From ‘Introduction’, in “The Large Sutra on the Perfection of Wisdom” (Prajñāpāramitā) – Introduction and translation by Edward Conze

Troia, Italy,  – S. Fava 2008

All  the  many  thousand  lines  of  this  Sutra  can  be  summed up  in  two  sentences:  1.  One  should  become  a  Bodhisattva  (a  Buddha to-be),  i.e.  someone  content  with  nothing  less  than  all-knowledge  attained through  the  perfection  of  wisdom  for  the  sake  of  all  living  beings.  2. There is  no  such  thing  as  a  Bodhisattva,  or  all-knowledge,  or  a  “being”,  or  the perfection  of  wisdom,  or  an  attainment.  The  solution  of  this  dilemma lies  in  nothing  else  than  the  fearless  acceptance  of  both  contradictory facts.
When a Disciple practises the meditation on the aspects, or attributes, of the four holy Truths, i.e. impermanence, etc., he uses it as an antidote to the belief in a separate individual self. With this end in view he “settles down” in the conviction that impermanence, etc., represent actual properties of actual facts (dharmas). The Bodhisattva, on the other hand, contemplates those same aspects as antidotes to a belief in separate dharmas. He can therefore accuse the Disciple of a “craving for separate dharmas” {dharmatrishnā), “craving” being the very opposite of the emancipation intended by such contemplations.
Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga gives a masterly account of the meditations which precede entrance into the Path. As a result of these meditations indifference or repulsion (pātikulyatā) to complexes (sankhārā), or conditioned events, is established. One wants to be released from them, grasps them in contemplation, sees nothing in them one could seize upon as I or mine, puts away fear or delight, and becomes indifferent (udāslno) and impartial (majjhato) to all “complexes”, as not really concerning one at all. One turns away from them and views the tranquil Path, Nirvana as calm. All signs which indicate anything conditioned stand out as mere impediments, or obstacles (palibodha). One makes Nirvana into the object, which is signless, procedureless, without complexes, the stopping of complexes, by means of a cognition “which passes beyond the kinship and plane of average men, which enters into the kinship and plane of the Ariyas”. It is the first turning to, the first laying to heart, the first bringing to mind of Nirvana as object.
As interpreted by the Yogācārins, the Aids to penetration aim at first to remove the belief in separate outer objects, and the inclination towards them, and thereafter to bring about a concentration in which “the light of the gnosis appears as without the distractions caused by the separate representation of a perceiving subject”. Although in their details the Yogācāra accounts of the Aids to penetration are heavily coloured by theories which are specific to that school, in a general way the removal of both object and subject can be regarded as the red thread which goes through the argumentation of B4 to BIO.
It must still be mentioned that the Aids to penetration arise through meditational development, and that they require a state of concentration, or trance. As a matter of fact, the two last Aids to penetration can be accomplished only in the fourth trance (dhyāna), which is the necessary prerequisite (āśraya) for entry into the path of vision. The Sutra mentions two concentrations, one at P 133 and one at P 142, which occur according to H on the “Summits” and “Supreme dharmas” respectively. The two insights are called “concentrations”, because of the peaceful calm which accompanies them.


1. (B4) […] At this point the Sutra is content to state that in his attitude to this thought, as to all data of experience, the Bodhisattva should not “fancy himself. The connotations of the Sanskrit phrase na manyate cannot be reproduced by one single English word. Man-yate is connected on the one side with man-as “mind”, and on the other with māna, “conceit”. In the first sense it can be translated as “to think of or about”, “to consider”, “to mind (about)”, “to put one’s mind to”, “to have in mind”, “to have in view”, “to set one’s heart on”, “to fix the thoughts on”, “to wish, or strive”, “to care about”. In the second sense it means “to be conceited about”, “to fancy oneself for”. Conceit is due to a false sense of ownership and an insufficient extinction of self. It is discussed more amply in the later parts of the Sutra. (B5) The Bodhisattva next considers that from the point of view of ultimate reality all things neither appear nor disappear, and that in consequence they can be neither affirmed nor denied. Furthermore (at I3g), seen from the Absolute all dharmas are unutterable, and verbal fictions are all that we ever operate with. (B6a) Because of the emptiness of all entities one should “not stand” in, or on, them, i.e. one should not insist on their reality. “Not to take one’s stand” is equated with “not settling down in the fixed conviction” that this is so or so, or with not having a fixed inclination to do, to win or to lose something. The best way of avoiding the fault of “standing” on dharmas is not to bring them in at all, and to refrain from any act of discrimination which may turn to them. The often repeated saying that the Bodhisattva should “stand in perfect wisdom by not taking his stand anywhere” is explained by Asañga as the avoidance of five standpoints: 1. He does not take his stand on a belief in a self (see P 132), and thus does not say “I know”, “this is my wisdom”. 2. He does not take his stand on the conceptions of Bodhisattvas who have not seen the true reality, and thus he does not try to define wisdom in any way. “When you see a thing, it puts you into its bondage; When you do not see it, then you are free of it.” 3. He does not abide in either Samsara or Nirvana, avoiding them both as extremes (anta). 4. He rejects the standpoint of the Disciples who are content to cut off their own passions, as well as 5. that of the Disciples who dwell in Final Nirvana to the detriment of the welfare of beings.

From ‘Introduction’, in “The Large Sutra on the Perfection of Wisdom” (Prajñāpāramitā) – Introduction and translation by Edward Conze

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