05 December 2012

Heart Sutra: Horiuzi Palm-leaf mss. Transcription

"Facsimile of the two palm-leaves of Horiuzi, sent to Prof. Max Müller in 1880.
Catal. of Japanese books and mss. in the Bodleian Library, No. 45."


The image is a facsimile of the so-called "Horiuzi Palm-leaf MSS." of Hōryū-ji monastery. The manuscript was preserved in Hōryū-ji, and is said to date from 609 AD.  Georg Bühler notes in Müller (1881) that a comparison of the script with India manuscripts and inscriptions argues for a date in the 8th century. He hypothesises that all of those later scribes and stone masons of other editions were being deliberately archaic. However the simpler hypothesis is that the Horyuji manuscript is late.

The manuscript begins with the Heart Sūtra. From page 2, line 2 we find the Uṣnīṣavijaya Dhāraṇī. The last line is a complete Sanskrit syllabary in Siddhaṃ script - preceded by the word siddhaṃ and ending with llaṃ kṣa. Each texts begins with the auspiscious mark ࿓ called yigmo in Tibetan, which is often erroneously interpreted as oṃ.

Transcription of the Heart Sutra
Numbers in square brackets are line number. Syllables in curly brackets are doubtful readings.  Note the complete lack of punctuation and syllables are fully separate - except for the mantra where they clump into words.
RECTO [1] ࿓ na ma ssa rva jñā ya ā ryā va lo ki te śva ra bo dhi sa ttvā ga mbhī raṃ pra jñā pā ra mi tā yaṃ ca ryāṃ ca ra mā no vya va lo ka ya ti sma paṃ ca ska ndhā stā śca sva bhā va śū nyaṃ pa śya ti sma [2] i ha śā ri pu tra rū paṃ śū nya tā śū nya tai va rū paṃ rū pā nna pṛ tha k śū nya tā yā na pṛ tha grū paṃ ya drū paṃ sā śū nya tā yā śū nya tā ta drū paṃ e va me va ve da [3] na saṃ jñā saṃ skā ra vi jñā nā ni i ha śā ri pu tra sa rva dha rmā śū nya tā la kṣa ṇā a nu tpa nna a ni rū ddhā a ma lā vi ma lā nā nā na pa ri pū rṇa ta smā cchā ri pu tra śū nya tā [4] yāṃ na rū paṃ na ve da nā {na} saṃ jñā na saṃ skā rā na vi jñā ni na ca kṣū śro tra ghra ṇa ji hvā kā ya ma nā {msi} na rū paṃ śa bda ga nda ra sa spra ṣṭa vya dha rmā na ca kṣu rdhā tu yā va nna ma [5] no dhā tu na vi dyā nā vi dyā na vidyā kṣa yo nā vi dyā ksā yo yā va nna ja rā ma ra ṇaṃ na ja rā ma ra ṇa kṣa yo na duḥ kha sa mu da ya ni ro dha ma rga na jñā naṃ na pra pti tvaṃ bo dhi sa tva sya pra jña pā ra mi [6] tā a śri tya vi ha ra ti ci tta va ra ṇa ci ttā va ra ṇa nā sti {tva} da tra sto vi pa rya sā ti krā ntaḥ ni ṣṭha ni rva ṇaḥ trya dhva vya va sti tā sa rva bu ddhāḥ pra jñā pā ra mi tā a śri tyā nu tta rāṃ sa mya ksaṃ bo dhi {sa hi} [7] saṃ bu ddhā ta smā jñā ta vyaṃ pra jñā pra mi tā ma hā maṃ trā ma hā vi dyā maṃ traḥ a nu tta ra maṃ tra a sa

VERSO [8] ma sa ma maṃ tra sa rva duḥ kha pra śa ma naḥ sa tyaṃ a mi thya tvā {d} pra jñā pā ra mi tā yā mu kto maṃ tra  ta dya thā gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā || pra jñā pā ra mi t {hrid} yā sa ma pta.


The handwriting is not too bad compared to some manuscripts. Some of the conjuncts are difficult to read. The syllables a sa śa and ma are easily confused.

This text has a different maṇgala to Conze's edition: namas sarvajñāya 'homage to the omniscient'.

Mistakes include: anānā for anūna; prajñāpramitā for prajñāparamitā; vijñāni for vijñānaṃ (plural for singular); na vidyā nāvidyā na vidyākṣayo nāvidyāksāyo when only nāvidyā nāvidyāksāyo makes sense in context of nidāna sequence; na missing from na saṃjñā; sa hi, or perhaps a hi, where expect samyak; niṣṭha-nirvaṇaḥ should be niṣṭha-nirvāṇāpraptaḥ (else it doesn't make sense); hṛda(?) yā  for hṛ da ya possible because of space constraints. Lots of odd sandhi, missing anusvāra and visarga but this could be down to Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit.

I've added minimal punctuation to aid reading - but read carefully, previous editors have frequently got the punctuation wrong. A couple of insertions were required and are in square brackets. There are many errors in the ms. and it's possible I've made some as well.
࿓ namas sarvajñāya | āryāvalokiteśvara-bodhisattvā gambhīraṃ prajñāpāramitāyaṃ caryāṃ caramāno vyavalokayati sma paṃca-skandhās tā[ṃ]ś ca svabhāva-śūnyaṃ paśyati sma | iha śāriputra rūpaṃ śūnyatā śūnyataiva rūpaṃ rūpān na pṛthak śūnyatāyā na pṛthag rūpaṃ yad rūpaṃ sā śūnyatāyā śūnyatā tad rūpaṃ evam eva vedana-saṃjñā-saṃskāra-vijñānāni | iha śāriputra sarva-dharmā śūnyatā-lakṣaṇā anutpanna anirūddhā amalāvimalā nānān aparipūrṇa | tasmāc chāriputra śūnyatāyāṃ na rūpaṃ na vedanāna [na] saṃjñā na saṃskārā na vijñāni na cakṣū-śrotra-ghraṇa-jihvā-kāya-manāmsi | na rūpaṃ-śabda-ganda-rasa-spraṣṭavya-dharmā | na cakṣur-dhātu yāvan na mano-dhātu na vidyā nāvidyā na vidyākṣayo nāvidyāksāyo yāvan na jarāmaraṇaṃ na jarāmaraṇakṣayo | na duḥkha-samudaya-nirodha-marga | na jñānaṃ na praptitvaṃ | bodhisatvasya prajñapāramitā aśritya viharati [a]cittavaraṇa | cittāvaraṇa-nāstitvad atrasto viparyasātikrāntaḥ niṣṭha-nirvaṇaḥ | tryadhvavyavastitā sarvabuddhāḥ prajñāpāramitā aśrityānuttarāṃ samyak saṃbodhi [sam yak] saṃbuddhā | tasmā jñātavyaṃ prajñāpramitā mahā-maṃtrā mahāvidyā-maṃtraḥ anuttara-maṃtra asamasama-maṃtra sarva-duḥkha-praśamanaḥ satyaṃ amithyatvād | prajñāpāramitāyām ukto maṃtra  tadyathā gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā ||
prajñāpāramit [hṛda]yā samapta.
This text forms the basis of the Sanskrit edition published by Max Müller, which in turn forms the basis of the edition by Vaidya, This is significant because Vaidya is widely available on the internet and is the text which appears in the Digital Sanskrit Buddhist Canon. The text is quite different from the critical edition by Conze (1948, 1967).

In terms of the history of the study of Prajñapāramitā texts in the West this is an important document. Though it is far from perfectly copied, and probably not at old as the priests of  Hōryū-ji monastery say it is, it is never-the-less old. It ought to have been carbon dated before now, but I've seen no reference to any attempt. The ms. dates from not long after the Heart Sutra was composed and probably can claim to the the oldest ms. of it in existence. Not only that but it continues to influence study and perception of the Heart Sutra. The excellent calligraphy book by John Stevens reproduces this text with only minor amendments for example; and much of it survives into Vaidya's Sanskrit text.


  • Conze, Edward (1948) ‘Text, Sources, and Bibliography of the Prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya.’ Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, April 80(1-2): 33-51.
  • Conze, Edward. (1967) ‘The Prajñāpāramitā-Hṛdaya Sūtra’ in Thirty Years of Buddhist Studies: Selected Essays, Bruno Cassirer, pp. 147-167.
  • Müller, Max. (1881) ‘The Ancient Palm Leaves containing the Prajñāpāramitā-Hṛidaya Sūtra and Uṣniṣa-vijaya-Dhāraṇi.’ in Buddhist Texts from Japan (Vol 1.iii). Oxford University Press. Online: http://archive.org/details/buddhisttextsfr00bhgoog
  • Vaidya, P.L. (1961) Mahāyāna-sūtra-saṁgrahaḥ (part 1). Buddhist Sanskrit Texts No. 17. Darbhanga: The Mithila Institute. Online: http://dsbc.uwest.edu/

04 December 2012


Another article of mine has been published. This time in the newly revamped Western Buddhist Review. BTW I am now a member of the editorial board of the WBR. Finishing these more in-depth articles was one of the main reasons for giving up blogging.

The Spiral Path or Lokuttara Paṭicca-samuppāda. Western Buddhist Review. 6, Dec 2012.

This article surveys the Spiral Path or Lokuttara Paṭicca-samuppāda in the Pāli Nikāyas, with some reference to Chinese parallels, exploring the similarities and differences between the presentations to further elucidate the doctrine which has been at the forefront of the teaching of Sangharakshita and the Triratna Buddhist Order. English language sources are also surveyed and critiqued. Most writing to date has focussed on a single text, the Upanisā Sutta, which is shown to be unrepresentative of the class as a whole, and a new locus classicus is suggested in the Cetanākaraṇīya Sutta. The Spiral Path is seen to conform to the general outline of the Buddhist path as consisting of ethics, meditation and wisdom.

My friend Maitiu and I are working on a  study of the Chinese Spiral Path texts which can be found in section 5 of the Chinese Madhyāgama. Representatives of the main themes can be found in this block of 14 sūtras. As with other parallels the differences are relatively minor.
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