Two New Chanting Texts on Ancient Buddhist Texts

I have just published two new short chanting texts on the Ancient Buddhist Texts website; the first is the Prajñāpāramitā-Hṛdaya, the Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom, which is also known as the Heart Sūtra, though the word sūtra doesn’t occur in the manuscripts as far as I know.

The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom

There are two versions of the text, the original shorter one, which is what I have translated here, and a longer one, which provides something of a frame for the text, and is intended to make it look more like a sūtra.

It basically consists of an exposition on emptiness given by the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara to the Arahat Śāriputra, and is supposedly set therefore in the time of the Buddha, though most scholars think it is as late as 1,200 years after the Buddha.

It also appears from an article by Jan Nattier (PDF file), that it was probably first written in Chinese and back-translated into Sanskrit.

Around 50 years ago the Buddhist scholar Edward Conze compared many available Sanskrit manuscripts, and established a text from them, and that is more or less the version I reproduce, but with one or two small adjustments to the text, following the notes by Jayarava in his various articles on the text.

The occasion for my translating it now is that it is part of the chanting schedule at the International Buddhist College where I am now residing and the version we are using is unsatisfactory.

Praise of the Tigumba Shrine

The second piece is a medieval text in Pāḷi called Tigumbacetiyathomanā – Praise of the Tigumba Shrine, which is another name for the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. It appears to have been written to illustrate the variations in the Siloka or Vatta metre, although one of the variations is not found.

The Shwedagon supposedly contains the hair relics which were given by the newly enlightened Buddha to his first disciples, Tapussa and Bhallika. The Burmese believe that they took the relics, the only ones ever given by the Buddha himself, and brought them to what is now Yangon, and that they built a cetiya for them.

The text is a bit plodding and uninspired, but was prepared in conjunction with the ongoing work on the medieval Pāḷi prosody Vuttodaya, which I am hoping to finish soon.

As always the texts are available is number of formats: htm, pdf, epub, mobi and flipbook, and I hope they will be of interest to you.


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1 comment to Two New Chanting Texts on Ancient Buddhist Texts

  • The Heart Sutra is so abstract. Aśvaghoṣa’s writing in contrast, while very philosophical, always has a concrete context. Hence Aśvaghoṣa nowhere writes of śunyatā, but he does have the Buddha-to-be ask Chandaka the horseman to describe him to his father the king as nair-guṇyam – which ostensibly means “lacking in virtue” but which really means “having the quality of emptiness.”

    In a similar way, Aśvaghoṣa describes the Buddha-to-be when newly clothed in a kaṣāya as vivarṇa-vāsasi (BC6.66), which ostensibly means “in mean garments” (EBC) but which really describes the kaṣāya as a robe which negates (vi-) colour/caste (varṇa). Thus the real philosophical meaning of vivarṇa is exactly as per your talk titled “The Last Year of the Buddha’s Life.”

    To me the Heart Sutra is an attempt to distill the abstract without reference to the concrete. In that sense, it sort of fails to practise what it preaches!

    In any event, thank you for this and for all the free offerings on this website that are such a great help for us who want to dig back to the origin.

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