Sunday, 18 July 2010


With so many 無s how is the passage to be interpreted? Sometimes its possible to construct meaningful sentences out of cryptic pieces of Chinese text which are at best, erroneous, at worst totally wrong. Here the balance of meaning lies in the construction 無對. At first glance it looks like the negative of which has a gamut of meanings ranging form 'correct' to 'opposite'. One might suggest then that 無對法 could be 'without any right dharmas', 'without any right method' or even something along the lines 'without opposing any....'  None of these are satisfactory. As can be seen in the corresponding Sanskrit passage Conze has 'isolated dharma' which doesn't make much sense either.

T08n0224_p0466a24 - T08n0224_p0466a29
...須菩提白佛言.設爾般若波羅蜜離本無對法.離本亦無對亦無證.亦無守.亦無行. 亦無有法當有所得.何以故.離般若波羅蜜 本無形故.本無遠離.何因當於般若波羅蜜中得佛.佛者離本無所有.何所本無所有當 得佛者.佛語須菩提.如須菩提所言離.今般
...Subhūti said to the Buddha: ‘If that which is prajñāpāramitā is turning away from that which is basically any isolated method, turning away from parts, there is nothing to see, nothing to take-up, nothing to pursue, there is no method to be found. For what reason? Turning away from prajñāpāramitā basically has no appearance as basically there is no turning far away. How, then, is awakening found within prajñāpāramitā?  If awakening is turning away from that which does not exist, how can that which basically does not exist result in finding awakening?’

Conze (1974,256)
Subhuti: No, Lord, I do not. In consequence, to what dharma could I point, and say that "it is" or "it is not"? But a dharma which is absolutely isolated, to that one cannot attribute that "it is" or that "it is not.' Also an absolutely isolated dharma does not know full enlightenment. Because a dharma which has no existence cannot know full enlightenment.

Vaidya (1960, p.217)
so'haṁ bhagavan anyatra māyāyā māyopamādvā cittāt taṁ dharmasamanuśyan katamaṁ dharmamupadekṣyāmi astīti vā nāstīti vā? yaśca atyantavivikto dharmaḥ, na so'stīti vā nāstīti vā upaiti| yo'pi dharmo'tyantatayā viviktaḥ, nāsāvanuttarāṁ samyaksaṁbodhimabhisaṁbudhyate|

Karashima (2010, p.509) Suggest that 無對 means 'having no counterparts' but does not substantiate the basis of this view. Indeed, the term 'counterpart' which means 'equivalent' is not a tenable alternative. Edgerton (1953, p.500) does not have the term 'atyanta~vivikto' or  'absolutely isolated'  but has 'viveka' -solitude. This too is not satisfactory. Whilst the practice of certain methods may lead to the practice of solitude, the idea in the texts is one of 'particular method or any other particular (method)'.

In the end, I don't that a simple translation is possible. The closest that I can get is without adding more to the text is:

Subhūti said to the Buddha: ‘If prajñāpāramitā is some basic, singular method; that which is basic and singular, there is nothing to see, nothing to take-up, nothing to pursue,...

A real conundrum this one. There is no clear literal interpretation. In essence Subhuti is saying that if prajnaparamita doesn't exist and is itself illusory, then what is the cause of awakening?

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