true dharmic nature of thought.
and so on.1095 This is teaching that other than what comes to be known as the true dharmic nature of thought, no touching or existing or dedication comes to be known in any way at all. At that time [F.176.a] it is a self-reflexive analytic knowledge beyond the path of the conceivable, hence it is
means it is nonconceptual wisdom that has gone to the other side.
Thus, conventionally they are “analytically investigating all phenomena,” but ultimately “not settling down on and not apprehending any phenomenon.”
teach? It teaches that earlier when our Lord was in the form of a bodhisattva, the great śrāvakas in the retinue of earlier tathāgatas taught him with advice and instruction, inspiring him to take it up, and inspiring him to perfectly practice what he had found. Having gradually accomplished their teaching he became completely awakened. Therefore, they too, by advising and instructing these bodhisattvas in this retinue, will establish them in perfect practice. When they have gradually accomplished that earlier teaching, they will become completely awakened. Therefore, I should show appreciation to the earlier śrāvakas.
What is the difference between the words
and so on? Here there are the three periods: starting, middle, and end. At the start they have to be “advised and instructed.” In the middle there is practice, and at the end the result.
There during the starting period “advice” is saying, “Do not do this,” preventing them from doing what they should not do. “Instruction” is saying, “Do this,” connecting them with the activities.
In the middle there are four periods: not practicing, practicing incorrectly, practicing a bit, and practicing perfectly.
Those who have set out incorrectly because of incorrect knowledge are connected with a perfect practice when they are
Those who, because of the fault of laziness and so on, practice a bit, become inspired to try to persevere when they are
At the end, they are
in the result. Construe them like that.
After that, in reference to the question, ‘How should they stand?’ it teaches1096 that they should forsake where
and, standing where they should stand, they
and so on, teaches that the realization of emptiness is where they stand.
is where they should not stand. Therefore, this teaches that because these falsely imagined phenomena, form and so on, do not exist through the intrinsic nature of form and so on, bodhisattvas also do not exist through the intrinsic nature of a bodhisattva, and their emptinesses are not different, they are one. Therefore, form and so on in its true dharmic nature is a thoroughly established phenomenon, and a bodhisattva furthermore is
In the section of the text explaining where not to stand, furthermore, the teaching is in three parts. First they should not stand in the dharmas; second they should not stand in the true nature of dharmas; and third they should not stand as persons.
is teaching the mark of the true nature of dharmas.
The section on the true nature of dharmas is again a teaching in three parts: teaching the true nature of dharmas on the side of all-knowing, teaching the true nature of dharmas on the side of the knowledge of path aspects, and teaching the true nature of dharmas on the side of the knowledge of all aspects.
up to they
and so on, are on the side of the level of the knowledge of all aspects.
He was thinking that it has said “they should not stand in all dharmas,” and that it has said it is not possible to stand in emptiness, hence “they should not stand” in it either. How could that be right?
It is teaching that they stand in nonabiding nirvāṇa.
It has explained the achievement, standing without standing like that, and in the explanation based on those to be trained has said it is inexpressible. So those to be trained come to harbor doubts. Therefore, taking them as its point of departure, it sets the scene for another explanation with,
and so on, asking the gods the question, “Why have you not understood what has been said?” They then reply,
teaching that since this is the case, the apparent talking and apparent hearing are falsely imagined phenomena, like a
thus making the gods happy.
is a magically created body of a tathāgata.
Because a falsely imagined form is a not real form, it “is not deep and is not subtle.” Again,
and so on, teaches that because the true dharmic nature of form does not, in its intrinsic nature, move,1108 it “is not deep and is not subtle.” So here the section of the text is in two parts: the dharma section and the intrinsic nature section.
teaching that they are indeed not designated and not explained.
which is to say, to this explanation of the inexpressible.
This is teaching that if they are ultimately inexpressible there will be no speaker and no hearer, so there will be no listening to the Dharma.
and so on, teaches that ultimately a speaker and a hearer are nonexistent.
and so on—it is “deep” because it is hard to fathom; “hard to behold” because it is not an object of the five collections of consciousnesses;
because it is not an object of thinking-mind consciousness;
because up to1113 “all suffering” has calmed down;
because all conceptual thought constructions have calmed down;
because it is self-reflexive analytic knowledge;
because it transcends the path of thinking;
because it is the cause for brilliance in the realization of all dharmas as they really are;
because it is the supreme place for the realization of extraordinary dharmas; and
they will be those who take it up. With
and so on, it first teaches those who are seeking conventionally. There, in the ultimate sense, bodhisattvas are spoken of as those “who have seen the truths”; when they are awakened, they are called “worthy ones.” Having taught them conventionally, those being taught ultimately are from1116
This teaches that just those who have directly realized the nonconceptual perfection of wisdom are those who are seeking. Ultimately there is nothing they will have sought for, so they are not those who are seeking.
and so on. The explanation of the three vehicles; and the teaching about
hearing, not forgetting, being without distraction, and the sevenfold
and so on—he is saying ‘We ourselves have heard about these.’
After that, the elder Subhūti, to teach that the explanation of these dharmas is by way of not apprehending anything, to teach they do not exist ultimately and hence that even talking is mere illusion, says,1118
and so on. About the reason they are empty, it says1119
“because of the emptiness that is the nonexistence of an intrinsic nature,” P25k P18k
and so on. [F.179.a]
and so on.
It says “form also has not come about” because an ultimate form does not have the production of a compounded form. Thus, it says “what has not come about is not form” because an uncompounded phenomenon that has not come about does not have the mark of a falsely imagined form.
means he gives instruction without contradicting the ultimate or the conventional.
and so on—this is saying they train without training, just as, to illustrate, they stand without standing.
In order to teach that “they do not train in form and so on because they see that form and so on are nonexistent things,” it says
and so on.
and so on, and to teach that “they do not see form because it is empty,” it says1127
and so on, as the reason they do not train. It means both a training and something that is trained in are nonexistent, so they do not train.
“Kauśika, those who do not train in the emptiness of form… up to those who do not train in the emptiness of the knowledge of all aspects, train in the emptiness of form without making a division into two, up to train in the emptiness of the knowledge of all aspects without making a division into two,”
says that just those who do not train are the ones who train. “Without making a division into two” means they are the same as emptiness, so, when they have trained in the emptiness of a single dharma, they have trained in the emptiness of all. Hence it is explaining that the emptiness of a single dharma is the emptiness of all.
teaches that training in the perfections and so on, up to the buddhadharmas, is not to increase or decrease form and so on. It means that training is not to increase the bright side or decrease the dark side.
It says that, and then with
the elder Śāriputra asks him why, given that bodhisattvas eliminate bad dharmas and obtain special dharmas, there is nothing for them to get hold of or get rid of. After he asks that, the elder Subhūti says
teaching that there are no grasped and grasper. It gives as the reason for that,
and so on—something plucked out of thin air has no “production.” Something lasting in its nature does not change so there is no
of something not there before. There is no stopping so there is no
of something gotten hold of. There is nothing to get hold of so there is no
of something not there before. There is nothing to reject so there is no
to eliminate. Since there is no purification there is no
and since there is no defilement there is no
Given that the exegesis of the deep dharmas is within the range of a tathāgata, the chief of the gods does not accept that it is Subhūti’s explanation, so, setting the scene for the noble Subhūti to have given such an exegesis, [F.180.b] he asks,1135
and so on, teaches that there is no dharma called tathāgata at all. There are no false imagined dharmas in the true nature of dharmas, so “in” that “true dharmic nature” of all dharmas “without anything that sustains it” there is no “tathāgata.” And because there are no dharmas unincluded in the true nature of dharmas,
section like this,1137 and construe the
and so on, ending with
section like this as well.
It says so because they are not different, [F.181.a] they are the same. The alternatives when a basis is conjoined with something on a basis or with something else, or disjoined from them, are that they are acceptable if they are different and not acceptable if they are not. Construe
in the suchness section, in the same way. It is the “might” of emptiness, the “sustaining power” of emptiness, in the sense that the explanation has come about taking emptiness as the point of departure.
it says this because form and so on do not exist—
It says this because the perfection of wisdom is something that does not exist, so it is not something else either. Therefore, it is teaching that because something does not exist it is not something else. It says
teaches that both form and the perfection of wisdom are things that do not exist;
means you cannot say it is different, because it is something that does not exist. And so it says,
with at that time “it will be there” or “will not be there”; and
with “it is there” or “is not there.” Thus, it is “great” because it is not divided into three time periods.
ultimate form is “immeasurable” because you cannot delineate it as “just this much.” It is
because it cannot be given a size by counting. It is
because there is no termination of instants. The “prior limit” is production, the “later limit” is cessation, and the “middle” is lasting for an instant.
Having thus at first taught that the perfections are unlimited, it then teaches the unlimited in four parts:1144 the unlimited knowledge of all aspects, the unlimited body of dharmas, unlimited suchness, and unlimited beings.
Among these, what are “unlimited beings”? Their “limits” are the two extremes: the permanent extreme and the annihilation extreme. The nonexistence of those extremes is the state where the extremes are absent, so beings are “unlimited.” Suppose beings existed. In that case they would have limits. But since beings are in their intrinsic nature just nonexistent, unlimited beings with an intrinsic nature do not exist. Suppose a certain being is taught in this explanation of the doctrine. In that case unlimited beings would also be taught. But since it does not teach a being, there are no unlimited beings here either. Therefore, it says,
This means that because it does not teach a being it therefore also does not teach that beings are unlimited.
and so on, teaches that a statement from the mouth does not make beings unlimited. They are unlimited in their intrinsic nature because they are nonexistent. Suppose beings were made unlimited as a statement in the mouth, that from what the Tathāgata says beings might be born or cease. It means because that is not the case, beings are not unlimited because it has been said they are.
This means suppose a being is taught in this explanation, so it exists in reality. Then the two extremes would also exist. But those two are not taught so this perfection is limitless. Because a being is not taught, therefore a being does not exist. Because it does not exist the two extremes do not exist either. Therefore, because it does not teach a being this perfection is unlimited.
ultimately and conventionally.
this means the dharma body’s tathāgata is the intrinsic nature of the buddhadharmas. When bodhisattvas train in that, because it is ultimately the intrinsic nature of the buddhadharmas there is also no difference between bodhisattvas and tathāgatas so
and so on, takes as its point of departure the Perfection of Wisdom that is being explained.1151 It teaches the beneficial qualities that come about in this life and in later lives from this explanation of the Dharma that up to here has constituted the meaning, and that serves as the cause for an increase of much merit.
Here it teaches why
is wicked action. A level or a place of the gods is
“guarding” is establishing all physical well-being; “protection” is defending against all external dangers; and “safekeeping” is stopping internal sickness and so on.
Here, furthermore, it teaches four benefits: not being infiltrated, not dying an untimely death, not getting scared and so on, and being protected by the gods.
Teaching by analogy, with
and so on, it teaches the greater value.1155
This teaches the benefits in this life and the many benefits in future lives. There are the ten,
and so on;1156 they
and teach the doctrine; they
calm those who fight and contradict them and so on; the causes of those; perfectly gaining the six perfections; the absence of being disturbed1157 and so on; the analogy of medicine;1158 stopping all nonbright dharmas;1159 protecting and increasing
it is “made available” to
practices to fully guide them in the pursuit of the career, and it is also “made available” in order to lessen their conceit when
they are conceited. When they pursue the career
Then1163 it teaches that it protects from weapons in a battle and the reasons for that; that it protects from external harms and the reasons for that; and that it does not present an opportunity for infiltration.1164 It teaches with the example of the site of awakening; and with1165
it teaches the qualities of the perfection of wisdom as a collection of statements and collection of letters. It teaches that places come to serve as caityas because of the perfection of wisdom, and it teaches that the worship there of the perfection of wisdom is superior to worship of a caitya filled with the physical remains of a tathāgata and the reasons for that; that there are more beings who are lacking and many fewer who are good and the reasons for that; that in the ten directions there are more beings in the deficient vehicle and the reasons for that; that it is necessary to engage constantly in listening to this explanation and so on; that worshiping it1166 is superior to worshiping
that there is more merit from that than from worshiping just a
or just a
full of stūpas; and that there is more merit from worshiping the perfection of wisdom than all beings in all world systems worshiping that many stūpas. Similarly, it teaches there is more merit from worshiping it than if1167
were to have made a stūpa of the seven precious things and worshiped it, and the reasons for that. It teaches that when the perfection of wisdom is present in the world the cause of the special ordinary and extraordinary good qualities comes about; the entrusting to Śatakratu;1168 and the benefits conveyed using the analogy of the gods and asuras when they
and so on. It gives it the names1169
and teaches the reasons for those. It is “a great knowledge-mantra” because it has all ordinary and extraordinary attributes and hence is exceedingly great; it is “an unsurpassable knowledge-mantra” [F.184.a] because there is no other above it; and it is “a knowledge-mantra equal to the unequaled” because there is none equal to it. By giving the illustration of
and they are not persecuted by retainers of
or as ghosts; they will not
a low caste; they will have
and signs; and they will take birth in a buddhafield,
and so on.
and the reasons for that, and that
that all the gods offer worship and praise, and make the commitment to
teaches that they are different conventionally, and
teaches that they are not different ultimately.
is the practice level;
is the result level.
because both constitute the dharma body.
it says that when giving has been dedicated to the knowledge of all aspects, at that time, having understood analytically that the perfection of giving and the knowledge of all aspects are not different and not two at the result level, when engaging in giving it
means that the absence of settling down by way of apprehending is not appropriated by the conceptualization that pays attention to it.
and so on, and surpasses the
and so on. It teaches Śatakratu’s commitment to
the gods connecting with confidence giving a readiness to speak;1180 not being cowed in front of retinues; [F.185.a] not fault-finding; not feeling cowed and so on; being liked by the whole world; the seamless1181 true nature of dharmas; all the gods taking up the perfection of wisdom; the offering of a gift of Dharma to them; the gods guarding; the sign
not being greedy for the four requirements;1185 worshiping all the buddhas in world systems all around in the ten directions with the four requirements; there being more merit merely from having respected this perfection of wisdom, even if it has not been taken up and so on, than from having stūpas made of the seven various precious stones and worshiping them; and there being more merit from taking up the perfection of wisdom than were
and the reasons for that.
because it “cannot be pointed out” with words. It
because, since it is not an object of sense consciousness, it “does not obstruct” as an object does. It
because it is separated from all imaginary marks.
because it is not suitable to be conceptualized as something that can be seized or something that cannot be seized;
because it is not a place for the elimination of things on the dark side or [F.185.b] the increase of things on the bright side; or
because it is not a place for the removal of saṃsāric dharmas or the accomplishment of nirvāṇic dharmas. And why? Because it is without all attachments to such conceptualizations. You should connect it in the same way with them all.1187
means were the perfection of wisdom to be a mode of seizing and not seizing and so on, it would be in a dual state and would be available with a diverse nature, but it is ultimately one, not broken apart, so ultimately such a proliferation of activity is absent from it.
and so on, in the ultimate state are essentially one, and hence
because they are not broken apart. Therefore, it says,