Verses on the Perfection of Wisdom

Prajñāpāramitā Ratnaguṇasaṃcayagāthā

14,137 words

Prajnaparamita Ratnagunasamcayagatha Translated by Edward Conze (Taisho Tripitaka 0229)...

Preliminary Admonition

"Call forth as much as you can of love, of respect and of faith!
Remove the obstructing defilements, and clear away all your taints!
Listen to the Perfect Wisdom of the gentle Buddhas,
Taught for the weal of the world, for heroic spirits intended!

The rivers all in this Roseapple Island
Which cause the flowers to grow, the fruits, the herbs and trees,
They all derive from the might of the king of the Nagas,
From the Dragon reside in Lake Anopatapta, his magical power.
Just so, whatever Dharmas the Jina's disciples establish,
Whatever they teach, whatever adroitly explain--
Concerning the work of the holy which leads to the fullness of bliss,
And also the fruit of this work--it is the Tathagata's doing.
For whatever the Jina has taught, the Guide to the Dharma
His pupils, if genuine, have well been trained in it.
From direct experience, derived from their training, they teach it,
Their teaching stems but from the might of the Buddhas, and not their own power.

The Basic Teachings

No wisdom can we get hold of, no highest perfection,
No Bodhisattva, no thought of enlightenment either.
When told of this, if not bewildered and in no way anxious,
A Bodhisattva courses in the Well-Gone's wisdom.
In form, in feeling, will, perception and awareness
Nowhere in them they find a place to rest on.
Without a home they wander, dharmas never hold them,
Nor do they grasp at them--the Jina's Bodhi they are bound to gain.

The wanderer Srenika in his gnosis of the truth
Could find no basis, though the skandhas had not been undone.
Just so the Bodhisattva, when he comprehends the dharmas as he should
Does not retire into Blessed Rest. In wisdom then he dwells.
What is this wisdom, whose and whence, he queries,
And then he finds that all these dharmas are entirely empty.
Uncowed and fearless in the face of that discovery
Not far from Bodhi is that Bodhi-being then.

To course in the skandhas, in form, in feeling, in perception.
Will and so on, and fail to consider them wisely;
Or to imagine these skandhas as being empty;
Means to course in the sign, the track of non-production ignored.
But when he does not course in form, in feeling, or perception
In will or consciousness, but wanders without home,
Remaining unaware of coursing firm in wisdom,
His thoughts on non-production--then the best of all the calming trances cleaves to him.

Through that the bodhisattva now dwells tranquil in himself,
His future Buddhahood assured by antecedent Buddhas.
Whether absorbed in trance, or whether outside it, he minds not.
For of things as they are he knows the essential original nature.

Coursing thus he courses in the wisdom of the Sugatas,
And yet he does not apprehend the dharmas in which he course.
This coursing he wisely knows as a no-coursing,
That is his practice of wisdom, the highest perfection.

What exists not, that non-existent the foolish imagine;
Non-existence as well as existence they fashion.
As dharmic facts existence and non-existence are both not real.
A bodhisattva goes forth when wisely he knows this.

If he knows the five skandhas as like an illusion,
But makes not illusion one thing, and the skandhas another;
If, freed from the notion of multiple things, he courses in peace--
That this is his practice of wisdom, the highest perfection.

Those with good teachers as well as deep insight,
Cannot be frightened on hearing the Mothers' deep tenets.
But those with bad teachers, who can be misled by others,
Are ruined thereby, as an unbaked pot when in contact with moisture.

Three Key Terms Defined

What is the reason why we speak of 'Bodhisattvas?'
Desirous to extinguish all attachment, and to cut it off,
True non-attachment, or the Bodhi of the Jinas is their future lot.
'Beings who strive for Bodhi' are they therefore called.

What is the reason whey 'Great Beings' are so called?
They rise to the highest place above a great number of people;
And of a great number of people they cut off mistaken views.
That is why we come to speak of them as 'Great Beings.'
Great as a giver, as a thinker, as a power,
He mounts upon the vessel of the Supreme Jinas.
Armed with the great armor he'll subdue Mara the artful.
These are the reasons why 'Great Beings' are so called.

This gnosis shows him all beings as like an illusion,
Resembling a great crowd of people, conjured up at the crossroads,
By a magician, who then cuts off many thousands of heads;
He knows this whole living world as a mock show, and yet remains without fear.

Form, perception, feeling, will and awareness
Are ununited, never bound, cannot be freed.
Uncowed in his thought he marches on to his Bodhi,
That for the highest of men is the best of all armors.

What then again is 'the vessel that leads to the Bodhi?'
Mounted upon it one guides to Nirvana all beings.
Great is that vessel, immense, vast like the vastness of space.
Those who travel upon it are carried to safety, delight and ease.

The Transcendental Nature of Bodhisattvas

Thus transcending the world, he eludes our apprehensions.
'He goes to Nirvana,' but no one can say where he went to.
A fire's extinguished, but where, do we ask, has it gone to?
Likewise, how can we find him who has found the Rest of the Blessed?

The Bodhisattva's past, his future and his present must elude us,
Time's three dimensions nowhere touch him.
Quite pure he is, free from conditions, unimpeded.
That is his practice of wisdom, the highest perfection.

Wise Bodhisattvas, coursing thus, reflect on non-production,
And yet, while doing so, engender in themselves the great compassion,
Which is, however, free from any notion of being.
Thereby they practice wisdom, the highest perfection.

But when the notion of suffering and beings leads him to think:
'Suffering I shall remove, the weal of the world I shall work!'
Beings are then imagined, a self is imagined,--
The practice of wisdom, the highest perfection, is lacking.

He wisely knows that all that lives in unproduced as he himself is;
He knows that all that is no more exists than he or any beings.
The unproduced and the produced are not distinguished,
That is the practice of wisdom, the highest perfection.

All words for things in use in this world must be left behind,
All things produced and made must be transcended--
The deathless, the supreme, incomparable gnosis is then won.
That is the sense in which we speak of perfect wisdom.
When free from doubts the Bodhisattva carries on his practice,
As skilled in wisdom he is knows to swell.
All dharmas are not really there, their essential original nature is empty.
To comprehend that is the practice of wisdom, perfection supreme.

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