25 September 2020

Early Buddhist Heterodoxy: Pudgalavāda

I've been reading the excellent book chapter on pudgalavāda "the person doctrine" by Amber Carpenter (pictured). Carpenter  (2015) summarises a coherent, emergentist philosophy and it's clear to me that Buddhism is much the poorer for the disappearance of such heterodox thinking. There was a time when Buddhists disagreed about fundamentals and this produced both innovative thinking and bracing polemics. Even so, the polemics acknowledge that those who espoused pudgalavāda were Buddhists. The aim was to refute and convert, not to exclude.

It is worth clarifying at the outset that pudgalavāda is not the name of a sectarian lineage like the Theravāda (hence, I do not capitalise it). Rather, it was a view espoused by members of a range of such lineages but somewhat independently of them. Thus, it does not make sense to refer to "Pudgalavādins" in the way that we refer to Theravādins. Pudgalavāda is a philosophical view of certain issues that Carpenter draws out.

If we take a typical introduction to discussion of pudgalavāda we learn that:
The [pudgalavāda] doctrine holds that the person, in a certain sense, is real. To other Buddhists, their view seemed to contradict a fundamental tenet of Buddhism, the doctrine of non-self. — Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
This view subtly takes the orthodox view and treats pudgalavāda as heterodox and it sets up a false dichotomy. This is partly because most accounts of pudgalavāda are drawn from polemics that seem to deliberately take a mistaken view of what is meant by pudgala, i.e. that it is an ātman substitute. It is emphatically not an ātmavāda and it is not in any way connected to the idea of a permanent self. So when a source like this links pudgalavāda to the anātman doctrine this is a strawman. 

Although Carpenter highlights karma in her title, the role of karma in the story of pudgalavāda is down-played in a way that I found a little frustrating, because of my own project. Rather than review Carpenter, I will simply recommend the chapter to anyone interested in early Buddhist thought. It is well written and cogently argued and makes a good deal of sense of what might otherwise be a puzzling development in Buddhist thought. What I aim to do here is reframe Carpenter's observations in terms that better suit my own purposes.

In particular, I want to put karma and problems with the early Buddhist doctrine of karma at the forefront and pursue my thesis that it was problems integrating other doctrines with the karma doctrine rather than, say, problems with anātmavāda, that motivated the development of early Buddhist sectarianism. I have long argued, for example, that there is a conflict between karma and the doctrine of dependent arising which does not allow for continuity over time or for consequences manifesting long after their condition has ceased to exist. And I've also argued that in resolving the conflict, Buddhists always seek to resolve it in favour of karma. Even Nāgārjuna, who deduces, based on unchallenged presuppositions, that karma cannot be ultimately real, ends up accepting that karma is still operative at the level of conventional reality. No one seems to question whether this is a coherent worldview, let alone whether it is a coherent view of karma (in my view the answer is "no" in both cases). 

Framing Buddhist sectarianism as based on philosophical disagreements over the nature of selfhood is commonplace. Everyone seems to assume that disagreements in which (an)ātman is discussed must be based in speculations about the nature of ātman. And this is true even when only the secondary literature discusses ātman. But why, oh why, were Buddhists speculating about the nature of something that they explicitly did not believe in? This is not a question that writing on anātmanvāda seems to address. Whatever the answer, Carpenter points out that scripture was not able to resolve such conflicts since "the best evidence available—namely the discourses of the Buddha...—was both ambiguous and conflicting" (3). And yet, as she also says on the following pages, the conflict over pudgala was not over the anātman doctrine. Rather, proponents of pudgalavāda were at pains to affirm anātmavāda (5). The pudgala is emphatically not an ātman substitute. So if the pudgala was not ātman then what was it?

What is the Pudgala?

The pudgalavāda argues that the skandhas are not randomly distributed or related. Rather, there is a distinct arrangement of the skandhas associated with each individual. If Devadatta experiences a vedanā, it only happens to him. Yajñadatta does not have a cognition based on Devadatta's sense experience. If Devadatta and Yajñādatta are both looking at an orange and Devadatta closes his eyes, Devadatta cannot see the orange, but Yajñadatta still can. A dharma cognized by the manas of Devadatta is not cognized by the manas of Yajñadatta. This is a very obvious fact but one that seldom comes into play in mainstream Buddhism philosophy. Whatever you wish to say about ātman, at some level we are individuals having individual sense experiences that are not public, not shared, but private and subjective. 

Most Buddhist thought is relentlessly reductive. Early Buddhists sought reality through reductive analysis. Such methods result in knowledge about substances (dharma, dravya). The Abhidharma extended this to include substances and the relations (pratyāya) between them, but they still reduced everything to their catalogues of substances and relations. 

The whole discussion was made more complex by the realisation that metaphysical reductionism causes a problem. If only simple substances (dharmas) are real, then what is the nature of the complex world we interact with? The answer was sought in a doctrine that had originally described the arising of experiences in awareness: contact between sense organ and sense object gave rise to sense consciousness. This was now generalised to apply to reality in the broadest sense: everything arises in dependence on conditions.

This led towards a hierarchical construction of reality into ultimately real (paramārtha-sat) and conventionally real (saṃvṛti-sat). Initially, only substance was ultimately real and structures and systems (the macro world we interact with) were only conventionally real. The view is hierarchical because that which is conventionally real derives its existence from that which is ultimately real. Nāgārjuna abandoned the idea that substance is real and asserted that only absence (śūnyatā) is real and then complained when people called him a nihilist.

Carpenter makes the excellent point that by the time of Vasubandhu (upon whose polemics we often rely for information about heterodox Buddhists) paramārtha-sat and saṃvṛti-sat were routinely being conflated with another pair of concepts, i.e. substantially real (drayva-sat) and conceptually real (prajñapti-sat). In this view, conventionally real phenomena are merely conceptual (prajñapti). The world that we interact with as pṛthagjanas is just a bunch of concepts. 

However, it seems to me that the corollary—that what is ultimately real was the substantial (or objective)—was not so widely accepted. Indeed, it is this idea that is in the sights of both Nāgārjuna and Vasubandhu. As I've noted. Nāgārjuna, using deduction from a set of axioms, is forced into the conclusion that only absence is real. As I understand Vasubandhu, he would also reject that idea that ultimate reality can be conflated with substance. His response was to flirt with idealism (though his actual commitment to idealism is the subject of ongoing debates) in the form of the mind-only doctrine (cittamātravāda aka "doctrine of mere conceptions" vijñaptimātravāda). In this sense, Vasubandhu seems to lean toward connecting paramārtha-sat to prajñapti-sat.

This conflation of conventionally real and conceptually real should sound familiar because some version of it is present in almost all modern Buddhist teachings. We are taught that what appears to be real to the unenlightened turns out to be mere conceptions. And "insight" blows away the delusions so that we see reality as it is, without the overlay of conceptions.

Keeping in mind that pudgala is defined as an arrangement of the skandhas, where would it fit into these definitions of what is real according to pudgalavāda

The pudgala is truly real (paramārtha-sat) because it really exists, but it is not a substance (dravya), so that is only conceptually real in the sense that we conceive of the pudgala based an arrangement of the skandhas in a particular individual. Not being a substance, but being only a peculiar but real arrangement of skandhas means that the pudgala does not qualify as an ātman.

This combination of paramārtha-sat and prajñapti-sat was confounding for other Buddhists with their commitment to reductionism. Vasubandhu argued that only two possibilities exist: the pudgala could either be reduced to the really existent skandhas, or it could not, and amounted to an ātmavāda. And he rejected both alternatives. He could not conceive of a non-reductive reality. 

In modern terms, the pudgalavāda is an anti-reductive or emergentist argument. The pudgala is real because of the structure of the skandhas, not because of their substance. I also see parallels with John Searle's distinctions between ontological and epistemic truths and between objective and subjective truths. The pudgala is an ontologically subjective truth, but at the same time epistemically objective. The mode of existence of the pudgala is mental and thus subjective, but for anyone who is aware, they are aware of being someone and having some kind of continuity over time.

Given that Buddhists are bound to stipulate the anātmavāda, this is a considerably better philosophical answer to the problem of our experience of continuity than the two truths doctrine, which to my mind is incoherent. But why is this an important area of speculations and conjectures for early Buddhists? We can see, I hope, what the pudgala is, but what is the point of postulating such a thing? 

What Does the Pudgala Do?

Proponents of pudgalavāda do not seem to have been involved in speculations about self. They themselves denied it. They were dragged into discussion "self" by strawman arguments based on reductionist metaphysics. It was like they could not help but buy into the framing of the criticisms from other Buddhists. 

Rather, they seem to be thinking about continuity. And continuity is important because without it karma is meaningless. On the other hand, ātman is what provides the necessary continuity for karma in the late Vedic religion and since Buddhist arguments about karma and ātman often revolve around explicit rejection of Vedic theology, the concept of "self" always seems to creep into the discussion, whether we like it or not. 

Carpenter makes the point that the Brahmanical ātman is a convenient idea because it performs a number of roles. It is the agent (kārtṛ) of actions (karman) and it is the patient (bhoktṛ) of consequences (vipāka) (11-12). There is no doubt for the ancient Brahmin that the one who acts is the one who suffers the consequences. This is all well and good because without this karma does not make sense, and neither does morality, generally. In fact, "actions have consequences" is a modern Buddhist catchcry. 

By adopting dependent arising as a metaphysics, Buddhists sacrificed the continuity necessary to make karma coherent. But only theoretically. When discussing karma or morality Buddhists still acted as though continuity is a given. Nowhere is this more apparent that the fifth of the "Five Remembrances" from the Upajjhatthana Sutta (AN 5.57):
Kammassakomhi kammadāyādo kammayoni kammabandhū kammapaṭisaraṇo yaṃ kammaṃ karissāmi kalyāṇaṃ vā pāpakaṃ vā tassa dāyādo bhavissāmī 
I am the owner of my actions, the heir of my actions, born from my actions, bound to my actions, and find refuge in my actions. I will be the heir of whatever good or evil actions I do.
There is no doubt in my mind that these lines strongly imply continuity over time: either the kārtṛ and the bhoktṛ are the same person or the words don't make sense. And much the same is true throughout the Jātakas which are used to teach Buddhist morality in more traditional societies. These are stories of how the someone's actions in a past life are the cause of some event in their present life. The protagonists are all given definite identities in the past. Morality is not possible without this kind of continuity. 

At the same time Buddhists have long denied any continuous entity which could provide the continuity necessary for karma to work like this. The "self" (ātman) or "being" (satva) is analysed into components in a typically reductive method, exposing the complex object as insubstantial, but also going the extra mile and declaring that only substances can be real and that therefore complex objects, like a self, are not real. Modern Buddhists recite this without reflection on the applicability of reductionism. 

By breaking the reductionist mould, pudgalavāda found a way out of the dilemma of having morality and metaphysics that are inconsistent. The loss caused by the disappearance of this stream of thought from Buddhism is immeasurable. 

Without ever conceding that they intended any kind of ātman, or that anything like an ātman could be inferred from pudgalavāda, the argument proceeded like this. The skandhas are not randomly distributed. Experience is subjective and thus individualised. We do not have access to each other's experience, stories of extrasensory powers notwithstanding. 

If experience is and remains subjective, then each occurrence of the five skandhas as a group stays together as a group or else subjective experience would be incoherent. There is a persistent structure that is not drvaya-sat, i.e. not a real substance, but which is paramārtha-sat, i.e. truly real. They appear here to be groping towards an emergentist metaphysics by admitting that something other than a substance can be real. Although reductive ontologies are the current mainstream, the argument for only including substance and excluding structure/system from reality is an ideological argument. The argument for a reductive metaphysics is not inescapable or paramārtha-sat.

Each individual is a collection of skandhas. When Devadatta sees something, Yajñadatta doesn't experience a vedanā. Yajñadatta only experiences a vedanā when his own sense organs contact a sense object. The skandhas themselves are associated with each other over time, they are grouped together in this way. No other explanation fits with the subjectivity of experience. It is this association that is real and persistent. It is not a real and persistent substance and thus emphatically not an ātman. Moreover, it is not a "relation" (pratyāya) in the Abhidharma sense. It is this association of skandhas that we name pudgala in this context.

The important thing is that the pudgala provides the kind of continuity that karma demands and that dependent arising makes impossible. And because the association itself is not dealt with the reductive metaphysics of early Buddhists, it is not specifically denied. What's more there is some (admittedly minimal) textual support for this interpretation in the Bhāra Sutta (SN 22:22).
Katamo ca, bhikkhave, bhārahāro. Puggalo Tissa vacanīyaṃ. Yoyaṃ āyasmā evaṃnāmo evaṃgotto; ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, bhārahāro. (SN III.26)
What is the bearer of the burden (bhāra-hāra)? It should be called “person” (puggala). This elder named thus and from a particular clan. Monks, this is called the bearer of the burden
And what is the burden (bhāra)? It is precisely the skandhas, or here the five branches that fuel existence (pañcupādānakkhandhā). This is only one of many texts in the Theravāda canon that contradict Theravāda orthodoxy. 


It seems unhelpful to think of the pudgalavāda as a speculative philosophy born from conjectures about the nature of the self. Rather, if I may say so, it fits better with my account of Buddhists being trapped in an invidious position of embracing the moral doctrine of karma and at the same time adopting a metaphysics which denied the reality of the mechanism by which karma works (i.e. continuity over time). Many ways out of this dilemma were proposed including the "always existence dharma theory" (sarvāstivāda) and the theory of momentary series of dharmas (kṣanavāda). Pudgalavāda is a lost solution to this problem that is far more interesting and promising than popular presentations would suggest. I think Amber Carpenter covered the problems with karma, but to me they deserve special emphasis. 

The pudgala refers to the specific arrangement of skandhas that makes up an individual. It must be individual because sense experience is subjective. This arrangement, this structure, as I would call it, is paramārtha-sat but not dravya-sat. In John Searle's (1995) terms it is ontologically subjective, but epistemically objective. Even though the experience is subjective, we know that it is real as opposed to, for example, an illusion, a hallucination, or a dream. A real experience is distinguishable from an unreal one in a number of ways: the unreal experience does not follow our explicit or implicit physical laws, in an unreal experience our senses do not concur with each other (e.g. something heard but not seen), and other observers do not concur on the existence of unreal experiences. Obviously, this distinction is not infallible. 

If karma visits the consequences of actions on the agent (kārtṛ), then the agent must persist in some way to become the patient (bhoktṛ) or the doctrine is incoherent. Buddhists scriptures themselves link the kārtṛ and bhoktṛ

Alone amongst all of Buddhism, as far as I know, the pudgalavāda is the only Buddhist doctrine to question the supremacy of reductionism. This alone makes it worthy of respect and interest.Since reading Richard Jones Analysis and the Fullness of Reality, I am personally interested in any philosophy which embraces the reality of structure or systems. It is a delight to find such a view in the unrelenting reductionism of both early and modern Buddhism.

I also cannot help but note that the Prajñāpāramitāvāda appears to avoid the metaphysical problems by staying inside the lines of epistemology. Rather than dabbling in speculative metaphysics, Prajñāpāramitā remains focussed on the phenomenology of meditation and in particular the state of absence of sense experience (śūnyatā). Where Nāgārjuna is sucked down the rabbit hole of asserting the ultimate reality of absence, the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras do not make this mistake. They do not follow the white rabbit. They know that what absence offers is not reality, but a deeper glimpse into the nature of subjectivity.

I'm still trying to counteract the disastrous misreadings of history so this is probably an overly generous view of Prajñāpāramitā. Because, of course, they were trying to make sense of Buddhist doctrines as well. Prajñāpāramitā is still at heart a soteriology, a way to escape from rebirth. The religious worldview of karma and rebirth is still the context in which the Prajñāpāramitā discourses take place.



Carpenter, Amber. 2015. "Persons Keeping their Karma Together: The Reasons for the Pudgalavāda in Early Buddhism." In The Moon Points Back. Edited by Koji Tanaka et al, 1-44. Oxford University Press.

Searle, John R. (1995). The Construction of Social reality. Penguin.

Amber Carpenter is an associate professor at Yale University. She is involved in the Integrity Project

28 August 2020

The Extended Heart Sutra: Rejoicing

This is the last part of my close reading of the extended Heart Sutra. I am planning a final instalment of the series to summarise the main findings. This will then become the germ of an article for publication, since most of these observations are new and some are noteworthy for anyone studying the Heart Sutra.

Here we are dealing with the second half of the conclusion and, in the Sanskrit and Tibetan texts, the name of the text, which for historical reasons comes at the end. This passage corresponds to Paragraphs W and X in Silk's (1994) critical edition of the Tibetan.

In Recension One, Paragraph W conveys, using stock phrases or pericopes, the response of Śāriputra as the principle audience of the teaching and the response of beings more generally. In Recension Two there is no specific response from Śāriputra, just a general response from the audience. Recall that R2 lacks any text corresponding to Paragraphs TUV. Interestingly, the last phrase of the conclusion is identical in all of the Chinese texts, including T 252 (the sole representative of R2).


T 253: 爾時世尊說是語已,具壽舍利弗大喜充遍,觀自在菩薩摩訶薩亦大歡喜。時彼眾會天人阿修羅乾闥婆等,聞佛所說,皆大歡喜,信受奉行。
At that time, after the Bhagavān had spoken, Elder Śāriputra overflowed with great joy, Avalokiteśvara bodhisatva mahāsatva was also greatly pleased. Then, that numerous gathering of devas (天), humans (人), asuras (阿修羅), gandharvas (乾闥婆), etc., heard what the Buddha said; they were all greatly pleased, faithfully accepted and respectfully practiced.
T 254: 爾時世尊如是說已,具壽舍利子,觀世音自在菩薩,及彼眾會一切世間天人阿蘇囉巘䭾嚩等,聞佛所說,皆大歡喜,信受奉行。
At that time, after the Bhagavān had spoken, Elder Śāriputra, Avalokiteśavara bodhisatva and the others in the congregation (眾會), all the world with devas, humans, asuras, gandharvas, etc., heard what the Buddha said, they were all greatly pleased, faithfully accepted and respectfully practiced.
T 255: 時薄伽梵說是語已。具壽舍利子,聖者觀自在菩薩摩訶薩,一切世間天人阿蘇羅乾闥婆等,聞佛所說,皆大歡喜,信受奉行。
When the Bhagavan had spoken, Elder Śāriputra, Ārya Avalokiteśvara bodhisatva mahāsatva, and all the world with its devas, humans, asuras, gandharvas, etc., heard what the Buddha said, they were all greatly pleased, faithfully accepted and respectfully practiced.
T 257: 佛說此經已,觀自在菩薩摩訶薩并諸苾芻,乃至世間天人阿修羅乾闥婆等一切大眾,聞佛所說,皆大歡喜,信受奉行。
The Buddha spoke this sūtra, Avalokiteśvara bodhisatva mahāsatva, all the bhikṣus up to the whole world with its devas, humans, asuras, gandharvas, etc., and all people, heard what the Buddha said, they were all greatly pleased, faithfully accepted and respectfully practiced.
Skt. Idam avocad bhagavān āttamanā āyuṣmāñc Chāriputraḥ āryāvalokiteśvaro bodhisatvo mahāsatvas te ca bodhisatvā mahāsatvāḥ sā ca sarvāvatī pariṣat sadeva-mānuṣāsura-garuda*-gandharvaś ca loko bhagavato bhāṣitam abhyanandan. iti prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya-sūtraṃ samāptam.
The Bhagavan said this. Overjoyed, Elder Śāriputra, Noble Avalokiteśvara bodhisatva mahāsatva, those bodhisatva mahāsatvas, the whole gathering, and the world with its devas, humans, demons and celestial musicians rejoiced in the words of the Bhagavan. The Sutra of the Heart of Paragnosis is completed. 
*absent from Jb
TibA: W bcom ldan 'das kyis de skad ces bka' stsal nas / tshe dang ldan pa shā ri'i bu dang / byang chub sems dpa' sems dpa' chen po 'phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug dang / thams cad dang ldan pa'i 'khor de dang / lha dang / mi dang / lha ma yin dang / dri zar bcas pa'i 'jig rten yi tangs te / bcom ldan 'das kyis gsungs pa la mngon par bstod po // X bcom ldan 'das ma shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa'i snying po zhes bya ba theg pa chen po'i mdo rdzogs so //                                                                                            The Blessed One having spoken this, Elder Śāriputra, bodhisatva mahāsatva Ārya Avalokiteśvara, the world encompassing that entire audience and gods, and men, and asuras, and gandharvas rejoiced and praised the speech of the Blessed One. Thus concludes the Mahāyāna Sūtra of the Blessed Mother, the Heart of the Transcendent Perfection of Wisdom.
TibB: bcom ldan 'das kyis de skad ces bka' stsal nas / tshe dang ldan pa shā ri'i bu dang / byang chub sems dpa' * 'phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug dang / thams cad dang ldan pa'i 'khor de dang lha dang / mi dang / lha ma yin dang / dri zar bcas pa'i 'jig rten yi tangs te / bcom ldan 'das kyis gsungs pa la mngon par bstod po //'phags pa bcom ldan 'das ma shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa'i snying po rdzogs so //
The Blessed One having spoken this, Elder Śāriputra, and bodhisatva mahāsatva Ārya Avalokiteśvara, and the world encompassing that entire audience and gods, and men, and asuras, and gandharvas rejoiced and praised the speech of the Blessed One. Thus concludes the Mahāyāna Sūtra of the Blessed Mother, the Heart of the Transcendent Perfection of Wisdom.
* omits sems dpa' chen po = mahāsatva
T 252: 佛說是經已,諸比丘及菩薩眾,一切世間天人阿脩羅乾闥婆等,聞佛所說,皆大歡喜,信受奉行。
After the Buddha preached this sutra, all the bhikṣus and the bodhisatva congregation, all the world—the devas, humans, asuras, gandharvas, etc.—heard what the Buddha said, they were all greatly pleased, faithfully accepted and respectfully practiced.

Notes and Comments


The standard sutra ending says that the main protagonists along with the whole world rejoiced at the Buddha's words. In R1 this is Elder Śāriputra and Bodhisatva Avalokiteśvara. The phrase—together with everyone in the gathering (ca sarvāvatī parṣad)—is a little unusual but is followed by the utterly stock phrase about the world with its various kinds of being (sadeva-mānuṣa-āsura-gandharvaḥ lokaḥ). Most of the mss include the bodhisatvas (te ca bodhisatvā mahāsatvāḥ ) but this is omitted in Jb, TibA, TibB, and Nh.

It was notable that the opening mentioned the bodhisatva-saṃgha, but they are not mentioned here.

T 253 translates ca sarvāvatī parṣad as bǐ zhòng huì 彼眾會; while T 254 has bǐ zhòng huì yīqiè shìjiān 彼眾會一切世間—where yīqiè shìjiān 一切世間 means "all the world". This appears to be an attempt to include ca loko but mistakes the grammatical relationship.

There are some differences between the Conze edition and Jb, aka the Hasedera Manuscript (which was the foundation for both Müller's edition and the edition by Vaidya which is now widely available on the internet e.g. DBSC).
Conze: āttamanā āyuṣmāñc Chāriputraḥ āryāvalokiteśvaro bodhisatvo mahāsatvas te ca bodhisatvā mahāsatvāḥ sā ca sarvāvatī parṣat sadeva-mānuṣāsura-garuda-gandharvaś ca loko bhagavato bhāṣitam abhyanandann iti.
Jb: ānandamanā āyuṣmān śāriputraḥ āryāvalokiteśvaraśca bodhisatvaḥ sā ca sarvāvatī pariṣat sadeva-mānuṣāsura-gandharvaś ca loko bhagavato bhāṣitam abhyanandan||
Jb has ānandamanā आनन्दमना for āttamanā आत्तमना, omits te ca bodhisatvā mahāsatvāḥ, and omits garuda.

Unfortunately, the notation in Conze's (1967) edition completely falls apart at this point. E.g. the citation labelled na doesn't exist in Conze's notes. Some of his lettered citations are both the beginning and the end of a passage, some are adjacent to words but the notes deal with phrases. Numbered citations go up to 61, but the notes only go up to 58. I have found at least one variant omitted (note d, Nb tasmā tahi). Also Nb and Ce omit garuḍa but this is not noted by Conze.

Other Sanskrit Prajñāpāramitā texts end similarly.
Pañc: idam avocad bhagavān āttamanaso maitreyapramukhā bodhisattvā mahāsattvāḥ, āyuṣmāṃś ca subhūtir āyuṣmāṃś ca śāriputra āyuṣmāṃś cānandaḥ, śakraś ca devānām indraḥ sadevamānuṣāsuragandharvaś ca loko bhagavato bhāṣitam abhyanandann iti. (PSP_6-8:179)
Aṣṭa: idamavocadbhagavān āttamanāḥ / te ca maitreyapramukhā bodhisattvā mahāsattvāḥ āyuṣmāṃś ca subhūtirāyuṣmāṃś ca śāriputraḥ āyuṣmāṃścānandaḥ śakraś ca devānāmindraḥ sadevamānuṣāsuragaruḍagandharvaś ca loko bhagavato bhāṣitamabhyanandanniti // (Vaidya 261)
Vaj: idam avocad bhagavān āttamanā sthavira subhūtis te ca bhikṣubhikṣuṇyupāsakopāsikāh sadevamānuṣāsuragandharvaś ca loko bhagavato bhāṣitam abhyanandan || (Schopen 1989: Gilgit MS 12b2-3)
Note that the main protagonists are named and not necessarily everyone is named in the Nidāna.

T 255 uses a transliteration of bhagavant, i.e. báojiāfàn 薄伽梵 (also in the nidāna in Para D), where other texts use shìzūn 世尊 literally "world honoured" (T 253, 254) while T 252 and T 257 simply opt for 佛 "buddha".

A small note is that the title "Elder" āyuṣmān is placed before the name Śāriputraḥ but bodhisatvo mahāsatvas are placed after āryāvalokiteśvaraḥ. This means that bodhisatva and mahāsatva are not titles or epithets the way that āyuṣmān ("one who possesses [long] life") is, they are adjectives. Some time ago I noted that words of the form X-satva in Sanskrit are bahuvrīhi, i.e. adjectival, compounds meaning "whose essence or nature is X". On the other hand, in Sanskrit and Pāli adjectives are often used as proper nouns. So Śiva and, later, Avalokiteśvara are both called nīlakaṇṭha, "dark throated" Words like tathāgata, sugata, and bhagavant are all adjectives being used as proper nouns.

Devas, etcetera

There are three variant spellings for asura, which are all transliterations: āxiūluó 阿修羅, āxiūluó 阿脩羅, and āsūluō 阿蘇囉. Two variants for gandharva: gāntàpó 乾闥婆 and yǎntuómó 巘䭾嚩.

T 253阿修羅乾闥婆
T 254阿蘇囉巘䭾嚩
T 255阿蘇羅乾闥婆
T 257阿修羅乾闥婆
T 252阿脩羅乾闥婆

Conze's text includes garuḍa, though this is omitted in all the Chinese and both Tibetan versions, as well as in several of the Nepalese mss. It's clearly a late addition and should have been omitted from the text and consigned to a note.

... bhagavato bhāṣitam abhyanandan.
were overjoyed with the words of the bhagavan.
This word is not in any of my dictionaries. So it is worth looking at the morphology for students who may be scratching their heads. We can see that the word has a prefix abhi-, so the stem is ananda (and sandhi dictates that -i a- → ya). Given the rest of the sentence and the position of this word we expect a verb. In fact, here we have the 3rd person plural imperfect of abhinand "to be overjoyed, to rejoice, to hail, to applaud; to be fully satisfied with". The augment a- is added to the root before any prefixes so the morphology is abhi-a-nandan which resolves to abhyanandan. It is plural because there are multiple agents.

The Name of the Text

Nbārya prajñāpāramitā-hṛdayaṃ
Ndśrī prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya
Neārya-pañcaviṃśatikā-prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya nāma dhāraṇī
Nhārya-śrī-pañcavinsatikā-prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya nāma dhāraṇī
Nmpañcaviṃśatikā-prajñāpāramitā nāma dhāraṇī
Cearyrāpañcaviśatikā prajñāpāramitā-hṛdayaṃ
Japrajñāpāramit [hṛda]yā
Tibbhagavatī prajñāpāramitā hṛdaya
T 252普遍智藏般若波羅蜜多心經
T 253-5般若波羅蜜多心經
T 257佛說聖佛母般若波羅蜜多經

Note that Conze doesn't list all of the variants and I have not been able to see all of his sources. Some of these notations are doubled up. For example, Nl = Nh and Nm = Cg.

Pañcaviṃśatikā means "consisting of twenty-five" and refers to the number of syllables, using the śloka meter as a yardstick. A śloka is four padas (half a line) of eight syllables or 32 syllables. This measure is used even for prose texts like this one. So we expect the extended Heart Sutra to be about 800 syllables, though by my rough count it is closer to 1200 or 38 ślokas or aṣṭatrimśadsāharikā.

Note that Monier-Williams suggests that viṃśati 20 is probably derived from dva-daśati, but this oddity seems to go back much further. Proto-Indo-European 20 has been reconstructed as *wīḱm̥t or *du̯idḱm̥ti based on 2 *du̯oh₁ and 10 *deḱm̥t (Greek deka). The change from PIE /ḱ/ to Skt /ś/ is regular. Indo-European counting is much more convoluted than Chinese. 

Many of the Nepalese manuscripts explicitly refer to the text as a dhāraṇī and in Asia it was often written along with the Uṣṇīṣavijāya dhāraṇī.


This part of the text is made up of stock phrases although, clearly, there was some variation on how these stock phrases were translated into Chinese and Tibetan. And, of course, there were variations on the theme. The key word in Sanskrit is the verb abhi√nand "rejoice". The Chinese take this a little further with jiē dàhuānxǐ, xìn shòu fèngxíng 皆大歡喜,信受奉行。 "greatly pleased, faithfully accepted and respectfully practiced". Where dàhuānxǐ 大歡喜 corresponds to abhi√nand.

This is both a formalism and something of symbolic value. It is part of what authenticates the text as a genuine sutra. Without this abhinandati the text seems less authentic. And while considerable effort was made by previous generations to guarantee the authenticity of the sutra by associating it with Xuanzang and his trip to India, this seems not to have satisfied the Redactors of R1 and R2. At present we don't know when this happened, but we could speculate that the waning influence of Xuanzang might have had an effect. His Fǎxiāng zōng (法相宗) Yogācāra Buddhism died out after about a century and his translations were never really popular because they eschewed the literary conventions of Chinese literature in favour of more precisely capturing the meaning of the text. Or it might be that the Xīnjīng travelled out into Central Asia where Xuanzang's name meant less than it did in China.

In any case, the fact that the text lacked the necessary features was obviously too much for at least two Buddhists. One created a Chinese extended text (T 252), and one created a Sanskrit extended text that was subsequently translated three times in Chinese (T 253, 254, 257) and twice into Tibetan. I'm once again reminded that there was a lot of editorial activity on the Heart Sutra in Dunhuang, producing a variety of texts.

Next up, I'll try to summarise these eight posts in one.


21 August 2020

The Extended Heart Sutra: The Buddha's Endorsement

Continuing my close reading of the extended Heart Sutra in Sanskrit and Chinese, with the Tibetan text for comparison, we now move onto the conclusion.

I will approach this in two parts based on the paragraphs in Silk's (1994) critical edition of the Tibetan. In this instalment I will deal with  Paragraphs T, U, and V; and in the next with Paragraphs W & X.

Once again R2 (T 252) is substantially different from R1 in that it has nothing similar to TUV but does have a shortened version of W.

None of the Chinese texts has a Para X, since they put the title at the beginning. 

An outline of the conclusion is:
  • Para T. The last comment by Avalokiteśavara, repeating that the teaching that makes up the standard text is the way bodhisatva should train in the practice of Prajñāpāramitā.
  • Para U The Buddha emerges from his samādhi and congratulates Avalokiteśvara (sādhu!)
  • Para V the Buddha endorses the teaching Avalokiteśvara has given and adds that if the teaching is put into practice the awakened beings (tathāgata, sugata) will rejoice.


T253. T「如是,舍利弗!諸菩薩摩訶薩於甚深般若波羅蜜多行,應如是行。」U 如是說已。即時,世尊從廣大甚深三摩地起,讚觀自在菩薩摩訶薩言:「善哉,善哉!善男子!V 如是,如是!如汝所說。甚深般若波羅蜜多行,應如是行。如是行時,一切如來皆悉隨喜。」
T. "Therefore, Śāriputra, all bodhisatva mahāsatvas who study the genuine and deep prajñāpāramitā practice, should practice it in this way." U. After this was said, at that time, the Bhagavān having arisen from the vast and profound samādhi, praised Avalokiteśvara bodhisatva mahāsatva, saying, “Sādhu. Sādhu, kulaputra.” V. That is it. That is it. Just as you said. Genuine practice of the deep Prajñāpāramitā should be practised in that way. To that practitioner (行時), the Tathāgatas (如來) respond with wholehearted joy (隨喜).
T 254. T「如是,舍利子!諸菩薩摩訶薩,於甚深般若波羅蜜多行,應如是學。」U 爾時,世尊從三摩地安祥而起,讚觀世音自在菩薩摩訶薩言:「善哉,善哉!善男子!V 如是,如是!如汝所說。甚深般若波羅蜜多行,應如是行。如是行時,一切如來悉皆隨喜。」
T. Therefore, Śāriputra, all bodhisatva mahāsatvas who practice the genuine and deep prajñāpāramitā practice, should train in this way. U. At that time, the Bhagavān, having serenely risen up from samādhi, praised Avalokiteśvara bodhisatva mahāsatva, saying, “Sādhu. Sādhu, kulaputra.” V. That is it. That is it. Just as you said. Genuine practice of the deep Prajñāpāramitā should be practised in that way. When practising that way all the Tathagatas respond with wholehearted delight.
T 255. T「舍利子!菩薩摩訶薩應如是修學甚深般若波羅蜜多。」U 爾時,世尊從彼定起,告聖者觀自在菩薩摩訶薩曰:「善哉,善哉!善男子!V 如是,如是!如汝所說。彼當如是修學般若波羅蜜多。一切如來亦當隨喜。」
T "Śāriputra, bodhisatva mahāsatvas should practice the genuine and deep prajñāpāramitā." U At that time, the Bhagavan having calmly arisen from that [samādhi] addressed Avalkoiteśvara, saying “Sādhu. Sādhu, kulaputra.” V That is it. That is it. As you have declared it. That is how [he] should train in Prajñāpāramitā. All the tathāgatas should rejoice.
T257. T「舍利子!諸菩薩摩訶薩,若能誦是般若波羅蜜多明句,是即修學甚深般若波羅蜜多。」U 爾時,世尊從三摩地安詳而起,讚觀自在菩薩摩訶薩言:「善哉,善哉!善男子!V 如汝所說,如是,如是!般若波羅蜜多當如是學,是即真實最上究竟,一切如來亦皆隨喜。」
T "Śāriputra, all bodhisatva mahāsatvas, if able to recite this Prajñāpāramitā vidyā, should train in this Prajñāpāramitā." U At that time, the Bhagavan having serenely risen  up from samādhi, praised Avalokiteśvara bodhisatva mahāsatva, saying, “Sādhu. Sādhu, kulaputra.” V That is it. That is it! Prajñāpāramitā should be practiced, it is real, supreme, and final. All the tathāgatas should rejoice.
Skt. T evaṃ śāriputra gambhīrāyāṃ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caryāyāṃ śikṣitavyaṃ bodhisatvena. U atha khalu bhagavān tasmāt samādher vyutthāya āryāvalokiteśvarasya bodhisatvasya mahāsatvasya sādhukāram adāt. sādhu sādhu kulaputra. evam etat kulaputra, evam etad, gambhīrāyāṃ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caryāṃ cartavyaṃ. yathā tvayā nirdiṣṭam anumodyate sarva-tathāgatair arhadbhiḥ.
T. In this way, Śāriputra, should the profound practice of prajñāpāramitā be trained in by the bodhisatva. U. Then the Bhagavan, arose from that samādhi, and addressed Noble Avalokiteśvara bodhisatva mahāsatva to his face. Exactly! Right on target, son of the community! That is the way, son of the community, that is the way the deep practice of Prajāñpāramitā should be practiced. The way you have declared it is applauded by all the tathāgatas and arhats.
TibA. T shā ri'i bu byang chub sems dpa' sems dpa' chen pos de ltar shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa zab mo la bslab par bya'o // U de nas bcom ldan 'das ting nge 'dzin de las bzhengs te / byang chub sems dpa' sems dpa' chen po 'phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug la legs so zhes bya ba byin nas / legs so legs so // V rigs kyi bu ne de bzhin no // rigs kyi bu de de bzhin te / ji ltar khyod kyis bstan pa de bzhin du shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa zab mo la spyad par bya ste / de bzhin gshegs pa rnams kyang rjes su yi rang ngo //
T. Śāriputra! Thus should the bodhisatva mahāsatva learn the profound perfection of wisdom. U. Then, the Blessed One rose from that concentration and offering commendation to the bodhisatva mahāsatva Ārya Avalokiteśvara [said]: “Well done, well done. Gentle son it is just so. V. Gentle son, it is just so, and just as you have stated so should one practise the profound perfection of wisdom and even the sugatas* will rejoice.” 
*Silk has sugatas. But Tib. has de bzhin gshegs pa = tathāgatas. Also in Tib B.
Tib B. T shā ri'i bu byang chub sems dpa' sems dpa' chen pos / shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa zab mo la de ltar bslab par bya'o // U de nas bcom ldan 'das kyis / ting nge 'dzin de las bzhengs nas / byang chub sems dpa' sems dpa' chen po / 'phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug la rigs kyi bu legs so zhes bya ba byin nas / legs so legs so // rigs kyi bu ne de de bzhin no // V de de bzhin te / khyod kyis ji skad bstan pa bzhin du / shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa zab mo la spyad par bya ste / de bzhin gshegs pa rnams kyang rjes su yi rang ngo zhes legs so bya ba byin no //
T. Śāriputra! The bodhisatva mahāsatva should thus learn the profound perfection of wisdom. U. Then, the Blessed One rising from that concentration and offering commendation to the bodhisatva mahāsatva Ārya Avalokiteśvara [said]: “Excellent, excellent. Gentle son it is just so”. V. It is just so, and just as you have declared so should one practise the profound perfection of wisdom and even the sugatas will rejoice.”


Paragraph T

Paragraph T winds up the answer by Avalokiteśvara by saying "and this is how the bodhisatva should train (sikṣa-) in the practice (caryā-) of Prajñāpāramitā. There is a small anomaly in T 253
T 253 般若波羅蜜多行,應如是
T 254 般若波羅蜜多行,應如是學
Skt. prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caryāyāṃ śikṣitavyaṃ
The second xíng 行 is probably a scribal error for xué 學, perhaps an eye-skip. Although note that TibA and TibB leave out "the practice of" completely:
TibA de ltar... bslab par bya'o "in that way... he should train"
TibB de ltar bslab par bya'o // "he should train in that way"
But in Tibetan, the question was asked in these terms also in Paragraph G.

T 257 adds a whole extra phrase: ruò néng sòng shì bōrěbōluómìduō míngjù 若能誦是般若波羅蜜多明句 "If able to recite this Prajñāpāramitā dhāraṇī". Having studied the many ways that Chinese authors translated vidyā in a Prajñāpāramitā context I guess that míngjù 明句 literally "bright verse" is yet another way of translating vidyā or dhāraṇī, or even vidyā-dhāraṇī. This phrase has no parallel in any other version of the Heart Sutra.

Paragraph U

Recall that in Paragraph D the Buddha enters a samādhi having given a Dharma teaching or dharmaparyāya. The Sanskrit text gives the Dharma teaching a name—gambhīrāvabhāsa—and the samādhi is just generic. The Chinese and Tibetan texts take gambhīrāvabhāsa or some variant of it as the name of the samādhi. As I wrote about Para D:
T 253 and 254 call the samādhi (sānmèi 三昧, sānmóde 三摩地 ) "extensive" guǎng dà 廣大 (mahat, vaipulya) and "profound" shèn shēn 甚深 (gambhīra). We have a term corresponding to gambhīra but we don't have one that corresponds to avabhāsa (illumination). We might expect a word including the character guāng 光 such as guāngmíng 光明or guāngzhào 光照.
Now the Buddha emerges from samādhi. Compare T 253:
即時世尊 從廣大甚深 三摩地
jíshí shìzūn cóng guǎngdà shènshēn sānmódì
The Bhagavan having arisen from the vast and profound samādhi...
It looks as though T 253 does not use standard Chinese (SVO) syntax, but rather follows the Sanskrit (SOV) convention with the verb ( 起 "arise") at the end, although from the Sanskrit we see that the "verb" in this case is a gerund:
atha khalu bhagavān tasmāt samādher vyutthāya
Then / indeed / Bhagavan/ from that / samādhi / having arisen
This looks like a good piece of evidence that T 253 is a translation from Sanskrit. However compare T 254:
爾時世尊 從三摩地 安祥而起
ěr shía shìzūn cóng sānmóde ān xiáng ér qǐ
At that time, the Bhagavan having serenely arisen from samādhi...
The word order is much the same. T 257 exactly follows T 254 at this point, i.e. 世尊從三摩地安詳而起. T 255 is similar but with the same word order and a slightly different wording ěr shía shìzūn cóng bǐ dìng qǐ 爾時世尊從彼定起. It could be that T 255 and T 257 are copying T 254 (more or less) or that there is a Sanskrit variant with an extra adverb—such as prasanna—though none of the extant Sanskrit texts have this. 

In fact this is a Chinese idiom. In T 223: cóng zuò qǐ 從座起 "he rose from his seat" literally from seat rising (8.229c08); also jiē cóng zuò qǐ 皆從座起 "all rose from their seats" (8.230b12). And numerous other examples.  

Paragraph V

Sādhu comes from the verb √sādh "succeed directly" and the underlying image seems to be an arrow flying directly to the target, hitting the bullseye. And sādhu is an agent noun in -u that means "one who hits the mark, unerring; successful". This is why we sometimes hear wandering ascetics in India called "sadhus". "Sādhu" in our context means a person or an action "is spot on; has hit the bullseye; is on the money, on the nail, on the button; on target; has hit the spot; is textbook; has performed to a T, to perfection; etc." Avalokiteśvara has given a textbook presentation of Prajñāpāramitā; a flawless performance. He has really hit the nail on the head. He takes a ride to Kings Cross Station and collects $200 as he passes "Go". And so on.

It is slightly peculiar that the Sanskrit suggests that the teaching would be approved of by all the tathāgatas and arhats (anumodyate sarva-tathāgatair arhadbhiḥ). The arhats, generally speaking do not approve of Mahāyāna teachings, especially in the 8th Century by which time the distinction has become somewhat schlerotic. So arhats are an anachronism here. Many of the Sanskrit manuscripts omit reference to the arhats as do all the Chinese and Tibetan translations. The absence in all the medieval translations suggests that the arhats were added later and should probably be removed from the edited text.

That said, I should emphasise that the hostility towards Arhats or towards Śāriputra as a representative of that group is not found in Prajñāpāramitā. Clearly the authors believe that they have a superior form of Buddhist practice, but their principle spokesman is Subhūti, an arhat. And while Śāriputra is clearly an outsider, he is attentive, asks questions, and seeks to understand what Subhūti and the Buddha are talking about. There is none of the inappropriate mockery found in texts like the Vimalakirtinirdeśa.

T 257 inserts a phrase shì jí zhēnshí zuìshàng jiùjìng 是即真實最上究竟 which combines some common Buddhist superlatives that are also used in the standard Heart Sutra: jiùjìng 究竟 is from 究竟涅槃 translated in the Sanskrit Heart Sutra as niṣṭhanirvāṇa "final extinction" but probably more like nirvāṇa-paryavasāna "concluding in extinction"; zhēnshí 真實  is from the expression at the end of the epithets passage真實不虛 zhēnshí bù xū "[Prajñāpāramitā] is truly real and not in vain. 

The last phrase in Chinese is

253/4yīqiè rúlái xī jiē suíxǐ一切如來悉皆隨喜all the Tathāgatas respond with wholehearted joy
255yīqiè rúlái yì dāng suíxǐ 一切如來亦當隨喜all the Tathāgatas should also rejoice
257yīqiè rúlái yì jiē suíxǐ一切如來亦皆隨喜all the Tathāgatas also rejoice in all cases

Although a strict translation of these phrases comes out a little different in each case, these differences don't amount to much. It seems like this sentence is unusually padded, perhaps to get two groups of four characters. In each case the rejoicing of the tathāgata appears to be a little disconnected from the teaching, whereas in Sanskrit what was declared (nirdiṣṭa) by Avalokiteśvara is what tathāgata rejoice in, viz. 
yathā tvayā nirdiṣṭam anumodyate sarva-tathāgatair arhadbhiḥ.
The way you have declared it is applauded by all the tathāgatas and arhats. 
This is a great example of how Sanskrit likes to express things in the passive voice, i.e. what was declared (nirdiṣṭa) is applauded (anumodyate) with the "subject" in the instrumental case. Since a passive sentence does officially have a "subject" (which would be in the nominative case) we usually speak of the agent of the verb and I follow A. K. Warder in referring to the "object" with the more general term patient.


There are further inexplicable variations on the text. The translator of T 257Dānapāla, 1005 CE—has two extra phrases, one in Para T and one in Para V that do not occur in any other version of the text. It appears that Dānapāla added these phrases. But, as we have seen, this is not that unusual. We also see these commentarial flourishes in many of the modern English translation of the Heart Sutra also. 

If the Sanskrit text was the source, as I think it was, then parts of it were more difficult to put into Chinese than others. In particular, parsing the final passive voice sentence linking the rejoicing of the tathāgatas with the teaching of Avalokiteśvara in the sūtra seems to have been difficult for all of the Chinese translators. It's not that Chinese (or English) lacks a passive voice, only that this sort of statement cries out for the directness of active voice: the tathāgatas applauded what Avalokitśvara said. 


14 August 2020

The Extended Heart Sutra: Avalokiteśvara Preaches

Before diving into the text I had a little lightbulb moment that is relevant here. Readers will note that I usually leave Prajñāpāramitā untranslated. I've long been dissatisfied with existing translations of various words related to knowing: jñā, prajñā, vijñāna, saṃjñā. And of course prajñā-pāramitā presents its own special problems. It is the name of a sect, an approach to Mahāyāna, a special type of knowledge, and a type of practice.

The standard translation of prajñā in this context is "wisdom". Wisdom is more than knowledge. It involves knowing, but also the ability to judge the salience of knowledge and the maturity to know when and how to act on it. We hope that we gain in knowledge and wisdom as we get older. Experience does tend to make us more wise, but we all know people who are knowledgeable but not wise. And we know people who don't have vast amounts of knowledge but who are nonetheless wise. There is a distinction between knowing stuff, and knowing when and how to apply one's knowledge. 

However, wisdom has another connotation in English that some people strenuously try to associate with Prajñāpāramitā. In this sense wisdom is esoteric or occult knowledge. It is knowledge that comes from mystical experiences and has a metaphysical character, summed up as "knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality". Many Buddhists present themselves as in pursuit of, or in possession of knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality. This is where Buddhism shades into magical thinking and loses touch with reality. To be clear, neither Sanskrit, nor Pāḷi, nor Chinese have a word that means "reality" in the sense that we use it today. The contrast in Buddhism is not between experience and reality, but between experience and cessation and contentless awareness. In other words, absence (śūnyatā is not reality).

With prajñāpāramitā we have the added problem that it is nominally part of a set of six "perfections" and this is acknowledged in the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, but it is also the perfection par excellence and treated as a standalone that supersedes the other perfections.

The pra- prefix in prajñā is related to the Greek para-  which usually means "alongside" but can also means beyond". There is an English word deriving from from the Greek—paragnosis—that means "knowledge beyond that which can be obtained by normal means." Prajñā is the knowledge derived from the cessation of sensory-cognitive experience. It is, therefore, by definition, not knowledge of reality or the nature of reality. It is knowledge of mind and particularly mind in the absence of sense experience. Wisdom, even in this context, only comes with repeated exposure to cessation and the accumulation of prajñā. That is to say that prajñā is not wisdom per se. If anything is wisdom, it is prajñā-pāramitā, the perfection of paragnosis. 

A little market research suggests that readers like this explanation of prajñā as paragnosis, but they are not quite so keen on it as a translation. For many people, substituting a Greek word for a Sanskrit word offers no advantage. However, I have played Humpty Dumpty and told you what I mean when I use it: paragnosis is the knowledge derived from the cessation of sensory-cognitive experience. And then it is simply a matter of "who is to be master" (See Through the Looking Glass: How we define and translate Buddhist technical terms).

Now we can return to the matter in hand. 

Avalokiteśvara Preaches

The extended Heart Sutra added extra lines both at the beginning and the end of the text. This is the last part of the extension of the beginning, corresponding to Paragraph I of Silk's (1994) edition of the Tibetan. After this the extended version tends to be identical to the text of the standard version, although there are some variations. Given this, we might expect the divergent texts of R1 and R2 to converge and they do so. There's not a great deal going on at this point. This paragraph just sums up the introduction and repeats the conclusion of Paragraph E (see Enter Avalokiteśvara). However, this paragraph is important for study of the extended version because it resolves some of the problems seen in early paragraphs. It also has a number of problematic features.

T 253. 如是問已。爾時觀自在菩薩摩訶薩告具壽舍利弗言:「舍利子!若善男子善女人行甚深般若波羅蜜多行時,應觀五蘊性空。
In response to the question, at that time, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva-mahāsattva answered Elder Śāriputra, saying, “Śāriputra, if sons and daughters of the community practise the profound practice of Prajñāpāramitā, they should contemplate the Five Skandhas as empty of self-nature".
T 254. 如是問已。爾時,觀世音自在菩薩摩訶薩告具壽舍利子言:「舍利子!若有善男子善女人,行甚深般若波羅蜜多行時,應照見五蘊自性皆空,離諸苦厄。
After this was said,  at that time, Avalokitasvara Bodhisattva-mahāsattva answered Elder Śāriputra, “Śāriputra, if sons and daughters of the community practise the profound practice of Prajñāpāramitā, they should contemplate the Five Skandhas as empty of self-nature and be separated from all suffering and misery.
T 255. 作是語已。觀自在菩薩摩訶薩答具壽舍利子言:「若善男子及善女人,欲修行甚深般若波羅蜜多者,彼應如是 觀察,*五蘊體性皆空。
After this was said, at that time, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva-mahāsattva answered Elder Śāriputra, “If a son or daughter of the community desires to be a student of the profound Prajñāpāramitā practice, they should observe [that] the five skandhas are lacking in self-existence. 
* In CBETA the comma is not needed.
T 257. 時,觀自在菩薩摩訶薩告尊者舍利子言:「汝今諦聽,為汝宣說。若善男子善女人,樂欲修學此甚深般若波羅蜜多法門者,當觀五蘊自性皆空。
Then, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva-mahāsattva said to Honourable Śāriputra, listen attentively, I will teach for your sake. "If a son or daughter of the community desires to study (學) this profound prajñāpāramitā dharma door, they should observe the five skandhas as lacking self-existence." 
Skt. evam ukte āryāvalokiteśvaro bodhisatvo mahāsatvo āyuṣmantaṃ śāriputram etad avocat: yaḥ kaścic chāriputra kulaputro va kuladuhitā vā asyāṃ gambhīrāyāṃ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caryāṃ cartukāmas tenaivaṃ vyavalokitavyam.*
That said, Ārya Avalokiteśvara bodhisatva mahāsatva said this to Elder Śāriputra, "Whichever son or daughter of the community who desires to perform this profound paragnosistic practice, should observe...
* there is a huge amount of variation at this point in the Sanskrit text, some of which is necessary for understanding the Tibetan and Chinese texts. 
TibA. shā ri'i bu rigs kyi bu 'am rigs kyi bu mo gang la la shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa zab mo spyod pa spyad par 'dod pa des 'di ltar rnam par blta bar bya ste / phung po lnga po de dag kyang rang bzhin gyis stong par rnam par yang dag par rjes su blta'o //
“Śāriputra! Whichever gentle son or gentle daughter desires to practise the practice the profound perfection of wisdom should observe thus, and he will behold that even those five aggregates are intrinsically empty. ”
TibB. shā ri'i bu rigs kyi bu 'am / rigs kyi bu mo gang la la shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa zab mo spyad pa spyod par 'dod pa des / phung po lnga po de dag ngo bo nyid kyis stong par yang dag par rjes su mthong ba de ltar blta bar bya ste /
“Śāriputra! Whichever gentle son or gentle daughter  desires to practise the practice the profound perfection of wisdom, he [sic] remarks that those those five aggregates are inherently empty, and should observe thus:”
T 252. 於斯告舍利弗:「諸菩薩摩訶薩應如是學。
Then he addressed Śāriputra, “The bodhisatvas mahāsatvas should train in this way." 


With respect to kulaputra, R1 texts now answer the question as if Śāriputra had asked about both sons and daughters (kuladuhitṛ) of the community (Ch. shàn nánzǐ 善男子, shàn nǚrén 善女人). The only text that did phrase the question that way was the Sanskrit. Recall that R2 doesn't use kula-putra/duhitr in this way. Also Śāriputra doesn't ask a question. 

Variations in the names continue. T 253 in particular has both of the two different ways of writing Śāriputra in succession: Shèlìfú 舍利弗 and Shèlìzi 舍利子.

Sanskrit text

Conze chose his text without properly noting all the variants:
yaḥ kaścic chāriputra kulaputro va kuladuhitā vā asyāṃ gambhīrāyāṃ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caryāṃ cartukāmas tena evaṃ vyavalokitavyam:
There are, however some major variations that are important to helping to make sense of the Tibetan versions. From my personal collection of (uncorrected) manuscript transcriptions (Nb, Ne, Nh) and published sources (Ce and Jb) we have:

  • Nb yaḥ kaścit kulaputrā vā kuladuhitā vā asyā gambhirāyāṃ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caryā catrukāma tenaiva vyavalokayitavyaṃ || pañca skandhān svabhāva śunya vyavalokatitavyaṃ ||
  • Ne  yaḥ khalu kulaputro vā kuladuhitā vā gambhīrāyāṃ prajñāpalamitāyāñ catturkā me na tainaivaṃ  vyavalokayitavyaṃ ||
  • Nh yaḥ kharukuraputrā vā kuladuhitā vā gamhirāyāṃ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caryya catukāma na kathaṃ vyavarokayitavyaṃ | 
  • Ce  śāriputra kulaputro vā kuladuhitā vā asyāṃ gambhirāyāṃ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ varttakāmas tenaiva śikṣitavyaṃ || yaduta pañcaskandhāḥ svabhavaśūnyāḥ || katham svabhāvaśūnyāḥ ||
  • Jb yaḥ kaścic chāriputra kulaputra vā kuladuhitā vā gambhīrāyāṃ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caryā cartukāmas tenaivaṃ vyavalokayitavyam | pañcaskandhāḥ | tāṃś ca svabhasūnyān samanupaśyati sma |

The first notable variant is that Ce (from Feer's 1866 polyglot edition) has śikṣatavyam "he should train" instead of vyavalokayitavyam "he should observe". Note that Śāriputra's question is also phrased in terms of how the kulaputra/kuladuhitṛ should train, so the redactor of Ce has systematically changed the verb. Words based on √śikṣ are common in Prajñāpāramitā. In T 257 the character xué 學 suggests that the translator might have had a text from the same lineage as Ce. 

The other thing is that Nb, Ce, and Jb both add a phrase concerning the five skandhas. In fact, Jb has just tacked on the final part of the first paragraph of the standard text without alteration, leaving the final verb in the past tense so that it clashes with the rest of the sentence, particularly the future passive participle: "it should be observed by him... he perceived...". 

Part of the point of emphasising the second distinction is that the Chinese and Tibetan texts all have this additional clause, but in each case it appears to be better integrated the Sanskrit, where the tense of the verb frequently clashes with the rest of the phrase. 


The word "cartukāma" appears to occur only in the Heart Sutra. I think this is because the cartu- in the word cartukāma appears to derive from the infinite caritum "to practice". In Pāḷi, for example we see  the expected caritu-kāma (J II.103). It means "one whose desire is to practice". So a cut down version of the phrase would be: yaḥ kascit kulaputraḥ cartukāmas "That son of the community whose desire is to practice". The sanskrit manuscripts are little help and Conze doesn't even bother to note most variations. In the sources above:
  • Nb  yaḥ kaścit kulaputrā vā kuladuhitā vā asyā(ṃ) gambhirāyāṃ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caryā catrukāma 
  • Ne caḥ khalu kulaputro vā kuladuhitā vā gambhīrāyāṃ prajñāpalamitāyāñ catturkāme 
  • Nh yaḥ kharukuraputrā vā kuladuhitā vā gamhirāyāṃ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caryya catukāma 
  • Ce śāriputra kulaputro vā kuladuhitā vā asyāṃ gambhirāyāṃ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ varttakāmas 
  • Jb yaḥ kaścic chāriputra kulaputra vā kuladuhitā vā gambhīrāyāṃ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caryā cartukāmas 
No two manuscripts have the same text, but these do look like scribal errors for caritukāma. Conze seems to have followed Jb, i.e. Max Müller's diplomatic edition of the Hasedera manuscript. As I noted at the outset, although we have Müller's edition, the manuscript itself seems to have dropped out of sight.

Chinese Texts

In T 253 and T 254 we once again, I think, see the influence of the Xīnjīng (T 251; as per Paragraph E) but here it makes less sense.
若善男子善女人行甚深般若波羅蜜多行,應觀五蘊性空。(T 253)
Ruò shànnánzǐ shànnǚrén xíng shènshēn bōrěbōluómìduō xíng shí, yīng guān wǔyùn xìngkōng
In response to the question, at that time, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva-mahāsattva addressed Elder Śāriputra, saying, “Śāriputra, if when sons and daughters of the community practise the profound practice of Prajñāpāramitā, they should contemplate the Five Skandhas as empty of self-nature".
The problem here is that shí 時 seems to be copied from the Xīnjīng where it fits the context, i.e. "when Guānzìzài was practising the paragnosis." It also fits the context in Paragraph E. But Paragraph I is a conditional clause, introduced by ruò  若 "if...." and I can't make sense of the shí 時 which means "time" and usually in the clause-final position (or postpositively) means "when". There is no Chinese term corresponding to cartukāma in T 253 or T 254

T 254 adds the phrase lí zhū kǔ è 離諸苦厄 as per Paragraph E (See Enter Avalokiteśvara), which I previously explained this as influence from the Xīnjīng (T 251). It doesn't make sense to add this here. We can only presume that the translator, Prajñācakra, felt that the lack of this passage in the Sanskrit should be rectified.

In T 255, CBETA has an unnecessary comma in the last phrase.
CBETA:    彼應如是觀察,五蘊體性皆空。
Corrected: 彼應如是觀察五蘊體性皆空。
...they should observe [that] the five skandhas are lacking in self-existence. 
In T 257, the phrase rǔ jīn dìtīng, wèi rǔ xuān shuō 汝今諦聽,為汝宣說。is not found in any other version of the text. The phrase is two pericopes, of four characters each, that seldom occur together although they both occur quite frequently on their own, rǔ jīn dì tīng 汝今諦聽 considerably more often than wèi rǔ xuān shuō 為汝宣說.


The two Tibetan recensions are different at this point. Both have only one verb operating on the five skandhas (phung po lnga):
A: phung po lnga po de dag kyang rang bzhin gyis stong par rnam par yang dag par rjes su blta'o //
B. phung po lnga po de dag ngo bo nyid kyis stong par yang dag par rjes su mthong ba de ltar blta bar bya ste /
In TibA the kulpaputra/kuladuhitṛ observes (yang dag par rjes su blta) that the five skandhas lack svabhāva, but in TibB they "perceive" (yang dag par rjes su mthong ba = Skt samanupaśyati) this, and then they should observe (blta bar bya ste; future passive participle = Skt drastavya) what comes next, which is the beginning of the core passage, i.e. rūpam śūnyatā etc. 

This is a non-trivial difference that doesn't appear to result from variations based on one translation. TibA and TibB at this point appear to be the work of two different translators. As with the Chinese texts, the change in verb suggests editorial meddling.

TibA is consistent with Jb and TibB is consistent with Nb. And keep in mind that Ben Nourse has provisionally identified manuscripts at Dunhuang which are similar to both TibA and TibB.


There are a few anomalies in this paragraph that are difficult to explain. While there are copying errors, there also seems to be active editing that is different in each case, from the introduction of phrases from the standard Heart Sutra text, to changing verbs, as well as adding some extraneous material. 

Whereas previous paragraphs pointed to an internally consistent, grammatical and idiomatic Sanskrit source and problematic translations, in this case it is the Sanskrit that appears to be the odd one out, with some of the witnesses leaving out mention of the five skandhas at this point, but those manuscripts that do mention them do so with a verb in the wrong tense. This means that any attempt to explain in which language the standard Heart Sutra was extended is complicated

This brings us to the end of the extra introductory material in the extended version of the Heart Sutra. I have two posts planned for the extra concluding material. And a final summary. 5/9


07 August 2020

The Extended Heart Sutra: Śāriputra's Question

Continuing with my close reading of the extended Heart Sutra in Chinese, Sanskrit and Tibetan, we now come to the passage in which Śāriputra asks a question in Recension One (R1), corresponding to Paragraphs F and G of Silk's Tibetan edition. In Recension Two (R2) there is a conversation between the two protagonists, but there is no question, Avalokiteśvara simply has a desire to preach and he preaches at Śāriputra rather than in response to a question. 

In the Standard text of the Heart Sutra, Avalokiteśavara is summarily introduced and begins to speak, addressing his remarks to Śāriputra, who is not introduced and does speak. Most of the remarks are, as we know, a quote from the Large Sutra in which Śāriputra does ask a question and is answered by the Buddha. The question he asks is:
kathaṃ yujyamāno bhagavan bodhisatvo mahāsatvaḥ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ yukta iti vaktavyaḥ. (PvsP1-1: 61-2
Engaging in what way, Bhagavan, is a bodhisatva mahāsatva to be called 'engaged in prajñāpāramitā?'
Here "engaged" translates yukta, a past participle from √yuj (whence also the word yoga). The word literally means "joined" and is related to English yoked. When used in the sense of "joined" it would be usual to specify with what it is joined using a noun in the instrumental case. Here the noun prajñāpāramitā is in the locative. Yukta can also mean "employed, engaged in, absorbed in meditation; experienced in, etc." and in these cases the indirect object takes the locative. In this context we can take prajñāpāramitāyāṃ yukta as meaning engaging in prajñāpāramitā as a meditation practice, probably with the yoga of nonapprehension (anupalambhayoga) in mind.

The answer in the Large Sutra is that one is called "engaged" who is "engaged in the absence of embodiment" (rūpaśūnyatāyāṃ yuktaḥ) and the other four skandhas, and the absence of the eighteen dhātu, the four āryasatya, and the twelve nidānas. That is to say, more or less the same list that we find in the Heart Sutra. However, the Buddha adds that the bodhisatva should be called "engaged" because the absence of sense experience means that they don't perceive themselves as being engaged. Which leads into the statements included in the Heart Sutra and continues well beyond them. Note the two perspectives. In śūnyatā-samādhi there are no thoughts about anything but after the samādhi  the meditator can say "I was engaged in or absorbed in Prajñāpāramitā" or from another person's perspective, the person in the samādhi was engaged in Prajñāpāramitā. And note that there is no metaphysical or ontological distinction between these two perspectives, but there is an epistemic distinction. 

R1 of the extended text introduces Śāriputra and has him ask question in order to contextualise Avalokiteśvara's statements addressed to him. Once again T 252 (R2) is very different in that Śāriputra does not ask a question, though as we see below they do have a conversation. As previously, the translation I give here is affected by the following discussion. Translations from Tibetan are from Silk (1994) , although sometimes I have adjusted his phrasing.

The Text
T. 253. 即時舍利弗承佛威力,合掌恭敬白觀自在菩薩摩訶薩言:「善男子!若有欲學甚深般若波羅蜜多行者,云何修行?」
Just then Śāriputra, due to the anubhāva of the Buddha, joined palms respectfully and addressed Avalokiteśvara bodhisatva-mahāsatva, saying: Kūlaputra, if there is a desire to learn genuinely the deep Prajñāpāramitā practising, how should they study the practice?
T 254. 即時具壽舍利子,承佛威神,合掌恭敬,白觀世音自在菩薩摩訶薩言:「聖者!若有欲學甚深般若波羅蜜多行,云何修行?」
Just then Elder Śāriputra, due to the power of the Buddha, joined palms respectfully and addressed Avalokiteśvara bodhisatva-mahāsatva, saying: Noble One, having a genuine desire to learn the practice of prajñāpāramitā, how should one study the practice?
T 255. 時,具壽舍利子,承佛威力,白聖者觀自在菩薩摩訶薩曰:「若善男子欲修行甚深般若波羅蜜多者,復當云何修學?」
Then Elder Śāriputra, by the power of the Buddha, addressing ārya-Avalokiteśvara bodhisatva mahāsatva saying: if a devotee wishes to be a student of prajñāpāramitā, again, how should they study? 
T 257. 爾時,尊者舍利子承佛威神,前白觀自在菩薩摩訶薩言:「若善男子善女人,於此甚深般若波羅蜜多法門,樂欲修學者,當云何學?」
At that time, Elder Śāriputra, by the power of the Buddha, formerly* addressed Avalokiteśvara bodhisatva mahāsatva, saying: if a devotee (male or female) of the prajñāpāramitā dharma gate, is an eager student, how should they learn? 
* qián  "front, in front of; before, earlier, formerly." I don't know what else to make of this. 
Skt. athāyuṣmānc Chāriputro buddhānubhāvena āryāvalokiteśvaraṃ bodhisatvam mahāsatvaṃ etad avocat yaḥ kaścit kulaputro vā kuladuhitā vā asyāṃ gambhīrāyāṃ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caryāṃ cartukāmas tena kathaṃ śikṣitavyaṃ? 
Elder Śariputra, by the power of the Buddha, said this to Ārya-Avalokiteśvara bodhisatva mahāsatva: "that son or daughter of the community desiring to practice this deep perfection of gnosis, how should they train?" 
Tib A. de nas sangs rgyas kyi mthus / tshe dang ldan pa shā ri'i bus byang chub sems dpa' sems dpa' chen po 'phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug la 'di skad ces smras so //
rigs kyi bu gang la la shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa zab mo spyod pa spyad par 'dod pa des ji ltar bslab par bya / 
'am rigs kyi bu mo in many mss.

Then, through the empowerment of the Buddha, the elder Śāriputra spoke thus to the bodhisatva mahāsatva Ārya Avalokiteśvara. “How should whichever gentle son who desires to practice the practise of the profound perfection of wisdom learn it?”
Tib B. de nas sangs rgyas kyi mthus tshe dang ldan pa shā ra dwa ti'i bus / byang chub sems dpa' sems dpa' chen po 'phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug la 'di skad ces smras so //
rigs kyi bu gang la la shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa zab mo la spyad pa spyod par 'dod pa des ji ltar bslab par bya /

Then, through the empowerment of the Buddha, the elder śāradvatīputra spoke thus to the bodhisatva mahāsatva Ārya Avalokiteśvara. “How should whichever gentle son who desires to practise his practice in the profound perfection of wisdom train?”



There are some notable variants on the names used. As we know, the direct source for the Chinese Heart Sutra was the text of Kumārajīva's translation of the Large Prajñāpārmaitā Sūtra (T 223). And we know that when Xuanzang composed the Xīnjīng (T 251), he altered some of the characters, particularly in names. At the same time, it seems that in the texts Kumārajīva translated the bodhisatva was called Avalokita-svara and by Xuanzang's time, the more familiar version of the name, Avalokita-īśvara, i.e. Avalokiteśvara, had come into use. (See also: Revisiting Avalokiteśvara in the Heart Sutra). 

So where Kumārajīva has Avalokitasvara = Guānshìyīn 觀世音 and Śāriputra = Shèlìfú 舍利弗, Xuanzang changed these to Guānzìzài 觀自在 and Shèlìzi 舍利子 respectively. 

Presuming that the extended text was made from the Xīnjīng (i.e. T 251), we would expect to see Xuanzang's text throughout. But this is not what we see. In fact, with respect to these two names, we see that T 252 and T 253 have 舍利弗, the Kumārajīva spelling of Śāriputra, while T 257 has the Xuanzang spelling, 舍利子. All Chinese texts  have the Xuanzang spelling of Avalokiteśvara 觀自在, except for T 254 which has Guānshìyīnzìzài  觀世音自在 which is a hybrid of Kumārajīva's 觀世音 and Xuanzang's 觀自在. 

In the Tibetan texts we see some variation with the name Śāriputra, i.e. TibA shā ri'i bus; TibB shā ra dwa ti'i bus. The form Śāradvatīputra does occurs in many Mahāyāna texts including the Gilgit manuscript of the Large Sutra. I've never discovered why the variant exists in Sanskrit when there is no such variant in Pāli. The variant has to have been interpolated here, perhaps due to a familiarity with the Sanskrit Large Sutra?


This is another one of these Buddhist terms that is used vaguely and with changes over time. The existing translations seem to struggle to get at something that hardly seems relevant or applicable. There are some studies of this term in Japanese but I can't find anything substantial in English. The word is a compound kula-putra, "a son of the community" (Tib. rigs kyi bu; Ch. shàn nán zǐ 善男子). The feminine version is kula-duhitṛ "a daughter of the community" (Tib. rigs kyi bu mo. Ch. shàn nǚrén 善女人).

Note the the Chinese translation shàn nán zǐ 善男子 literally means "good male child", where shàn 善 is the standard translation of kuśala. The Chinese nǚrén 女人 simply means "female person", i.e. woman. However, 善 is one of those characters that has been used to translate an eye-watering number of different Indic terms. From the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism:
su-, sat, sādhu; atyartha, atyartham, anāpatti, abhijāta, ājāneya, kalyāṇatā, kula, kuśalatva, kuśalādharmāḥ, kovida, kauśala, kauśalya, guṇa, guṇavat, dharma, puṇya, prasanna, prasādika, priya, premaṇīya, bhadra, bhadra-śrī, bhṛśam, lavaṇa, vasu, virati, vyakta, śukla, śubhatā, śobhana, śreyas, sama, saṃpad, samyak, sādhīyas, supariniṣṭhita, suvihita, suṣṭhu, svanta, hita)
The main senses of shàn 善 are kalyāna, śūbha "beautiful"; and kuśala "good, wholesome". But I think we have to consider that here it just stands for kula.

A kula is any coherent collection of animals: "herd, troop, flock, etc"; or people "race, family, community, tribe, caste, clique, fraternity, etc." Such definitions as I can find emphasise that the term is used for one's social inferiors: a teacher calls a pupil kulaputra, but not the other way around.

It seems to me that kulaputra is simply a way of referring to a member of the Buddhist community, an insider, or "one of us". Buddhists use kulaputra and kuladuhitṛ the way a Christian vicar might refer to a parishioner affectionately as "one of the flock" (with the implication that the vicar is a shepherd). And asked what that means, the vicar might reply that they are a "good Christian".

In a Buddhist context kulaputra has nothing to do with being from a good family, it has nothing to do with being "good", "gentle", or "nobly born" (though these may apply in the context of the Mahābhārata). It means "one of the flock" with all the prestige that Buddhist exceptionalism can bestow on one of our own. 

The way the term is marked seems variable. For example,
ye kecit kauśika bodhisatvā mahāsatvā bhikṣu-bhikṣuṇy-upāsaka-upāsikā vā kulaputrā vā kuladuhitaro vā devaputrā devakanyā vā imāṃ prajñāpāramitām udgrahīṣyanti... (PSP_2-3:36
"Kauśika, any of those bodhisatva mahāsatvas, or monks, nuns, laymen, laywomen, or sons and daughters of the community, or godboys or godgirls who will take up this perfection of gnosis..."
At face value, this suggests that the kulaputra and kuladuhitṛ are outside the usual structure of monastics and lay-people, distinct from bodhisatvas. And yet, for the rest of this long passage, kulaputra and kuladuhitṛ are the only terms used for all the people who take up the practice, suggesting that they represent all of the group, including the bodhisatvas.

Note that when compounded with the word deva- the contrast with putra "son, boy" is not duhitṛ "daughter" but kanyā "girl". These could be spirits such as apsaras. However, note that in Gandhāra the Kushan kings (1st century BCE ‒ 1s century CE) over took the title devaputra, and this may have been in imitation of the Chinese rulers called Son of Heaven (tiān zǐ 天子). In Pāli kings are often addressed as deva in the way that we might address a king as Majesty. And Asoka referred to himself as devapiya "beloved of the Gods". I have translated literally because I don't know what they mean, which is a bit of a giveaway about the process of translation.

There is a mistake in Śāriputra's question in T 253: 
 Kūlaputra, if there is a desire to learn genuinely the deep Prajñāpāramitā practising, how should they study the practice?
The passage is punctuated in CBETA as though kulaputra is a vocative, i.e. 善男子!i.e. Śāriputra is addressing Avalokiteśvara as kulaputra. What we see more often is what we find in Sanskrit and Tibetan, that the two of them discuss the kulaputra in the third person, in the abstract. Or what we see in T 252, the teacher addressing the pupil as kulaputra

In fact, the printed Taisho looks incorrect as well since, although it has more minimalist punctuation, it does include a punctuation mark after kulaputra, i.e. 善男子。 This changes the role of 善男子 in the sentence. But the correct role is found in the Sanskrit and Tibetan, in which Śāriputra asks how a kulaputra might undertake prajñāpāramitā practice. 

T 254 addressed Avalokiteśvara as shèngzhě 聖者, a word sometimes used to translate arhat, but here seemingly use to translate āryaArhat would be a very odd thing indeed for an arhat to call a bodhisatva.

T 255 and 257 get this right: 若善男子 i.e. "If a community member..."

In the notes to Lamotte's Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra translation (chapter LII) there is a discussion of why Avalokiteśvara is called kulaputra in the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka (chap. XXIV) but the Buddha appears to answer a different question, i.e. what is so great about Avalokiteśvara. What it looks like to me is a text trying to explain the same kind of error that we see above with realising that it is an error. Buddhists were not looking at their texts critically and still mostly do not.

Recension Two

A quick reminder that, in the previous section, Avalokiteśvara went to visit the Buddha, and told him that he (Avalokiteśvara) proposed to preach the Prajñāpāramitā. The Buddha says that he thinks this is a great idea. Avalokiteśvara then enters samādhi and sees that all the five skandhas don't have the svabhāva, then...
With this realisation (了知) that the five skandhas each lack self-existence, he peacefully arose from that samādhi. He addressed Elder Śāriputra: 
“Kulaputra, a bodhisatva has the heart of the Prajñāpāramitā named universal knowledge store. Now listen and pay attention, think carefully about it.
That having been said, Śāriputra the Wise responded to Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, 
“Indeed, Great Purifier, I am ready, preach it. Now is the right time. 

As noted there is no request for a teaching. Avalokiteśvara has already stated his intention to teach and after a quick dip into samādhi, he says I'm going to teach, Śāriputra says "go for it", and Avalokiteśvara goes for it.

I cannot quite explain, but there is something off about this scenario of Avalokiteśvara turning up with the intention of teaching in the presence of the Buddha. We expect the Buddha to teach and his being present but not teaching is an interesting development. I suppose it reflects a religion whose founder is many centuries dead and gone. In daily life the Buddha is present in effigy or in the imagination, but it is only living Buddhists who teach the next generation. There is some sociology in these texts if we pay attention. 

Note that here Avalokiteśvara refers to Śāriputra as kulaputra. It is more appropriate in this case, but still unusual for a monk to be referred to as kulaputra. The emphasis here is that Avalokiteśvara is taking the role of teacher. In the early Prajñāpāramitā it is Elder Subhūti who teaches the bodhisatvas about Prajñāpāramitā.


For some time I have been using the term Author (with a capital A) to indicate the person or persons who created the Xīnjīng, with the presumption that it was probably Xuanzang. The Xīnjīng was translated as the Hṛdaya by a person or persons I call the Translator. We now need to add a third term to distinguish the person or persons who extended the text, whom I will call the Redactor. 

It looks increasingly as though the Sanskrit text is the most coherent of all the exemplars we are looking at. The mistaken usage of kulaputra in R1 of the Chinese makes it seem unlikely that the text was expanded in Chinese, because that would mean that the translator had repaired the Redactor's mistakes, and we seldom see this. In fact, translators tend to retain mistakes (viz the second vyavalokyati in Paragraph E). It is more likely that the Redactor worked in Sanskrit and the text was misread when translated back into Chinese (for which we have names and dates). Since R2 only exists in Chinese and the the language seems more coherent than R1 in Chinese, it may have been composed in Chinese, only to be superseded by R1, perhaps because of the Sanskrit text. 

There are a number of places where a Sanskrit text of the standard Heart Sutra could have been copied and redacted to form the extended text. Sanskrit was always limited to a small number of Buddhist monks outside of India, but there could have been Sanskrit users anywhere from Chang'an to Samarkand. Given the activities we know about at Dunhuang and Turfan, we have to give serious consideration to these places as the likely location for the creation of the Sanskrit extended text.

It also seems increasingly clear that T 252 is not part of the same kula of texts and that designating it a separate recension is correct. It seems to be a completely separate attempt to extend the standard Heart Sutra so that it fulfills the general criteria for being a sūtra, which were known to the Chinese, Tibetans, and Central Asians, as well as in the Subcontinent. There is still some doubt in my mind as to whether the Heart Sutra ever went to India in any form. Explaining the historical facts that we have available certainly does not require it. All that is required is that the Heart Sutra circulated within China and out to Western Central Asia and Tibet.

Something I have not commented on much is the variations in the Sanskrit. At some point I will have to look at some of the major variant texts.


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