The Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtra of Candragarbha

འཕགས་པ་ཟླ་བའི་སྙིང་པོ་ཤེས་རབ་ཀྱི་ཕ་རོལ་ཏུ་ཕྱིན་པ་ཐེག་པ་ཆེན་པོའི་མདོ།

(‘phags pa zla ba’i snying po shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa theg pa chen po’i mdo)

Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos

From the Ka volume of the ‘Various’ (na tshogs) section in the Kangyur (bka’ ‘gyur), the Tibetan Buddhist scriptural canon; Lhasa edition.

In the Indian Language [Sanskrit]: Ārya Candragarbha Prajñā-pāramitā Mahāyāna Sūtra (ārya-candragarbha-prajñā-pāramitā-mahāyāna-sūtra)

In the Tibetan Language: P’akpa Dawa’y-nyingpo Sheyrap kyi P’aröltuch’inpa T’ek-pach’enpo’i Do (‘phags pa zla ba’i snying po shes rab kyi pha rol tu phin pa theg pa chen po’i mdo)

{In the English Language: The Noble Mahāyāna Discourse to Vajraketu on the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight (The Noble Prajñā-pāramitā Mahāyāna Sūtra of Vajraketu)}

HOMAGE TO ALL BUDDHAS AND BODHISATTVAS!

Thus have I heard: At one time, the Bhagavān [the Buddha] was staying on Vulture’s Peak in Rājagṛha, in one company with boundless and incalculable large congregations of monks; and abundantly numerous Bodhisattvas. And at that time, in that assembly there sat the Bodhisattva Mahāsattva Candragarbha [‘Moon Essence’ or ‘Essence of the Moon’]; who got up from his seat, and thereupon addressed the Bhagavān in the following words: “Bhagavān, how should Bodhisattvas train in the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight (prajñā-pāramitā)?”

After he had spoken those words, the Bhagavān forthwith granted teaching in the  following words: “Candragarbha, that which is the freedom of all phenomena from substantial entity is the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight. In this regard we may observe, for example, the disc of the moon: Although it is [itself] devoid of conceptualization, it acts to encircle the four continents, and serves to vigorously dispel their respective darkness. In a similar fashion, for the Bodhisattva Mahāsattvas, the experiential application of the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight, although [itself] devoid of conceptualization, due to compassion, acts to encircle [and thereby subdue] the Four Misapprehensions[1] [of mistaking the impermanent for permanent, mistaking hardship for ease, mistaking non-self for self, and mistaking the repulsive for beautiful], and serves to naturally dispel the delusive afflictions; nevertheless, it is non-conceptual [while still performing those functions].”

Candragarbha asked: “Bhagavān, how many are there of the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight (prajñā-pāramitā) for the Bodhisattvas?”

The Bhagavān granted teaching thus: “Good son, there are two types of Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight for the Bodhisattvas; namely:

  • the defiled (āsravaprajñā-pāramitā)
  • …and the undefiled (anāsravaprajñā-pāramitā).”

“Good son, in this regard, the [Transcendental Practice of] Discerning Insight which is defiled is that which engages in conceptualization of an object and conceptualization of a subject during phases on the Level of Aspirational Practice [adhimukti-caryā-bhūmi, the way in which the Dharma is practiced on the Bodhisattva Paths during the Path of Accumulation (sambhāra-mārga) and Path of Joining (prayoga-mārga), in which Emptiness is not perceived directly but rather conceived of merely through aspiration or inspiration, or else by way of general terms and general meanings]; while the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight which is undefiled is that which serves to eliminate that [dualistic conception of subject and object constituting defiled prajñā(-pāramitā)]. Good son, in this regard, the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight which is undefiled is the Deep Wisdom of Total Non-Conceptuality (nirvikalpa-jñāna) on the Path of Seeing (darśana-mārga); and that Deep Wisdom is, to wit, non-conceptual because it is free of all concepts.”

“Good son, thus we observe that the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight does not abide in any extreme [or limitation] whatsoever; whether hither or thither [here or beyond, this side or that side]. Because Discerning Insight (prajñā) is the absence of inherent existence [for all phenomena] from physical form on up to the state of Complete Omniscience [wherein there is comprehensive understanding of all phenomenal aspects], the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight (prajñā-pāramitā) should [likewise] be understood to be devoid of inherent existence. Phenomena, such as form, should be understood to be non-objectifiable [or unreifiable]; unbound and unfreed throughout the three times.”

“Good son, as all phenomena are of equal nature, the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight is of equal nature. As all phenomena are of ceaseless nature, the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight is of ceaseless nature. As all phenomena are devoid of definitive characteristics [and ‘signless’], the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight is devoid of definitive characteristics. As all phenomena are devoid of arising [and origination], the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight is devoid of arising. As all phenomena are devoid of ending [and cessation], the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight is [accordingly] devoid of ending. As all phenomena are devoid of coming, the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight is [accordingly] devoid of coming. As all phenomena are of the nature of being devoid of going, the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight is of the nature of being devoid of going. As all phenomena are devoid of permanence, the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight is of the nature of being devoid of permanence. As all phenomena are of the nature of being devoid of separation [or inherent distinction], the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight is of the nature of being devoid of separation. As all phenomena are of the nature of singular significance [or ontological equivalence], the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight is of the nature of singular significance. As all phenomena are of the basic nature of non-substantiality [lacking substantial entity], the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight is of the basic nature of non-substantiality. In brief, as everything is beyond definitive characteristics, inherent existence, and essential identity, so is, to wit, the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight (prajñā-pāramitā).”

“Taking the aforementioned into consideration, here is a Mantra for the Transcendental Practice of Discerning Insight (prajñā-pāramitā):

།ཏདྱ་ཐཱ། ཨོཾ་པྲ་ཛྙེ་པྲ་ཛྙེ། མཧཱ་པྲ་ཛྙེ། ཙནྡྲ་པྲ་ཛྙེ། སརྦ་ཤཱ་ས་ཀ་རི་སྭཱཧཱ།

TADYATHĀ/ O PRAJÑE PRAJÑE/ MAHĀPRAJÑE/ CANDRA PRAJÑE/ SARVA ŚĀSAKARI SVĀHĀ

[Tibetan pronunciation:

TAY-YATHĀ/ ONG PRADZNYE PRADZNYE/ MAHĀPRADZNYE/ TSANDRA PRADZNYE/ SARBA SHĀSAKARI SWŌHĀ)]

[The Buddha then spoke a stanza in verse to further explicate the meaning of the foregoing teaching:]

“All phenomena emerge from causes:

This itself is the Conventional Truth (savti-satya).

Devoid of inherent existence and free of conceptual elaborations:

This itself is the experiential domain of the Ultimate (Truth, paramārtha-satya).”

After the Bhagavān bestowed teaching in those words, the Bodhisattva Candragarbha, that all-inclusive assembly, and the whole world, with its gods, men, demigods and gandharvas, rejoiced; they enthusiastically praised what had been spoken by the Bhagavān.

THE NOBLE PRAJÑĀ-PĀRAMITĀ MAHĀYĀNA SŪTRA OF CANDRAGARBHA IS COMPLETE.

(Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos, August 18th-21st, 2018. Revised on October 20th-21st, 2018.)

[1] phyin ci log (pa) bzhi

Note: Due to formatting issues with the original copy of the Tibetan script, the Tibetan script for this translation has not been included here (with the exception of the title and the mantra). The full Tibetan text is available for viewing at https://tibetan.works/etext/reader.php?collection=kangyur&index=28

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