From Edward Conze’s ‘Introduction’ to the “Prajñāpāramitā” (“Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom”)


” [in their] 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.

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. lib. (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.

[… ]

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.


Further, all “signs” should be avoided. We have to do with a “sign” (nimitta) wherever the impression of a stimulus is either taken as an indication that there is something there—as in perception—or as a reason for doing something about something. The taking up of a “sign” is regarded as the salient feature of perception. Innocuous as it may seem, perception as such is an obstacle to salvation in that it is both erroneous and misleading. It is erroneous because the world as perceived is largely a fabrication of our desire for adaptation to it, and covers up the vision of what is really there, i.e. Nirvana, or the succession of ceaselessly changing momentary dharmas.

From Edward Conze’s ‘Introduction’ to the “Prajñāpāramitā” (“Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom”)

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