13 September 2019

Another Failed Attempt to Refute the Chinese Origins Thesis

In 2002, Japanese scholar Harada Waso published an annotated translation of the Heart Sutra which included many notes on why he did not believe the Chinese Origins thesis. The article was written in Japanese and remains untranslated, but amidst the background disputes over the Heart Sutra article on Wikipedia (now edited by religious fanatics), user Pat457 (25 July 2017) gave a fairly long summary of the arguments in Harada (2002). I have no way of knowing how accurate or reliable this English resumé is but I here I will take it at face value and explain why the argument is wrong.

There are two main theories for the origins of the Heart Sutra: Indian and Chinese. It has never been disputed that the Heart Sutra reuses text from the Large Perfection of Insight Sutra. What is in dispute amongst some (mainly Japanese) scholars is in which language the copying occurred. Jan Nattier (1992) was the first to propose that the copying occurred in Chinese. I've since published a number of analytical articles showing why this has to be the case. Very few, if any, other scholars have really got to grips with the materials and methods used by Nattier so far as I can tell from their published work. So the dispute has been carried out in a superficial manner. Sadly, Nattier received almost no support from Western scholars when Buddhist establishment figures published apologetics for the traditional accounts.

The reuse of texts was prevalent in early medieval China. Chinese Buddhists created a unique genre of texts that bibliographers at the time called chāo jīng 抄經 or "digest texts". Hundreds of digest texts were in circulation by the early 6th Century. The digest text is a distinctively Chinese genre; there is nothing like it in Indian Buddhist literature. The Heart Sutra is self-evidently not a sutra (and the earliest Chinese commentaries acknowledge this). It reuses passages from the Large Sutra and perfectly fits the description a digest text. It appears to be the only one of its kind ever to be translated into Sanskrit, i.e. there are no other Sanskrit digest texts.

The fact that large parts of the Heart Sutra were copied gives us leverage on the problem of where the text was composed. Copying conserves the original whereas translation does not. When an original and a copied text are translated independently into another language changes are likely to be introduced. And where a copy in a second language is translated back into the first language (i.e. translated twice), this will inevitably result in some idiosyncrasies.

The source, in this case is the Large Sutra. We have various witnesses of this text: two recensions in Sanskrit; i.e. Gilgit 6th C and Nepalese 19th Cl along with three complete translations in Chinese T 221 (291 CE), T 223 (404 CE), and T 220-ii (663 CE) and one incomplete translation, T 222 (286 CE). Another complete text is embedded in a commentary (T 1509). The copy is the Heart Sutra which exists in many forms, including manuscripts, inscriptions, and edited versions in both Sanskrit and Chinese.

The Sanskrit Heart Sutra is packed with odd vocabulary, expressions, and idioms. Some of these are neologisms but others appear to be calques and idioms from Chinese. A "calque" is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word or root-for-root translation. For quick reference I made a list of these: The Chinese Origins of the Heart Sutra Revisited (19 January 2018). This is what we predicted for a back-translation.

Nattier identified a clear pattern with respect to the "core passage" and it only supports the Chinese origins thesis. Huifeng (2014) made a vital contribution to our understanding of the text which supports Nattier's conclusion. I've published five articles to date; no.6 is due out any day, no.7 is being reviewed, no.8 is awaiting an editor's initial response, while no.s 9 and 10 are being beta tested before submission. My work on the Heart Sutra has two main threads: 1. correcting the sloppy mistakes in Conze's Sanskrit edition (overlooked by other scholars); and 2. identifying other copied passages and showing that the pattern identified by Nattier in the core section also characterises the rest of the text. Indeed, last year I published what I consider a decisive argument, i.e. that tryadhvanvyavasthītāḥ sarvabuddhāḥ is a calque of the Chinese phrase 三世諸佛 sān shì zhū fó “all the Buddhas of the three times” (2018b).

In other words, not only is there overwhelming support for the Chinese Origins Thesis, but the Indian origins thesis has been refuted. Harada was writing in 2002 and was responding only to Nattier, though I can honestly say that none of my observations is rocket science and they ought to have been obvious to anyone. 

Problems with the Text

Harada is using a Sanskrit text of the Heart Sutra, but which text? I can't read Japanese and Pat457 doesn't say. But I can read Sanskrit and I'm familiar with the main Sanskrit versions. To start with, Harada gives the maṅgala as namaḥ sarvajñāya. This means he is not using Conze's critical edition, although the first iteration of the critical edition (Conze 1948) is cited in his bibliography (not the revised version 1967, or the popular version 1958/1975). Another clue is that Harada's text has na vidyā nāvidyā na vidyākṣayo nāvidyāksāyo which Conze, in a rare moment of clarity, realised was a late interpolation. The two terms nāvidyā and nāvidyāksāyo don't belong here in what is an abbreviated list of the 12 nidānas. Non-ignorance (na avidyā) plays no part here. It's a wild contradiction in terms since non-ignorance would be tantamount to enlightenment.

These two features suggest that Harada is using the Hōryūji manuscript (H) as his text. However, note that the sandhi in the maṅgala is wrong, it should be (and is in H) namas sarvajñāya. Another oddity is that H has no punctuation, but Harada's text has punctuation that is similar to Conze's and to Max Müller's (1881) diplomatic edition of H. It's possible that Harada is using Müller (1881) though this does not appear in his bibliography. The misplaced colon after vyavalokayati sma is a distinctive feature of Conze's edition. Harada's text is not H, nor any of Conze's variants, and does not appear to be Müller. So is he using an edition published only in Japan? Or has he created a hybrid for his own purposes? 

Wherever the text comes from, it has mistakes in it. As well as those noted, Harada's text has the same two mistakes found in all the versions of Conze's edition. In the first sentence, pañcaskandha is in the wrong case (Attwood 2015). It should be accusative plural, i.e. (with sandhi) pañcaskandhāṃs making it the object of vyavalokayati sma (and this is why the colon is extraneous). Secondly, following Müller (1881) and Conze (1967) Harada's text incorrectly has a full stop (period) after cittāvaraṇāḥ (Attwood 2018a). This leaves the next four words with no verb and no subject and thus they do not make a well-formed sentence. The short term solution is simply to remove the full stop, but there are much deeper problems that were partially addressed by Huifeng (2014) and which I forensically examine in my forthcoming article (2019b).

Now, these mistakes in the Sanskrit text ought to be obvious to anyone with basic Sanskrit. A transitive verb with no object adjacent to a noun in the nominative (meaning it has no relationship to any other word in the sentence) ought to ring alarm bells. Similarly, a sentence with no verb and no subject is not a properly formed sentence and any competent Sanskritist ought to have noticed this and corrected it. So this raises questions about Harada's competence as a Sanskritist. That said, many apparently competent Sanskritists did not notice these mistakes over the 70 years since Conze's edition was first published. Normally we'd notice a grammatical mistake precisely because a sentence doesn't make sense. I've argued (Attwood 2015) that the expectation of nonsense established by Suzuki and promoted by Conze made them and subsequent scholars insensitive to mistakes in the text. I have to say that this aspect of studying the Heart Sutra infuriates me. All the more so when incompetent commentators are cited as authorities.

Harada's Argument

We can now consider Harada's argument as presented by Pat457. I cite the whole of Pat457's text verbatim in blue and indented. My comments are interspersed in black.
Nattier doesn't give an answer as to why the shorter Sanskrit version does not contain the phrase 度一切苦厄 ("crossed over all suffering and affliction"). Harada cites Fumimasa Fukui's thesis (Hannya shingyō no kakushin (般若心経の核心 'The Core of the Heart Sūtra') in Toyo no Shisō to Shūkyō (東洋の思想と宗教 'Thought and Religion in the East') 4, Waseda Univ., 1987) that the core - the 'heart', if you will - of the Heart Sūtra is not so much the first half that speaks about emptiness, but the latter half that extols the merits of the Gate gate paragate...mantra. Fukui argues, and Harada apparently concurs, that the phrase 能除一切苦 ("able to remove all affliction") is actually the most important part of the sūtra - in fact, the very reason why the sūtra came to be so popular in China. The phrase 度一切苦厄 in the opening section - found in Kumarajiva (T. 0250) and Xuanzang (T. 0251), with equivalents in the longer versions of Prajñā and Li Yan (T. 0253: 離諸苦厄) and Prajñācakra (T. 0254: 離諸苦厄), but absent from other versions - is proposed to have been inserted by Kumarajiva in his version of the sūtra to prefigure 能除一切苦, which Xuanzang preserved in his own version. If, as Nattier said, the Sanskrit Heart Sūtra was a back-translation from Xuanzang's Chinese 'translation' (which in turn was based on Kumarajiva's Large Prajñāpāramita text) made in China, Harada argued that the omission of 度一切苦厄 would be an unthinkable move. (pp. 108-107/33-34)

It is quite true that Nattier doesn't attempt to explain 度一切苦厄. What can we say about this? Firstly, Watanabe Shōgo showed that the Damingzhoujing (T 250) was not by Kumārajīva. He called it a 偽経 (gikyō) "fake text". This echoes the term 偽經 wěi jīng (same characters and meaning) used by medieval Chinese bibliographers for texts which they did not accept as Buddhist texts. In an undated interview in Japanese, Watanabe says: 鳩摩羅什訳の『般若心経』は偽経であるという説が提示され、現在、学界で定説となっています。 i.e. “The theory that Kumārajīva’s Heart Sutra is a spurious scripture [偽経] was suggested and it has become an established theory in the academic world at present” (Translation by Dr. Jeffrey Kotyk; personal communication). I concur with Watanabe: the Damingzhgoujing is a fake, probably produced in the 8th Century to boost the myth of the Heart Sutra. Although Fukui missed this point himself, Harada includes the Watanabe article in his bibliography. We don't know why he ignored the finding. 

I have identified the probable source of this phrase 度一切苦厄, i.e. T 410 13.708.a26-7. The  《大方廣十輪經》 Dàfāng guǎng shílún jīng (T 410) is a translation of the *Daśacakra-kṣitigarbha-sūtra, made by an unknown translator during the Northern Liang Dynasty, ca. 397 – 439 CE. Note that the text used in Xīnjīng is not from Xuanzang's translation (T 411) because he translated this phrase as, 脫一切憂苦 (tuō yīqiè yōu kǔ). Unfortunately there are no Sanskrit versions left anymore, but the phrase probably translated something like sarvaduḥkhitaṃ samatikramati sma (note: the phrase sarvaduḥkh* is found only a once in the Nepalese recension of the Sanskrit Large Sutra and not in this phrase).

As Pat457 says, "Harada argued that the omission of 度一切苦厄 would be an unthinkable move". But no counterpart of this phrase is found in any Sanskrit manuscript. It is no less unthinkable that a random phrase would be added by a translator when it did not occur in their source. My opinion is that it makes less sense as an addition than it does as an omission. However, there is not enough evidence to resolve this issue and it should, therefore, be pegged as a mystery rather than disingenuously asserting one's opinions as facts.

Harada cites Fukui in arguing that "能除一切苦 ("able to remove all affliction") is actually the most important part of the sūtra". This seems very unlikely. It is based on a misreading of the text. As I showed in Attwood (2017), the latter half of the text does not "extol the merits of the Gate gate paragate...mantra" at all. In fact, the word mantra does not occur in the Chinese Heart Sutra or in the Sanskrit texts from which the epithets pericope comes. The epithets extol the virtue of Prajñāpāramitā (as is all too obvious in the Large Sutra, especially in Sanskrit) and the word 明咒 mistakenly translated as mantra in the Sanskrit Heart Sutra was intended to read vidyā (as it does in all the extant Sanskrit Prajñāpāramitā manuscripts) but in practice was read bright dhāraṇī (i.e. as two words) when the Heart Sutra was compiled in the 7th Century. Nor is the following spell a mantra; it is a dhāraṇī. Translating 咒 as mantra was simply a mistake. Most of this was stated explicitly in Nattier (1992: 211-3 n.54a - with credit to Yamabe Nobuyoshi who alerted Nattier to this issue but never published it himself). My article was more or less a systematic expansion of the point made by Yamabe and Nattier in fn 54a enabled by the power of electronic searching to systematically identify all the occurrences of the pericope.

 I recently discovered that the epithets did circulate separately in a version taken from the Small Sutra (aka Aṣṭasāhasrikā). However, Buddhists have always focused on the section that says 色不異空,空不異色;色即是空,空即是色。 "Appearance is emptiness, emptiness is only appearance, etc".

In proposing this theory about the "core", Fukui and Harada have made a easily avoidable error.

Harada answers Nattier's observation that the Heart Sūtra uses kṣaya for the Large Sūtra's nirodha by pointing out that the Sanskrit version of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines (Aṣṭasāhasrikā-Prajñāpāramitā) already uses the word akṣayatva (... avidyākṣayatvena subhūte bodhisattvena mahāsattvena prajñāpāramitā abhinirhartavyā / evaṃ saṃskārākṣayatvena vijñānākṣayatvena nāmarūpākṣayatvena ṣaḍāyatanākṣayatvena sparśākṣayatvena vedanākṣayatvena tṛṣṇākṣayatvena upādānākṣayatvena bhavākṣayatvena jātyakṣayatvena jarāmaraṇākṣayatvena śokaparidevaduḥkhadaurmanasyopāyāsākṣayatvena subhūte bodhisattvena mahāsattvena prajñāpāramitā abhinirhartavyā). Ergo, the Heart Sūtra's use of kṣaya is not unusual/without precedent. (pp. 96-95/45-46).

Except that kṣaya means "destruction" and akṣayatva means "indestructible" or Conze translated it as "non-extinction" (1973: 271). (i.e. the complete opposite): avidyākṣayatvena subhūte bodhisattvena mahāsattvena prajñāpāramitā abhinirhartavyā "Perfection of insight should be [internally] realised by the bodhisatva, mahasatva, through the indestructibility of ignorance." This comes towards the end of the text (and was probably added quite late). It's not entirely clear that it makes sense.

Note that Kumārajīva's text does not include an exact parallel. He does, however, have the immediately preceding passage with the same structure: 「須菩提!色無盡故,是生般若波羅蜜;受、想、行、識無盡故 (T 227; 8.578c22-3) "Subhūti [the bodhisatva] gives birth to the Prajñāpāramitā through the indestructibility of appearance". Xuanzang's translation does have a (abbreviated) parallel: 應觀無明乃至老死皆無盡故,引發般若波羅蜜多;(T 220; 7.315b1-3). Here akṣayatva = 無盡故; abhinirhartavyā = 引發; avidyā yāvan jarāmaraṇa = 無明乃至老死 .

Kumārajīva and Xuanzang confusingly use both 無明滅 and  無明盡 for avidyānirodha, though both have a preference for the former: T 223 4 x 無明滅 and 2 x 無明盡; T 220 43 and 2. Still, we know that the Sanskrit tradition is unequivocal in using nirodha. The confusion only exists in Chinese. There is a very long-standing convention of referring to the cessation of the nidānas (which is where Hṛd employs kṣaya) using the word nirodha - the same word in Pāli and Sanskrit and Gāndhārī (though the spelling is irregular in the latter). I know of no exception to this in Pāḷi or Sanskrit. The Pāli equivalent khaya is never found in this context (which is easily confirmed by electronic searching). In short using kṣaya here is simply a mistake; and a mistake that no Indian Buddhist would make. It's part of a pervasive pattern of this kind of mistake in the Sanskrit Heart Sutra that tells us the text was composed in Chinese.

Regarding Nattier's observation that while the general meaning of the Large Sūtra and the Heart Sūtra are the same but their vocabulary is not (the Large Sūtra employs singular verbal forms while the Heart Sūtra uses plural adjectival forms), Harada points out that such grammatical differences are natural, since the subject in the Large Sutra is śūnyatā (singular feminine), while in the Heart Sutra, the subject is sarva-dharmāḥ (plural masculine). Note that such grammatical differences do not exist in Chinese, so where the Sanskrit differs (na ... utpadyate na nirudhyate / anutpannā aniruddhā), the Chinese text of both the Large Sūtra and the Heart Sūtra simply just say 不生、不滅.
Harada also makes the same observation as Nattier (p. 203) that while the Chinese versions say 不增不減 ("(they) do not increase, (they) do not decrease"), the Sanskrit formulates it in reverse: anūnā aparipūrṇāḥ "they do not decrease, they do not increase." While Nattier says that "it is difficult to explain this reversal no matter what direction of textual transmission is postulated," Harada points out how the Chinese title of the Anūnatva-Apūrṇatva-Nirdeśa shows the same quirk as the phrase in the Chinese Heart Sūtra: 不增不減經 - i.e. putting 'non-increase' (apūrṇatva 不增) before 'non-decrease' (anūnatva 不減). All in all, he proposes that the Heart Sūtra was indeed compiled in India and sees it very likely that its vocabulary was taken from a source/s different from that of the Large Sūtra (he proposes the Tathāgatagarbha sūtras (如来蔵経典)), thereby explaining the different word choices. (pp. 100-99/41-42)
This is a reference to the passage:



Iha Śāriputra sarva-dharmāḥ śūnyatā-lakṣaṇā, anutpannā aniruddhā, amalā avimalā, anūnā aparipūrṇāḥ.
是諸 法空相 不生不滅不垢不淨不增不減。
是諸 法空相 不生不滅不垢不淨不增不減。
ya Śāradvatīputra śūnyatā na sā utpadyate, no nirudyate, na saṃkliśyate, na vyavadāyate, na hīyate, no vardhate.

As Nattier points out, the Chinese text inexplicably shifts the subject from śūnyatā (singular) to sarvadharmāḥ (plural). With this shift the grammatical forms have to change. And, since we have this text in all four versions, we can do our basic check of asking where the similarities and differences are. As we can see, Xīn and Dajing are identical, while Hṛd and Pañc are different in vocabulary and sentence structure and, crucially, the subject in Hṛd is sarvadharmāḥ (following the Chinese rather than the Sanskrit Large Sutra). This gives a clear conclusion. But we can say more. The passage in Pañc is a pericope. It occurs, with minor variations, throughout the Prajñāpāramitā literature and even though the conjugations vary, it always uses words from the same roots, i.e. ut√pad and ni√rudh; saṃ√kliś and vi-ava√dā; √ and √vṛd. Sometimes the pairs appear individually.

Now this is easily refuted. All we have to do is show a Sanskrit text with the same wording as the Heart Sutra. Even one. I've looked for seven years and I cannot find one. Harada has evidently not found one either. But we would not expect to. This is simply not how Indian Buddhists expressed these ideas, whereas the forms found in the extant Pañc and Aṣṭa texts are how they expressed them. The Japanese scholars all seem to adopt the approach of seeking Chinese texts that might explain the situation. But this cannot help us here. We are not trying to explain the similarity in Chinese, we are trying to explain the difference in Sanskrit and only another Sanskrit text will do. Chinese translations are notoriously poor guides to the Sanskrit source texts. As Jan Nattier says in her other famous work:
"In short, when reading any given line of a Chinese Buddhist sūtra—excepting perhaps those produced by someone like Hsüan-tsang, who is justifiably famous for his accuracy—we have a roughly equal chance of encountering an accurate reflection of the underlying Indian original or a catastrophic misunderstanding" (2003: 71).
And as we've just seen, Xuanzang is not 100% reliable. What does Xuanzang have in his translation? He has: 是諸法空相,不生不滅、不染不淨、不增不減 (T 220; 5.22b67), i.e. exactly the same as Kumārajīva. If Xuanzang is famed for his accuracy and all the extant Sanskrit manuscripts have "śūnyatā na sā utpadyate, no nirudyate, na saṃkliśyate, na vyavadāyate, na hīyate, no vardhate" then this is what those characters refer to in T 220 but also, since the two translators use identical expressions, this is what T 223 refers to as well. Xuanzang has approved of Kumārajīva's translation and reused it so it must have matched his Sanskrit source text. And thus the Sanskrit terms in the Hṛd are the odd ones out. The Chinese characters in Xīnjīng cannot be a translation of the Sanskrit terms  in Hṛd because we know that these Chinese characters fit the expected pattern. This is all quite elementary. We have no need to go looking for alternative sources in Chinese.

Harada needlessly proposes the Tathāgatagarbha Sūtras as alternative sources but of course most of the main Tathāgatagarbha Sūtras do not exist in Sanskrit any more. Of those that do, the Ratnagotravibhāga does not contain these terms except for one mention of anutpannā aniruddhā (Rgv 112); the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra does not contain the terms at all; the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra has the words anutpanna and niruddha paired (e.g. Laṅk 77) but never the others. So, as far as Sanskrit sources go, Harada's theory falls flat. 

The Anūnatva-Apūrṇatva-Nirdeśa does indeed show the same quirk as the phrase in the Chinese Heart Sūtra: 不增不減經. The problem with this text as a potential source is that it does not include the phrase 不垢不淨. The Nirdeśa does include 不生不滅 but it is clearly being used in the singular. All three pairs would have to occur to consider the Anūnatva-Apūrṇatva-Nirdeśa as a potential source for the Xīnjīng. Ideally, we'd see the three pairs used as a set, but the Nirdeśa doesn't even combine the two pairs it does include. Harada seems to have done a half job here. With a little more effort he would have seen these serious objections to this proposition. 

Note also that the Dajing has the pair 不增不減 in the opposite order to the Sanskrit text. Now, Anūnatva-Apūrṇatva-Nirdeśa was translated by Bodhiruci, who was active around a century after Kumārajīva made his translation. So why is Harada proposing that we need another source later than Kumārajīva? We know that Xīnjīng borrows other phrases from the Large Sutra, so why not this one? The fact that Harada's alternative theory doesn't make sense should not detract from the fact that it is not needed in the first place.

Regarding the differences in expression used between the Large Sūtra (na anya X anya Y "X is not other than Y") and the Heart Sūtra (X na pṛthak Y) "Y is not distinct from X") despite their word-for-word similarity in Chinese (X不異Y), Harada pretty much argues that the similarity in the Chinese version could have been caused by Xuanzang being a conservative translator, citing how in his own translation of the Large Sūtra (T. 0220). Xuanzang retained Kumarajiva's 色不異空、空不異色. Harada adds, if the Sanskrit Heart Sutra was really back-translated from Xuanzang's text, why did the translator not render 空 as śūnyaṃ/śūnyān, but as śūnyatā/śūnyatā(ḥ), which would have been 空性 in Chinese? (pp. 106-105/35-36)

The Indian Prajñāpāramitā literature never uses the form na pṛthak. Never. The Indian Prajñāpāramitā authors always make this kind of comparison using the anya pronoun. And here again the two Sanskrit texts are very different, while the Chinese texts are the same or very similar. Which is exactly what the Chinese origins thesis predicts.

Harada's point about 空 is spurious because 空 is routinely used for sūnyatā in Chinese texts of many genres and across different time periods. What's more śūnyatā is the form the word mostly takes in Sanskrit; the adjectival form śūnyan appears occasionally and it also translated as 空. The alternate translation 空性 is sometimes used, but much less often. For example, in his Large Sutra translation Kumārajīva uses 空  2280 times and 空性 just 34 times. Most of the time 空 means śūnyatā and Harada must be aware of this because it is elementary to the field of Chinese Buddhist studies. 

A more serious objection was raised by Huifeng (2008), i.e that Nattier had ignored the notes in the Taishō which showed that the older editions of the Tripiṭaka have an alternative form of the phrase, i.e. 非色異空. This is what we find in Damingzhoujing (T 250), although we know that this text is a fake. The early Chinese commentarial literature has the phrase as 色不異空: for example, the Zhào lùn 肇論by Kumārajīva’s student Sēngzhào 僧肇 (T 1858; 45.156c5-6); and the Móhēzhǐguān 摩訶止觀 (T 1911), a collection of lectures by Zhìyǐ 智顗 published by his student Guàndǐng 灌頂 in 594 CE (T 1911; 46.5b19-20). This suggests that 色不異空 is the original expression and that the alternative was introduced in the editing of the Canon.

Regarding the following excerpt: (clause Ia/b) rūpān na pṛthak śūnyatā śūnyatāyā na pṛthag rūpam; (clause IIa/b)evam eva vedanā saṃjñā saṃskāro vijñānaṃ; (clause IIIa/b)yad rūpaṃ sā śūnyatā yā śūnyatā tad rūpam, Harada makes the following points:
(1) He refutes Nattier's claim that (Ia/b) rūpaṃ śūnyatā śūnyataiva rūpaṃ "is absent from all the Chinese versions of the text" (p. 203) by citing the translations of Amoghavajra (From a manuscript from Dunhuang: (Ia/b) 色空、色性是空。 (IIa) 色不異空。(IIb) 空亦不異色。(IIIa) 是色彼空、(IIIb) 是空彼色。), Dharmacandra (法月 Fayue, 738 - T. 0252: (Ia/b) 色性是空、空性是色 (IIa) 色不意空。(IIb) 空不意色。(IIIa) 色即是空、(IIIb) 空即是色。) and Prajñācakra (智慧輪, after 855 CE - T. 0254: (Ia/b) 色空、空性見(?)色。(IIa) 色不意空。(IIb) 空不意色。(IIIa) 即色是空、(IIIb) 即空是色。)

Nattier has confused the issue here and phrased her observation poorly. Harada is technically correct here. What Nattier meant to comment on, I'm sure, is that the pairs of phrases rūpam śūnyatā śūnyataiva rūpam and rūpān na pṛthak śūnyatā śūnyatāyā na pṛthag rūpam are inverted in Chinese, i.e. 色 不異空,空不異色;色即是空,空即是色。 And in this case Hṛd follows Dajing rather than Pañc. More evidence against the Indian origins thesis.

Harada manages to show that the phrase occurs in the Heart Sutra versions, because of course it does, but so what? The other versions of the Heart Sutra all dated later than the Xīnjīng. And we know from Watanabe that Damingzhoujing is a fake.
(2) Harada agrees that many Nepalese manuscripts lack (IIIa/b) yad rūpaṃ sā śūnyatā yā śūnyatā tad rūpam. Among the Chinese translations, those of Facheng (法成, 8th c. - T. 0255: (Ia) 色即是空、(Ib) 空即是色。(IIa) 色不異空、(IIb) 空不異色。) and Dānapāla (施護, after 982 CE - T. 0257: (Ia) 即色是空、(Ib) 即空是色。(IIa) 色無異於空。(IIb) 空無異於色。) reflect this omission. Out of the Indian commentators on the Heart Sūtra, only Praśāstrasena has this third sentence; all others omit it.

(3) Versions that include this third sentence (aside from Praśāstrasena's text) are the Hōryūji manuscript and the transliterations by Amoghavajra and Maitrībhadra (慈賢: 10th c.), the Chinese translations mentioned in (1), and a Tibetan manuscript of the short version found in Dunhuang.
(4) The versions of Xuanzang and Prajñā+Li Yan, meanwhile, apparently omit the third sentence and switch the first two sentences around: (IIa) 色不異空、(IIb) 空不異色。(Ia) 色即是空、(Ib) 空即是色。
(5) In both Kumarajiva's version of the Heart Sūtra and the Large Sūtra, however, the sentence structure is completely in reverse:
(-IIIb') 色空故無惱壞相。受空故無受相。想空故無知相。行空故無作相。識空故無覺相。何以故。(IIa) 舍利弗非色異空。(IIb) 非空異色。(Ia) 色即是空。(Ib) 空即是色。

There's no real argument against the Chinese origins thesis here. Details of a textual variation cited without analysis don't help much. And Harada seems to ignore chronology here. If later versions show variation, then so what? This is precisely what we expect for a Mahāyāna sūtra. All that we need to point out is that the line yad rūpaṃ sā śūnyatā yā śūnyatā tad rūpam is absent from both recensions of Pañc and from the Chinese translations of Pañc. It was clearly added in some manuscripts of the Heart Sutra after the initial composition creating a second recension. And again, this is just what we expect for a Mahāyāna sūtra text over time.

One begins to suspect that Harada has not looked at the Sanskrit Pañc at all. Admittedly, the edition by Dutt (1934) was quite flawed and the facsimile edition of the Gilgit manuscript he had access to was difficult to read. We are fortunate now to have much better access to these texts in the editions by Kimura (2010) and Karashima et al. (2016).  The whole point that Nattier makes is that the pervasive differences are in Sanskrit. We are not really trying to explain similarities in Chinese, we are trying to explain differences in Sanskrit. No amount of citing Chinese texts is going to achieve this (unless, of course, the Chinese texts are the source text for the Hṛdaya).

Harada then proposes the following scenario: the original sentence order as found in the 25,000-verse Prajñāpāramitā and in the 'primitive Heart Sutra' (原初的な 『心経』) in which this section was incorporated was (-IIIb')-(IIa/b)-(Ia/b). (cf. Kumarajiva) At some point, (-IIIb') was excised, leaving only (IIa/b)-(Ia/b). (cf. Xuanzang, Prajna and Li Yan) Afterwards, a new sentence (IIIa/b) was inserted and the first two sentences were switched around, giving the structure (Ia/b)-(IIa/b)-(IIIa/b). (cf. Hōryūji and Dunhuang MSS, Amoghavajra, Maitrībhadra, Dharmacandra, Prajñācakra, Praśāstrasena) However, (IIIa/b) was finally dropped, leaving only (Ia/b)-(IIa/b). (cf. Facheng, Dānapāla, Nepalese and Indian MSS.)
Harada thus argues that the shorter Sanskrit version cannot then have been a back-translation from Xuanzang's text as Nattier proposes: if that was the case, one should expect the text to reflect the (IIa/b)-(Ia/b) structure found in Xuanzang, whereas texts such as the Hōryūji MS or Amoghavajra's transliteration have the (Ia/b)-(IIa/b)-(IIIa/b) structure. (pp. 105-103/36-38)

This is just nonsense. There is no need for such a convoluted approach to this textual variation. This argument ignores the obvious conclusions and tries to twist them so that they support an article of faith. yad rūpaṃ sā śūnyatā yā śūnyatā tad rūpam is simply missing from both the recensions of Pañc. It was added directly to the Heart Sutra some time after the composition of the Xīnjīng.

What Harada has done here is compare all the texts except the actual source of the reused passage. What's more, I have shown (Attwood 2017b) that this phrase has a long history and undergoes an important transition when it is copied from the Aṣṭasāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā-sūtra (Aṣṭa) into the Large Sutra. Here is how this phrase evolved.

rūpam māyopamaṃ
"appearance is like an illusion"
(simile in Pāḷi suttas)
rūpam māyā
"appearance is illusion"
(metaphor in Sanskrit āgamas)
rūpameva māyā mayaiva rūpam
nānyad rupām anyā māyā nānyā māyā anyad rūpaṃ.
"Appearance is just illusion; illusion is just appearance.
Appearance is not different from illusion; illusion is not different from appearance"
rūpameva śūnyatā śūnyataiva rūpam
nānyad rupām anyā śūnyatā nānyā māyā anyad rūpaṃ.
色不異空 空不異色
色即是空 空即是色
(Dajing) [inverted pairs]
非色異空 非空異色
色即是空 空即是色
(Dajing alternate text)
色不異空 空不異色
色即是空 空即是色
rūpam śūnyatā śūnyataiva rūpam.
rūpān na pṛthak śūṇyatā śūnyatāyā na pṛthag rūpam
rūpam śūnyatā śūnyataiva rūpam.
rūpān na pṛthak śūṇyatā śūnyatāyā na pṛthag rūpam
yad rūpaṃ sā śūnyatā yā śūnyatā tad rūpam

Inverting the pairs was a quirk introduced into the text by Kumārajīva in his Large Sutra translation. The key point that Harada misses is that although na pṛthak is valid Sanskrit, it is never used by the Indian authors of Prajñāpāramitā texts. No amount of shuffling the Chinese texts around can erase this vital fact. It was ignorance of the Sanskrit Prajñāpāramitā literature that tripped up the original translator and made him chose the wrong word on many occasions. And it has tripped up Harada as well.

At the part "Because there is no attainment, the bodhisattva(s), relying on perfection of wisdom..." the Horyuji MS, Amoghavajra and Maitrībhadra all have bodhisatvānāṃ (genitive plural). The plural is also reflected in the Tibetan version (byaṅ-chub-sems-dpaḥ rnams), even if the word there is rendered in the nominative as the subject of thob-pa med-paḥi phyir ("because there is no attainment"). Harada asks, since Xuanzang's version reads 菩提薩埵 at this point, shouldn't have one expected the putative creator of the Sanskrit text to render it in the nominative singular (bodhisattvaḥ) instead of the plural bodhisattvānāṃ attested in the different versions? (p. 94/47)
(Harada (pp. 49-50/92-91) answers the question about how to square the plural 'bodhisattvas' with āśritya viharati, which requires a singular nominative by saying that the subject of this portion is actually Avalokiteśvaramentioned in the prologue: in other words, Avalokiteśvara examined the five skandhas, the twelve ayatanas, the eighteen dhatus, the twelve nidanas, and the four noble truths, saw their 'emptiness', and as a result, he dwells (in saṃsāra to save sentient beings?) in a state of nirvāṇa, with an unobstructed mind. Harada declares that Avalokiteśvara must be the one referred to in this portion; otherwise it will appear that he just had a one-time cameo in the beginning and then inexplicably disappeared. "I cannot imagine the author of the Heart Sutra seriously thinking of such an incomprehensible and unsightly scenario." (『心経 』制作者がそんな不可解で無様なドラマのシナリオを本気で考えたとは想像できない。)
His rendering of this portion (p. 119/22) therefore pretty much runs like (note: not a word for word translation of his translation): "Because there is no attainment (of the arhathood held to be the ideal in Śrāvakayāna) for bodhisattvas, he (Avalokiteśvara), relying on the perfection of wisdom, (continues to) dwell (in saṃsāra) with an unobstructed mind. Because his mind is unobstructed, he is unafraid [of saṃsāra], having overcome perverse thoughts/views; (while still being in the saṃsāra world) he is in nirvāṇa. It is (after all) due to relying on the perfection of wisdom that all the buddhas of the three times have attained supreme, perfect awakening."

Here Harada goes completely off the rails as is shown by Huifeng 2014 and my forthcoming article on this section (still in the review process). Harada has failed to notice a couple of things that Huifeng's sharp eyes have noticed.

The first is that where Xinjing has 無智亦無得 which we rightly translate as na jñānam na prāptir, the Sanskrit recensions of Pañc both have instead na prāptir nābhisamayo. I added the observation that both the Mokṣala (T 8.6a11-12) and Xuanzang (T 7.14a23) translations of this passage are consistent with na prāptir nābhisamayo. The text should read na prāptir nābhisamayo. What's more, I observe in my forthcoming article that the list of pairs that follow in all the Pañc texts, including Kumārajīva, are precisely the attainments and realisations. All the lists are based on the classic list of eight āryas. In the Gilgit Pañc ms. we find this list
na prāptir nābhisamayaḥ na srota āpanno na srota āpattiphalaṃ [na sakṛdāgāmī] {21r} [na sakṛdāgāmi]phalaṃ nānāgāmī nānāgāmiphalaṃ nārhan nārhatvaṁ na pratyekabodhir na pratyekabuddhaḥ na tatra mārgākārajñatā na bodhisatvaḥ na tatra bodhir na buddhaḥ. [my transcription of the ms in Karashima et al 2016].
No attainment, no realisation: no stream entry and no fruit of stream entry, no once-returning and no fruit of once-returning; no non-returning and no fruit of non-returning, no arhat and no arhatship, no individual awakening and individually-awakened, no knowledge of the path-maker and no bodhisatva, no awakening and no awakened.

Here prāpti and abhisamaya stand for the more usual marga and phala. Thus Kumārajīva, alone of the three Chinese translators, has made an error here. This very specific error is copied into the Heart Sutra and then translated into Sanskrit. This alone makes the Chinese origins thesis a certainty.


It is now 27 years since Nattier's article was published and it has yet to get the credit it deserves. I find it frustrating that the responses to it fall so far short of the standard that Nattier set, and yet still seem to outshine her exemplary work.

There is always the possibility that Pat457 has misrepresented Harada, in which case this critique can be considered a rebuttal of the Pat457's text. And my apologies to Harada-san. I'd be more than happy to read a full translation of Harada's article by a competent translator at some point, even though the summary by Pat457 makes it seem quite unpromising. But, taking it at face value, we have to question what Harada was doing when he published these comments and what kind of editorial process his work went through. The Sanskrit text he uses is faulty to start with. Does no one actually read the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit? The flaws in his argument seem so obvious that the whole enterprise strains credulity. How do these substandard articles on the Heart Sutra get published?

The Heart Sutra, the most popular of all Buddhist texts, seems to attract only cranks and zealots. Where is the careful, detailed, impartial scholarship? Why are the same old cliches endlessly repeated?

At present the Wikipedia article on the Heart Sutra says that Fukui, Harada, Ishii  et al have refuted the Chinese origins thesis, which is simply and emphatically not true. The traditional interpretation has some antiquity and should be properly documented. But so should the truth. The Heart Sutra appears to be popular only in a very narrow sense of the word: it is chanted and sung as a magical incantation, but it is not read or studied. If you want to tell me that you have read or studied the text then first you must tell me where the mistakes are. If you can't say, then you have not read it. And if you have only studied a translation, then you have been misled, probably deliberately. You've been had. And the sad thing is that the true history and story of the Heart Sutra is better than the cheesy traditional story.

"Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"
John Lydon. 



Attwood, J.
— 2015. ‘Heart Murmurs: Some Problems with Conze’s Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya.’ Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, 8, 28-48.
— 2017a. ‘“Epithets of the Mantra’ in the Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya.” Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, 12: 28-59.
— 2017b. ‘Form is (Not) Emptiness: The Enigma at the Heart of the Heart Sutra.’ Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, 13, 52–80.
— 2018a. A note on Niṣṭhānirvāṇaḥ in the Heart Sutra. Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, 14, 10-17
— 2018b. ‘The Buddhas of the Three Times and the Chinese Origins of the Heart Sutra.’ Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. 15, 9-27.
— 2019a (forthcoming). Xuanzang's Relationship to the Heart Sutra in light of the Fangshan Stele. Journal of Chinese Buddhism.
— 2019b (forthcoming). ‘Ungarbling Section VI of the Sanskrit Heart Sutra.’ Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies.

Conze, Edward. (1973). The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines and its Verse Summary. San Francisco: City Lights, 2006 (reprint).

Dutt, N. (1934). Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra: edited with critical notes and introduction. London, Luzac & Co.

Harada, W. (2002) "An Annotated Translation of The Prajñaparamitahrdaya." Association of Esoteric Buddhist Studies, Vol.2002, No.209, pp. L17-L62

— (2008). “A Survey Of Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra Translations In Chinese.” Unpublished Essay. http://prajnacara.blogspot.com/2008/10/survey-of-prajnaparamita-sutra.html.
— (2014). “Apocryphal Treatment for Conze’s Heart Problems: Non-attainment, Apprehension, and Mental Hanging in the Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya.” Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. 6: 72-105.

Karashima, S., et al. (2016) Mahāyāna Texts: Prajñāpāramitā Texts (1). Gilgit Manuscripts in the National Archives of India Facsimile Edition Volume II.1. The National Archives of India and The International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology, Soka University, Tokyo.

Kimura, Takayasu. (2010). Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā. 5 Vols. Tokyo: Sankibo Busshorin 2007-2010.

Nattier, Jan (1992). “The Heart Sūtra: a Chinese apocryphal text?” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. 15 (2) 153-223.

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