28 June 2019

Suzuki, Negation, and Bad Buddhist Philosophy

Looking again at how the influential Japanese scholar Suzuki Daisetsu Teitaro (1870 – 1966) used the (so-called) Diamond Sutra, I realised that something was amiss. Suzuki called his approach the logic of sokuhi 即非 (Ch. jí fēi). In a very recent book chapter, Yusa Michiko (2019) describes the history of this idea. As Suzuki formulated it:
To say that "A is A" is
To say that "A is not A."
Therefore, "A is A". (Yusa 2019: 860)
Yusa quotes Suzuki referring to this as "the logic of spiritual intuition... If you understand what it means, you will understand not only the Diamond Sutra but also the entire Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra of 600 scrolls" (Yusa 2019: 860).

So my first question is: How accurately does this fit with my understanding of Prajñāpāramitā?

Kyoto School Logic

This expression of "logic" was very influential on the Kyoto School of Japanese philosophy via Suzuki's lifelong friend, Nishida Kitarō. The Kyoto School were implicated in the nationalistic aggression of Japan in the 20th Century and have come in for much criticism in the 21st Century.

The adoption of the logic of sokuhi by members of the Kyoto School can also been seen in the light of nationalism. On learning the way Suzuki was thinking Nishida wrote an encouraging letter to him, "We must construct it logically so that it can stand on its own to face Western logic." The idea then was to find a native Japanese approach to logic that could be positively contrasted with "Western" logic.

Remember that this predates the relativism of post-modernism; the point was not simply to undermine the applicability of logic, but to contrast Eastern and Western modes of thought. This (false) essentialist dichotomy was a feature of Suzuki's thinking throughout his life, but the quote shows that it was shared by Nishida. In other words, it looks like a trend in Japanese intelligentsia rather than an attitude particular to Suzuki. Japanese Nationalism was a major theme in the pre-WWII milieu.

Sharf (1993: 40) is emphatic that despite the influence of Suzuki and other Japanese intellectuals on the conception and practice of Zen in America and Europe, they did not represent the Japanese monastic tradition of Zen nor did they have influence in that sphere. Rather, Sharf says, "the style of Zen training most familiar to Western Zen practitioners can be traced to relatively recent and sociologically marginal Japanese lay movements." (1993: 40).

Suzuki was the originator of this logic and, at least according to Yusa, his inspiration for this Japanese logic is to be found in the Vajracchedikā. In order to try to understand this we'll need to look closely at the sūtra.

Note that I resist calling the Vajracchedikā the Diamond Sutra because vajra does not mean "diamond" in Sanskrit;  rather, it unequivocally means "thunderbolt"; i.e., the combination of lightning and thunder associated with storms and originally the weapon wielded by Indra. Moreover, in Sanskrit compounds with -ccheda as the final member, the initial member is the thing that is cut, not the thing that does the cutting. I see no reason that turning the noun into an adjective (-ikā) should alter the meaning from "cutter of thunderbolts". In Chinese, vajra is translated as 金剛 (jīngāng), i.e. "gold hard", though perversely gold is famously a soft metal. The "diamond" in fact comes from the Tibetan name for a diamond, literally "indestructible stone" རྡོ་རྗེ་ཕ་ལམ  (rdo rje pha lam)  pronounced dorjé palam. For some reason the idea that rdo rje also means "diamond" contaminated how vajra is understood. Hence the Perfection of Insight that Cuts Thunderbolts is now called The Diamond Sutra in English. 

Yusa identifies §13a of the Diamond Sutra as the key passage for Suzuki. I discussed the use of negation in the Vajracchedikā in 2013, outlining work by Paul Harrison (2006) to reinterpret the negations that characterise this text. There are a large number of such negations in the Vajracchedikā. Harrison's insights into the text are invaluable (I await his long overdue book on the Vajracchedikā with interest). 

Yusa says two revealing things. Firstly, Yusa points out that the text of Vajracchedikā Suzuki used is not the translation by Kumārajīva, i.e.《金剛般若波羅蜜經》Jīngāng-bōrěbōluómì-jīng (T.235). This is the standard translation in East Asian Buddhism. In this translation, the key passage reads 佛說般若波羅蜜, 則非般若波羅蜜. To this Suzuki appends: 是名般若波羅蜜 (I'll discuss meanings below). Yusa offers the unqualified assertion that "Suzuki must have added the line 是名般若波羅蜜 after the fashion of the traditional Chinese scripture style." (871). But such an amendment can hardly be justified in such a case. Especially when the absence of the line affects the conclusion of the argument.

Secondly, Yusa says, "Here, the second reference to 'prajñāpāramitā' is shortened to 'pāramitā,' and its negation is used." (874). This allows her to read the text as saying "the perfection of wisdom preached by the Tathāgata is not a perfection of wisdom the Tathāgata preached, therefore it is called the perfection of wisdom." (Yusa 2019: 874).

This contradiction made me curious about what the text says, since it clashed with what I remembered from my earlier foray into the Vajracchedikā. So I went digging.

We have two recensions in Sanskrit. The earlier of the two is based on two manuscripts from about the 6th Century, the first from Gilgit in the Karakorum Mountains (Schopen 1989) and the second from Bamiyan in what is now Afghanistan (Harrison & Watanabe 2006). These manuscripts are both partial; however, there is a substantial overlap between the two which confirms that they are substantially the same text and combine to form a single witness of a distinct recension from that time period. The resulting Frankenstein text has been translated by Paul Harrison (2006). We also have an edition, edited by Conze (1957)—though with many mistakes (noted in Schopen 1975)—based on later manuscripts (and with some input from the Gilgit manuscript). The same manuscripts were also edited by Vaidya, though in this case I have not consulted his edition. 

Section 13a and the Negation of Prajñāpāramitā

1. The extra line

We can solve the first mystery of the origin of the phrase 是名般若波羅蜜 quite quickly by looking that Xuanzang's translation of the Vajracchedikā (T220.ix; fascicle 577):
Kj: 佛說般若波羅蜜, 則非般若波羅蜜。
Xz: 如是般若波羅蜜多,如來說為非般若波羅蜜多,是故如來說名般若波羅蜜多。
S:  佛說般若波羅蜜,則非般若波羅蜜,是名般若波羅蜜。
Although Suzuki has not followed Xuanzang's wording exactly, but has modified it to look more like Kumārajīva's style of writing, it is clear that he got his inspiration for doing so from Xuanzang's translation. In his Essays on Zen Buddhism (Third Series) the essay on the Heart Sutra does cite a translation of the Xuanzang text. To be clear this method is poor scholarship. 

Before introducing the Sanskrit, let us examine the Chinese more closely:

Kj: 佛說般若波羅蜜, 則非般若波羅蜜。 
The Buddha 佛 has taught 說 Perfection of Insight 般若波羅蜜, consequently 則 there is no 非 Perfection of Wisdom 般若波羅蜜.
Charles Muller trans. "That which the Buddha calls ‘transcendent wisdom’ is not transcendent wisdom."  

Xz: 如是般若波羅蜜多,如來說為非般若波羅蜜多,是故如來說名般若波羅蜜多。 
Thus 如是 is Perfection of Insight 般若波羅蜜多,the tathāgata 如來 has taught 說為 non-Perfection of Insight 非般若波羅蜜多,therefore 是故, the tathāgata 如來 is to be called 說名* Perfection of Insight 般若波羅蜜多。†
*  說名 to be called (Skt. ity ucyate). 
† Xuanzang adds 多 to the word because the final consonant of Middle Chinese 蜜 mid,  prominent in the 5th Century, was already fading away in the 7th; it is completely absent in modern Mandarin.

Let us now look at the two recensions of the Sanskrit (Gilgit = G  and Conze' edition = C):
G: yaiva subhūte prajñāpāramitā tathāgatena bhāṣitā | saivāpāramitā |  (Schopen 1989) 
The very Perfection of Insight, Subhūti, which the Realized One has preached is itself perfectionless. (Harrison & Watanabe 2006: 126)
C: yaiva subhūte prajñāpāramitā tathāgatena bhāṣitā, saiva apāramitā tathāgatena bhāṣitā | tenocyate prajñāpāramiteti || (Conze 1957: 37-8) 
The very Perfection of Insight, Subhūti, which the Realized One has preached is itself perfectionless. He calls it Perfection of Insight. (My translation following Harrison & Watanabe).
Note that the older Sanskrit version, G, also lacks the third phrase as Kj does; which is nonetheless in C and Xz.And also note that G does not repeat tathāgatena bhāṣitā. And in this kind of syntax there is no need to repeat it because the two clauses have the same agent. The repetition only makes the sentence awkward and all the translations above ignore it. 

We know that the texts of Prajñāpāramitā sūtras were more or less constantly altered, mainly by being expanded throughout the period of active Buddhism in India. For example, Conze has speculated that this section, i.e., §13, was the original end of the sūtra and that subsequent sections were later additions. Others have speculated that the first two chapters, pages, or the first few paragraphs, were the original Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (c.f. Walser 2018).

As for the expression sokuhi, Kumārajīva alternates between using 則非 (J. nori hi) 9 times, and 即非 (J. sokuhi) 8 times. Xuanzang does not use the phrase at all, but rather his text has 如來說為非 (I will explain below). The difference here is not significant and as we will see makes more sense in the light of the Sanskrit text. 

2. Aparamitā

When we look at the two Chinese texts we see that when the negation comes, it is the whole word  般若波羅蜜 (= prajñāpāramitā) that is negated, i.e. 非般若波羅蜜 (Kumārajīva) and 非般若波羅蜜多 (Xuanzang). In other words, all the texts state that the Buddha spoke prajñā-pāramitā; the Chinese texts then deny that he spoke prajñā-pāramitā, while the Sanskrit texts only negate pāramitā. Given that Xuanzang was typically good at representing his source texts, perhaps there was a recension that negated the whole phrase prajñā-pāramitā, but this would break the general pattern observed in the text as a whole (Harrison 2006, and commented on in my blog).

The two versions of this passage have very different meanings. And Suzuki has clearly relied on the Chinese version for his sokuhi logic.

The Logic of the Vajracchedikā

Suzuki's logic of sokuhi suggests that the negations in the Vajracchedikā unlock the whole of the Prajñāpāramitā. I don't think this can be the case. Although it is likely that the Vajracchedikā goes back at least as far as the Aṣṭasāhasrikā, it is not representative of the mainstream of Prajñāpāramitā thinking; striking evidence of this is that the word śūnyatā is not used in the Vajracchedikā. The style of negation we find in the Vajracchedikā only occurs there. It is not representative, but a rather obscure offshoot. Note that the Vajracchedikā was not transmitted to China until the late 4th Century (translated by Kumārajīva ca 402 CE), 200 years after the Aṣṭasāhasrikā and the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā were first translated in 179 CE and 276 CE respectively. If there is a simple key to understanding the Prajñāpāramitā, i.e. if such a thing exists, then we would expect to find it in the Aṣṭasāhasikā and probably in the first two chapters, if not the first two pages (Walser 2018). The Chinese, who privileged the Large Sutra, would have expected to find it there and arguably the Heart Sutra is an attempt to extract the central principles of Prajñāpāramitā as they were understood in China in the mid-7th Century.

But even if the "logic" of the Vajracchedikā were important, Suzuki has been misled by the Chinese translations. His formulation again is:
To say that "A is A" is
To say that "A is not A."
Therefore, "A is A".
However, the logic of the Sanskrit texts is more like this:
What the Buddha calls AB, is without B.
Later, we don't know when, but probably after the 4th Century, this logic is extended:
What the Buddha calls AB, is without B; he calls it AB.
For Suzuki, working primarily from the Chinese texts, the thing stated and negated is the same in each case: prajñāpāramitā. By contrast, as Harrison points out, the Sanskrit text (and the overall pattern of negations in Vajracchedikā) shows that prajñāpāramitā is stated and then said to be without pāramitā. This is not, as Yusa supposed, an "abbreviation" that really means prajñāpāramitā. Rather, the argument is that, though one can name six kinds of perfection, there is no dharma that corresponds to perfection.


Harrison argues that exegetes have mistaken the nature of the word apāramitā. In Sanskrit grammar we treat such negated nouns as compounds, i.e. a-pāramitā. They can be one of two kinds of compound. If a-pāramitā is a karmadhārya compound then it means "non-perfection, not a perfection"; but if it is a bahuvrīhi compound then it means "without perfection" or "lacking perfection". While tradition usually takes these to be karmadhārya compounds, Harrison argues that the use of 非 (fēi) to negate rather than 不 () suggests that Kumārajīva understood the compound as a bahuvrīhi and that this is the better reading. 

So the phrase would be saying that the Buddha preached Prajñāpāramitā, but that it is without perfection. In other words there is no entity pāramitā "perfection" that can be observed in conjunction with the idea of prajñāpāramitā


Why would it follow from this that prajñāpāramitā is called prajñāpāramitā (tenocyate prajñāpāramiteti)? Well, it seems that originally it did not. This final phrase is not included in the early versions of the text. Indeed, as we have already noted, Suzuki added it by modifying the passage from Xuanzang's translation while otherwise using Kumārajīva's. But this does not stop Suzuki treating the passage that he has added to the text as very important. 

In Suzuki's thinking the pronoun tena plays a large part. Yusa argues that the "logic of sokuhi" could just as well be "the logic of tena". (875) She cites Suzuki as saying "Tena here has the meaning of 'therefore' in either the sense of 'that is why' or 'for that reason,' of in the sense of 'that is how,' 'in that manner,'"

Note that tena does not occur in the Gilgit version of the Vajracchedikā or in Kumārajīva's translation. In fact, the whole sentence is missing. This doesn't prove that tena was absent from all the early recensions of the text, but it does undermine the idea that tena is central to understanding the message of the Vajracchedikā.

Even if we admit, for the sake of argument, that the late addition is somehow meaningful, it does not appear to mean what Suzuki suggests. The sentence is tenocyate prajñāpāramiteti. If we break the Sandhi then the sentence reads tena ucyate prajñāpāramitā iti
Ucyate is a passive form of the verb vacati (√vac). The change from vac- to uc-, i.e. from the consonant to the corresponding vowel sound, is called samprasaraṇa and happens routinely for words that begin with semivowels. Sanskrit grammar dictates that when a verb is in the passive voice then the agent of the sentence is a noun or pronoun in the instrumental case—tena is a pronoun in the instrumental case. 

Pronouns play a connective role, linking back to the agent of a previous sentence. In this case, the Buddha or the Tathāgata has spoken prajñāpāramitā (prajñāpāramitā tathāgatena bhāṣitā) and in Buddhist Hybrid English "by him it is called perfection of insight", i.e. "he calls it perfection of insight".

Of course, Suzuki is not completely wrong, tena can form a logic connection. However, it is much more obvious in this case to take it as the agent of the passive verb. It looks like he has seriously misread the text. Or perhaps his goal of justifying the logic of sokuhi led him to this conclusion instead of the one preferred by a straightforward reading of the text.


Suzuki's misreading does not end here. As we have seen, sokuhi 即非 (Ch. jí fēi) is central to his exegesis of Prajñāpāramitā. Yusa cites Suzuki attempting to explain soku 即, obviously referencing the Heart Sutra.
The 'phenomenal' rupa (shiki 色) and the 'principle' dharma (hō 法) are clearly distinguished and stand in opposition, and yet in their very opposition, 'rupa is (soku) dharma' (shiki soku hō 色即法) , 'dharma is (soku) rupa (hō soku shiki  法即色). This is how it is in the world of spirituality. One may call it 'Oneness' or 'Non-duality (ichinyosei 一如性), which is different from the identity of two things. The One is the many, and the many is the One. (2019: 867) 

This is all very well, but in his translations Kumārajīva does not use 即 () this way at all.  I've studied this passage in depth (See Attwood 2017). The relevant passage from the Gilgit manuscript (my transcription) followed by Kumārajīva's translation is:
na hi śāradvatīputrānyad rūpam anyā śunyatā nānyā śunyatānyad rūpaṁ rūpameva śunyatā śunyataiva rūpaṁ. (folio 21 verso)
舍利弗 色不異空 空不異色  色即是空 空即是色 (T.223: 8.223a13-24)
It is evident that Kumārajīva is using 即 to convey sanskrit eva, which is used to indicate emphasis akin to putting the word in italics, e.g. "appearance is emptiness." And this is the basic sense in Chinese as well. Kroll's Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese:
即 jí MC tsik 1. marks a noun or [verb] phrase as being exactly or precisely what is meant: exactly, precisely, just (so), the very" (183-4)
The Sanskrit omits the copular verb in rūpameva śunyatā śunyataiva rūpaṁ, and Kumārajīva could have done so in Chinese as well since it is typical to do so. However, Medieval Chinese aesthetics strongly favours four character phrases so that, rather than 色即空 空即色, Kumārajīva adds the verb 是 (shì). So despite what Suzuki says, it is the context that equates rūpa and dharma in his equation, not the character 即 which only acts as a qualifier. In Medieval Chinese, we could just as easily state: 色空空色 (This phrase is used by some modern commentators to summarise the passage.).

However, as my research further shows (Attwood 2017) this passage is garbled in the Large Sutra and the Heart Sutra. The original phrase found in the Aṣṭasāhasrikā is rūpameva māyā māyaiva rūpaṁ "the appearance is an illusion; the illusion is appearance". This, in turn, must be understood as relating back to the old Buddhist simile, rūpameva māyopama "appearance is like an illusion". 


Note here my translation of rūpa as "appearance". In Chinese translation this is usually 色, which also refers to outward form or appearance. In modern Mandarin it means "colour". The relation of rūpa to the eye (cakṣu) is that of taste (rasa) to the tongue, not that of food (āhāra) to the tongue (jihvā). Similarly, sound to the ear, smell to the nose. This is reinforced by the counterpart of the the kāya or body sense, i.e. spaṣṭāvya "able to be touched" or "touchability". In each case it is not the source of the sound, smell, taste, or felt sensations that correspond to rūpa, but the sensation that comes from the objects. In other words rūpa does not refer to substance or substantiality, but to appearance

Some high-profile commentators have erroneously translated rūpa as "matter". However, it is more subtly misleading to translate it as "form", since this has given rise to the almost universal misunderstanding that rūpa refers to substance rather than appearance. What rūpa means, according to standard dictionaries and as we can deduce from the context, is appearance


Suzuki's logic of sokuhi is based on a raft of misunderstanding. On investigation, it becomes apparent that Suzuki didn't understand how the term soku (即) was used in the Prajñāpāramitā literature or the significance of the negations in the Vajracchedikā. He didn't understand the Vajracchedikā; and he didn't understand Prajñāpāramitā. Rather, Suzuki tendentiously uses his idiosyncratic reading of the texts to pursue the goal of an indigenous Japanese logic that could compete with and confound Western logic. Indeed, his "logic" was part of a strategy to distinguish and valorise Japan. Perhaps it was this pursuit that caused him to overlook the fundamentally Indian nature of the Prajñāpāramitā and to misread the words. 

It's interesting that another elitist, Edward Conze, read Suzuki and conceived of himself as one of the elect who could understand the esoteric significance of the "Japanese" logic, even going so far as approvingly quoting Suzuki's "logic of sokuhi". 

The general problem is that, like many other Buddhist commentators from Nāgārjuna onwards, Suzuki fails to adequately distinguish between the epistemology of being in the state of emptiness (or cessation) in which no sensory or cognitive experience arises, on one hand, and an ontology in which nothing exists, on the other. 

The vital distinction that we must make is that the cessation of sensory experience does not generalise to the non-existence of sense experience. And in my experience Buddhists are deeply reluctant to abandon their metaphysical positions and are thus unable to retreat to this epistemic stance. And, as a result, Buddhists routine advocate for nonsensical philosophy, all the while insisting that it be taken seriously as an alternative to sensible philosophy. Those who refuse to adopt the nonsensical view are dismissed as lacking insight. 

In the cessation of experience we can expect the breakdown of the usual orientation of the practitioner. In the absence of sensory spatial clues, they cannot locate or orient themselves in space. In the absence of the iterative events by which we measure time, they cannot orient themselves in time or experience time passing. Thus the phenomenology of cessation is timeless and boundless. I have no quibble with this, except that it does not generalise into a metaphysics in which reality is timeless and boundless. 

Furthermore, in the absence of the mental events associated with selfhood, the practitioner undergoing cessation cannot orient themselves with respect to self and other. The subject/object distinction breaks down for them. Again, this does not generalise into a metaphysics in which there is no distinction between subject and object in reality. 

Generalising from private experience to a metaphysical position on reality is almost always bad philosophy. Metaphysical stances by definition apply to all beings in all times and places. In principle, any person can get a telescope and observe the moons of the planet Jupiter and come to the same conclusion that Galileo came to in 1610. The heliocentric model of the universe transcends belief systems; even those people heavily invested in the geocentric view had to come around in the end, even if it took a few centuries. Gravity is not affected by whether or not we believe in it and no amount of hand waving will change this.

This is not to deny that humans are capable of undergoing cessation and emptiness. Nor to deny that, for those people who do undergo it, cessation seems hyperreal and deeply satisfying, nor yet that undergoing cessation is life changing. I fully accept that cessation is within the range of human experience, albeit at the extreme of what is possible. The problem is with how we interpret this experience, and the fact that different people come to different metaphysical conclusions about cessation. 

The metaphysical arguments that Buddhists make on the basis of undergoing cessation are akin to arguing that, because it is possible to experience apparent weightlessness in an aeroplane flying along an inverted parabolic path, gravity doesn't exist. Buddhists then resort to the worst kind of hand waving to explain why we have weight except when travelling in an invested parabolic arc. One such explanation would be that weight is an illusion that we experience because we are unawakened and from the ultimate point of view we are in fact all weightless all the time. Or that in order to experience weightlessness we must all have an eternally weightless aspect of our being that only manifests when we travel in an inverted parabola, which is the true shape of reality. At worst Buddhists insist that unless we experience weightlessness in the same plane with the same pilot then it is not true weightlessness and all we can do is try to perfect flying until the pilot reincarnates some time in the future. 

In other words, Buddhist "philosophy" is the naive speculations of the ignorant elevated to the level of theology, but as a multitude of mutually exclusive speculations about which we argue endlessly. 

The central characteristic of all peak experiences is a quality of hyperreality: of this moment being more real than reality. The worst case scenario is that the peak experience leads one to spend life chasing peak experiences in a desperate attempt to reconnect with the sense of hyperreality. Meditation has a similar effect on some people. Or we see the opposite, that peak experiences are discouraged so the person who easily slips into the bliss of dhyāna starts to feel guilty and holds back from it, leading them to lose interest in meditation.

There is a strong contrast between how different meditators interpret cessation. Some, for example, attest that they have merged with absolute consciousness and discovered that everything about the universe is completely determined; that events simply unfold as they will and our apparent decisions and choices are just illusions. Others deny the existence of an absolute and argue that our choices are significant in how we experience the world; that although conditions determine how events unfold, we can change the conditions. And all kinds of variations on these views exist. Mystics can't agree on the details of mysticism.

It is too big a leap to go from "I felt that everything was part of a harmonious whole" to "I know the universe to be a unified and undifferentiated whole: the One." Just as it is too big a leap to experiencing weightlessness in an aeroplane and declaring that gravity doesn't really exist. For a start, it doesn't take into account the circumstances. 

In the end, Suzuki's "logic" is just word games and hand waving. His early experience of satori is widely remarked upon, so perhaps he experienced a sense of oneness. But this hardly qualifies him to comment on reality. 

Suzuki dressed up his hand waving as "Eastern wisdom" with terms like sokuhi but, in fact, he didn't really understand Prajñāpāramitā and was often relying on ideas drawn from European philosophy, particularly German Idealism and Neoplatonism (probably via Theosophy). Suzuki seems to have been an Orientalist in Edward Said's pejorative sense, using a artificially constructed notion of the Asian (especially, the Japanese) personality to try to ground his approach to Zen. As Robert Sharf says: "while Suzuki’s Zen claimed a privileged perspective that transcended cultural difference, it was at the same time contrived as the antithesis of everything Suzuki found most deplorable about the West" (1995: 47). And not simply "the West" in the abstract, but westerners.

Arthur Koestler was one intellectual who was not taken in by Suzuki's hand waving:
"There is one redeeming possibility: that all this drivel is deliberately intended to confuse the reader, since one of the avowed aims of Zen is to perplex and unhinge the rational mind. If this hypothesis were correct, Professor Suzuki's voluminous oeuvre of at least a million words, specially written for this purpose, would represent a hoax of truly heroic dimensions, and the laugh would be on the Western intellectuals who fell for it" (from the essay 'A Stink of Zen', cited in  Sharf 1993: 41). 
My sense is that Koestler was right to refer to Suzuki's presentation of Zen as a hoax, although I would not endorse all of the anxieties expressed in The Lotus and the Robot. Worse, the Suzuki hoax is now into its third generation and still going strong, especially when it comes to Prajñāpāramitā.  In particular, Conze took Suzuki's approach and gave it his own narcissistic spin. Where Suzuki's attempts to paint the Japanese people as the elite, Conze narcissistically sees himself in this role. The damage done by these two men has been immeasurable. One result is that the universities of Europe and America have all but abandoned research on Prajñāpāramitā texts. Where the texts are read, it is inevitably through the lens of Conze's appalling translations. 


Texts of §13a

evam ukte āyuṣmān subhūtir bhagavaṃtam etad avocat | ko nāmāyaṃ bhagavan dharmaparyāyaḥ kathaṃ cainaṃ dhārayāmi | evam ukte bhagavān āyuṣmaṃtaṃ subhūtim etad avocat | prajñāpāramitā nāmāyaṃ subhūte dharmaparyāyaḥ | evaṃ cainaṃ dhāraya | tat kasya hetoḥ | yaiva subhūte prajñāpāramitā tathāgatena bhāṣitā | saivāpāramitā |  (Schopen 1989)

At these words, the Venerable Subhūti said this to the Lord, “What is the name, Lord, of this round of teachings, and how should I memorize it?” / At these words, the Lord said this to the Venerable Subhūti, “This round of teachings, Subhūti, is called the Perfection of Insight, and this is how you should memorize it. Why is that? The very Perfection of Insight, Subhūti, which the Realized One has preached is itself perfectionless. (Harrison and Watanabe 2006: 126)

evamukte āyuṣmān subhūtir bhagavantam etad avocat - ko nāma ayaṃ bhagavan dharmaparyāyaḥ, kathaṃ cainaṃ dhārayāmi? evam ukte bhagavān āyuṣmantaṃ subhūtim etad avocat - prajñāpāramitā nāmāyaṃ subhūte dharmaparyāyaḥ | evaṃ cainaṃ dhāraya | tatkasya hetoḥ? yaiva subhūte prajñāpāramitā tathāgatena bhāṣitā, saiva apāramitā tathāgatena bhāṣitā | tenocyate prajñāpāramiteti || (Conze 1957: 37-8)

Subhuti asked: What then, O Lord, is this discourse on dharma, and how should I bear it in mind? The Lord replied: This discourse on dharma, Subhuti, is called 'Wisdom which has gone beyond', and as such should you bear it in mind! And why? Just that which the Tathagata has taught as the wisdom which has gone beyond, just that He has taught as not gone beyond. Therefore is it called 'Wisdom which has gone beyond'. (Conze 1975: 51)

यैव सुभूते प्रज्ञापारमिता तथागतेन भाषिता सैवापारमिता तथागतेन भाषिता । तेनोच्यते प्रज्ञापारमितेति ॥ (Müller 1884: 29)

持  佛告須菩提是經名為金剛般若波羅蜜以是名字汝當奉持所以者何須菩提佛說般若波羅蜜則非般若波羅蜜  (T 235: 8.750a11 - 15 = Kumārajīva)

佛告須菩提:「是經名為『金剛般若波羅蜜』。以是名字,汝當奉持。所以者何?須菩提!佛說般若波羅蜜, 則*非般若波羅蜜。...」(Kumārajīva with CBETA punctuation)
* 即 in the Ming Edition of the Tripiṭaka

作是語已,佛告善現言:「具壽!今此法門名為能斷金剛般若波羅蜜多,如是名字汝當奉持。何以故?善現!如是般若波羅蜜多,如來說為非般若波羅蜜多,是故如來說名般若波羅蜜多。」  (CBETA T 220-ix: 7.982a7-11. Xuanzang).


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