Buddhism Perfection of Wisdom
by
Stefano Zacchetti
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0153

Introduction

The Sanskrit compound Prajñāpāramitā (“Perfection of Wisdom” or “Insight”) may refer to both a set of (primarily cognitive) practices, and a class of scriptures devoted to their exposition. There is a broad albeit not unanimous consensus in modern Buddhist studies that the Perfection of Wisdom was one of the earliest scriptural traditions related to the Mahāyāna (“Great Vehicle”) movement. Prajñāpāramitā texts outline a method that a bodhisattva should follow in order to reach the ultimate goal of perfect awakening. The central idea of this method is that a practitioner should achieve a state of complete detachment from all things and factors (and particularly from his or her own spiritual achievements), through the understanding of their “emptiness” (śūnyatā). These ideas have found expression in a diverse and rich textual corpus, grown over a long period of time, and consisting of both base texts (i.e., scriptures presented as sermons preached by the Buddha, or sūtras), and their commentaries. A substantial part of this huge literature survives in Sanskrit (albeit mostly in rather late manuscripts), and most of it has been translated over the centuries into Chinese and Tibetan. The Perfection of Wisdom was arguably influential, to varying degrees, on any form of Mahayana Buddhism. It remained a central tradition even in later Indian and in Tibetan Buddhism and had a tremendous impact in China: after having been introduced in China during the 2nd century CE, the Perfection of Wisdom came to dominate the philosophical debate during the 4th–5th centuries.

General Overviews

In the absence of an up-to-date general overview on the Perfection of Wisdom and its literature, Conze 1978 remains the best introduction to this subject. In a sense, Conze 1978 and Hikata 1958 complement each other, as the latter is more informative on Chinese sources on this subject. Nakamura 1980 provides rich information on secondary literature, particularly in Japanese.

  • Conze, Edward. The Prajñāpāramitā Literature. 2nd ed. Bibliographia Philologica Buddhica, Series Maior I. Tokyo: Reiukai Library, 1978.

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    Although unavoidably outdated, Conze’s book remains the most comprehensive introduction to the Prajñāpāramitā literature, discussing its historical development and providing essential bibliographical information on each text. It also includes a detailed discussion of the commentarial literature (pp. 93–120).

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    • Hikata, Ryusho. Suvikrāntavikrāmi-paripṛcchā-Prajñāpāramitā-sūtra Edited with an Introductory Essay. Fukuoka, Japan: Kyushu University, 1958.

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      Apart from the critical edition of a comparatively short but important Perfection of Wisdom scripture (The Questions of Suvikrāntavikrāmin), Hikata offers an authoritative general overview of the Prajñāpāramitā literature and its historical development.

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      • Nakamura, Hajime. Indian Buddhism: A Survey with Bibliographical Notes. Hirakata, Japan: Kansai University of Foreign Studies, 1980.

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        This general survey covers the whole span of Buddhist studies providing useful information on primary sources and secondary literature (on the Perfection of Wisdom see pp. 159–165). Particularly informative on Japanese scholarship.

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        Reference Works

        There are a few bibliographical and lexicographical works specifically devoted to the Perfection of Wisdom and its literature. Beautrix 1971 is a thorough (though outdated) bibliography of the subject, while Hanayama 1966 consists of detailed summaries of significant Japanese studies on the Prajñāpāramitā. The main general lexicographical work specifically devoted to this scriptural corpus is Conze 1973, while Karashima 2010 and Keira and Ueda 1998 are based on specific scriptures.

        • Beautrix, Pierre. Bibliographie de la littérature Prajñāpāramitā. Brussels: Institut Belge des Hautes Etudes Bouddiques, 1971.

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          A detailed bibliography covering both original sources (including commentaries) and secondary literature, with extensive references to Japanese publications.

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          • Conze, Edward. Materials for a Dictionary of the Prajñāpāramitā Literature. Tokyo: Suzuki Research Foundation, 1973.

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            This lexicographical work records Sanskrit words, with English translation and, generally, Tibetan equivalents, collected by Conze during his lifelong translation enterprise of Prajñāpāramitā texts. The somewhat provisional nature of Materials is betrayed by occasional inaccuracies.

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            • Hanayama, Shōyū. “A Summary of Various Research on the Prajñāpāramitā Literature by Japanese Scholars.” In Acta Asiatica, Bulletin of the Institute of Eastern Culture. Edited by Tōhō Gakkai, 16–93. Tokyo: Tōhō Gakkai, 1966.

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              A useful survey of modern Japanese scholarship on this subject, providing extensive summaries of the most significant works arranged into some key topics. The presentation of the materials, however, is not a model of clarity.

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              • Karashima, Seishi. A Glossary of Lokakṣema’s Translation of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā. Bibliotheca Philologica et Philosophica Buddhica 11. Tokyo: International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology—Soka University, 2010.

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                A groundbreaking lexicographical work on the earliest Chinese translation of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines (Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā; see the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines), Lokakṣema’s Dao xing jing (translated in 179 CE), providing detailed references to Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan parallels. Fundamental for the historical study of the Prajñāpāramitā literature. There is an electronic version freely accessible online.

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              • Keira, Ryusei, and Noboru Ueda. Sanskrit Word-Index to the Abhisamayālaṃkārālokā Prajñāpāramitāvyākhyā (U. Wogihara Edition). Tokyo: Sankibo, 1998.

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                This well-organized index lists all the words and compounds, in all the inflected forms, occurring in Wogihara’s edition of both the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines, and its commentary by Haribhadra (see the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines). An invaluable research tool.

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              Perfection of Wisdom Texts

              We possess Sanskrit manuscripts representing all the main textual families of Perfection of Wisdom texts. although they are for the most part rather late. Recent manuscript discoveries (Falk and Karashima 2012, Sander 2000, both cited under The Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines) are beginning to provide crucial insight into the formative phase of this literature. Particularly important, from this viewpoint, is also the study of Chinese translations, which predate most of the available Sanskrit sources. Traditionally, many Prajñāpāramitā scriptures, even though composed for the most part in prose, have been classified on the basis of their length, calculated in units of thirty-two syllables (stanzas, or lines). For the sake of convenience, this section is subdivided into several subheadings, reflecting in part this traditional classification. Citations include references to both editions of the original texts and modern translations.

              General Collections

              Both the Digital Sanskrit Buddhist Canon and, particularly, GRETIL—Göttingen Register of Electronic Texts in Indian Languages provide free access to several Prajñāpāramitā digital Sanskrit texts. The corpus of the Gilgit manuscript (Raghu Vira and Lokesh Chandra 1995) includes two fundamental Prajñāpāramitā texts. The Perfection of Wisdom literature accounts for a considerable portion of the Chinese Buddhist canon: in the modern standard edition of the canon (Takakusu and Watanabe 1924–1932) a full four volumes (5–8) are made up of Prajñāpāramitā texts. A large number of Perfection of Wisdom texts were translated into Tibetan, particularly between the 8th and 9th centuries CE. They form the second section of the bKa’ ‘gyur, the partition of the Tibetan canon that includes texts attributed to the Buddha’s preaching (sūtra). There is no readily available standard edition of the Tibetan canon, and Suzuki 1955–1961 is quoted here as one of the most commonly used editions.

              The Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines

              The version in eight thousand lines (Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā) is generally considered the earliest Perfection of Wisdom text. The two main editions of the Sanskrit text are Wogihara 1932 and Vaidya 1960. In Wogihara’s accurate work, the base text is edited within Haribhadra’s commentary (the Abhisasamayālaṃkārālokā Prajñāpāramitāvyākhyā), whereas in Vaidya 1960 the latter is conveniently edited independently. Both editions are based on comparatively recent Nepalese manuscripts. Much light on the early history of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 lines has been cast in recent years by manuscript discoveries (Falk and Karashima 2012, Sander 2000), and by the systematic study of the earliest Chinese translation, dating back to the late 2nd century CE, for which Karashima 2011 is an invaluable resource. Conze 1994 remains the only complete English translation of this fundamental and difficult scripture, but mention should also be made of Kajiyama and Tanji 2001.

              • Conze, Edward. The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines and Its Verse Summary. Delhi: Sri Satguru, 1994.

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                The only complete English translation of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines. It includes also a translation of the Prajñāpāramitāratnaguṇasaṃcayagāthā (Verses Summarizing the Precious Merits of the Perfection of Wisdom: see Yuyama 1976 in Short Perfection of Wisdom Texts), an early verse summary of the Prajñāpāramitā.

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              • Falk, Harry, and Seishi Karashima. “A First-Century Prajñāpāramitā Manuscript from Gandhāra—Parivarta 1 (Texts from the Split Collection 1).” Annual Report of the International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology at Soka University for the Academic Year 2011.15 (2012): 19–61.

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                Edition (first instalment) of a fragmentary birch-bark manuscript in Gāndhārī of a text corresponding to the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines. This manuscript is the earliest Prajñāpāramitā text surviving in any language (c. 1st century CE). A crucial source for studying the historical development of Mahāyāna literature. The electronic version is accessible online.

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                • Kajiyama, Yuichi 梶山雄一 and Tanji, Teruyoshi 丹治昭義. Hassen ju hannyakyō (八千頌般若経). 2 vols. Tokyo: Chuokoron-Shinsha, 2001.

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                  The greatest part of this Japanese translation (chapters 1–20) is the work of Yuichi Kajiyama, a prominent Japanese specialist of Buddhist philosophy; the remaining chapters (21–32) were translated by Tanji Teruyoshi. Originally published in 1975.

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                  • Karashima, Seishi. A Critical Edition of Lokakṣema’s Translation of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā. Bibliotheca Philologica et Philosophica Buddhica 12. Tokyo: International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology—Soka University, 2011.

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                    A copiously annotated edition of the earliest Chinese translation of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines, Lokakṣema’s Dao xing jing. The Chinese text is critically edited, punctuated, and annotated with extensive reference to the available Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan parallels. The electronic version is freely accessible online.

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                  • Sander, Lore. “Fragments of an Aṣṭasāhasrikā Manuscript from the Kuṣāṇā Period.” In Buddhist Manuscripts. Edited by Jens Braarvig, 1–51. Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection 1. Oslo, Norway: Hermes, 2000.

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                    Edition of several manuscript fragments estimated on paleographical grounds to date back to the late 3rd century CE. These fragments constitute the earliest Sanskrit witness of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines, and are of considerable significance for the textual history of this sūtra. Continued in Lore Sander’s article “New Fragments of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā of the Kuṣāṇā Period,” found in Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection III—Buddhist Manuscripts. Vol. 2. (Oslo: Hermes, 2002), 37–44.

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                  • Vaidya, P. L., ed. Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā. With Haribhadra’s Commentary Called Āloka. Buddhist Sanskrit Texts 4. Darbhanga, India: Mithila Institute, 1960.

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                    This is perhaps the most widely used edition of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines. It includes Haribhadra’s commentary edited separately from the sūtra. A digital text based on this edition is available through GRETIL (see General Collections).

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                    • Wogihara, Unrai, ed. Abhisasamayālaṃkār’ālokā Prajñāpāramitāvyākhyā the Work of Haribhadra—Together with the Text Commented on. Tokyo: Toyo Bunko, 1932.

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                      An authoritative edition of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines together with Haribhadra’s commentary, produced by the prominent Japanese Buddhologist Wogihara Unrai (b. 1869–d. 1937). For a translation of the commentary, see Sparham 2006–2012, cited under Commentaries.

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                      Larger Perfection of Wisdom Texts

                      A subsequent phase in the development of the Prajñāpāramitā literature saw the production of a body of large and closely related texts of varying length, representing in part an expansion of the version in 8,000 lines. The larger Prajñāpāramitā scriptures constitute an extended family of huge and highly repetitive texts, whose main representatives are the versions in one hundred thousand (Śatasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā), in twenty-five thousand (Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā P.), and eighteen thousand lines (Aṣṭādaśasāhasrikā P.). This corpus is represented by several Sanskrit manuscripts (including many Central Asian fragments: for example, see Bongard-Levin and Hori 1996), as well as by Tibetan and Chinese translations. Due to the sheer size of all these scriptures, thus far only one Sanskrit Larger Prajñāpāramitā text has been completely edited, though not by a single scholar: Dutt 2000 and Kimura 1986–2006 together encompass the entire Perfection of Wisdom in 25,000 lines. Ghoṣa 1902–1914 only covers the initial portion of the immense Perfection of Wisdom in 100,000 lines. One of the most important Sanskrit larger Prajñāpāramitā texts is the manuscript from Gilgit (see General Collections), parts of which have been edited in Conze 1962 and Zacchetti 2005. Conze 1975 is the only complete Larger Prajñāpāramitā translation into a Western language; and in spite of its philological shortcomings, it provides convenient access to this enormous text.

                      • Bongard-Levin Grigory M., and Hori Shin’ichirō. “A Fragment of the Larger Prajñāpāramitā from Central Asia.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 19.1 (1996): 19–60.

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                        A carefully compiled edition of a Central Asian manuscript fragment of the Larger Prajñāpāramitā, compared with all the available parallels. The article includes a detailed and informative discussion of the text.

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                        • Conze, Edward. The Gilgit Manuscript of the Aṣṭādaśasāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā: Chapters 50 to 55 Corresponding to the 5th Abhisamaya. Serie Orientale Roma 26. Roma: IsMEO, 1962.

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                          An edition and translation of the final portion of the Gilgit Larger Prajñāpāramitā Manuscript. Continued in Conze’s Gilgit Manuscript of the Aṣṭādaśasāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā: chapters 70–82 corresponding to the sixth, seventh, and eighth Abhisamayas. Serie Orientale Roma XLVI (Roma: IsMEO), 1974. A digital text based on this edition is available through GRETIL (see General Collections).

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                          • Conze, Edward. The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom with the Divisions of the Abhisamayālaṅkāra. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975.

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                            In spite of the questionable philological approach adopted by the translator, who based his version on a conflation of several distinct recensions of the larger Prajñāpāramitā, Conze 1975 represents the only modern attempt to translate this huge scripture (or, rather, scriptural family) into a Western language.

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                          • Dutt, Nalinaksha, ed. Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā. Kolkata: R. N. Bhattacharya, 2000.

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                            Originally published in 1934 (Calcutta Oriental series no. 28), this edition covers the first part (or Abhisamaya) of the Sanskrit Perfection of Wisdom in 25,000 Lines. The remaining portions of the Perfection of Wisdom in 25,000 Lines have been published in Kimura 1986–2006. A digital text based on this edition is available through GRETIL (see General Collections).

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                          • Ghoṣa, Pratāpacandra, ed. Śatasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā. Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1902–1914.

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                            This is the only (albeit rather inaccurate) edition of the initial portion of the Sanskrit Perfection of Wisdom in 100,000 lines, covering the first twelve chapters of this gigantic scripture.

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                            • Kimura, Takayasu, ed. Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā II-VIII. 4 vols. Tokyo: Sankibo, 1986–2006.

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                              A continuation of Dutt 2000, covering the rest of the sūtra. Each volume of this edition of the Sanskrit text is provided with a very convenient “Comparative Table” of all the versions of the Perfection of Wisdom in 25,000 Lines, with detailed references to Sanskrit manuscripts as well as Tibetan and Chinese translations. A digital text based on this edition is available through GRETIL (see General Collections).

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                            • von Hinüber, Oskar. “Sieben Goldblätter einer Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā aus Anurādhapura.” In Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenshaften in Göttingen—Philologisch-Historische Klasse Jahrgang 1983. Nr. 7. Edited by Oskar von Hinüber, 189–207. Göttingen, West Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1983.

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                              Edition of a fragmentary but historically important 9th-century text of the Perfection of Wisdom in 25,000 Lines inscribed on gold leaves, which was discovered in Sri Lanka. A digital text based on this edition is available through GRETIL (see General Collections).

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                              • Zacchetti, Stefano. In Praise of the Light: A Critical Synoptic Edition with an Annotated Translation of Chapters 1–3 of Dharmarakṣa’s Guang zan jing (光讚經), Being the Earliest Chinese Translation of the Larger Prajñāpāramitā. Bibliotheca Philologica et Philosophica Buddhica 8. Tokyo: International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology—Soka University, 2005.

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                                This monograph focuses on Dharmarakṣa’s late-3rd-century Chinese translation of the Larger Prajñāpāramitā. It includes a detailed introduction on the history of the text and an edition of the initial portion of the Sanskrit larger Prajñāpāramitā manuscript from Gilgit (a digital text of this edition is available through GRETIL, see General Collections). The electronic version is accessible online.

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                              Short Perfection of Wisdom Texts

                              There are a number of shorter Perfection of Wisdom scriptures, presumably produced, for the most part, at a later stage than the larger versions. This group of independent sūtras includes some of the best known and most influential Prajñāpāramitā texts, such as the so-called Diamond Sūtra (Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā) and the very short but highly venerated Heart Sūtra (Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya), which seeks to distill the very essence of the Perfection of Wisdom down to a few lines of text. Accurate editions of two early Sanskrit manuscripts of the Vajracchedikā are provided in Schopen 1989 and Harrison and Watanabe 2006. Harrison 2006 is a philologically impeccable and doctrinally perceptive translation of the Vajracchedikā from these early manuscripts. Conze 1974, long regarded as the standard edition and translation of the Sanskrit Diamond Sūtra, is not entirely reliable but still indispensable for the later text. Poppe 1971 provides access to three Mongolian translations (16th–17th centuries) based on the Tibetan version. Conze 1948 is a widely used edition of the Sanskrit Heart Sūtra, while Silk 1994 is a superb study and edition of its Tibetan version. Yuyama 1976 is the standard edition of a verse summary of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines.

                              • Conze, Edward. “Text, Sources, and Bibliography of the Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 80.1 (1948): 33–51.

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                                Provides a critical edition of the Sanskrit Heart Sūtra, followed by a modern commentary. This article is included, with the title “The Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya Sūtra,” in Conze 1967 (see Prajñāpāramitā Thought).

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                                • Conze, Edward. Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā. 2d ed. Serie Orientale Roma 8. Roma: IsMEO, 1974.

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                                  Characterized by a rather cavalier and confusing handling of the text, this has long been the standard edition of this important scripture (better known as the Diamond Sūtra), but now it needs to be replaced. The volume also includes an introduction, a translation, and a Sanskrit-Tibetan-English glossary. Edited and translated with introduction and glossary.

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                                  • Harrison, Paul. “Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā: A New English Translation of the Sanskrit Text Based on Two Sanskrit Manuscripts from Greater Gandhāra.” In Buddhist Manuscripts. Edited by Jens Braarvig, 133–159. Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection 3. Oslo: Hermes, 2006.

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                                    Authoritative and careful translation of an early Sanskrit text of the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā (the Diamond Sūtra) based on the Schøyen Collection and Gilgit manuscripts. The introduction addresses problems of translation of considerable philosophical significance.

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                                  • Harrison, Paul, and Watanabe Shogo. “Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā.” Buddhist Manuscripts. Edited by Jens Braarvig, 89–132. Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection 3. Oslo: Hermes, 2006.

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                                    Edition of a 6th- to 7th-century manuscript belonging to a Norwegian private collection and containing part of the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā. The introduction provides a detailed presentation of the various Sanskrit witnesses of this sūtra.

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                                  • Poppe, Nicholas. The Diamond Sutra. Three Mongolian Versions of the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā: Texts, Translations Notes, and Glossaries. Wiesbaden, West Germany: Otto Harrassowitz, 1971.

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                                    Edition and annotated translation of three different Mongolian translations (made from the Tibetan version) of the Diamond Sūtra.

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                                  • Schopen, Gregory. “The Manuscript of Vajracchedikā Found at Gilgit.” In Studies in the Literature of the Great Vehicle: Three Mahāyāna Buddhist Texts. Edited by Luis O. Gómez and Jonathan A. Silk, 89–139. Ann Arbor: Collegiate Institute for the Study of Buddhist Literature and Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, 1989.

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                                    An accurate edition and English translation of the Gilgit manuscript of the Vajracchedikā (see General Collections).

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                                  • Silk, Jonathan A. The Heart Sūtra in Tibetan: A Critical Edition of the Two Recensions Contained in the Kanjur. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 1994.

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                                    Apart from the meticulous critical edition of the Tibetan texts, this monograph (particularly important for the study of the Tibetan canon) contains a rich introduction and several appendixes, including English translations of the two Tibetan recensions, edited synoptically with the originals.

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                                    • Yuyama, Akira, ed. Prajñā-pāramitā-ratna-guṇa-saṃcaya-gāthā (Sanskrit Recension A). Edited with an Introduction, Bibliographical Notes and a Tibetan Version from Tunhuang. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1976.

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                                      Edition of a Sanskrit text (called by Yuyama “Recension A”) of the “Verses Summarizing the Precious Merits of the Perfection of Wisdom,” a verse summary of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines (for a translation, see Conze 1975, cited under Larger Perfection of Wisdom Texts).

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                                    Commentaries

                                    Prajñāpāramitā scriptures remained authoritative for centuries after their composition, and the long history of their reception is reflected by a rich commentarial literature produced in India, Tibet, and East Asia. Sparham 2006–2012 is the translation of two highly technical commentaries (see Pensa 1967) that represent the mature phase in the development of Prajñāpāramitā exegetical literature. Another less influential commentary on Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines has been edited by Jaini 1979. The Larger Prajñāpāramitā commentary partly translated in Lamotte 1944–1980, only known through Kumārajīva’s Chinese translation, is ascribed by East Asian tradition to the great Mādhyamika master Nāgārjuna and constitutes a veritable encyclopedia of Buddhist doctrine and literature. Tucci 1956 and Lopez 1996 provide access to several Indian commentaries on the two most important short Prajñāpāramitā texts, the Diamond Sūtra and the Heart Sūtra.

                                    • Jaini, Padmanabh S. Sāratamā: A Pañjikā on the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra by Ratnākaraśānti. Tibetan Sanskrit Works Series 18. Patna, India: Kashi Prasad Jayaswal Research Institute, 1979.

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                                      Edition of a Sanskrit commentary to the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines ascribed to the 11th-century master Ratnākaraśānti.

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                                      • Lamotte, Étienne. Le Traité de la Grande Vertu de Sagesse de Nāgārjuna (Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra). 5 vols. Leuven, Belgium: Université de Louvain—Institut Orientaliste, 1944–1980.

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                                        The Da zhidu lun is a detailed commentary to the larger Prajñāpāramitā translated into Chinese by Kumārajīva (5th century). Lamotte’s monumental translation of the first fifty-two chapters, copiously annotated and enriched by several essays, stands out as one of the most important Buddhological works of the 20th century.

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                                        • Lopez, Donald S. Elaborations on Emptiness: Uses of the Heart Sūtra. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

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                                          Translation from the Tibetan of eight Indian commentaries to the Heart Sūtra, interspersed with essays by the author addressing different problems raised by this famous scripture.

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                                        • Pensa, Corrado. L’Abhisamayālaṃkāravṛtti di Ārya-Vimuktisena—Primo Abhisamaya—testo e note critiche. Serie Orientale Roma 37. Roma: IsMEO, 1967.

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                                          Edition of the first section (Abhisamaya) of a Sanskrit commentary to the Perfection of Wisdom in 25,000 Lines by Vimuktisena (5th–6th century). This exegetical work has been translated into English in Sparham 2006–2012.

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                                          • Sparham, Gareth, trans. Abhisamayālaṅkāra with Vṛtti and Āloka. 4 vols. Fremont, CA: Jain, 2006–2012.

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                                            Apart from Haribhadra’s commentary to the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines (see Wogihara 1932, cited under the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines), Sparham’s translation includes also Vimuktisena’s commentary on the version in twenty-five thousand lines, thus making accessible to the Western reader the two most important Prajñāpāramitā commentaries preserved in Sanskrit.

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                                          • Tucci, Giuseppe, ed. Minor Buddhist TextsPart I. Serie Orientale Roma 9. Rome: IsMEO, 1956.

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                                            This volume contains, among other texts, Tucci’s edition (Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan) and translation of a metrical commentary to the Diamond Sūtra (Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā) ascribed to the great Yogācāra master Asaṅga. This is followed by Tucci’s analysis of Vasubandhu’s prose subcommentary.

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                                            Studies on Prajñāpāramitā Literature

                                            The development of the Prajñāpāramitā literature was a long and complex process: Perfection of Wisdom texts were transmitted throughout Asia over the course of many centuries, and in the rather fluid fashion typical of Buddhist (particularly Mahāyāna) sūtra literature. Kajiyoshi 1980 offers a detailed overview of the whole of Prajñāpāramitā literature and is still fundamental for the history of this textual family. Burnouf 1844 is quoted here mainly for historical reasons, as one of the earliest detailed and reliable discussions of this subject in the West.

                                            • Burnouf, Eugène. Introduction a l’histoire du Buddhisme Indien. Tome premier. Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1844.

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                                              One of the earliest authoritative accounts of Buddhism produced in the West, Burnouf’s masterful essay contains a surprisingly detailed presentation of the Prajñāpāramitā literature, including a translation of the first chapter of the version in 8,000 lines, which Burnouf, anticipating modern scholarship on this subject, singled out as the quintessential Prajñāpāramitā text. An English translation of this seminal work has been recently published: Introduction to the History of Indian Buddhism. Translated by Katia Buffetrille and Donald S. Lopez Jr. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2010).

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                                              • Kajiyoshi, Kōun 梶芳光運. Daijō bukkyō no seiritsu shiteki kenkyū: Genshi hannyakyō no kenkyū sono ichi (大乗仏教の成立史的研究―原始般若経の研究その一). Tokyo: Sankibo, 1980.

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                                                Originally published in 1944, Kajiyoshi’s book is a detailed research into the classification and textual history of the Perfection of Wisdom literature. Kajiyoshi argued that the version in eight thousand lines ought to be regarded as the earliest Prajñāpāramitā scripture, and its first chapter as the seminal text of this tradition.

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                                                Studies on the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines

                                                The historical development of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines (Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā; see the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines) is discussed by Lancaster 1968 and Lancaster 1975. Both Schmithausen 1977 and Verboom 1998 focus on the seminal first chapter of this scripture with a predominantly philological approach. Lethcoe 1971 and Fronsdal 1998 address a number of doctrinal issues in the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā on the basis of early Chinese translations.

                                                • Fronsdal, Egil. “The Dawn of the Bodhisattva Path: Studies in a Religious Ideal of Ancient Indian Buddhists with Particular Emphasis on the Earliest Extant Perfection of Wisdom Sutra.” PhD diss., Stanford University, 1998.

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                                                  A discussion of early Mahayana and the Bodhisattva ideal, mainly based on the earliest Chinese translation of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines, the Dao xing jing translated by Lokakṣema in 179 CE.

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                                                  • Lancaster, Lewis R. “An Analysis of the Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra from the Chinese Translations.” PhD diss., University of Wisconsin, 1968.

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                                                    Pioneering research into the history of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines, with a particular focus on the development of some key doctrinal motifs. Lancaster’s dissertation was one of the first Western works to use early Chinese translations for studying the diachronic development of Prajñāpāramitā texts.

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                                                    • Lancaster, Lewis R. “The Oldest Mahāyāna Sūtra: Its Significance for the Study of Buddhist Development.” Eastern Buddhism n.s. 8.1 (1975): 30–41.

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                                                      This short but seminal article summarizes the main findings of Lancaster 1968, and it discusses the modifications undergone by the text of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines focusing on a set of fundamental notions.

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                                                      • Lethcoe, Nancy Jane. “The Bodhisattva-Structure in Kumārajīva’s Aṣṭasāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā-sūtra.” PhD diss., University of Wisconsin, 1971.

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                                                        This dissertation discusses the notion of bodhisattva as expounded in Kumārajīva’s early-5th-century translation of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 lines (considered to be a historically influential early witness of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā), analyzing the various typologies of bodhisattvas introduced by the sūtra, and the related terminology.

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                                                        • Schmithausen, Lambert. “Textgeschichtliche Beobachtungen zum 1. Kapitel der Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā.” In Prajñāpāramitā and Related Systems: Studies in Honor of Edward Conze. Edited by Lewis R. Lancaster, 35–80. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Buddhist Studies Series, 1977.

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                                                          A detailed and authoritative philological analysis of the initial portion of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines. Drawing on vast array of sources, the author seeks to identify the earliest textual layers in the first chapter of the present sūtra.

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                                                          • Verboom, Arie Willem Cornelis. “A Text-Comparative Research on ‘the Perfection of Discriminating Insight in Eight Thousand Lines, Chapter 1.’” PhD diss., Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, 1998.

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                                                            The author discusses the main ideas expounded in the first chapter of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines and attempts a reconstruction of the early Sanskrit text used by Kumārajīva for his Chinese translation (early 5th century CE). This dissertation includes a translation of the reconstructed text, and a critical edition of the Gilgit manuscript’s (see Larger Perfection of Wisdom Texts) passages corresponding to chapter 1 of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā.

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                                                            Studies on Larger Perfection of Wisdom Texts

                                                            Both Lethcoe 1976 and Watanabe 1994 deal with the textual history of the Larger Prajñāpāramitā, discussing, from different perspectives, the issue of the modifications to the Perfection of Wisdom in 25,000 Lines. Vetter 1993 contains a careful analysis of the prologue of the Larger Prajñāpāramitā, based on the Gilgit manuscript of this scripture.

                                                            • Lethcoe, Nancey R. “Some Notes on the Relationship between the Abhisamayālaṅkāra, the Revised Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā and the Chinese Translations of the Unrevised Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 96.4 (1976): 499–511.

                                                              DOI: 10.2307/600082Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              A comparative study of the Sanskrit Perfection of Wisdom in 25,000 Lines edited by Dutt 2000 (see Larger Perfection of Wisdom Texts) and the corresponding Chinese translations. Includes a useful concordance of Dutt’s edition and three Chinese versions.

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                                                              • Vetter, Tilmann. “Compounds in the Prologue of the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā.” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens 37 (1993): 45–92.

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                                                                A detailed study of the initial passage of the larger Prajñāpāramitā, edited and translated from the Gilgit manuscript (see Larger Perfection of Wisdom Texts), compared with all the available parallels.

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                                                                • Watanabe, Shōgo. “A Comparative Study of the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 114.3 (1994): 386–396.

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                                                                  A perceptive discussion of the historical development of the larger Prajñāpāramitā textual family.

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                                                                  Studies on Short Perfection of Wisdom Texts

                                                                  While Ui 1979 represents an authoritative study of the Diamond Sūtra and its commentaries, Nattier 1992 challenges the view that the development and transmission of this literature has been a uniformly unidirectional process, from India to East Asia.

                                                                  • Nattier, Jan. “The Heart Sūtra: A Chinese Apocryphal Text?” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 15.2 (1992): 153–219.

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                                                                    In this groundbreaking study Nattier argues, on the basis of a detailed philological analysis, that the Heart Sutra was produced by back-translating into Sanskrit a passage extracted from Kumārajīva’s Chinese translation of the larger Prajñāpāramitā.

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                                                                    • Ui, Hakuju 宇井伯壽. Daijō Butten no kenkyū (大乗仏典の研究). Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1979.

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                                                                      A substantial collection of studies on Mahayana texts by one of the leading Japanese Buddhologists of the 20th century. Nearly half of the book is devoted to the Diamond Sūtra and its commentaries and includes a richly annotated Japanese translation of the Sanskrit version of this sūtra (see Short Perfection of Wisdom Texts).

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                                                                      Studies on Chinese Translations

                                                                      Many Prajñāpāramitā texts were translated and retranslated into Chinese over the centuries, and the study of these versions—from textual history to translation procedures—constitutes a rich field of its own. Nattier 2010 is a methodologically exemplary study of the authorship of an early Prajñāpāramitā translation. Harrison 2010a (“Experimental core samples”) discusses the value of the Chinese translations for the philological study of the Diamond Sūtra, while Harrison 2010b (“Resetting the Diamond”) and Zacchetti 1996 focus on the translation technique underlying specific versions of this scripture.

                                                                      • Harrison, Paul. “Resetting the Diamond: Reflections on Kumārajīva’s Chinese Translation of the Vajracchedikā (‘Diamond Sūtra’).” In Historical and Philological Studies of China’s Western Regions No. 3. Edited by Shen Weirong, 233–248. Beijing, China: Science Press, 2010a.

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                                                                        Kumārajīva’s early-5th-century version of the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā—the earliest of a series of six successive Chinese renditions of this popular scripture—has remained to this day the Diamond Sūtra par excellence in East Asia. Harrison’s article offers an insightful discussion of the translation strategies adopted by Kumārajīva and his team.

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                                                                        • Harrison, Paul. “Experimental Core Samples of Chinese Translations of Two Buddhist sūtras Analysed in the Light of Recent Sanskrit Manuscript Discoveries.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 31.1–2 (2010b): 205–249.

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                                                                          A methodologically important discussion of the Chinese translations as sources for studying the textual development of two Mahayana sūtras, the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā and the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa (the Teaching of Vimalakīrti). This article also contains a detailed description of some Sanskrit manuscripts of the Vajracchedikā.

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                                                                          • Nattier, Jan. “Who Produced the Da mingdu jing 大明度經 (T225)? A Reassessment of the Evidence.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 31.1–2 (2010): 295–337.

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                                                                            A detailed and methodologically exemplar discussion of the authorship of the Da mingdu jing, the second Chinese version of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines.

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                                                                            • Zacchetti, Stefano. “Dharmagupta’s Unfinished Translation of the Diamond-Cleaver (Vajracchedikā-prajñāpāramitā-sūtra).” T’oung Pao 82 (1996): 137–152.

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                                                                              Analysis of a draft translation of the Diamond Sūtra preserved in the canon that is an important source for the study of translation techniques.

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                                                                              Prajñāpāramitā Thought

                                                                              The Perfection of Wisdom is discussed by all general studies on Mahayana Buddhism. Williams 2009 contains one of the best up-to-date introductions to Prajñāpāramitā thought, while Conze 1962 is still a useful discussion of its main philosophical tenets. Conze 1967–1975 and Lancaster 1977 contain studies on various doctrinal aspects of the Perfection of Wisdom. Early Prajñāpāramitā ideas are discussed in Deleanu 2000 and Vetter 2001, both bearing on the much-debated issue of the origins of the Mahayana. Fa 2001 deals with the historical development of the notion (obviously crucial to Prajñāpāramitā tradition) of prajñā (insight), while Choong 2006 provides a philologically oriented analysis of the notion of emptiness. Robinson 1967, though mainly focused on the Mādhyamika tradition, offers valuable information on the early Chinese interpretations of the Prajñāpāramitā.

                                                                              • Choong, Yoke Meei. Zum Problem der Leerheit (śūnyatā) in der Prajñāpāramitā. Frankfurt, Germany: Peter Lang, 2006.

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                                                                                A study of the notion of emptiness (śūnyatā and related terminology) as expounded in chapter 8 of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines, and in the corresponding passages of the larger Prajñāpāramitā scriptures (including the Gilgit manuscript; see Larger Perfection of Wisdom Texts). The book includes a useful synoptic edition of the various versions of this chapter.

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                                                                              • Conze, Edward. Buddhist Thought in India. London: Allen and Unwin, 1962.

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                                                                                Chapter 1 of the third part (“Doctrines common to all Mahāyānists”) is—not surprisingly, in view of the author’s research background—largely devoted to the ideas expounded by Prajñāpāramitā texts.

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                                                                                • Conze, Edward. Thirty Years of Buddhist Studies. Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1967.

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                                                                                  This volume (continued in Further Buddhist Studies. Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1975) includes many articles and reviews devoted to aspects of Prajñāpāramitā literature and thought. The most significant ones are “The Development of Prajñāpāramitā Thought,” “The Prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya Sūtra,” “The Composition of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā,” “The Perfection of Wisdom in Seven Hundred Lines,” and “The Iconography of the Prajñāpāramitā.”

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                                                                                  • Deleanu, Florin. “A Preliminary Study on Meditation and the Beginning of Mahāyāna Buddhism.” Annual Report of the International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology at Soka University for the Academic Year 1999 (2000): 65–113.

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                                                                                    This influential study of the role played by meditative practices in the formation of the Great Vehicle is mostly based on Perfection of Wisdom sources. Particularly noteworthy is section 2, “Dhyāna and samādhi in the Prajñāpāramitā literature,” which provides a detailed discussion of a crucial (and yet often overlooked) subject. The electronic version is accessible online.

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                                                                                    • Fa, Qing. “The Development of Prajñā in Buddhism from Early Buddhism to the Prajñāpāramitā System with Special Reference to the Sarvāstivāda Tradition.” PhD diss., University of Calgary, 2001.

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                                                                                      Centers on the notion of prajñā (insight or wisdom) in early Buddhism and in various Abhidharma systems, but it also devotes considerable space to its evolution in Mahayana sources and particularly in Prajñāpāramitā texts.

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                                                                                      • Lancaster, Lewis R., ed. Prajñāpāramitā and Related Systems: Studies in Honor of Edward Conze. Berkeley Buddhist Studies Series 1. Berkeley: Univ. of California and the Institute of Buddhist Studies, 1977.

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                                                                                        A rich collection of essays touching on a vast array of topics relevant to the study of the Perfection of Wisdom, from specific scriptures to doctrinal issues.

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                                                                                      • Robinson, Richard H. Early Mādhyamika in India and China. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1967.

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                                                                                        Although it is not specifically devoted to the Perfection of Wisdom, Robinson’s book offers a wealth of information on the early reception and interpretation of Prajñāpāramitā texts in China.

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                                                                                        • Vetter, Tilmann. “Once Again on the Origin of Mahāyāna Buddhism.” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens 45 (2001): 59–90.

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                                                                                          An original and challenging study of the formation of the Prajñāpāramitā, which Vetter believes to have been originated in a non-Mahayana environment. The article mainly deals with the crucial first chapter of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines, analyzed through its earliest Chinese version.

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                                                                                          • Williams, Paul. Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. 2d ed. London and New York: Routledge, 2009.

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                                                                                            The thoroughly updated second edition of this masterful introduction to the Great Vehicle contains a balanced and informative chapter on the Perfection of Wisdom.

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