Sunday Dharma: Prajna-paramita, Mother of Buddhas

The Maha-Prajna-paramita Sutra is one of the major Mahayana texts. From this voluminous work both the Diamond and Heart Sutras are derived.

This passage is from Chapter 34, “Glorification of the Virtues of Consummation.” As the text states, Prajna-paramita is symbolically the mother of Bodhisattvas, the womb of Buddhas. In Prajna-paramita literature, Buddhas are not born from nirvana but from the practice of Prajna-paramita, or Transcendent Wisdom.

This translation is by Edward Conze, and so it is rather old. Unfortunately, I do not know of any other major translations of the sutra. I changed a few of the word, substituting ‘Thus Gone One’ for ‘Lord’, and ‘awakening ‘for ‘enlightenment’, and in several places I have use ‘Transcendent Wisdom’ which is a more accurate translation of Prajna-paramita.

Prajna-paramitaSariputra: Transcendent wisdom gives light, O Thus Gone One, She is worthy of homage; I pay homage to transcendent wisdom! She is unstained. She removes the darkness from everyone in the triple world. She does her utmost to bring about the forsaking of the blinding darkness caused by the defilements and by false views. She makes us seek the safety of all the dharmas which act as wings to enlightenment. She brings light, so that all fear, terror, and distress may be forsaken. She shows the path to beings, so that they may acquire the five organs of vision. To beings who have strayed on to the wrong road she brings about the knowledge of all modes through the avoidance of the two extremes, on account of the forsaking of all the defilements together with their residues.

Transcendent wisdom is the mother of the Bodhisattvas, the great beings, on account of her generations of the Buddhadharmas. She is neither produced nor stopped, on account of the emptiness of own-marks. She liberates from birth-and-death because she is not unmoved nor destroyed, she protects the unprotected, on account of her being the donor all dharmas. She brings about the ten powers (of a Buddha), because she cannot be crushed, she sets in motion the wheel of Dharma with its three revolutions and its twelve aspects on account of it being neither turned forward nor backward. The perfection of wisdom shows forth the own-being of all dharmas, on account of the emptiness of the nonexistence of own-being.

How, O Thus Gone One, should one stand in the perfection of transcendent wisdom?

The Thus Gone One: As in the Teacher, so should one stand in the perfection of wisdom. A one should pay homage to the Teacher,so also to the perfection of wisdom. And why? For just this perfection of wisdom is the Teacher; the Teacher is not one thing and the perfection of wisdomanother; just the Teacher is the perfection of wisdom, just the perfection of wisdom is the Teacher. For from this perfection of wisdom all Tathagatas come forth, and also all Bodhisattva, great beings, all Pratyeka-buddhas, Arhats, Never-returners, Once-returners, and Streamwinners. From it have come forth the ten wholesome ways of acting, etc. to: the Buddhadharmas and the knowledge of all modes.

Thereupon it occurred to Sakra, Chief of Gods: Wherefrom, and for what reason, has this question of the Ven. Sariputra arisen?

The Ven. Sariputra read Sakra’s thoughts and replied: This question for the reason that it has been said that ‘taken hold of by the perfection of wisdom the Bodhisattvas, the great beings, through skill in means dedicate to the knowledge of all modes the wholesome roots of the Buddhas and Lords of the past, future, and present, in the interval beginning with the first thought of awakening, up to their full knowledge of the supreme awakening, up to the abiding of the good Dharma.’ This transcendent wisdom of the Bodhisattvas is a perfection [paramita] that surpasses the perfection of giving, etc. to: the perfection of meditation. Just as Kausika, people born blind, one hundred, one thousand, or one hundred thousand of them, cannot, without a leader go along a raod and much less enter into a city; just so, Kausika, without an eye the five perfections are as if born blind, with the perfection of wisdom they are unable to ascend the path to awakening, and still less can they enter into the city of the knowledge of all modes.

When, however, the five perfections have been taken hold of by the perfection of widom, then they acquire an organ of vision, and, taken hold of by the perfection of wisdom, these fiver perfections deserve to be called ‘perfections.’

Sakra: As the Rev. Sariputra has said. ‘taken hold of by the perfection of wisdom, the five perfections deserve to be called ‘perfections.’ But they do not deserve to be called ‘perfections’ because they are taken hold of by the perfection of giving, etc. to: by the perfection of meditation?

Sariputra: So it is, Kausika, so it is. Therefore, then, this perfection of wisdom has been proclaimed as superior to the other five perfections.


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