Showing posts with label Conze. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conze. Show all posts

28 September 2018

Edward Conze: A Study in Contradiction

I wrote this introduction to Edward Conze for my book on the Heart Sutra

No introduction to the Prajñāpāramitā would be complete without some reference to the eccentric German scholar, Eberhart Julius Dietrich Conze (1904–1979), aka Dr Edward Conze. I think this is particularly important because his reputation is rather inflated. There is no doubt that he was a gifted linguist and a pioneer of studying the Prajñāpāramitā texts, but he was also a snob, a racist, and a misogynist. People who are in no position to judge still rave about what a great scholar he was, but much of his scholarship is tainted by poor attention to detail and infected his peculiar personal religion. Since I am in the business of revising the history of the Heart Sutra, I may as well put Dr Conze into some perspective as well.

The key historical source for Conze’s life is his own Memoires of a Modern Gnostic (1979 I & II), written at the behest of Jan Willem de Jong (see Wiles 2018). The Memoires were published in two parts, the first being more biographic, the second his impressions of politics, people, and places. Conze wrote a third part, in which he gave frank opinions of certain people and included comments from parts I and II considered libellous by his lawyer. Despite persistent rumours to the contrary, as far as I can tell Muriel Conze destroyed part III and no copies remain. Which is probably just as well judging by parts I and II. Some years ago I asked Sangharakshita about the rumour that he had a copy and he definitely does not.

Jan Nattier (2003) noted several principles for extracting historical information from normative texts such as Buddhist sutras, one of which was the principle of embarrassment. This states that if something is included in a text which reflects poorly on the author, then it is likely to be true, for few authors set out to darken their own reputations. A great deal of what Conze says of himself reflects poorly on him and social changes in the last 10-15 years have not improved the outlook. Indeed some admissions approved by his lawyer in 1979, would very likely see him arrested in 2018.

Conze is a difficult figure to pin down. His own mother apparently said of him, “He himself is nothing at all, just a bundle of contradictions” (Conze 1979: I 29), though elsewhere it is apparent that their relationship was difficult. Reading the Memoires we meet a man who has many of the prejudices we might expect of someone with his privileged background, but who is nevertheless an avowed Communist and denounces his own class. He hates warmongering but is constantly engaged in personal conflicts, and harbours animosities based on perceived weaknesses and faults in others. He declares his own genius, but is, for all that, a rather sloppy editor and translator (something he admits); he is an industrious worker, but a rather lazy intellectual. He can say things like “Ever since the radio was introduced in the early twenties, I have hated it with all my heart and all my soul” (I 103), then a few pages later casually mention something of importance that he heard on the radio (I 113).

Conze was an intellectual who rejected science as a “bag of tricks” and instead embraced the anti-intellectual pursuits of astrology and mysticism. His “life-long acceptance of magic... has not been so much due to theoretical considerations as to the early acquired intuitive certainty that beyond, or behind, the veil of the deceptive sensory appearances, there lies a reality of magical, or occult, forces” (I 32).  This classic matter-spirit dualism, to go with his elitist, social dualism, is key to understanding his exegesis of the Heart Sutra. Even though he appears to adopt a language of non-dualism: his realm of non-dualism lies beyond this one. His is very much a dualistic non-dualism, with a Platonic/Romantic distrust of his senses.

Above all, in writing this, I want to correct the bias with which Conze is presented to the public. The picture of the mega-star scholar toiling selflessly to bring the Dharma to the people is contradicted by his own account of himself. For one thing, he made it clear that he despised the common people. “Speaking of ‘hoi polloi’, it has always been a cornerstone of my beliefs that there are two qualitatively distinct kinds of people... ‘the Noble ones’ and ‘the foolish common people’... the elite and the canaille” (I 52). The word canaille literally means “a pack of dogs”. Of course, this kind of bigotry, along with overt racism, was instilled into people of his social background from an early age and it would have been remarkable if he had risen above it; though this does not excuse it or make it any more palatable.

At times Conze seems to have something of a Messiah complex. For example, when he says, “From early times onwards it has been my conviction that I have come from a higher realm... and that I was sent to the Western barbarians so as to soften their hearts by teaching them the Holy Prajñāpāramitā" (I 55). And yet he had no tolerance at all for people he considered his social inferiors, let alone for "barbarians". A messiah who hated the people he had been sent to save.


Early Life

Adelle Köttgen & Ernst Conze
Date unknown. Family photo from Ebay

Edward Conze was, as he admits, a man of his class and age (1979 I iv). In other words, he was an early 20th Century, German bourgeoisie. The Conze family owned textile manufacturing plants in the small, but wealthy town of Langenberg, in Northern Germany near the Ruhr Valley (2016: xvii).  His mother's family,  the  Köttgen's were also "textile barons" (Heine 2016: xvii). Conze describes the 1903 marriage of his parents, Dr Ernst Conze (1872–1935) and Adele Louise Charlotte Köttgen (1882–1962) as, "a marriage between two factories" (I 1). 

Ernst Conze studied law at Bonn University (gaining a doctorate) then joined the Auswärtigen Amt (Foreign Office), where he served in Berlin and Antwerp, before being posted to Britain as a Vice Consul. Eberhart was born in London, in 1904. However, the family soon returned to Langenberg where Ernst became a magistrate in Wipperfürth and Cologne. He became District Court Director in Düsseldorf, and from 1924 to 1934, he held the office of President of the Reich Disciplinary Chamber (Langenberger Kulturlexikon 2009: 262). Adele was a painter of some talent, even exhibiting her work in 1930 (Langenberger Kulturlexikon 2009: 875). In old age, Adele converted to Catholicism and moved to a monastery near Heidelberg.  

Eberhart's paternal grandfather, Gottfried Conze, was deeply involved in the monarchist politics of the German Empire under Wilhelm II and in "the Protestant Church" (Lutheran?). One of his great-grandfathers, Gustav Köttgen, was part of the nascent Communist movement in the mid-1800s. Frederick Engels came from the same region and a similar background and Conze claimed some familial relation to him (though it is not clear how they were related).

His parent’s marriage was unhappy and he did not have a good relationship with his mother (I 4). He notes that she had great potential but was forced into the life of a small-town hausfrau with no prospect of escape. She was bored and bitter and since young Eberhart leaned towards his father, she included him in the enmity she felt for Ernst Conze. His younger brother, Wolf (b. 1906), however, was the object of her affections. This seems to have affected Conze's relations with women generally. Accused of grooming a young woman in one of his classes he complains that it is ridiculous because she is blond and he does not even like blonds but prefers women who look like his mother.

Despite the nationality of his parents, being born in London entitled Conze to British Citizenship. Both his parents were Anglophiles as well as Anglophones. When he visited England in 1924 he renewed his citizenship and thus, when he fell afoul of the Nazis, he was able to escape to Britain.

Conze's attitude toward the National Socialist Workers Party or "the Nazis" is instructive. Fundamentally, Conze resented authority, but more so when he perceived power to be wielded by people he considered socially or intellectually inferior to himself.  He described Hitler as someone literally possessed by demonic forces but he also says that Hitler "illustrates the danger of allowing the lower middle classes to exercise power" (I 9). Hitler was not one of the social elite and thus lacked the upbringing and education to fit him for leadership (I 11). Indeed, it is likely that the mocking epithet "Nazi" reflects the same social prejudice, since it was a German shortening of Ignatius. The German bourgeoisie of that time would often tell jokes in which the butt was a Bavarian peasant named Nazi (Forsyth 112-3). 

Conze claims to have hated the Nazis, though he shared some of their views on race and democracy. He was deeply prejudiced against Africans and people of Africa heritage; e.g., “In due course [Notting Hill Gate] was finished off by the blacks, who slowly moved down from Paddington Station” (I 64). He writes about being "driven out of Notting Hill by the blacks” (I 102), but also notes, “My further comments on the negrification [sic] of Notting Hill Gate manifestly contravene the Race Relations Act of June 1977. They are therefore removed to Part III” (I 65). Dr Conze's bowdlerised remarks passed in 1979 but would be considered hate speech now. Even when he writes positively of Jewish people, he cannot help but use racial labels in essentialist ways. That someone is "a Jew" or "Jewess", for example, is always made clear, whereas he does not insist on referring to, say, Tucci, as "Italian" or de Jong as "Dutch". It is a curious fact that the mainstream were at the time, and are now, all too willing to overlook Conze’s overt racism. 

Conze recounts that his first contact with Buddhism was aged thirteen when he read an account of Buddhism by Lafcadio Hearn (I 6). His interest in Buddhism continued through his university days. Shortly after gaining his PhD, he was introduced to Theosophy and astrology by Prof. Verweyen (I 9). Later on, he says that “the Conze family had always harboured a number of Theosophists though they were usually of the Rudolf Steiner persuasion.” (I 31) As a child, an aunt gave him a copy of Annie Besant’s translation and explanation of the Bhagavadgītā: “I was terribly excited by it” (I 31). In 1939 he also became a convert to astrology. He writes:
“Astrology has set me inwardly free from the claims a technological society can make on my allegiance. It has convinced me that Science, its basic, ingredient, has little cognitive value, but is rather a bag of tricks invented by God-defying people to make life increasingly unbearable on Earth and finally to destroy it” (I 32).
We should keep in mind that Conze was 10 when World War I broke out and 14 when it ended, through his teens and early 20s he must have been acutely aware of the impact of the war and the crushing burden of reparations. He lived through, though does not mention, Germany's brief period of hyperinflation. Combined with his background and what we know about his parents, we can imagine why Eberhart saw the world in apocalyptic terms. Another sign of the contradictions at work in Conze is that just four pages later in his Memoires he writes that:
“In the [1935 book] ‘Scientific Method of Thinking’ I spelled this out for practical Englishmen by saying that mankind was doomed unless [it] could apply to the ordering of Society the same kind of Scientific Methods which had led to all these discoveries in the Natural Sciences and that dialectical materialism provided that method” (I 36).
The idea that dialectical materialism might be in any way related to the scientific method demonstrates that, like many anti-intellectuals, Conze is almost entirely innocent of any knowledge of the subject that he hated. In any case, astrology and Theosophy were to influence his views far more than science throughout his life and were only reinforced by his contact with the well-known Japanese Theosophist, D. T. Suzuki.

As a young man, Conze had an intellectual infatuation with Communism. In 1932 he published his magnum opus, The Principle of Contradiction. The book is concerned with the philosophy of dialectical materialism rather than the practical or economic aspects of Marxism. Conze has said of the book, "In fact it contains all my later ideas without exception" (1975: ix). This is a telling statement. Conze already knew what he thought about everything before he approached Buddhist texts more seriously. Subsequently, his method was to look for and find confirmation of his views in those texts. Anyone who adopts this approach is bound to succeed.

His anti-authoritarian attitudes led him to help organise political activities, particularly once the Nazis rose to prominence and then power. Conze' communist affiliations in Germany and Britain later caused his application to work in the USA to be declined. Curiously, for a Communist, Conze appears to have nothing good to say about the working classes. The best we can say is that working class people seem to avoid his direct gaze and disapprobation. Judging by the Memoires, the point of Communism was to bring down the ruling elite, destroy the modern world, and take us back to the pre-industrial society; it was not to hand the means of production to the workers. Speaking of his visit to Spain in 1936 he says "In rural Spain I caught a glimpse of pre-Industrial man and I realized how much we have lost." (I 19).

Despite apparently being a Marxist, Conze appears to have no sympathy for class struggle, let alone class warfare. He was unembarrassed about dividing society into the elite and the dogs, to call himself a member of the elite, and to suppose that the elite ought to be in charge. We can only imagine what Marx would have made of this bourgeois attitude. Conze's was more the intellectual communism of the unhappy rich boy trying to get back at the parents who did not love him, than the practical communism of an oppressed worker seeking a fairer world. But he does not see this. In a classic case of psychological projection, describing English communists, Conze writes: "Most came from Public Schools and harboured obscure resentments about their parents, headmasters and the [Officer Training Corp]." (I 21).

Most relevant to the history of the Heart Sutra, young Eberhart showed early promise as a linguist, claiming that by twenty-four, he knew fourteen languages (I 4). Heine (2016) suggests that these included German, English, Latin, Ancient Greek, French, Spanish, Russian, Norwegian, Sanskrit and Pāli. His family's wealth allowed him to pursue a university education in a desultory fashion, moving around half a dozen different universities until he found a teacher to his liking. He describes himself as "rebellious", but I suspect he simply felt superior to his teachers. Being unwilling to put up with anyone he judged inferior and having more or less unlimited funds, he simply moved on. Surprisingly, given his approach, he completed a PhD in philosophy at the University of Cologne in 1928 (aged twenty-four). His post-graduate studies saw him continue the pattern of moving around.

He moved to Britain in 1933, largely to escape the Nazis. His stories about this vary. Early in the Memoires, he says he was warned by Nazis to flee in a rather bland encounter over the flying of a flag from his balcony, but later (I 40, n.1) he recalls being chased by the Gestapo and hiding from them in a mental hospital. There are many times in the Memoires where he seems unsure about whether to be humble or to brag and ends up humblebragging. In his introduction to the recent reprint of Conze's Principle of Contradiction, Holgar Heine (2016) suggests that, in fact, it was the public burning of most of the copies of the first German edition of this book by Nazis soon after it was published that led Conze to leave Germany.

We can only presume that it was around this time that Eberhart became Edward because he does not say. Conze had a variety of jobs during and after the war, supporting himself by teaching evening classes in German, psychology, and philosophy. Later, some bequests made him financially independent. The one permanent academic position he was offered was in the USA and the government there saw him as an undesirable alien because of his past as a Communist and his unwillingness to cooperate with them on exposing other communists. He saw the immigration officials as inferior and thus toyed with them for his own amusement, but it backfired on him. For a time Conze continued to be interested in left-wing politics and he made connections in the British Labour party, particularly with Ellen Wilkinson. Together, the two wrote anti-fascist pamphlets and two short books.

On fleeing Germany, Conze had married his partner, Dorothea Finkelstein, as much as anything to prevent her from being sent back to Germany and certain death because she was Jewish. This marriage of convenience (at least as far as Conze was concerned) did not last long; they separated soon after the war, briefly reconciled, but then Conze embarked on a series of affairs with his students that he took little or no trouble to hide. In the Memoires, he recounts, over several pages in small type, sexually assaulting a female student as though it were an amusing anecdote (II 116-118). On reflection he says:
“I did not want a wife at all, but a servant who would look after me while I was doing my scholarly work. If it had not been for the servant shortage which set in after 1918, I would never have had any motive to marry at all” (I 31).
Conze and Dorothea were eventually divorced in 1962. Conze had met Muriel Green, who was to become his second wife, some years earlier in 1948. The two lived together as a married couple and Muriel changed her name to Conze by deed poll. However, their marital status occasionally caused problems for him, as it was unusual, even scandalous, at the time. Conze credits Muriel with providing the material stability that enabled him to continue his work. He was apparently incapable of any domestic task. However, before he met Muriel, Conze went through a crisis.

A visit to Spain in 1936 left him feeling disillusioned
"From the very start I saw clearly that a huge senseless tragedy was shaping itself, that many people (two million by the end) would be killed for nothing whatever and that few would gain anything from all this turmoil."
His comments on the situation in Spain led to a series of vituperous clashes with members of the British Labour Party, who were, to be fair, at that time under the influence of the Soviet Union. Conze says that he abandoned leftist politics at this point, but one imagines that he jumped before he was pushed. Already averse to many aspects of industrialised, "urban civilisation", Conze was now thoroughly disillusioned with the left, with modern democracy and secularism (I 26-7). Aged 35, he found that he was at an impasse. In short, he had a mid-life crisis. In his memoriam for Suzuki, he says:
“My political faith had collapsed under the impact of Stalinism and of what I had observed in Spain, my marriage had failed, my job seemed distinctly bleak, I had even started to consult psychoanalysts, and there seemed nothing left that I could live for.” (Conze 1967)

Midlife Crisis

Conze & Suzuki
It was at this point that Conze turned to religion, specifically to Buddhism. He credits this to his acquaintance with three men: D. T. Suzuki, Har Dayal, and Graham Howe. Of these three, Suzuki seems to have been the strongest influence. Zsebenyi (2004) suggests that it was reading Suzuki’s Essays in Zen Buddhism that helped Conze to see a way forward. 

Suzuki’s wife, Beatrice Lane, was a major figure in the Theosophical world. While he retained his ties with Zen Buddhism, Suzuki frequently presents Zen in metaphysical terms borrowed from Theosophy. It seems to have been Suzuki who introduced the vocabulary of “the Absolute” and “the Transcendental” into Buddhism. Given Conze's existing preconceptions about the world, we can imagine how this mystical absolutism might have appealed to him. Indeed, it led to a radical change in lifestyle for a period.
Under the impulse of D. T. Suzuki’s message I then withdrew into a private wood belonging to a Quaker friend of mine in the New Forest, and practised as much meditation as can be practised in this evil age. (1967)
This was the wood called Sandy Balls, located near Godshill Village, in the New Forest, Hampshire. The owner, Aubrey Westlake, warned him that the hut was unheated and none had dared to over-winter there, but Conze, determined to live an ascetic life, did so. He joined an irregular community of Tolstoyan Christian Communists, eccentrics, and gypsies. The local villagers apparently decided that Conze was a spy and reported him to the police. When this failed to produce the desired result, they tried to set fire to the wood. This was during WWII which Conze avoided serving in on medical grounds but also as a Buddhist conscientious objector.

Conze applied himself to meditation, probably using Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga as a guide. As a result, he says, that he “experienced a great elation of spirit” (I 45). Living an ascetic life left Conze with the symptoms of malnutrition, such as chronic diarrhoea and degeneration of the gums leading to the loss of all his teeth (I 47). His description suggests that he had scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency common amongst sailors before 1747 when James Lind described the efficacy of citrus fruit in preventing the disease. The combination of malnutrition, cold (“very cold indeed” I 46), sleep deprivation, and long periods of meditation probably contributed to the delusions he apparently experienced: “Unbidden, several psychic faculties came my way” (I 46). A great deal has been written about the effects this kind of punitive ascetic lifestyle can have on religious experiences. On top of this, Conze was already firmly convinced of a matter-spirit dualism that would have dominated how he interpreted any interesting experiences that he might have had. Such strong convictions can only be confirmed in the mind of the believer.

Conze does not say how long this period was, though it only takes about four weeks for the first symptoms of scurvy to appear. After an unspecified time, he was inclined to stop: “I also felt that I had gained as much insight as I could bear in my present body or realise in our present social circumstances” (I 47). No doubt the physical suffering caused by this lifestyle would have been difficult to bear; malnutrition causes extremely unpleasant symptoms. In the introduction to Further Buddhist Studies, he relates,
"Thereafter I decided to adopt an indirect approach and thus between 1946 and 1968 remained content to edit and expound the ancient Sanskrit texts of the philosophia perennis."
Note here the reference (in Latin) to the idea of the Perennial Philosophy. This is the idea that all the worlds religions share a single metaphysical truth and all traditions aim to realise that truth. This view was popularised in Britain by Aldous Huxley and the Theosophists. Conze seems to have been a fervent believer in this view.

At about the same time as the deterioration of his health due to malnutrition was making his retreat untenable, his first wife, Dorothea, asked him to move back in with her for the sake of their daughter. So he moved to Oxford and was assigned a job in the Ministry of Agriculture. This led him back into the world of academia.


Scholarship

Living in Oxford, with an undemanding job, gave Conze time to study and access to research materials in the Bodleian Library and the India Institute. He took Sanskrit lessons from Prof Burrow and met F. W. Thomas, with whom he collaborated on a translation of a Sanskrit Jain text. Academic connections led to further literary ventures and, after 1945, to invitations to teach abroad, including in Germany. Summing up the factors that enabled him to become a Buddhist scholar he cites:
“…unusual innate intellectual ability is only part of the story. I have also had the good fortune to be able to devote my entire life to continuous and almost unbroken studying and have kept up my one-man monastery through thick and thin” (I 51).
In fact, Conze lived with his wife, who he apparently saw as his servant, and this is hardly a "one-man monastery". He has already admitted that he eschewed meditation after the disaster of his retreat in the New Forest. Conze was no monk.

Lacking a permanent academic post, he made his living teaching evening classes in psychology and philosophy. He might have had a position in the USA, but his past as a Communist prevented him from ever being more than a temporary visitor in that country. And even then immigration officials and his attitude towards them made travel there difficult for him.

Conze produced some general books on Buddhism as well as editing and contributing to an anthology of Buddhist texts. This was at a time when books about Buddhism in English were still uncommon, and most of the books that did exist betrayed the misconceptions of the early European scholars. As such the books were well received and two, Buddhist Scriptures and are Buddhism: Its Essence and Development, are still in print (if only in cheap Indian editions). While Conze's work was an advance on what came before, his idiosyncratic take on Buddhism meant that he often simply substituted one set of misconceptions for another. This was partially corrected by the appearance of more genuine books about Buddhism, but Conze was so influential that his views altered the narratives of Buddhism in the West. 

Despite his personal animus towards so many people - his wife referred to him as "the old man who hated everyone" - Conze had a number of productive collaborations, for example, with Jan de Jong, Giuseppe Tucci, I. B. Horner, and Lew Lancaster. For D. T. Suzuki he expressed “unlimited admiration, little short of idolatry” (I 78). However, D. T. Suzuki is also a problematic figure. McMahan singles Suzuki out as a Romantic Modernist:
"In his discussion of humanity and nature, Suzuki takes Zen literature out of its social, ritual, and ethical contexts and reframes it in terms of a language of metaphysics derived from German Romantic idealism, English Romanticism, and American Transcendentalism" (McMahan 2008: 125).
John McRae has pointed out that Suzuki's approach is frequently incomprehensible. "[His] most cherished methodology seems to have been to describe some aspect of Zen as beyond ordinary explanation, then offer a suitably incomprehensible story or two by way of illustration" (McRae 2003: 74). Conze adopted a similar strategy in his exegesis of Prajñāpāramitā. As far as Conze was concerned, the literature pointed to a perennial Truth beyond the comprehension of most people. It is the scripture of a spiritual elite of which, again, he believes himself to be a member.

Given his other comments, we can presume that Conze saw a confirmation of his own views in Suzuki's ravings about Prajñāpāramitā, especially in Suzuki's rejection of logic. I also think Conze realised that this was a field in which he would never be inferior to anyone because there was no competition at the time. With his typical German energy and industry, he could easily and quickly dominate the empty field of Prajñāpāramitā Studies and never have to answer to an inferior mind again. His obscurantist approach allowed him to exclude would-be critics simply by affirming contradictions like "A = Not A". How does one argue with a man who insists that logic and rationality play no part in the Truth? What's more, he could assert that as a meditator, he had special knowledge (I think few people realised the brief extent of his experiment with meditation or that the principal outcome was not insight, but scurvy and derangement). Conze was the tailor who made the Emperor's new clothes, according to a design by Suzuki. The crowds of scholars and Buddhists who knew no better simply went along with it (and largely still do). 

Conze set himself the task of translating all of the Prajñāpāramitā texts into English. In a number of cases, as with the Heart Sutra, this also involved editing the Sanskrit texts. Conze wrote a long essay outlining the extent and history of the Prajñāpāramitā literature (1960) and published a lexicon which was intended to be expanded into a dictionary of Prajñāpāramitā (1967b). These now circulate as pdf files and despite their many flaws have not yet been superseded.

Surprisingly little subsequent work has been done in this field since Conze. At least some of this reluctance must be because Conze made the subject seem unattractive to rationally minded students of Buddhism. The very qualities that made him the king of Prajñāpāramitā may well have ensured that there was little interest in following his example.

I will make some specific comments on his approach to the Heart Sutra below, but can here cite comments by Harrison & Watanabe about Conze's work on the Vajracchedikā. Rather than creating a critical edition, Conze takes an unsystematically eclectic approach to the text.  It is based mainly on Müller's edition but occasionally he changed the wording, conflating the various manuscript sources arbitrarily. He does not list the differences between his witnesses exhaustively (2006).
"Nevertheless, most subsequent translations and studies have relied on Conze's edition, and philosophical questions have also been addressed on the less than solid foundation it provides. Here lies a major problem" (Harrison & Watanabe 2006: 92; My emphasis).
In the notes on his translation of the Gilgit and Afghan manuscripts of Vajracchedikā, Harrison (2006) shows that the major problem involves the negations. Conze takes a metaphysical approach to these, whereas Harrison shows that they were probably intended as an epistemic observation: see my essay The Use of Negation in Vajracchedikā. Similar problems attend Conze's other translations. His work is unsystematic and directed toward confirming his idiosyncratic, Theosophy-inspired, anti-intellectual personal religion. As he admits:
“I am constitutionally incapable of registering meaningless details correctly (that is the price of being an intuition type). Even when reading proofs I miss most of the misprints, because I automatically read, not what is there, but what ought to be there. In addition, both my interest and my training in grammar leave much to be desired…” (I 92)
Unfortunately, the details that Conze misses are not “meaningless” but have quite major implications for how we understand the text. In the case of the Heart Sutra, his mistakes garbled two passages. Curiously enough, so little scrutiny did his work receive that these mistakes went unnoticed for almost seventy years. Such was his mystique and the expectation of nonsense that he created. Note that reading what ought to be there is exactly the method that I ascribed to Conze above. I believe this unconscious bias operated on many levels. Conze pursued confirmation of his beliefs and found it. 

Similarly, Conze’s translation of the Large Sutra is randomly eclectic. He does not rely on a single edition, but chops and changes, drawing first from this and then that source without any clear boundaries. He acknowledges that some will find this method “questionable” (1975: x) which is an understatement. On the other hand, almost none of the research agenda he sets out in his introduction has been followed up. Again, he did a lot of work himself, but only a handful of scholars continue his work. As he says, the translation [of the Large Sutra] is a continuation of his work on the Abhisamayālaṅkāra; a text “so elliptic and cryptic that a translation was considered impossible” (I 68-9). Now that we have a good edition (Kimura 2010) of the Nepalese manuscripts that he describes as “often unbelievably careless and corrupt” and a good facsimile edition of the Gilgit Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā (Karashima et al 2016), we can judge Conze’s methods quite accurately. It is often difficult to match his text to the available Sanskrit texts because his primary orientation was to the Abhisamayālaṅkāra rather than the text itself. As we will see this results in a whole other layer of confusion as regards the Heart Sutra.

Such issues will seldom surface for the average reader since they mainly read translations by popular religious figures. These people often don't bother to learn Sanskrit but simply paraphrase Conze and offer a few etymologies of varying accuracy. On the whole, religious translators have been oblivious to problems in source texts and simply gloss over any difficult passages as though they make sense. However, if there are problems with the source text, the translation is unlikely to be better. Dealing with Conze’s translations reveals him to be one of the most quixotic and idiosyncratic of Buddhist translators. Indeed, Paul Griffiths (1981) singles Conze out as the foremost practitioner of “Buddhist Hybrid English”, in which a translation uses mainly English vocabulary but is presented with Sanskrit syntax. In Conze's case, the choice of vocabulary often boggles the mind as well. Harrison brings this out in the introduction to his translation of Vajracchedikā.
"I has been a long cherished ambition of mine to make a translation of a Mahāyāna sūtra in which nobody courses in anything, speaks thus, or produces a single thought... although we have thoughts, think them, entertain them, although thoughts arise and occur to us, we never 'produce' them. Linguistic oddities such as this are best avoided" (Harrison 2006: 136).
Although Harrison does not say so, all of these examples of linguistic oddities are drawn from Conze's oeuvre. Conze was a great mangler of the English language. With Conze, we must constantly be on the alert not just for awkward translations but also for erroneous translations. Conze frequently allows his metaphysical imagination to inform his translations – very many verbs seem to mean “exist” in his vocabulary when very few of them mean that in Sanskrit. Being concerned, as he is, most of the time, with absolute being, he tends to torture his translations so that they appear to share his obsession. It took me many years to realise that Conze had fundamentally misunderstood the Prajñāpāramitā.

In his chronology of Prajñāpāramitā, Conze lumped the Vajracchedikā and Heart Sutra together as a period of contraction in Prajñāpāramitā texts ca 400 CE. This idea cuts across the trend of all Mahāyāna texts to expand over time. We now know that the Vajracchedikā is likely very much earlier and in fact follows the usual trend of expanding as it goes. The Heart Sutra, by contrast, was composed in China as a 抄經 chāo jīng or digest text, ca. 645-661 CE.  The earliest Prajñāpāramitā text was probably the one that evolved into the Aṣṭasāhasrikā, although the Vajracchedikā is likely to have been another Prakrit text of a similar vintage from a different area (one with less easy access to the Silk Road). Unfortunately, Conze's chronology of Prajñāpāramitā is still in use.

No scholar has since approached Mahāyāna Buddhism with quite the enthusiasm and industry of Conze. However, industry and enthusiasm in the absence of proper discipline or guiding principles simply run amok. The great shame is that so much of what he did needs to be done over but, at the same time, there seems to be little interest in Prajñāpāramitā in academia. Mysticism is not as sexy as it once was and the mainstream is focussed on the more rational aspects of Buddhism. A handful of scholars struggle away, year after year, to bring Prajñāpāramitā into the light, but the heavy burden of Conze makes that difficult. 


Heart Sutra

Conze first published a translation of the Sanskrit Heart Sutra in the journal of the Buddhist Society, The Middle Way in 1946 (see 1948: 51). His Sanskrit edition appeared in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1948. This was subsequently revised in 1967. The edition makes reference to Chinese texts and includes some quoted Chinese characters. Since Conze makes it clear in the Memoires that he did not speak or read Chinese, he ought to have credited the person who helped him with the Chinese. Between 1955 and 1957 Conze published a series of articles in The Middle Way. These were collated and published as Buddhist Wisdom Books (1958), which contained a translation of and commentary on the Vajracchedikā and a version of the Sanskrit text of the Heart Sutra along with a translation and commentary. A second edition appeared in 1975.

The Sanskrit edition of the Heart Sutra that Conze published contained a number of simple grammatical errors (Attwood 2015, 2018b). I'm sympathetic to Conze's inability to proofread as I suffer a similar affliction. However, I find readers will often pick up on mistakes I miss, and editors are usually very sharp-eyed when it comes to mistakes of mine (I'm very grateful to them for it). Where were Conze's readers and editors? And where were his critics for 70 years? Many scholars, some of the best in our field, looked at Conze's edition of the Heart Sutra and did not notice the obvious mistakes. I feel obliged to ask why not, but hesitant to supply answers because I fear there is no excuse. 

Conze presented the Heart Sutra as a Mahāyāna version of the four noble truths (or “holy Truths” as he calls them), going to elaborate lengths to try to make make the case for this (1958: 90, 100-1). The idea is based on the commentary in the Abhisamayālaṅkāra. Apart from the fact that Conze’s arguments are not convincing, when we look at his translation of the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā organised with subject headings taken from the Abhisamayālaṅkāra (Conze 1975), it shows that the Heart Sutra does quote from the section labelled as expounding the noble truths (āryasatyāṃ). However, the passage begins with the last few lines of the paragraph that supposedly outlines the second truth (samudaya) and ends halfway through the section on the third truth (nirodha). The Heart Sutra includes nothing from the paragraphs on the first (duḥkha) or fourth (marga) truths. So, at best, the reference is partial. In reality, the author of the Abhisamayālaṅkāra strains our credulity, because even reading the full passage the connection with the noble truths is not apparent. 

The text is shoehorned into the traditional categories, obscuring what it is actually talking about. Which tells us that that author of the Abhisamayālaṅkāra was not that interested in the text, but had their own agenda that the text was made to serve. And Conze does much the same thing. Interestingly, this is the most prominent feature of all the commentaries on the Heart Sutra since they first were recorded in the late 7th Century. Take this observation with the one about the unnoticed errors ,and we find a systematic picture of commentators telling us what the text means with almost no reference whatever to the text. 

To top it all, the Heart Sutra also appears to say that there are no four noble truths. Conze gets around the apparent contradiction by denying that "no" means "no". It cannot be an "ordinary negation", he says, “because it is used in a proposition of which one term, i.e., ‘emptiness’, is itself a self-contradictory unity of Yes and No.” (1958: 90) Unsurprisingly, Conze goes on to admit that this kind of rhetoric confused everyone who he had read his book before publication. Without any trace of irony, he refers to the effects of his self-contradictions as leaving his readers “dazed by so much splendour” (1958: 90). This might be an attempt at humour or it might be Conze's delusions, it's hard to tell at this remove. 

Another curious feature of Conze's commentary is the elaborate attempt to relate the wording to Abhidharma texts. The Prajñāpāramitā texts are, if anything, resistant to Abhidharma ideas, for example, retaining the simpler early Buddhist schema of five skandhas, rather than indulging in the proliferations that accompanied the development of dharma theory. In fact, there is no reference in the Heart Sutra to words that positively connote the Abhidharma. It is simply a coincidence that they both employ common categories that predate the Abhidharma. There is good reason to think that the Prajñāpāramitā movement was quite conservative and preserving meditative and doctrinal traditions that were old by that time.

Conze’s contempt for ordinary people is evident throughout his commentary on the Heart Sutra. He says, for example, that:
“This Sutra is not meant for the stupid, the emotional, or the uninformed. Other means will assure their salvation. Everything that is at all worth knowing is contained in the [Heart Sutra]. But it can be found there only if spiritual insight is married to intellectual ability, and coupled with a delighting in the use of the intellect.” (1958: 99).
We already know that Conze sees himself as amongst the elect and has a touch of messianic delusion. The influence of Theosophy can be seen in many statements such as 
“‘Emptiness’ is our word for the beyond, for transcendental reality… this is the mystical identity of opposites” (1958: 83). “[The bodhisatva] is able to bear the absolute aloneness of his solitary Spirit” (1958: 94)
“The series of negations… does not add up to nothingness, but points the way to a unique ultimate reality” (1958: 95)
“When viewed from the subject-side, the transcendental reality is known as ‘thought only’, because, one and simple, free from duality and multiplicity, it is without a separate object. This Thought, or Spirit, forms the very centre of our being” (1958: 96)
None of this has anything to do with Buddhism or Prajñāpāramitā, and most of these terms do not even have Sanskrit equivalents. When we read the Prajñāpāramitā sutras in Sanskrit or Chinese we find there are no spirits, no absolute being, no mystical identity, and no ultimate reality. Instead, we find a narrative based on the experience of cessation and the epistemological and/or soteriological consequences of the fact that experience may stop in meditation without the loss of consciousness. Conze looked for his perennial philosophy in Prajñāpāramitā and because he “read what ought to be there” he found it, even though it was not there.

This is not the work of a great scholar. He was certainly a busy scholar and worked in a field largely neglected by others, but Conze has thoroughly misunderstood the Heart Sutra in particular and the Prajñāpāramitā in general. 


Conclusion

That Conze deserves a place in the history of the Heart Sutra is undisputed. However, he has been dead long enough that we can see his life and his contributions in perspective. Summing up his contribution, Eric Zsebenyi (2004) says, “Conze’s pioneering accomplishment is still hailed as a model of meticulous scholarship, and he ranks among the greatest and most prolific modern translators of the Buddhist tradition.”  This may have been true at the time Conze died, but by the time I started regularly interacting with academics, it was not. No one I met while studying Sanskrit and attending conferences spoke highly of him as a translator or editor, though some do still acknowledge him as a “pioneer”. He was certainly prolific, but his work, like the man himself, was deeply flawed and full of contradictions. No one looks to him as a model scholar any longer. For myself, I have certainly had to spend a good deal of time and effort to understand and correct Conze’s many errors of translation and interpretation.

In perspective, Conze cuts a lonely figure. He believed himself to have been sent to soften the Hearts of barbarians, but this messiah could not love the people he was ostensibly sent to save. He characterises, Avalokiteśvara as "the Lord who looks down" (mistranslating the verb ava√lok) but, in fact, it is he who looks down on the world. And with disgust rather than compassion. Indeed, he could never wholly get along with another person. As he says, “Throughout my life I have been a stranger on this earth and never felt at home anywhere. Nor have I ever found anyone who was completely congenial or whom I could trust altogether” (54).

A more tragic epitaph for a Buddhist Messiah can hardly be imagined. Conze was a classic outsider as described by Colin Wilson, his former neighbour in Notting Hill Gate, in his book, The Outsider. The man that supposedly sees the world too clearly and cannot make their peace with what they see. On the other hand, Conze also seems to have worked well with certain colleagues who shared his privileged social background. He adored Suzuki and names many other men his friends. The fact is that the Memoires is addressed directly to Jan de Jong.

Above all, Edward Conze was a bourgeois Romantic. He had the bourgeois sense of heroic and even messianic destiny and entitlement (which, in fact, he shared with the Nazis). He hated modernity and fantasised about an idealised pre-industrial past when the elite were truly elite and the peasants were illiterate and happy. He had the Romantic distrust of his senses and of intellect, logic, and rationality; preferring intuition, astrology, and mysticism. He was obsessed with perfection and transcendence and, at the same time, loudly contemptuous of imperfection and inferiority. And he saw “blacks” as inherently inferior (another attitude he shared with the Nazis). Put another way, while preaching non-duality, Conze had all the characteristic prejudices of someone who accepts a profound matter-spirit duality as described in my essay  Metaphors and Materialism).

Whether Conze was contrary by nature or became that way through upbringing is a matter for speculation. We can imagine what changes his circumstances in life might have wrought on him, but we don't know and we mostly only have his word for it. The fact is, that he was a man marked by contradictions, in every aspect of his life. And yet, his reputation for greatness persists in Buddhist circles. Just as no one ever seems to really read the Heart Sutra, no one ever seems to really read what Conze wrote about himself. We might want to think about why the establishment have been so willing to overlook his faults, both confessed and apparent. Having read his Memoires in detail again, and having cleaned up the mess he made of the Heart Sutra, I find myself unwilling to participate in the beatification of Edward Conze. 


~~oOo~~

Bibliography

Conze, Edward.
—— 1946. ‘The Heart Sutra.’ The Middle Way, xx. 5, 105.
—— 1958. Buddhist Wisdom Books: The Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra. George Allen & Unwin. Second edition 1976.
—— 1967. 'In Memoriam Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki 1870-1966.' The Eastern Buddhist. II/1.
—— 1975. Further Buddhist Studies: Selected Essays. Oxford, Bruno Cassirer
—— 1979. Memoires of a Modern Gnostic. Parts I and II. Privately Published.

Forsyth, Mark. 2011. The Etymologicon. Icon Books.

Harrison, Paul. (2006) 'Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā: A New English Translation of the Sanskrit Text Based on Two Manuscripts from Greater Gandhāra', in Buddhist Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection (Vol. III). Hermes Publishing, Oslo, p.133-159.

Harrison, P. & Watanabe, S. (2006) 'Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā.' in Buddhist Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection (Vol. III). Hermes Publishing, Oslo, p. 89-132.

Heine, Holgar. 2016. 'Introduction' in The Principle of Contradiction. Lexington Books. First published in German as Der Satz vom Widerspruch. Hamburg, 1932. Langenberger Kulturlexikon: Immaterielles Kulturerbe der UNESCO. http://www.unter-der-muren.de/kulturlexikon.pdf

McRae, John (2003), Seeing Through Zen. Encounter, Transformation, and Genealogy in Chinese Chan Buddhism, The University Press Group.

McMahan, David (2008), The Making of Buddhist Modernism, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Wiles, Royce. 2018. Correspondence Between JW de Jong and Edward Conze Concerning “Memoirs Of A Modern Gnostic” (1979). Discovering de Jong. https://blogs.canterbury.ac.nz/dejong/2018/09/03/correspondence-between-jw-de-jong-and-edward-conze-concerning-memoirs-of-a-modern-gnostic-1979/

Zsebenyi, Eric. 2004. ‘The Perfection of Wisdom: Iconoclast, astrologist, communist sympathizer, and devoted practitioner, Edward Conze translated Buddhism for the West.’ Tricycle Magazine, Fall. 2004. https://tricycle.org/magazine/perfection-wisdom/

11 August 2017

Fixing the Broken Heart Sutra.

In this essay I do several things. I show that Conze bungled the editing of the Section VI of the Heart Sutra (Section VII in my nomenclature) and how to fix the received text. I review research by Huifeng which shows that the original Sanskrit translator also bungled, and go into detail on how to fix his mistakes. I incidentally show that Red Pine is also a bungler. By doing the basic philology that should have been done a century ago, I explain the grammar of this passage of the Heart Sutra and how to better construct it in Sanskrit. I give a revised Sanskrit text that is far more consistent with existing Chinese texts. I once again ponder the dire state of Buddhist philology. 
~o~ 

One of the many linguistic puzzles of the Heart Sutra is the construction nāstitvād that one finds in Conze's Section VI. I have been worrying away at this problem for five years and just now had a breakthrough, but it requires some context. The text in Conze's revised, 1967 edition and 1975 translation of the Heart Sutra tells us: 
Tasmāc Chāriputra aprāptitvād bodhisattvo  prajñāpāramitām āśritya viharaty acittāvaraṇaḥ. Cittāvaraṇa-nāstitvād atrasto viparyāsa-atikrānto nishṭhā-nirvāṇa-prāptaḥ. 
Therefore, O Śāriputra, it is because of his non-attainmentness that a bodhisattva, through having relied on the perfection of wisdom, dwells without thought-coverings. In the absence of thought-coverings he has not been made to tremble, he has overcome what can be upset, and in the end attains to Nirvāṇa (Buddhist Wisdom Books).
Almost everything about this translation is wrong. It is one of the most egregious examples of Buddhist Hybrid English in the entire canon of Buddhist translations. The English is execrable and incomprehensible. "Non-attainmentness" is a rather ugly neologism. And what on earth is a "thought-covering" (and why is it hyphenated)? Nor have other translators ever really got to grip with this passage. Those who purport to translate it from Sanskrit have failed to see a very basic mistake in Conze's Sanskrit (incidentally repeated by Vaidya in his edition). Red Pine simply dismisses the rules of Sanskrit grammar at this point with hand-waving and produces a translation that fits his preconceptions but has nothing to do with the underlying text (See p.137 of his book). 

As with previous essays of this kind, I will make frequent use of the Chinese. In a previous essay, I worked through Huifeng's treatment of the Sanskrit acittāvaraṇaḥ in light of the Chinese text. I accepted that he was right to reinterpret the passage, but disagreed on the definition of the key verb. He wanted 罣 to mean "hang" and I insisted on the more basic meaning of "stick".

The Chinese passage in T2521, which most East Asians take to be the Heart Sutra, reads (though note that the punctuation is modern):
以無所得故,菩提薩埵依 般若波羅蜜多故,心無罣礙;無罣礙故,無有恐怖,遠離顛倒夢想 ,究竟涅槃。
And this means more or less the same. I'll work through the differences as we go.  The first difference is to notice that the Chinese text has no "therefore Śāriputra" here.

Next, Huifeng has shown that aprāptitvād is an incorrect translation of 以無所得故.  In fact, Kumārajīva most often uses these characters to represent anupalambhayogena. And Huifeng makes a very good case for taking this word with the previous section and as ending a sentence. So if we make these corrections we get a working text that looks like this

Tasmācchāriputra śūnyatāyāṃ na rūpaṃ… na prāptir nābhsamayo anupalambhayogena ॥  
Bodhisatvo prajñāpāramitām āśritya viharaty acittāvaraṇaḥ. Cittāvaraṇa-nāstitvād atrasto viparyāsa-atikrānto nishṭhā-nirvāṇa-prāptaḥ. 

Now, bodhisatvo does not just start a new sentence, it starts a next paragraph or section. Focusing now on this new paragraph, since we have eliminated the possibility that 心無罣礙 means acittavaraṇaḥ, it is extremely unlikely that 無罣礙故 can mean acittavaraṇaḥ nāstitvād (and anyway this is a very weird construction). Moreover, there is no verb like viharati "dwell" anywhere in Chinese.

Unfortunately, although he gave an English translation which conveyed the correct reading of the Chinese, Huifeng didn't give a Sanskrit reading (and declined to do so when I pestered him in person). With the help of some colleagues I came up with an alternative Sanskrit reading based on the hints in Huifeng's article:
yo bodhisatvaḥ  prajñāpāramitām āśritya asya cittam na kvacit sajjati ।
The mind of the bodhisatva who relies on perfection of wisdom, does not get stuck anywhere.
The phrase "does not get stuck" could also be "does not get attached"  But how to deal with Cittāvaraṇa-nāstitvād atrasto viparyāsa-atikrānto nishṭhā-nirvāṇa-prāptaḥ? It is at this point that Red Pine simply abandons grammar and simply makes up a translation to suit his purposes. But the fact is that there is nothing very difficult here, except that Conze has once again led us astray.

In his 1948 edition, the last word in the sentence is nishṭhā-nirvāṇaḥ. Let us start here. Nirvāṇa is an adjective and thus properly takes the gender of the noun it describes. Buddhists often use it as a noun, and when they do so it is invariably neuter. The eagle-eyed reader will note that here nirvāṇaḥ has a masculine nominative singular ending. This can mean only one thing (and there is nothing "vague" here, contra Mr Pine)  which is that nishṭhā-nirvāṇa is a bahuvrīhi or adjectival compound. And it is describing a noun in the masculine nominative singular case. In Conze's Sanskrit, there is no such noun in this sentence. However, there is one in the previous sentence, i.e., bodhisatvaḥ (and note that -aḥ followed by p is unchanged, so bodhisatvo is wrong in Conze).

This tells us that Conze has blundered (again). Here we have just one sentence. It also tells us that we don't need prāpta. Prāpta (the passive past participle of prāpṇoti "to attain") was added to provide a verbal derivative because, just as in English, a Sanskrit sentence has to have a verb or a verbal derivative acting as a verb. By dividing one sentence, with one main verb, into two sentences, Conze has created an ungrammatical entity. Ancient scribes added prāptaḥ or in one case the verb prāpṇoti, but it was never needed. It also makes Red Pine's decision to take atikranto as the verb look silly (not to mention that this leaves viparyāsa undeclined, which is also not allowed).

The rules of grammar in any language are not simple. But the person who composed the Sanskrit followed those rules and it is the subsequent editors, translators, and commentators who have been at fault. Conze was an expert in Sanskrit so I cannot imagine why he went off piste in this case. Other experts, some of whom I hold in the highest esteem, have also failed to notice which rules were being applied.

There are, in fact, three bahuvrīhi compounds in a row, all of which describe the bodhisatva:
  1. atrastaḥ “one who is without fear”  
  2. viparyāsa-atikrāntaḥ “one who has overcome delusions”
  3. niṣṭhānirvāṇaḥ “one who has extinction as his end”
 So our working text now reads
yo bodhisatvaḥ  prajñāpāramitām āśritya asya cittam na kvacit sajjati  cittāvaraṇa-nāstitvād so atrasto viparyāsa-atikrānto nishṭhā-nirvāṇaḥ
A quick comparison with the punctuation of the Chinese text T251 tells us that the editors of Taishō were on the same wavelength (though inconsistently; in T250 they side with Conze and break the passage into two sentences!). But we can refine this further. I said above "it is extremely unlikely that 無罣礙故 can mean acittavaraṇaḥ nāstitvād". Based on Huifeng's research the Chinese characters most like mean asaṅgatvād "because of being without attachment". And this gives us
yo bodhisatvaḥ prajñāpāramitām āśritya asya cittam na kvacit sajjati asaṅgatvād so atrasto viparyāsātikrānto nishṭhānirvāṇaḥ |
However, when we look again at the Chinese we notice some further issues with these adjectival compounds. Firstly there are four of them in Chinese, and secondly the two key texts T250 and T2521 are different.
T250: 無有恐怖,離一切顛倒夢想苦惱,究竟涅槃。
T251: 無有恐怖,遠離顛倒夢想,究竟涅槃。
Well, take this a step at a time, and it is well worth taking our time because the first part of this provides us with a nice little insight. From the Sanskrit, we are expecting an adjective which means "he is not afraid". What we get is "non- 無, existent 有, terror 恐怖". Typically, we read this as "being without fear" to match the Sanskrit. But let's look again at the passage with the previous word added and without the modern punctuation.
無罣礙故無有恐怖遠離顛倒夢想
This is what the Sanskrit translator saw in the 7th Century. He had to figure out where the breaks come. We can see where the modern editors have put the breaks, but what if the translator became a little confused at this point and bracketed out the wrong characters and thought he saw something like this:
無 [罣礙故無有] 恐怖 遠離 顛倒 夢想
Now, this is an unlikely reading, but I'll tell you why I am highlighting it.  If we take the bracketed characters 罣礙故無有 the phrase 無 [罣礙故無有] 恐怖 says something like "not—because of the non-existence of mental obstructions—afraid". So is 無有 here the source of nāstitvād? There is no other explanation I can think of and no other explanation has ever been offered, to the best of my knowledge. Although the Chinese text is mangled in the process, we know it is not the first time the translator has mangled the text in the process of translating it into Sanskrit. But we also know that the translator does understand that 無 corresponds to the Sanskrit prefix a- or to the negative particle na. Which is to say that he knows better than to use nāstitvād when a- or na would do, and thus nāstitvād is in need of some explanation. If there is another explanation, I'd love to hear it.

Then we have some pairs of characters:
  • 恐怖 "afraid" 
  • 遠離 "goes beyond" = Sanskrit atikranto
  • 顛倒 "delusion = Skt viparyāsa
  • 夢想 "dream thoughts" i.e., illusions = Skt māyā.

In Chinese, the order of 遠離, "goes beyond"  and 顛倒, "delusion", suggests an active verb. And on this basis it would be possible to quibble with the construction of the Sanskrit. But I propose to leave the basic structure intact here. The translator has also mushed 顛倒 and 夢想 together into the familiar Sanskrit word viparyāsa, when he might have included the concept of māyā. Adding māyā here would be interesting in light of my observation about the relation of śūnyatā and māyā (soon to be published, but preliminary notes blogged) Now we want viparyāsātikrānta to be a descriptive compound and we would read this as "the bodhisatva has overcome delusions." I think we could follow the Chinese more precisely by having viparyāsmāyātikrānta. 

Note that T250 and T251 differ slightly here (added spaces for comparative purposes)
T251: 遠離        顛倒夢想,
T250:     離一切顛倒夢想苦惱.
The extra bits are 一切, meaning "all" (literally, "a single cut"), and 苦惱, meaning "misery and trouble", where 苦 is the character most often used for Sanskrit duḥkha. In T250, 離 means "depart, go away"; while in T251, 遠離 has the same meaning, but with greater emphasis. A similar distinction is found in Sanskrit between atikranta and saṃatikranta, for example.

The final piece of the puzzle, then, is how to translate 究竟涅槃. As I have explained in another previous essay, niṣṭhānirvāṇa was a poor choice. Kumārajīva uses these characters for a nirvāṇaparyavasānam. In our text it is being used an adjective of bodhisatvaḥ and must be given in the masculine nominative singular: nirvāṇaparyavasānaḥ. This gives us a final text:
yo bodhisatvaḥ prajñāpāramitām āśritya asya cittam na kvacit sajjati asaṅgatvād so atrasto viparyāsamāyātikrānto nirvāṇaparyavasānaḥ |
Of course, there are always difference ways to translate passages from one language to another. One only has to look at English translations of the Heart Sutra which continue to multiply and diverge from each other. With the Heart Sutra each exegete appears to be trying to put their own unique stamp on the text rather than all of us working towards a common understanding and a single standard translation. In other words, in the usual Buddhist critique, translating the Heart Sutra is more often an occasion for egoism than for transcending self. Rather ironic, really.  

At the very least, this essay has shown, again, how poorly the Buddhist community has been served at times by philologists and traditional exegesis. Here is a short text, barely 250 words or characters, that is supposed to be chanted daily by millions of Buddhists, and we still don't have an accurate text to chant.

I have spent a considerable part of the last five years forensically examining this text in Sanskrit and Chinese, with help from key allies, and have been posting my many notes here as I go in the form of more than 30 essays. My third peer-reviewed publication on the text will be out in November 2017. Not everyone is going to be able to follow the argument in this essay, but I hope some of you will at least try. Experience shows that traditionalists will resist any call to change the Heart Sutra and will probably deny that anything is wrong with the text. But people need to know that the familiar Heart Sutra is deeply flawed and in need of surgery. And that the so-called authorities on the text have never noticed this stark fact.

I confess that I am thoroughly vexed by all this bungling. I am far from the best person to be trying to sort this mess out, but the best people have come and gone and the mess remains. Some of them have made huge contributions to the field and clearly had bigger fish to fry, but the Heart Sutra is not exactly inconsequential in Buddhism. That is has been left in this state by philologists does my head in. If I can understand it, why did they not? I'm not special. Something as simple as noticing that a neuter noun is declined as masculine and therefore must be an adjective is just basic Sanskrit. You learn this in the first month of the first year of studying the language. How does anyone miss this, let alone everyone? I also missed it for years. I have studied this passage before and thought about how to translate it. I suppose I'm now something of an expert on the text (if not an authority) but if you look around the internet there are dozens of people with strong opinions on how to understand the text. It's just that none of them seems to actually read the text in Sanskrit and think about how to parse the sentences. 

In particular, in my circles, Conze and Red Pine are treated as reliable guides, but are, in fact, often, or even mostly, unreliable. Neither of them deserves their reputation for scholarship. Both are bunglers and have set back understanding of this text amongst Buddhists by decades. Kazuaki Tanahashi is not much better. Though his book is an improvement on Pine's, it is full of careless errors or just plain ignorance of Sanskrit. The dozens of commentaries are just rote recitations of sectarian gibberish. Mu Soeng frankly seems like a lunatic and his opinions on Sanskrit are laugh-out-loud wrong. The Dalai Lama is just going through the motions, reciting some ancient commentary by rote. D T Suzuki is busy doing his Mr Spock impression. It's all so depressing. How does the most popular text in Buddhism come to be treated so shabbily? It is gold. But not for the reasons that any famous Buddhists think it is. 

People often ask me what book they should read on the Heart Sutra. I get blank looks when I say that, in my opinion, it is better not to read any of the books currently available. They are full of inaccurate information. I mean it. The more you read about the Heart Sutra, the more wrong information you are assimilating that will only have to be unlearned in the end. I hope to remedy that situation soon by publishing a small book which gives an overview of recent research on the text (including mine, of course, but a few other people like Huifeng and Jan Nattier). In the meantime beware of fake Heart Sutra news, I guess. You're better off setting the sūtra  to one side and talking to someone who has some real depth of experience in meditation. Come back to it when you have experienced cessation for yourself. That would help head-off the most egregious wrong views. 

~~oOo~~


Conze, Edward (1948) Text, Sources, and Bibliography of the Prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, April 80(1-2): 33-51.

Conze, Edward. (1967) The Prajñāpāramitā-Hṛdaya Sūtra in Thirty Years of Buddhist Studies: Selected Essays, Bruno Cassirer, pp. 147-167. Modified version of Conze (1948).

Conze, Edward. (1975) Buddhist Wisdom Books: The Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra. George Allen & Unwin. First Ed. 1957.

Huifeng. (2014). ‘Apocryphal Treatment for Conze’s Heart Problems: “Non-attainment”, “Apprehension”, and “Mental Hanging” in the Prajñāpāramitā.’ Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. 6: 72-105. http://www.ocbs.org/ojs/index.php/jocbs/article/view/75

30 June 2017

The Heart Sutra and the Crisis in Buddhist Philology.

This is the 500th post on this blog. What appears here, over the 12 years or so since I was Ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order in 2005, is a kind of intellectual diary or autobiography. It records what interested me, what I was learning about, and what I was thinking about. Here, one can see my haphazard development as a Buddhist intellectual over more than a decade of self-directed and self-taught study and research. Of course, this is not my whole life. There is little of my daily life, my practice of religious exercises, my artistic and musical explorations, or my friendships. I made a conscious decision to avoid this being a confessional blog after some bad experiences in earlier forays online. This blog is all about ideas. I have also published some writing and this, to some extent, outshines this self-published material, but this blog is what it is, and I'm content with it as it is. Thanks to everyone who ever read an essay, but especially to everyone who got in touch to say I made them think or articulated some intuition they had. That's what it's all about.

My thanks to Ann 'Pema Yutso' Palomo for the original inspiration to start composing Buddhist "raves" a lifetime ago.

~~| 500 |~~

A few weeks ago, I struggled through one of the dullest articles from Buddhist studies that I've ever read. It was long, pedestrian, and had nothing much to say, but it touched on something I've been working on so I had to persevere.  Jonathan A. Silk's 2015 article on philology in JIABS could not be more of a contrast. Silk is incendiary in his approach to philology, burning to the ground many of the cherished assumptions of the field. After reading the article, I discovered that the text is from a conference paper delivered at Oxford University in 2013, a video of which is online. I recommend it, as Silk is a good presenter (which is rare amongst academics reading papers) and his topic is of great interest to anyone working with or interested in Buddhist texts. The reasons that academic writing and presentation are so bad is another subject entirely. 

I learned philology by reading examples of it, rather than systematically studying it under the guidance of a teacher. I'm fortunate that a few scholars have given me assistance when I've requested it, Jonathan Silk being one of them (he is an expert on the Heart Sutra in the Tibetan Kanjur). Since I met Richard Gombrich in 2006, while attending his Numata lectures at SOAS, his approach to philology and that of his friend and teacher, K. R. Norman, have been particularly influential. Reading the articles of Professors Norman and Gombrich was my education in Buddhist philology. Norman said that the philologer tells us not only what a text says, but why it says that (and not something else, he seems to imply). I've always tried to take this to heart.

In this essay, I explore aspects of Silk's thesis on philology by looking at how it applies to the Heart Sutra, a text which exemplifies many of the problems he identifies. Silk and I are on the same wavelength on this. I have been coming around to some of the same conclusions, but without the expertise and clarity that he brings to the subject.


Philology and the Heart Sutra

Deciding what a text says, let alone what it means, is far more difficult that most people imagine. I've outlined some of the difficulties in my essay Is There Any Such Thing as 'a Text'? (20 December 2013). For example, every single manuscript and inscription of the Sanskrit Heart Sutra is different from the others. Mainly the differences are simple scribal errors, but most of the witnesses also suffer from cack-handed "editing". The late Nepalese manuscripts (18th - 19th Century) are so full of errors that they make no sense anymore. In 2014, I described a previously undocumented Heart Sutra text, containing more than 140 omissions, additions, and errors (using Conze's edition as a reference point).

The execrable state of the Nepalese manuscripts is one reason that, since Max Müller first described them in the late 19th Century, the principal witnesses for the Heart Sutra have been the two manuscripts preserved in Japan (one of the short and one of the long text), particularly the so-called Hōryūji manuscript of the shorter Heart Sutra. However, even these, which probably date from the 8th or 9th Century, are problematic. They suffer from grammatical and scribal errors (i.e., spelling mistakes); as well as odd punctuation and some adventitious defilements. On the other hand, argues, Silk, such idiosyncrasies can be informative about the history of textual production.

However, the question Silk raises is this: what is the reference point for making such comparisons? I used Conze's edition, but it was before I became thoroughly dissatisfied with it and with Conze's entire body of work on Prajñāpāramitā

The manuscript and epigraphical witnesses of the Heart Sutra give a confused testimony, just as a dozen witnesses to a crime will all recall different details and will disagree on many of them. Out of this chaos, Conze scraped together a text that is more or less coherent, but what is the relationship of his eclectic edition with any historical Buddhist community? Even taken at face value, there is no evidence that a Sanskrit text like Conze's ever existed before he created it in 1948. This is a problem for all eclectic editions of Indian texts, and most especially Buddhist texts. The value of eclectic editions lies in the assumptions we make about what they represent.

Philologists take the possibility of recreating an ur-text from existing witnesses as axiomatic; the methods of doing so to be sound; and the results of these methods to be valuable. And Buddhists seem more than happy to accept the work of philologists at face value. But there is no objective reason to believe any of this. It is possible that we might identify common features of texts by comparing them, and we might conjecture about the immediate ancestor of the witnesses in hand. But that such a creation can be considered the ur-text is incredibly naive. We usually have no way of testing our conjectures. New archaeological finds often prove our conclusions wrong. And, in the case of the Sanskrit Heart Sutra, a number of errors have lurked in the text. Intense interest in the Heart Sutra has not translated into intense scrutiny of the text.

In the case of the Heart Sutra, it is apparent that we do not have an ur-text or anything like it. Though claims are made for a Sanskrit ur-text, and for two of the Chinese short texts, i.e. T250 and T251, according to my understanding of standard philological methods, none of the three could be the direct ancestor of both the others. So the ur-text appears to be lost, and the confusion amongst the extant witnesses makes recovering it impossible.

Philology, drawing on underlying assumptions of the Western intellectual tradition, assumes a singularity at the beginning of history. The norm is that a single author composed a "work", instantiated it as a fixed "document", and created a "text" in the form of manuscript or inscription (Cf. Silk 2015: 206). This original work is understood to be a pure representation of the author's thoughts. In this view of the pure "original", we are forced to see differences in contemporary witnesses as corruptions. This language is suspiciously reminiscent of the Old Testament, which is not a coincidence.

Buddhist philologists inherited our methods and attitudes from European Biblical scholars. As they were dealing the word of God, the early philologists had a real problem with the variability of their manuscripts. It only got worse as they colonised the world and looted old Bible manuscripts, only to discover major differences from European received texts. That so much human error was apparent in the Bible was alarming for Christian scholars, to say the least. Their urgent task was to establish an authoritative version of the Bible, eliminating human error entirely, to reveal the words of God. They also had to hide the existence of this variability from an unsuspecting public, because what would people think if the Bible were revealed to be a human production? The Buddhist public is similarly insulated from the variability of Buddhist texts. Buddhists often speak of, for example, The Heart Sutra, as though it is a unitary document. But it isn't. News slowly leaks out of scholarly discoveries, but scholars are generally careful not to rock the religious boat and the pieces are seldom brought together in ways that would cast doubt on the established view (here I differ from my mentor Richard Gombrich, as he sees no reason to doubt the story that the Pāḷi texts tell about themselves, and I see every reason to doubt it).

When Darwin was describing evolution, he chose a branching tree as the central metaphor for the process. He was of his time, focussed on describing how variety emerged by natural selection. Unfortunately, this was a poor choice, because, in both biological and textual evolution, hybridization is common. For example, in the last few years, we have discovered that all Homo sapiens outside of Africa have genes from Neanderthals, Denisovans, and some other, as yet unidentified species of human. Europeans, Asians and Americans are all hybrids, or in the vernacular, mongrels. A branching tree cannot show this, as it never recombines. Similarly, texts show every sign of different lines of evolution crossing over and influencing each other. That such influence is referred to as "contamination" is revealing of the attitude underlying the philological method. I have proposed (to the void) that we adopt the braided stream as our metaphor for evolution. Features such as tributaries, mainstream, side-streams, confluences, branching, recombining, ox-bow lakes, give us a much richer metaphor for dealing with the real world complexities of change over time. Fortunately, some biologists better placed for influence than I am are saying similar things (For some examples, see the notes at the end of my essay, Evolution: Trees and Braids). 

In the rest of this essay, I will offer some reflections on philology and the Heart Sutra under four headings: authenticity, authority, ownership, and aesthetics. To my mind, these issues are closely interrelated and thus not strictly separable. However, by taking each as a starting point for reflection, different aspects of the problems with Buddhist philology come into focus.


Authenticity

Historical singularities are a myth. There may be a time when streams of events reach a confluence that is particularly influential, but they are never simple. This fact does not stop us from thinking of the past as simpler than the present.

The obvious example for Buddhists is our myth of the founder of Buddhism, whose name we do not know, but who was later called Siddhartha Gautama, an archetypally Brahmin name. There are two quite contradictory stories about how he ended up leaving home to become a religious striver (śrāmaṇa). His dates are a matter of conjecture: Buddhist texts appear to have been composed sometime after ca. 700 BCE and considerably before ca. 250 CE, and the Buddha, if he lived, presumably predates the texts. The myth is that all Buddhist ideas and practices stem from this one man. But this is not true. For example, Norman, Gombrich, and others have shown that early Buddhist texts are full of technical terms, ideas, and practices adopted from Brahmins and Jainas.

The early Buddhist texts are, like the Heart Sutra, largely constructed from stock passages, recycled many times over. Stories occur in several different versions, with changed characters, or a key term changed; or we see fragments of one story are combined with parts of other stories. Some stories or parts of stories are obviously drawn from a general pool of such stories shared with Jains and Brahmins. We also see that the language of the texts changes in a way that suggests progression over time (an important basis for the conjecture that some parts of Pāḷi Canon are older than others). The most likely conjecture is that the Buddhist literature went through an extended period as an oral literature (i.e., storytelling) lasting perhaps two or three centuries, before being edited en-masse and set down in writing (or, possibly, the other way around) in at least three different versions: Pāḷi, Gāndhārī, and possibly a distinct Prakrit Canon later translated into Sanskrit.

Even if these structural features were not there to undermine the concept of the historical singularity, we have to consider the psychological reality of being human. Everyone is subject to conditioning as they grow up. We learn a mother tongue, family patterns of interacting, and the social mores of our community. No one is a blank slate. Despite the romantic myth, genius doesn't appear out of nowhere. Talent that goes unnurtured goes to waste.

It used to be accepted that the Heart Sutra was a Sanskrit text, composed in India. Indeed, it was seen not only as authentic, but as the essence of other authentic texts. Conze placed it together with the so-called Diamond Sutra (vajra does not mean "diamond") in the mid 4th Century,  representing a phase of contraction following a phase of expansion of the original Prajñāpāramitā text. In fact, that expansion never really stopped while Buddhism was a living religion in India. A number of scholars now consider the Vajracchedikā to be the same vintage as the Aṣṭasāhasrikā (8000). Then, in 1992, Jan Nattier showed beyond reasonable doubt that the Heart Sutra was composed in China from a couple of extracts from a translation of the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā (25000) produced by Kumārajīva's group (T223) or perhaps their translation of the commentary (updeśa) on it (apocryphally) attributed to Nāgārjuna (T1509). To these extracts were added an introduction, itself drawing on the Prajñāpāramitā idiom found in Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, and a shortened dhāraṇī based on one found in the Mahāmegha Sūtra.

So, the provenance of the Heart Sutra is complicated. It has been assembled, rather than composed; and assembled in Chinese rather than in Sanskrit. 

Recent research has shown that Mahāyāna texts were composed in Prakrit and only began to be translated into Sanskrit during the Gupta Era (ca 3rd – 6th Centuries CE). Close attention to the transliterations of Indic words in the earliest Chinese translations shows that they were either in Prakrit or some Central Asian vernacular (of the Iranian branch of Indo-Iranian). In the last decade, a few more very early Gāndhārī manuscripts from caches in Pakistan and Afghanistan have been described, including a first Century CE manuscript of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā. Few, if any, sutras were originally composed in Sanskrit, though commentaries and other secondary literature were (although at this stage the distinction is moot).  So, a Sanskrit text is not an indication of authenticity, it just means that a text was in use at a time when Sanskrit began to be widely used outside Brahmanical circles.

We also know that Mahāyāna sutras were continuously changed, mostly expanded, over many centuries. A first Century Buddhist community in Gandhāra would have known the Aṣṭasāhasrikā as a mid length sutra in their local vernacular. An 8th Century Magadhan community might have used a Sanskrit translation of Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, with no sense of it being either a translation or expanded. In China, where different versions of a work were recorded, the differences over time became apparent and caused some consternation as it appeared to them that earlier translators had abbreviated their translations. However, Chinese Buddhists also composed "sūtras", including the Heart Sutra.

Can a sutra "composed" in China be considered authentically Buddhist? Or ,more precisely, can it be considered an authentic sutra, since presumably, any work about Buddhism composed by a Buddhist is de facto a Buddhist text. Or, does the authenticity lie in the quoted passage from the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, which was originally in Prakrit? I'm not sure how to resolve these questions from a philological point of view. 

Silk points out that an eclectic edition, such as those produced by Conze or Vaidya is not the same as an ur-text. An edition is not the original but is, in fact, a new work (2015: 211). In the case of the Sanskrit text, there is no evidence whatever that a version like Conze's edition was ever used by any ancient Buddhist, though it has been adopted by many modern Buddhists as the authentic Heart Sutra. But the fact is that it came into existence only in 1948. And Conze's edition, at least, has some errors in it (Nattier 1992, Attwood 2015). Meanwhile, eclectic editions produced by Müller, Conze, and Vaidya are all different from each other. They have not solved the problem of authenticity, just moved the bottleneck.

For the Heart Sutra, the situation is particularly dire, because the Sanskrit version is revealed by recent scholarship to be a rather poor translation. Jan Nattier (1992) identified some poorly translated passages. Since then Huifeng (2014) and I (Attwood 2015, 2017) have independently identified several more. The translator seems to have misread the Chinese version and thus bungled the Sanskrit translation. Even where the rendering is accurate, the Sanskrit Heart Sutras are not consistent with the Sanskrit Prajñāpāramitā idiom, leading to some oddities.

The situation is worse still since there are three versions of the Heart Sutra in the Chinese Tripiṭaka, i.e., T250, T251, and T256. All are different from each other. The earliest dated inscription is almost identical to T251, differing in only one character (used twice), though the substitute has the same phonetic and tonal value. Woncheuk's commentary suggests that at least one more Chinese version was circulating at the end of the 7th Century and that a Sanskrit text was consistent with it rather than with T251, but he made T251 the normative text for his audience. He may have been influenced in this by the commentary of his rival Kuījī who also used T251 as his text. The three canonical texts are traditionally considered to be translations from Sanskrit, but now we know that they are not translations and in each case the attribution to a particular translator is questionable. None of the three is an obvious source text for a putative Sanskrit "original". This suggests a missing Chinese mother text that underwent multiple parallel revisions resulting in the different daughter texts and was then lost.

So, in fact, none of the versions of the Heart Sutra, and certainly not Conze's Sanskrit edition, can be considered "authentic" in the sense required by philology. And here we run into the limits of philology when dealing with religious texts.

It gets a bit more interesting when we look at the situation from an anthropologist's point of view. In Chinese Buddhism, for example, T251 is the undisputed authentic Heart Sutra. Although other texts are preserved, it is only T251 that has ever been the subject of commentaries (since Kuījī and Woncheuk in the late 7th Century). In Japan, the authentic Heart Sutra is T251, written in Chinese, but pronounced according to Japanese conventions, making it incomprehensible in either language. In Tibetan Buddhism, by contrast, only the longer version was canonised and commented on, giving it the stronger claim to authenticity. Tibetan translations of the short text were found at Dunhuang (briefly ruled by a militaristic Tibetan empire) but none of them was incorporated into the Kanjur. Western Buddhists frequently recite the sutra in English translation, but there are dozens of different translations, each of which is seen as authentic within the context in which it was created.

So from an anthropological point of view, the authenticity of the sutra is not a matter of reconstructed ur-texts or "originals", and this is not even (solely) a matter of putative original languages. The authentic Heart Sutra is simply the received text within a particular practice community, whatever form that may take.

Since commentary on the text assumes that it doesn't make sense on face value, commentators are largely able to skate over the incomprehensible parts, though Thích Nhất Hạnh is a notable exception to this because he actually dares to change the text, a fact we'll revisit under the heading of ownership. A garbled text can still be authentic in this anthropological sense if it is the text that a community prefers and uses. Another example of this I have written about is the 100 Syllable Vajrasattva Mantra which is usually chanted in a garbled form. Despite being easily restored to classical Sanskrit, as it is found in the earliest textual source, there is considerable resistance to such restorations.

Of course, a historian of ideas may wish to trace the development of a work as it changes over time, and it may be valuable to do so in that it gives us insights into the process of producing Buddhist texts. But one cannot really argue that any one version is more authentic than the others. Each community that uses a text defines what counts as authentic. This is not a recycling of post-modernist critical tropes, but an acknowledgement that the nature of the text in Buddhist literature is fluid; and that Buddhist communities are seldom interested in philology, even though they are very interested in the issue of authenticity.

This situation is curious. I confess that I experience resistance to the idea that there is no authentic text, except in the locally defined sense, and no effective critique of the authenticity of a locally accepted text. The text is what it is, to the community who accept it; and it means just what they say it means (the Humpty-dumpty Principle). Which brings us to the issue of authority in relation to the Heart Sutra.


Authority

The authority of a religious text has nothing to do with how true or factual the text is; nor even its virtues as literature, since the literary merit of most religious writing is minimal (and made worse by translation). This is particularly so in the case of Buddhist scripture, which is often highly stylised according to aesthetic and practical considerations relative to ancient North India. By modern standards, Buddhist sutras are repetitive, turgid, and stilted. This is not helped by translations that ape the archaic language of the King James Bible and which employ English vocabulary arranged according to Sanskrit syntax, aka Buddhist Hybrid English

Philology plays almost no role in the issue of authority in Buddhist communities. The authority of scripture comes from the collective agreement of people to treat it as authoritative. And that seems to be the extent of it. Of course, this seems insufficient to the philologist, but Buddhist communities just don't seem to care. They care more about respecting the author of a commentary than about the text. This is an aspect of the crisis in Buddhist philology.

However, the text does play a role in humans' asserting their authority. For example, the text can be a tool for a person to assert a superior position in the hierarchy; or it can be a symbol of their superiority. Conze's commentary on the Heart Sutra is full of oblique references to his special insights into the meaning of the text, which he does not expect ordinary readers to understand. Conze set himself up as an authority on Prajñāpāramitā, outside of any community. Throughout his books on Prajñāpāramitā, Conze taunts his audience with their failure to understand the text. It is only decades later that we realise that Conze's work was very often shoddy and that his gnomic pronunciations on the text were more influenced by readings of German Idealist philosophy than by Buddhism. The irony is that, despite his still authoritative reputation in Buddhist circles, Conze is an unreliable guide to Prajñāpāramitā. Conze-ism is a very peculiar reading of Buddhism.

Authority with respect to the Heart Sutra is part of a feedback loop: people seeking authority interpret the text and, in the process, the text becomes a symbol of authority. When enough people point to the sutra as embodying something important, then people treat it as important, even when they don't understand it (which almost no one does). Not being able to understand something associated with the exercise of authority (be it economic ideology, or scripture) is treated as a sign that it is profound (as opposed to difficult, complex, or wrong). Confusion produces awe, especially when a high-status individual tells us that they understand the thing that puzzles us and our peer group acknowledges their authority. See also what Dan Sperber calls "the guru effect".

In terms of authority, it's not what you know, but who you know. Back in the 7th Century, two men were in direct competition to be the official successor of Xuanzang. Both wrote commentaries on the Heart Sutra. Kuījī went on to become famous as the co-founder, with Xuanzang, of a major Yogācāra based school of Chinese Buddhism. The other man, Woncheuk (a Korean), was passed over. It's likely that the Heart Sutra was a popular magic charm up to this point, written out and carried on the body to ward off misfortune. It is the commentaries themselves that establish the Heart Sutra as a text with a message. The source text for the Heart Sutra, i.e.,, Pañcaviṃśati (T223) and/or the commentary or Upadeśa (T1509), were important for Chinese Buddhism. The Udapdeśa was particularly seen as the most important interpretation of Prajñāpāramitā, partly because it was attributed to Nāgārjuna (again it's the person, not the text). Because the Heart Sutra is associated with Xuanzang it is considered weighty. Though T251 is attributed to Xuanzang, Nattier casts doubt on this. In fact, the evidence of Xuanzang's association with the text mostly seems to date from after his death. The Heart Sutra continues to play the role of magical protection (and this is also associated with Xuanzang), but it also becomes the essence of Prajñāpāramitā: a summary of the ineffable.

People sometimes ask me which book on the Heart Sutra to read and I usually say "none of them". There is Mu Seong's imaginative, but wildly inaccurate work; or Kaz Tanahashi's recent elaborate pretension to "scholarship" in a language he cannot speak or read; or one can turn to Conze's grumpy elitist mysticism, which continues to be reprinted; or to the Dalai Lama's little book, which perpetuates his pose of being a "simple monk" offering simple wisdom. All are designed to flatter the reader and the author.

I'll focus on Red Pine's "translation" and commentary since it is probably the most popular of these awful books. Pine trades on his reputation as a translator of Chinese texts. Here the translation is purportedly from Sanskrit, but Pine appears to struggle with the language and the English text is a mere paraphrase of Conze. He offers no real insights into the Sanskrit text and, worse, no comprehension of the context of the sutra beyond repeating some cliches that appear to originate with Conze. The commentary revisits the well-worn Zen absurdist approach to the sutra, popularised by Suzuki in the 1950s and 60s (which also forms the foundation of Conze's interpretation). Pine's folksy but ultimately vapid commentary is certainly popular. People seem to treat Pine as an authority on the Heart Sutra. However, as a work of philology, his book is worse than worthless, since it gives wrong information and misleads readers about the text.

Almost every prominent Mahāyāna Buddhist clergyman since the 7th Century has composed a commentary on this text, though few rise above the level of a paraphrasing existing commentaries. The result is that we think of the sutra itself as authoritative, i.e., as possessing a human characteristic. The claim that the Heart Sutra communicates the "essence of the Dharma" is endlessly repeated. But, as far as I can tell, it doesn't. It really doesn't. It does give us some insight into the meditative state of emptiness or cessation. But it tells us nothing about "reality" or "transcendental wisdom" or how to practice.

In a sea of irony, we can also point out that the understanding sought by mystically oriented Buddhists (concerned with, for example, knowledge of the true nature of reality) is said by them to be ineffable. This is insisted on by both the Buddhists and by many of the texts themselves. So to hold a text in such high esteem is itself paradoxical. Buddhist communities try to get around this by chanting it in a language or form which cannot be understood by that community, but it only reinforces the role of the exegete.

If eclectic editions are not ur-texts, but simply new works in an ecology works created by various methods, amongst which recombination of existing elements is central; and if human communities, rather than any intrinsic feature of texts, determine authority, then the question of who owns a text arises. Who has the right to create a new text or alter an existing text?


Ownership

Despite more than 150 years passing since the first translation of the Heart Sutra into English by Rev. Samuel Beal (1865), philological scholarship made little progress until 1992 and Nattier's article. Twenty-five years later, a good deal of basic philology remains to be done, and few scholars seem interested in doing it. Working through the implications of Nattier's copious footnotes alone could have sparked a PhD or two, but her main thesis seems not to have drawn the kind of attention it deserves. There has been no radical reassessment of the landscape of Mahāyāna or Prajñāpārmitā in China. Dan Lusthaus and Huifeng have both raised concerns about Nattier's thesis. I've reviewed their efforts here and here respectively. Neither produces any serious objection to the Chinese origins hypothesis. The text repeatedly referred to as "the most popular text in Mahāyāna Buddhism" consistently fails to attract sustained attention from philologists.

I believe the situation is somewhat different in Japan, but the majority of Japanese scholars publish only in Japanese, and very little of their output ever makes it into English. Nattier (1992) is clearly reliant on Japanese scholarship, but without proficiency in Japanese language (on top of Sanskrit and Chinese) a scholar is cut off from their efforts and insights. This seems unlikely to change anytime soon.

Ironically the most popular Buddhist text is one of the least well studied and understood texts, not counting the hundreds that are entirely ignored. The context of the quoted sections is routinely ignored, for example (I have partially addressed this in Attwood 2015). There is, to the best of my knowledge, not a single study of the larger passage from Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, of which the Heart Sutra uses perhaps a third (I hope to begin to address this in a forthcoming article). Wouldn't it make sense to see the quotation in context? Kuījī knew the text was a quote in the 7th Century, but more than a millennium later there is no comparative work on the source and quote. Perhaps the forthcoming publication of the Gilgit manuscripts of Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā will make a difference to this? On current form, it won't.

The question of ownership seems to be complicated. For example, it seems that anyone can offer a new English translation of the Heart Sutra and they are not bound by any convention. One can change the way key technical terms are rendered, or one can interpolate at will to "clarify" the meaning of the text; one can arbitrarily punctuate the text and break the text into sections. There is a curious lack of constraint regarding translation, but quite a strong taboo on changing Sanskrit sources which are still widely seen as "original" and thus sacrosanct.

In 2014, Vietnamese monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh, changed his popular English translation because he found a mistake in the Sanskrit (that he left intact). Meanwhile, Huifeng (2015) has pointed out that the Sanskrit translator has misunderstood his Chinese source text. Huifeng offers a new English translation of the Chinese, demonstrating the correct reading, but refrains from offering a better Sanskrit translation. I pressed him on this point by email and got nowhere. Despite being ungrammatical, unidiomatic, or incorrect, no one seems to believe that the Sanskrit text may be changed. I recently pointed out that the Sanskrit translator has misunderstood the characters 明咒 (Attwood 2017) and have proposed that the Sanskrit be amended to vidyā. Interestingly I sent my article to a prominent web-based translator of Chinese texts who dismissed it out of hand and insisted that he would retain the wrong translation. Tradition always trumps philology.

It may be that this reluctance is related to a reluctance to accept Nattier's argument. After all, the conclusion is that the Heart Sutra is what philologists call "apocryphal". I'm not sure the term has much meaning in Mahāyāna Buddhism, though of course, some Mahāyānists do believe that their sutras were literally spoken by the Buddha. All Mahāyāna texts are apocryphal in that they were composed centuries after the putative lifetime of the Buddha and contain many innovations which have no precedent in early Buddhist texts. The popular books which mention Nattier's article appear to struggle with it. Red Pine proposes that there is another Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, now lost, which is not in the usual Sanskrit Prajñāpārmitā idiom and that this imaginary lost manuscript is the "original" from which the Heart Sutra is created. Tanahashi says that he accepts the thesis, but then carries on as though he has not even read the section on the attribution of the Chinese texts to Kumārajīva and Xuanzang.

Anyone can create an English translation, but the Sanskrit is "sacred". A philologist is allowed to create a new edition as long as they maintain the fiction that they are reconstituting "the original". Editions gain the inviolable status of "the original". People still talk about the Sanskrit original of the Heart Sutra. In 2012, I noticed that Conze made a simple grammatical error in his 1948 edition of the sutra (retained in subsequent revisions in 1967, 1973). It took me three years to research and publish the solution (Attwood 2015). In short, Conze mistakenly read the historical present verb vyavalokayati sma as intransitive (lacking a patient) and read pañcaskandhāṃs (accusative plural, the patient of the verb) as pañcasakandhās (nominative plural, agent). Conze tried to smooth over the resulting lumps using punctuation. The result is weird. Anyone familiar with Sanskrit ought to have seen that Avalokiteśvara was the agent of all three verbs in the sentence and that he was examining the five branches of experience (vyavalokayati sma pañcaskandhāṃs). This correction brings the Sanskrit in line with the Chinese versions and allows for the removal of all punctuation since phrase boundaries within the sentence are clearly marked.

In the 67 years before I corrected Conze's mistake, at least a dozen top Buddhist studies scholars, including a number of experts in Sanskrit (including my scholar-hero Nattier), had commented on the Sanskrit text and offered translations. Red Pine built a reputation as an authoritative scholar on the basis of his "translation". But none of them questioned why the first sentence could not be parsed. Note that my 2015 article has yet to be cited by anyone, which presumably means that most people interested in the Sanskrit Heart Sutra have yet to get the news.

Why is the Sanskrit text, even in the form of newly generated editions, inviolable? The huge variability in the manuscript bears stark witness to the fact that the text has been changed in the past. But most punters never have any contact with the manuscripts (If you want some click here). In fact, the Prajñāpāramitā literature was frequently altered by editors, some of whom seem quite inept. All the pre-Tantric prose texts (the texts with numbers in their titles, as well as Vajracchedikā) grew over time. The fetish for fixing Mahāyāna texts in a Canon was something that developed in China and then Tibet. There is a contrast here with Pāḷi texts which were canonised quite early on. There really is no historical rationale for not changing a Mahāyāna text if we find a mistake. Mistakes were made. 

Part of what Silk is saying in his article on the failings of philologists is that texts are rooted in communities. If some Japanese Zen practitioners chant T251 (the Chinese text attributed to Xuanzang), in a Japanese pronunciation that is not comprehensible either as Japanese or as Chinese, and they feel it has meaning for them, it's not for us to judge. This is an anthropological view. The philologist is focused on what texts say and why they say that, but the anthropologist is interested in questions such as how chanting the incomprehensible scripture affects the behaviour of the community, how it enacts their values, and how it helps them to create a shared identity. And if each community, in time and space, uses a different version of the same scripture it doesn't really matter. The scripture that a community uses is the authentic and authoritative text for that community.

If all texts are the product of a community, then, as Silk says,
"There is no conceivable objective reason to value the product of one community over that of another, no reason why we should seek the earlier form of the text rather than the later one." (2015: 212; emphasis added)
What, we may ask, makes a Mahāyāna text valuable in our society? In her book, A Few Good Men Jan Nattier pointed out that just three criteria determine which of the hundreds of Mahāyāna sutras are popular in the West. The three criteria are that:
  • there is an extant Sanskrit text,
  • the text has been influential in Japanese Buddhism,
  • the text is congruent with liberal values.
This may help explain the reluctance to improve Sanskrit texts by correcting errors. An extant Sanskrit text has an intrinsic value for Western Buddhists (as long as what it says can be interpreted as supporting liberal Western values). It may be that here we see the influence of Protestantism with its cult of the book. Certainly, we are taught to see Sanskrit as the "original" language of the sutras. Not all Buddhists directly buy into the Indian superstitions surrounding Sanskrit as the "perfect language", but this attitude may be an influence. Learning Sanskrit is a fairly major undertaking that few Buddhists are willing to commit to. Indeed, few translators of the Sanskrit Heart Sutra seem to be willing to commit to it, either. The fact that one cannot read the "original", and the taboo around Sanskrit texts, help to intensify the aura of mystery; and, I would argue, the submission to authority that characterises our communities. 

If this section of the essay seems a bit disconnected, it's probably because I struggle to make sense of the complex situation. In fact, I think the situation is bizarre. Some days I think it is hilarious. There is no rhyme or reason to the different attitudes to the Heart Sutra. Philologists seem uninterested in the text as philologists, and unwilling to engage with any philological problems that are identified, even if they themselves identify the problems! Meanwhile, Buddhists churn out translations and mystical commentaries with increasing frequency (accelerated by Tibetan Lamas joining the Zen bandwagon). One can do anything at all to the text in English; but the Sanskrit translation is taboo, even though the Sanskrit text people think of as "original" was created in 1948 by Conze whose methods and results leave a lot to be desired; and even though the original Sanskrit translation from Chinese appears to be have produced by a bungler. How does one make sense of any of this? 

The range of tribal values and attitudes that inform the approach to this text is impossibly broad and contradictory. I don't think the Heart Sutra contains paradoxes, but the way Buddhists and scholars relate to it does seem to involve paradoxes. There is no conclusion here, but lastly, I want to move on to consider some aesthetic issues involving the Heart Sutra.


Aesthetics

In Austin and Searle's work on speech acts they make an interesting distinction between what you say (locution), what you mean (illocution), and what your audience understand (perlocution). There is no necessary relationship between the three aspects of speech. It is vital to know this in England, where what a person says is frequently unrelated to what they mean. Some days it seems as though everyone in the country is being sarcastic all the time. The famed English politeness is often a trojan horse. A polite English person may well be expressing contempt for someone of perceived higher or lower status. For example, using the title "Sir" is very often an expression of contempt rather than deference. I'm sure all societies have varieties of this and I suffer from being a cultural (though not genetic) immigrant, but I want to highlight these kinds of differences when considering the Heart Sutra from an aesthetic point of view.

It's quite likely that at the start of its life, the point of the Heart Sutra was apotropaic magic, i.e., for the purpose of warding off evil. Medieval Chinese Buddhists would have the text copied, roll it up, and wear it about their person. Or someone with more money would have it carved onto a "dhāraṇī pillar"—an octagonal pillar of stone, with a pagoda-like 'hat' on top—and placed at a strategic place to prevent evil spirits from intruding. Xuanzang is supposed to have chanted it to scare off demons in the Gobi desert on his way to India. Curiously, this is the only time the Heart Sutra is mentioned in his memoir and I suspect it was inserted later to cement a relationship between the two of them by someone seeking to further legitimise the apocryphal sutra after his death.

Unfortunately, for a long time dhāraṇī was seen in the context of Vajrayāna as a type of mantra, and thus in the province of tantric Buddhism. The confusion over the translation of the character 咒 (incantation, dhāraṇī or mantra ,depending on time-frame) has not helped this. Until the invention of Tantric Buddhism and its introduction to China in the later 7th Century, i.e., for some hundreds of years prior to that, dhāraṇī were chanted mainly as magical protection along the same lines as the Theravāda practice of reciting certain suttas as protection (parittā). This has nothing to do with tantra, and teleological approaches which treat dhāraṇī as "proto-tantra" miss the point. Dhāraṇī recitation and copying is an important Mahāyāna practice in its own right, though until the last ten years or so it has received almost no scholarly attention as such until Paul Copp's book The Body Incantatory. Dhāraṇī operates in an entirely different aesthetic to mantra.

On the other hand, as early as the late 7th Century (the precise dates are unclear), commentaries were composed commenting on the Heart Sutra as a doctrinal text. The first commentaries were by Yogācārins, both students of Xuanzang. Kuījī acknowledges that there is a Madhyamaka reading of the Heart Sutra, but his commentary asserts his own Yogācāra interpretation as superior. This view of Yogācāra as superior to, and partially superseding Madhyamaka, became common in East Asian Buddhism (it finds its way into the doctrines of Kūkai in early 9th Century Japan, for example).

The sutra continues to play a dual role: a magical ward and a written record of ineffable doctrine, though members of different sects all see it as demonstrating their own sectarian doctrine. In the sense of a speech act, the illocutionary force of chanting the text is ambiguous, especially in the light of the sutra typically being chanted in a way that obscures the words, e.g., chanting it in a language the devotee does not speak. One of the special qualities of this text is that the devotee need not understand it for the "power" of the text to be effective. I've met people who claim to have had profound shifts in their consciousness on hearing the Heart Sutra for the first time - usually in Sanskrit (which usually means Conze's flawed edition). Chanting the sutra, in whatever form, retains a certain magical quality. Buddhism has this flavour of magical wish fulfilment throughout - though the "wish-fulfilling gem" is a Mahāyāna invention. 

Many of the extant Indian manuscripts seem to have been created, not for reading, but as objet d'art, or even as objects of worship, placed on shrines and offered flowers, candles, and incense rather than read or studied. Tibetan Buddhists have made a fetish of not allowing a book to touch the ground for example - or the proxy of the ground in the form of the floor of a house. I once attended a Tibetan puja at someone's house. Seated cross-legged on a cushion on a mat, I put the puja text on the carpet in front of me. One of the members, without saying anything, came and placed a cushion under it. It was never explained to me what was going on and I didn't ask. The carpet seemed clean enough to me and it certainly was not the "ground" as houses in New Zealand tend to sit on piles that elevate them above the ground. I can only suppose that it was related to the old Indian superstition of the feet being taboo

And yet, contrarily, the apparent meaning of the text—the ineffable meaning— is considered to be vitally important and so the text is assiduously studied by generation after generation of Buddhist acolytes. Dozens of commentaries have been composed in dozens of languages. Typically, alongside chanting an incomprehensible version of the text, students of Mahāyāna will also study commentaries of the text in their own language. So, for example, Westerners will chant the text in Sanskrit or Chinese, but study an English language commentary by a famous Buddhist such as Thích Nhất Hạnh or the Dalai Lama. Chanting is magic, but apparently one must also try to understand a text that it is claimed defies understanding. Most teachers are more circumspect in explaining the inexplicable than Conze, in that they don't gloat about their superior insights. All of the commentaries I have seen quietly resort to hand-waving and misdirection when it comes to explaining "form is emptiness". The little books on the Heart Sutra also flatter the reader with simplistic explanations that are comprehensible. With practice, the reader can reproduce such interpretations so that they appear to understand the ineffable - at least well enough to win an argument. On the other hand, no one really seems to explain why the positive identity (form is emptiness) logically implies the negation of, for example, the Four Noble Truths. If "form is emptiness" then the Four Noble Truths are naturally affirmed rather than negated. I think, however, that Buddhists get a little frisson of excitement seeing their central doctrine being dismissed. They assume that it must be very profound, indeed. Yet, if someone outside Buddhism was to simply deny the Four Noble Truths, no doubt they would defend them to the hilt.

Here again, I struggle. Because, from a philological point of view, most commentary on the Heart Sutra is worthless or positively deleterious to understanding. And yet a "teacher" with a very tenuous grasp of Sanskrit who produces a flaky commentary of minimal literary or intellectual merit, may nevertheless have succeeded according to the aesthetic criteria of their sect. Commentators such as Red Pine or Mu Seong, seem to me to badly mislead their readership, but are still highly popular and even revered for their efforts. And my efforts to point out their mistakes are treated with scorn and derision. 

As someone with a great interest in philology, I struggle with an aesthetic sensibility which raises an error to the status of a profound truth, and in which a correction is resisted often with considerable hostility. The tension between philological and anthropological approaches to the text cannot easily be resolved because they are expressions of quite different values. But the tensions between these two outsider (etic) viewpoints are as nothing to the conflict of either with insider (emic) views. The anthropologist seeks to understand the insider on their own terms, but also to analyse those terms dispassionately, i.e., not accepting those terms. They study the emic view but retain an etic overview, relating their observations to some theory of human culture for example.

The insider simply accepts the terms, hook, line, and sinker. In return, they gain acceptance to the group with all of the benefits membership bestows (or ought to). In a sense, acceptance is the key human value. Acceptance is primal. Foucault pointed out that we willingly subject ourselves to power, willingly make ourselves into subjects, in return for membership. That power in human relationship does not force people to accept the situation, that we, ourselves, make it happen. We are not the victims of power, we actively participate in power-relations, whether we are high-status or low-status. This is far more obvious in other primates with their simpler lifestyles. One need only read Jane Goodall or Frans de Waal to see what primate societies are like and how we are very like them in many respects (though different as well). 



Conclusion

Is there really a crisis in Buddhist philology? In fact, despite Jonathan Silk's effort to provoke a crisis (and my own modest contribution), if one looks at the Buddhist Studies literature, it is very much business as usual. Philologists continue to churn out critical editions and studies of texts based on such editions. They still construct phylogenetic trees or stemma to illustrate how the texts are related to each other. However, in order to attract funding and meet artificial objectives, they study more and more obscure texts. Many of the new studies are on texts I've never heard of and that seem to have very little historical interest. 

The movement of research in the field of Buddhist studies can be glacial. Knowledge progresses over decades, if at all. There are very few exciting new developments or paradigm changing articles. Nattier's article on the Heart Sutra is still treated as provisional after 25 years, and very few people have paid it any critical attention. It has not provoked a flurry of follow-up articles. It has not changed minds. Silk himself (2013, 2015) still refers to the Chinese Heart Sutra as a translation from Sanskrit. 

In the meantime, Silk has launched The Open Philology Project to explore more dynamic ways of presenting texts that are more consistent with the reality of Buddhist texts. It will run over five years and hopefully produce some innovations in how philologists deal with Buddhist texts.

In reality, there is no crisis, but there should be one. The Heart Sutra illustrates this need, because it cannot be contained or understood within the current philological paradigm. The very idea of an ur-text crumbles. The values by which we judge the worth of the Heart Sutra cover such broad ground that even the metaphor of a spectrum doesn't cover it. I've suggested the image of a braided stream, but in fact, a riot might be more appropriate in this case.

The different starting points for discussing philology and the Heart Sutra—authenticity, authority, ownership, and aesthetics—give a broad picture, but it is an abstract expressionist picture. The Heart Sutra is an enigma, not for the reason people think, but because of the reactions it provokes: from mystical fascination to studied indifference; from magical thinking to serious (though dead-end) philosophy. The Heart Sutra has a way of reflecting the views that people take to it. It is both tabula rasa and carte blanche.

Even if Buddhist philology has the decency to have a crisis, I don't think that will have any effect on most Buddhist communities. They demonstrably operate under a very different set of values when it comes to texts. Despite being almost entirely dependent on the preservation and translation efforts of scholars, people interested in the Heart Sutra maintain a rather grim contempt for intellectuals. If anything, the crisis in conservative Buddhist establishments is social and related to the general decline of organised religions. They are content with medieval philosophy and resent intellectuals poking their noses in. If anything, philosophers are counter-revolutionaries, who tend to abandon their critical thinking when approaching medieval Indian "philosophy" and go native. I've seen many modern attempts to get to grips with Nāgārjuna's method, with apparent relish of the experience of confusion. I have yet to come across a single published attempt to identify, let alone assess the validity of, the axioms that Nāgārjuna takes for granted. As far as I can see, some of them are demonstrably false, and that undermines the whole enterprise. 

It is 25 years since Jan Nattier exposed the flaws in the received tradition about the history of Heart Sutra. In what is probably the best Buddhist Studies article ever written, she methodically works through the main thesis as well as a host of secondary issues with admirable clarity and thoroughness. Despite the comprehensive nature of her argument, Nattier left open a number of questions that have subsequently been largely ignored. In our three long articles, Huifeng and I have barely scratched the surface. I hope to get another long article published before the end of 2017 and have two shorter articles in mind.

I no longer think we will find interesting answers to important questions in ancient texts. They are fun to explore and I have been enriched by learning the languages, but pragmatically the future is ahead of us and the Iron Age has little to say about our problems. We cannot keep reinterpreting ancient texts and, in any case, the Buddhist establishment has little interest in new interpretations. Those developing secular applications of Buddhist techniques have little or no interest in the Buddhist superstructure of ancient ideas. Buddhist Studies as a scholarly field has resolutely avoided any confrontation with Buddhism (especially over axioms) and, as the field is increasingly funded by Buddhists, and staffed by Buddhist monks, the situation is probably only going to get worse.

There isn't a crisis in Buddhist philology, but there ought to be one. As Jonathan Silk concludes:
"... if we wish to come to terms with Buddhist scriptures, their forms and their authorship, if we wish to think critically about establishing texts, how to interpret texts and how to translate them, there are deep, deep waters into which we must plunge, thinking about and considering issues of authority, of ownership, of intension [sic], of our place in the long... transmission of this literature (2015: 223). 
~~oOo~~


Bibliography


Attwood, Jayarava. (2015) 'Heart Murmurs: Some Problems with Conze’s Prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya.' Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. http://ocbs.org/ojs/index.php/jocbs/article/view/104

Attwood, Jayarava. (2017). ‘Epithets of the Mantra’ in the Heart Sutra.' Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, 12, 26–57. http://jocbs.org/index.php/jocbs/article/view/155 [Subscription required until May 2018]

Huifeng, Shi. (2014). 'Apocryphal Treatment for Conze's Heart Problems: "Non-attainment", "Apprehension", and "Mental Hanging" in the Prajñāpāramitā.' Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. 6: 72-105. http://www.ocbs.org/ojs/index.php/jocbs/article/view/75

Silk, Jonathan A. (2013) 'Establishing/Interpreting/Translating: Is it just that easy?' [Conference] Authors and Editors in the Literary Traditions of Asian Buddhism, 16th September 2013, Wolfson College, University of Oxford. http://www.voicesfromoxford.org/video/prof-jonathan-silk-literary-buddhism/326

Silk, Jonathan A. (2015). 'Establishing/Interpreting/Translating. Is It Just That Easy?' JIABS 36/37: 205-226. Online: http://www.academia.edu/33124295/Establishing_Interpreting_Translating_Is_It_Just_That_Easy [edited text of Silk (2013)]



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