Showing posts with label Nattier. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nattier. Show all posts

19 January 2018

The Chinese Origins of the Heart Sutra Revisited

In 1992, Jan Nattier published the watershed article in which she made a very strong argument that the Heart Sutra was compiled/composed in China. As I have discussed, the reaction in Japan was one of horror, denial, and rejection. Not much of this has filtered through to the English-speaking world, except through the Zen-based commentaries of Red Pine and Kazuaki Tanahashi. I'm working on quantifying the proportions, but most English-speaking scholars accept or at least do not reject the thesis, while some remain sceptical and on the fence (largely because there has been little follow up).

This essay will outline the case as it stands now; i.e., as stated by Jan Nattier in 1992 and extended by Huifeng in 2014, and by me in 2015 and 2017 (though I will also draw on an article that is out for peer review and two more that I'm working on that I hope to submit in 2018). There are two main areas of interest: 1. where the Heart Sutra is a quotation from the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā-sūtra (Pañc) or "Perfection of Wisdom in 25,000 Lines" and 2. where it is an original composition. Nattier compared the words and sentence structure mainly from the former, but Huifeng and I have each extended this analysis into the conclusion.

Nattier compared four texts and showed that the most plausible way understanding their history was like this

Pañc (Sanskrit)
Pañc (Chinese)
Heart Sutra (Chinese)
Heart Sutra (Sanskrit)

The result is that the Sanskrit Heart Sutra often paraphrases Pañc. You can get a sense of what this process is like by getting Google translator to translate "form is not different from emptiness" into Mandarin, and then have Bing translator translate it back into English (note Babelfish does much less well).

There are some complications such as the potential confusion between Pañc as it appears in the Sūtra translation (T223) and as it appears embedded in the Upadeśa or commentary (T1509). But these are minor and do not affect the accuracy of the thesis.

Below are ten clues to the Chinese origins of the Heart Sutra. Since the text itself is only about 250 words, this is a very dense cluster of evidence. No.8

Core Section

In this section I will show the text as it appears in the Gilgit manuscript of Pañc, followed by Kumārajīva's translation of a similar Pañc text, followed by the parallel passage in the Sanskrit Heart Sutra. And then summarise how this contributes to the Chinese origins thesis. 

1. Form is no different from emptiness

nānyad rūpaṃ anyā śūnyatā 
rūpān na pṛthak śūnyatā

If we were being pedantic, then na anya X anya Y means "X is not one thing and Y another"; whereas X na pṛthak Y means "X is not different from Y". Two ways of saying that X and Y are the same. However, although it is grammatically correct, the X na pṛthak Y  idiom is not found in the Sanskrit Prajñāpāramitā literature, whereas the na anya X anya Y idiom is. (Nattier).

Some confusion arises because there are two Chinese ways of writing this idea: 1. 非色異空 and 2. 色不異空. Version 1 negates 非 the phrase 色異空 "form is different from emptiness". Version 2 only negates the verb/adjective 異 "is different from". To distinguish them we might translate 1 as, "it is not the case that form is different from emptiness" and 2 as, "Form is not different from emptiness". T250 uses 1 and T251 uses 2.

Some older editions of the Chinese Tripiṭaka use 2 in Kumārajīva's translation of the Large Sutra, but Taishō uses 1. Taishō has 2 in the Upadeśa. It's not entirely clear what this means, but it is possible that the whole quoted text in the Heart Sutra comes from the Upadeśa.

2. All dharmas are marked with emptiness

yā śūnyatā na sā utpadyate... 
是諸 法空相不生不滅 
sarva-dharmāḥ śūnyatā-lakṣaṇā anutpannā

In Pañc it is emptiness itself that doesn't arise, etc, and "all dharmas" are not mentioned (the same is true of the later Nepalese manuscripts). However, Kumārajīva's Chinese translation introduces "all dharmas", 諸 法, and syntactically makes them the subject of the sentence, changing the meaning substantially. The Heart Sutra follows Kumārajīva's Chinese translation rather than the Sanskrit text it supposedly quotes from.

The grammatical form also changes. Verbs are replaced by adjectives. See 3.

3.  Emptiness does not arise or pass away

na sā utpadyate, no nirudyate, na saṃkliśyate, na vyavadāyate, na hīyate, no vardhate 
不生 不滅不垢不淨不增不減 
anutpannā aniruddhā, amalā avimalā, anūnā aparipūrṇāḥ.

In the Sanskrit Heart Sutra a series of finite verbs in the 3rd person singular utpadyate are replaced by a series of adjectives in the masculine plural (to go with the noun dharmāḥ). 

And this is precisely the kind of confusion that medieval Chinese introduces. A character like 生 can be used as a verb, utpadyate, or as an adjective, utpanna, or for any other nominal or verbal derivative of ut√pad and probably a number of other verbal roots. How we read it is up to us. Without a very detailed knowledge of the Prajñāpāramita idiom in Sanskrit, we are likely to make the wrong choice in this circumstance. And the translator does. 

Note also that some of the adjectives in the Heart Sutra have similar meanings, but have changed roots. For example, na hīyate, "does not fall short" (< √) is translated as 不增, but then back-translated as an-ūna "not deficient". 

The list in Pañc is used frequently (in part and in full), with the same verbal roots used in this order but with different derivatives (past participles and action nouns). The list in the Heart Sutra is not found elsewhere, meaning that it was created ad hoc, rather than following the usual Buddhist practice of giving standard lists. (Nattier)

This is very strong evidence for the Chinese origins thesis but is often overlooked in discussions of Nattier's article.

4. Negated lists
na cakṣur na śrotraṃ na ghrāṇaṃ na jihvā kāyo na manaḥ 
na caksuḥ-śrotra-ghrāṇa-jihvā-kāya-manāṃsi

Such lists are frequent and often combined into one long compound. However, in Pañc the compounded form is only used for positive forms. Where the terms are negated, as here, Pañc always negates each individually. On the other hand, in Chinese we see the convention of supplying one negative particle for the list as a compound.

The Sanskrit Heart Sutra follows the Chinese convention rather than the Sanskrit convention.  The fact that we find a Chinese convention in a Sanskrit text is again a strong argument for the Heart Sutra being composed in Chinese (Nattier).

5. Na jñānam. Na prāptir

In the extant texts of Pañc this is na prāptir nābhisamayo “no attainment, no realisation”. The same wording is found in Mokṣala T221: 亦無所逮得 亦無須陀洹 (8.6a11-12) and in Xuánzàng T220-2: 無得 無現觀 (7.14a23).

Only two Chinese texts have 無智亦無得: the Heart Sutra and the Dàjīng (T223). This quirk shows that this passage in the Heart Sutra was copied from the Dàjīng (T223) and not from any other version of the text in either Sanskrit or Chinese.

Conclusion Section

Leaving behind the quoted section, we move onto the original composition. Since this section was composed in Chinese, arrows go away from the Chinese. Below the Chinese is the received translation. Above the Chinese, the Sanskrit word/phrase marked by an * is an attempt at conveying the meaning of the Chinese more accurately in the light of modern research. If you like, it is how the translator ought to have translated the text if they were more familiar with Sanskrit Prajñāpāramitā texts. On occasion, we can trace parts of the conclusion to Pañc as well. 

6. Practising non-apprehension

Kumārajīva uses 得 to represent a verbal noun from pra√āp, i.e., prāptiḥ. The author immediately uses the same character in the next phrase and it was, naturally, assumed to denote another word derived from pra√āp, i.e., aprāpritvād. However, Huifeng showed that Kumārajīva invariably translated the Sanskrit phrase anupalambhayogena using this Chinese phrase 以無所得故. The translation aprāptitvād could not have been composed in India because it relies on the ambiguity of the Chinese characters.

What's more, Huifeng argued that this word really goes with the quoted section. This qualifier moves us away from metaphysics and towards and epistemic reading of the text. (Huifeng) That is, it tells us that being in the state of emptiness and practising non-apprehension of dharmas is the only time that "no form" applies. (Attwood)

7.  His mind does not become attached

*asya cittaṃ na kvacit sajjati 
viharaty acittāvaraṇaḥ

Huifeng showed that cittāvaraṇa is simply the wrong translation here. 心無罣礙 translates "mind without attachment", where 罣礙 is a verb rather than a noun. He proposed to read 罣礙 as "hang", but I argued that it was more straightforward to read it as "attached". Similarly, the Sanskrit verb sajjati means "attach" or "become attached".  So, āvaraṇa, "impediment", is also clearly the wrong translation.

The phrase na kvacit sajjati occurs in both Aṣṭa and Pañcaviṃśāti. So, even though this is not a quote, we have a clear view of how Kumārajīva used this combination of characters (though Kumārajīva could be inconsistent, as we have seen). Āvaraṇa is not a bad guess, but it's not consistent with the Prajñāpāramitā idiom. Which argues against composition in India. (Huifeng).

There is nothing in the Chinese that could be read as viharati "he dwells". My supposition is that the translator was struggling for a word here, especially having read 罣礙 as a noun instead of a verb, and did not know the verb sajjati. They had to improvise and this was the best they could do.

8. Not being attached


If 心無罣礙 translates "mind without attachments", then 無罣礙故 means "because [it] is without attachments". The Sanskrit Heart Sutra renders this, "because of the non-existence of mental impediments". The construction nāstitvād "because of the non-existence of" is very strange and appears to be a one-off in Sanskrit. A Sanskrit-reader can see what it means, but there are simpler and more elegant ways to negate a noun (i.e., by adding the negative prefix a-). This construction implies someone familiar with the rules of Sanskrit, who did not feel bound by the conventions of idiom. It also continues the misreading that begins above.

9. Buddhas of the Three Times

atītānāgatapratyutpannā buddhā
tryadhvavyavasthitāḥ sarvabuddhāḥ

This is the smoking gun. All being well, I'll be publishing something on this in 2018, but this phrase in the Sanskrit Heart Sutra could only have come from translating a Chinese text because it involves an idiom that developed in Chinese and is never seen elsewhere in Indian Buddhist Sanskrit texts.

Now published as:
Attwood, Jayarava. (2018). 'The Buddhas of the Three Times and the Chinese Origins of the Heart Sutra.' Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. 15: 9-27.

10.  Prajñāpāramita is a vidyā

mahavidyeyaṃ bhagavan yaduta prajñāpāramitā | anuttareyaṃ bhagavan vidyā yaduta prajñāpāramitā asamasameyaṃ bhagavan vidyā yaduta prajñāpāramitā 
T250: 故知般若波羅蜜是大明呪 無上明呪 無等等明呪 (8.847.c24)
prajñāpāramitā mahāmantro mahāvidyāmantro anuttaramantro ‘samasamamantraḥ

In the passage from PañcPrajñāpāramitā was described as a great vidyā (mahāvidyā 大明呪 ) and unsurpassed vidyā (anuttarā vidyā 無上明呪) and an unequalled vidyā (無等等明呪). Kumārajīva uses 明呪 to translate vidyā. But it is mistaken for two words, 明呪 "bright dhāraṇī". 

After the advent of Tantric Buddhism in China (7th C) 呪 is used to translate mantra. Tantra subsumed the previously existing spell practices under the category of mantra. This makes no sense from the perspective of a few centuries early where dhāraṇī existed entirely outside the Tantric milieu. Therefore, the Sanskrit Heart Sutra came into being after the advent of Tantra when mantra chanting was finally accepted as a Buddhist practice. That said, Woncheuk (613–696) makes brief mention of having a Sanskrit text, though he does not treat it as authoritative.

The form found in T250 can only have come from T223, while T251 has been modified to reflect the wording of Xuanzang's translation in T220 while keeping Kumārajīva's phrasing.

Note: Mantra recitation is still seen as non-Buddhist and frowned on in Aṣṭa. It doesn't become a feature of Buddhism until the mid-7th Century in India and about a century later in China.

11. True and not hollow

*satyā na tucchakā
satyam amithyatvāt

These are adjectives of prajñāpāramitā and should be in the feminine gender. The translator seems to have misread them as related to a mantra (grammatically neuter). He also misread 虛 which means "hollow, empty, vain" for which tucchaka is a more obvious translation than mithyā "contrarily, incorrectly, improperly".

The translator has a penchant for abstract nouns in the ablative case, which adds the sense of "because of being in the state of [the noun]". So satyam amithyatvāt literally means "truth because there is no contrariness". If these are not adjectives then this is not a well-formed sentence.


We can now conclusively say that the Heart Sutra was composed in China without any equivocation or hedging. Not only is there a weight of evidence, but No.8 is the clincher. The "three times" idiom in the Heart Sutra can only be Chinese. It is not simply that there are some suspicious looking paraphrases, but that there are passages that look like Sanskrit translations of Chinese phrases. In the case of the three times, there is no other way to construe it. The Sanskrit is definitely a translation from Chinese. 

Again, we can unequivocally say that the Heart Sutra is an apocryphon. But then so are all Mahāyāna texts. Arguably all Buddhist texts are apocryphal. There is no Buddhist equivalent of divine revelation or the preserved word of god. The best a believer could argue is that the sutras were based on a true story. There is a great deal more internal contradiction and incoherence in the literature than is usually admitted and this militates against a single source. For example, the Pāḷi suttas clearly came from multiple sources.

We can also say that the person who translated the text from Chinese into Sanskrit was unfamiliar with the idioms of the Sanskrit Prajñāpāramitā literature. They had a bias for taking active sentences in Chinese and rendering them as a series of compound adjectives, and a preference for using abstract nouns in the ablative case, even when this was inelegant. They seem to have been forced to improvise on several occasions, by a limited Sanskrit vocabulary. Lastly, they produced a unique form of Chinese influenced Sanskrit—preserving Chinese literary conventions in Sanskrit translation—which to my knowledge has no parallel. In this sense, the Heart Sutra is unique.

To my eye, this does not look like the work of someone who translated millions of words of Sanskrit Prajñāpāramitā texts into Chinese and who is still acknowledged as a master of the art of translation. In other words, the idea that Xuanzang produced this shoddy work is not really credible. It is clearly the work of an inferior and parochial mind whose point of reference for the Prajñāpāramitā tradition was Kumārajīva's Chinese translations. Which ought not to surprise us, because Kumārajīva's translations have always been more popular that Xuanzang's. 

As for Tanahashi's idea that Avalokiteśvara transmitted the text of T251 to Xuanzang in India as a divine revelation (allowing him to claim that it is an "Indian text"), we would want to know why either the bodhisatva or the expert translator would only change a few key terms in Kumārajīva's text, while leaving the worst features—the mistakes—of it intact. This is not credible. 

Of course, I will need to properly frame these ideas and present the evidence to my "peers" in academia. I expect this to happen in due course. I'm hoping to get the last of the necessary corrections published this year along with one or two other papers about the text. Though getting published is less than half the battle. 80% of all articles in the humanities are never cited by another article. To date, I don't think any of my work on the Heart Sutra has been cited. There is little or no interest in the Heart Sutra in academia and little or no interest in critical scholarship amongst Buddhists. 


24 November 2017

Japanese Reception of the Chinese Origins Thesis

As I prepare material for my book on the Heart Sutra, I have been collating published responses to Jan Nattier's thesis that the text was composed in Chinese and (back)translated into Sanskrit (Nattier 1992). I suggested in a previous essay that the reception of Nattier's thesis in Japan has been and remains decidedly anti. New evidence of this has emerged in the form of an article by Ishii Kōsei (2015), translated by his English-speaking former student Dr Jeffrey Kotyk

Unfortunately, much of the research done in Japan is only ever published in Japanese and is thus inaccessible to the majority of Buddhist Studies researchers in the West. The linguistic burden is high in our field. I have varying levels of skill in Pāḷi, Sanskrit, and Medieval-Chinese, but adding modern Japanese just to get access to secondary literature is not feasible. A review article of the Japanese reception of Nattier's article by some qualified scholar is a desideratum, but since Prajñāpāramitā is a tiny niche in Buddhist Studies, it is unlikely ever to happen. 

Ishii is apparently writing in a milieu in which there have already been well-received attacks on Nattier's thesis of a kind that we have not seen in English. He cites publications by Fukui Fuminasa and Harada Wasō, but these apparently focus on the conjecture that Xuanzang might have been responsible for making the Sanskrit translation from Chinese. The conflation of the Chinese origins thesis with the Xuanzang as translator thesis is unhelpful. Nattier leaves open the possibility but, in the end, does not commit to Xuanzang being the translator. On the other hand, the evidence for Chinese origins is very strong. Ishii seems to think that it is because we Western scholars of Buddhist Studies are "not specialists in this respect" that we have fallen for Nattier's thesis, rather than the strength of her arguments.

Ishii thus see his article as contributing some details to an existing (Japanese)  consensus in the face of a general credulity and ignorance in the West. Without access to that consensus, we are forced to take his article on face value, which I'm sure does not do it justice. Be that as it may, I will briefly outline the main points of Ishii's article and then review his methods and conclusions. I may say that my own published research has touched on many of the issues that Ishii has raised and I am thus in a relatively unique position to comment. I am very much a specialist in this respect (see my list of publications).

A Precis of Ishii (2015)

Ishii begins by referencing Nattier's 1992 article with a focus on the idea that Xuanzang might have been involved in editing and translating it from Chinese to Sanskrit. The bulk of the article deals with the opening sentence of the Heart Sutra and with Nattier's translation of it, which Ishii suggests follows the Chinese text, largely on the basis that Nattier omits a word-for-word translation of svabhāva  (1992: 155). 

While Nattier is explicitly translating from a modified version of Conze's critical edition, Ishii refers only to the diplomatic edition based on several hand-copies of the Hōryūji manuscript, produced by Müller in 1884 (though he refers to this as a "critical edition", it is clearly not). In order to attempt to refute Nattier, Ishii launches into a lengthy exposition showing that the word svabhāva is present in the Sanskrit text, but absent in the Chinese, and that the passage overall has given translators some difficulty. He tries to establish a case for the word svabhāva being dropped by a Chinese translator (as it is dropped by Nattier). 

Ishii spends a good deal of time speculating on how to translate the Sanskrit text into Chinese, twisting it this way and that according to rules which may be obvious to his Japanese readers, but which are not at all clear to me. His point seems to be that one may, through a series of arbitrary changes, rearrange a Chinese translation of the Sanskrit, to fit the pattern of Chinese one finds in T251 (the standard Heart Sutra in East Asia). However, on face value the Sanskrit and Chinese texts are simply different. I am told that this may reflect the Japanese practice of rearranging Classical Chinese texts into the Japanese word order and only then interpreting them, a procedure known as  kaki-kudashi, 書き下し.

A particular problem is that the Sanskrit has three phrases, marked by the present participle caramāṇo, "practising") and two verbs with meaning "look" (vyava√lok) and "see" (√paś) - both using the pleonastic particle sma indicating the past or the present-in-the-past tense. One of the problems in Chinese is that there are only two verbs in this sentence, i.e., "practising" (行) and "clearly-seeing" (照見). Ishii seems to be saying that the latter is in fact two verbs in two distinct phrases, but rearranged in a series of aesthetic changes so that the two verb characters are together at the beginning of the two phrases, in the order verb1 verb2 phrase1 phrase2

Ishii then discusses the 照見 combination in Chinese literature (two examples) and the vyavalokayati sma/paśyati sma combination in Sanskrit. However, he seems to show that 照見 is used as a binomial verb - the two characters have to be taken together, rather than as two separate verbs, which undermines his case. He argues that, though the phrase 照見五蘊皆空 ("[he] saw the five skandhas were all empty") occurs nowhere else in Chinese, translating it as two phrases does not make sense. 

Next Ishii brings up the commentaries of Kuījī (Ji in the article) and Woncheuk. Ishii notes that Kuījī does not mention a Sanskrit text and that he used a minor variant of T251, which has an extra character  等 (Sanskrit ādi = English "etc") in two places. Woncheuk was also aware of this variant, and finds ādi in his Sanskrit text, though, of course, his commentary is on the text of T251. It is very likely that these two commentaries established T251 as the authoritative text of the Heart Sutra down to the present. Neither man mentions the differences between the versions in the introductory section. As Ishii hints, had a Sanskrit text been available, it would have been incumbent on the commentator to comment on differences, if only because Sanskrit texts were considered authoritative (this was the entire rationale behind Xuanzang's journey to India, after all).

Ishii reveals that his primary goal is still to criticise Nattier's omission of a word for word translation of svabhāva. He has spent 6 of the 8 pages of the article showing this, though we may say that this is an obvious point and one that has little bearing on the larger issue of where and when the Heart Sutra was composed.

Having laboured this point, Ishii briefly discusses the phrase 真實不虛, "true and not false". The Tang dynasty commentators all take this as a standalone phrase; however, Ishii claims that the Sanskrit manuscripts read "satyam amithyātvāt, prajñāpāramitā ukto mantra" which is the way Nattier translates it. Ishii uses the same method to translate the Sanskrit into Chinese, producing something different than the present Chinese text. Ishii seems unaware that Nattier is following Conze's edition, and that Conze's edition gives this passage as:
Tasmāj jñātavyam: prajñāpāramitā mahā-mantro mahā-vidyā-mantro ‘nuttara-mantro’ samasama-mantraḥ, sarva-duḥkha-praśamanaḥ, satyam amithyatvāt. Prajñā-pāramitāyām ukto mantraḥ. 
On this basis, then, Ishii declares that Nattier's thesis is a mistake and untenable. Had I been reviewing this article prior to publication, I would have argued that it need major modifications before being published. As it stands, the argument is difficult to follow and the evidence does not support the conclusion. 

Critique of Ishii (2015)

Core of the Thesis

Nattier's thesis mainly revolves around the core section of the Heart Sutra, which is a quote from Kumārajīva's text of the Large Sutra (T223). The Chinese Heart Sutra, especially T250 is identical with T223. T251 is identical, but missing a line at the beginning and one in the middle; and a few technical terms are "spelled" according to innovations introduced by Xuanzang. The Sanskrit Heart Sutra, by contrast, is a strangely unidiomatic paraphrase of the Sanskrit Large Sutra (compared to either the Gilgit recension or the later Nepalese recension).

The Sanskrit Heart Sutra contains a number of words or phrases that are hapax legomena (one of a kind), whereas the Sanskrit Large Sutra has a string of stock phrases. The Sanskrit Heart Sutra is unidiomatic in almost every place where it is possible to use a nonstandard synonym, that is, outside the settled technical vocabulary of Buddhist jargon.

There is no doubt in my mind, despite some minor slips on Nattier's part, that the thesis is accurate. I think I have the smoking gun for this, but have not yet had time to check all of the details and write it up. So far as I can tell the term sarvabuddhāḥ tryadhvavyavasthitāḥ "all the Buddhas existing in the three times" is a translation of a phrase that only ever occurs in Chinese, i.e., 三世諸佛. This is literally, "three time all buddha", but we would translate it as "all the buddhas of the three times". Sanskrit texts always use the wording atītānāgatapratyutpannāḥ buddhāḥ instead, i.e., "past, future, and present buddhas". There is no way that the Sanskrit Heart Sutra could be anything but a translation from Chinese, produced by someone unfamiliar with Sanskrit Prajñāpāramitā idiom. I need to do a very thorough check on the various texts, but I think this conjecture will stand up to scrutiny and provide definitive proof of the Chinese origins thesis.

Whatever minor flaws we may find in Nattier's analysis, the main conclusion that the Heart Sutra was composed in Chinese is already beyond reasonable doubt. While I would be interested to get more insights into the problems that Japanese scholars see, I cannot imagine how they think they have disproved the thesis. Ishii has certainly not done so in this article, though, strangely, he provides quite a good summary of the evidence presented by Nattier. However, Ishii does not even touch on this central problem or any of the evidence for it, but concentrates instead on peripheral and seemingly trivial issues that have no impact at all on the issues at hand.

Both of the passages that Ishii comments on are outside the core part of the text; i.e., not part of the quoted section, but part of the original composition that accompanies it, one in the introduction and one in the concluding passage.

Flaw in the Introduction

Before addressing Ishii's comments in the introduction I need to point out that I have showed that Conze (and, for that matter, Müller) made a mistake in his edition. In the first (three phrase) sentence, pañcaskandhās is nominative plural and vyavalokayati sma is intransitive, both of which are nonsensical and make the sentence impossible to parse as Sanskrit. In fact, as some manuscripts allow, the noun should be in the accusative plural, pañcaskandhāṃs (simply add anusvāra to dhā). If we do this, pañcaskandhāṃs becomes the object of vyavalokayati sma. The result is a sentence that can be parsed and that does not require any punctuation (Attwood 2015).

Without solving this problem the Sanskrit sentence cannot be parsed or translated without fudging things. Both Nattier and Ishii fail to notice anything amiss, here. But, then, so do all other scholars, apparently.  In this respect, the Heart Sutra is a curiously neglected text, given its popularity. My next published article will identify and solve another simple error in Conze's edition (in Section VI) that has also gone unnoticed (the flaw is already outlined in my essay Red Pine's "Vagaries of Sanskrit grammar" 13 October 2017, but the article will give rigour to the conjecture).

The main problem that Ishii highlights, other than Nattier's failure to provide a word-for-word translation of svabhāva, is that the Chinese has two phrases and the Sanskrit three phrases. If we assume that the Sanskrit is original, then we expect three phrases in the Chinese, as well. In order to make three phrases, Ishii proceeds to rearrange the characters 照見 to make one verb into two verbs, each applying to two different parts of the sentence. 照 can, in fact, mean "inspect, regard" which is what vyavalokayati means, so in that sense this procedure makes a certain amount of sense.

However, Ishii's method seems to require us to believe that Chinese has no syntax rules. We know that Buddhist Chinese does follow syntax rules, albeit that it sometimes follows medieval Chinese and sometimes Indic rules. Ishii's method is a classic case of making the data fit the hypothesis. It is a post hoc rationalisation. His method is not sound, and not consistent with established principles of philology.

In all of this procedure it is never explained why a Chinese translator would omit the word svabhāva from their translation if it occurs in the Sanskrit text, nor why they would condense three phrases down to two. Nothing is explained. 

Assuming that we ignore the overwhelming case of a Chinese origin for the core section, there is no way to establish precedence by comparing the number of phrases in a given passage outside the core. In my work on the epithets of the mantra (Attwood 2015) I showed that the number of epithets varied from 2 to 8 in unpredictable ways. Note also that Conze's English translation of his Sanskrit, has an fourth phrase as he struggled to turn his garbled Sanskrit into comprehensible English.

True and Not False

It is ironic that Ishii should bring up 真實不虛, because the Sanskrit is clearly a mistranslation of the Chinese. Although the combination of 真實 and 不虛 is common in Chinese, the combination of satya and amithyā never occurs in Sanskrit outside the Heart Sutra, where is is one of several hapax legomena. Although Ishii provides several examples of the use of 真實不虛 in Chinese, he never gives the Sanskrit equivalent. Since we know that it is not satyam amithyātvāt, it would be most interesting to see what the equivalent is. 

However, the problem here is deeper: satyam amithyātvāt is nonsensical as it stands. Amithyā does not mean "false"; i.e. ,it is not an antonym for satya, which would be mṛṣa or even asatya. Mithyā, on the other hand, is the antonym of samyañj, and it means "wrong" (as in "going about something the wrong way, against the grain, in the wrong direction"). Worse, in fact 虛 isn't an antonym of 真實, "true", either, but, instead, means, "hollow, empty; vain, pointless". The passage does not mean "true and not false"; it means "true and not in vain". And amithyā cannot be construed as a good translation of this. And the word in Sanskrit that might correspond to this is tucchaka. A better English translation would thus be "true and effective". A better Sanskrit translation would be satyaṃ atucchakaṃ. Again, I hope to publish something on this, but it is another case of something that ought to have been obvious to anyone who reads Buddhist Sanskrit texts. 

Syntactically, in Chinese both qualities are predicates of prajñāpāramitā (there is no suggestion that one is the cause of the other). It makes no sense at all, in Sanskrit, to take satyam amithyātvād with the following passage. Amithyātvād is weird: the wrong word in the wrong form in the wrong case. It is not the weirdest thing about the Sanskrit Heart Sutra, but I find it hard to believe that it has not caused other scholars to scratch their heads.

Miscellaneous Criticisms

It is strange that Ishii would use Müller's diplomatic edition rather than the critical edition by Conze. Despite being flawed in places, it is still the result of comparing many different manuscripts. At one point Ishii refers to "most of the extant Sanskrit manuscripts", but he does not cite any one of them. We have to wonder what sources he consulted, or whether he referred to Conze's notes in his edition? In which case, why not use that edition as his Sanskrit source?

At one point Ishii makes a big deal of the Chinese translations of the extended version of the Heart Sutra T253, T254, T255, and T257. He must surely be aware that there is no dispute that these are translations from Sanskrit. The dates are clearly recorded in Chinese and that they come from a much later period. They have no bearing on the matter of which language the text was composed in. Citing them doesn't help his case at all.

Thinking about Woncheuk's reference to a version with 等 (ādi) in it, Lusthaus (2003) also tries to make something of this. But so what? The version is no longer extant and was not canonised - no one saw it as important enough to preserve. And as before, it doesn't affect the main arguments. Ishii and Lusthaus both fail to see that, although Woncheuk appears to have had a Sanskrit text, he does not treat it as authoritative. Rather, he comments on T251 as the authoritative version of the text. So does Kuījī. Under what circumstances does a Sanskrit "original" (as Lusthaus calls it) not trump a Chinese translation in early medieval China? In fact, both Kuījī and Woncheuk were aware that the Heart Sutra was not a sutra, and Kuījī at least knew it contained a quote from T223  (see Nattier 1992: 206-7, n.33). So this is not news. It is quite likely that it is precisely these two commentaries that establish T251 as the authoritative text in China and its cultural sphere. This is entirely inconsistent with the pair having a Sanskrit "original".


The text of the Sanskrit Heart Sutra is so far from the idiom of Prajñāpāramitā Sanskrit literature, Buddhist Sanskrit literature, or any other kind of Sanskrit literature, that the fact itself is (or ought to be) remarkable. The Heart Sutra stands alone in the entire body of Sanskrit literature and is only related to the other Prajñāpāramitā texts by its use of jargon. This is not consistent with being composed in India. It is consistent with having been composed in China by someone proficient in Sanskrit, but without any great knowledge of idiom. This could not have been Xuanzang - who was more familiar with Sanskrit Prajñāpāramitā idiom than anyone in China at the time. I think the mistakes highlighted by Huifeng (2014) also helped to cement the Chinese origins thesis. The translator has misread the Chinese text at times and has struggled to find the Sanskrit vocabulary to express the Chinese concepts at others. Again, this is inconsistent with a monk in an Indian Sanskrit-using context. The translator was relatively isolated.

I admit, I was hoping for something a bit more challenging from Ishii and I found the article quite disappointing. He concentrates on peripheral issues and provides no refutation of the very strong evidence put forward already (and added to by Huifeng and myself in the last couple of years). The methods are not sound and the conclusions are weak and do not derive from the evidence presented. It looks like a tendentious throwing together of evidence to support a preconceived conclusion. "It is inconceivable that the Heart Sutra was composed in China, therefore it wasn't. QED." But this is hardly the standard of argumentation and reasoning we expect from a senior academic.

Like other scholars before him, Ishii has simply overlooked the grammatical errors in the Sanskrit text, which I am less and less inclined to forgive in professionals. After all, professionals are, on the whole (with a few notable exceptions), very hard on me when I dare to encroach on their territory and do not meet their high standards. So yes, let's have high standards, but that includes not being duped into accepting simple grammatical errors in our texts. 

We should, of course, not judge Japanese scholarship more generally on the basis of this single example, even though Ishii is a senior member of the Japanese Buddhist Studies establishment. We can hope that the article does not reflect the state of the art in Japan. However, it is not a good sign that such a weak and confused article could be published in a peer-reviewed journal at all. 


Attwood, Jayarava. (2015). Heart Murmurs: Some Problems with Conze’s Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya. ​​Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, 8, 28-48.

Attwood, Jayarava. (2017).  ‘Epithets of the Mantra’ in the Heart Sutra. Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, 12, 26–57.

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.

Ishii, Kosei. (2015) 『般若心経』をめぐる諸問題 ―ジャン・ナティエ氏の玄奘創作説を疑う = ‘Issues Surrounding the Heart Sutra: Doubts Concerning Jan Nattier's Theory of a Composition by Xuánzàng.’ Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies (Indogaku Bukkyogaku Kenkyu), 2015, 64(1), 499-492. (Translated by Jeffrey Kotyk).

Lusthaus, Dan. (2003) 'The Heart Sūtra in Chinese Yogācāra: Some Comparative Comments on the Heart Sūtra Commentaries of Wŏnch’ŭk and K’uei-chi.' International Journal of Buddhist Thought & Culture. September, Vol. 3: 59-103.

20 April 2017

Heart Sutra Anomaly


It was apparent, even to the late 7th Century commentators Woncheuk and Kuījī, that the Heart Sutra contained quotations from the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā-sūtra (PPS) (Nattier 1992: 206-7, no. 33). In this essay, I will compare and contrast the various source texts for part of one of the quotations. We will see that a substantial change was introduced in translation of the PPS produced by Kumārajīva's translation team in 404 CE, though we don't know if this was evident in their source text or was an innovation at that time. Jan Nattier (1992: 205, n.26) already noted this in her watershed article on the Chinese origins of the Heart Sutra, but it has received scant attention since. And it raises interesting issues regarding authenticity and the role of modern philologers.

Nattier compared various versions of the quoted passage from PPS with the versions found in the various Heart Sutras. The Chinese Heart Sutra text is nearly identical to the Chinese PPS created by Kumārajīva's translation team ca. 404 CE (i.e., Taishō Sūtra No. 223). The Sanskrit Heart Sutra is, however, different in many ways from the extant Sanskrit PPS manuscripts (one cache from Gilgit, ca 6th Century and another from Nepal, ca. 19th Century). The versions differ in syntax at some points and differ in lexicon at others, but they mostly do not differ in semantics. Where sentence structures and word choices are different, the Heart Sutra still conveys the same message -- except in one case, which I will call "Section 3" in this essay (I've broken the quoted passage into a sequence of sections for my own purposes).

The obvious conclusion is that the Sanskrit Heart Sutra is a paraphrase of the Sanskrit PPS, while the Chinese Heart Sutra is a direct quote from T223. The paraphrasing occurred because the extract went from Buddhist Sanskrit (composed ca. 1st Century CE) through the filter of Middle Chinese (sometime between 404 and 664 CE) and back to something like Classical Sanskrit (before the death of Xuanzang in 664). The meaning was preserved, but many particulars of how that was communicated were changed.

We can see how this might work using Google translator to go between English to Mandarin and back:
  1. Original: Form is only emptiness. Form is not different from emptiness.
  2. Eng→Man: 形式只是空虛。 形式與空虛沒有區別。
  3. Man→Eng: The form is just empty. There is no difference between form and emptiness.
The words mean the same, but they are paraphrased. The effect on a highly inflected language like Sanskrit could be rather more dramatic, because a good deal of grammatical information is lost in converting to Middle Chinese. And if the translator from Chinese into Sanskrit was not familiar with the Prajñāpāramitā idiom in Sanskrit, then this would also amplify the effect.

We have five versions of the quoted passage from different times and places:
  • 《放光般若經》 by Mokṣala (291 CE). T221 8.6a06-6a13.
  • 《摩訶般若波羅蜜經》 by Kumārajīva (404 CE). T223 8.223a13-a24
  • Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā-sūtra. Gilgit Ms. ca 6th C. Facsimile by Karashima et al (2016). 21v-22r.
  • 《大般若波羅蜜多經》 by Xuánzàng. (659-663 CE). T220-ii; Fasc. 401-478 7.13a12ff.
  • Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā-sūtra Nepal Ms. ca 19th C. Edition by Kimura (2012) 1-1: 64
In this essay I will examine two extracts: section 1 and section 3. Section 1 is useful to review since it is the centre piece of Jan Nattier's argument that the Heart Sutra was composed in China and in the Chinese Language. It demonstrates her notion of "back-translation" but, given the alternative reading, also demonstrates the complexities involved.

Section 1
Mok.色與空等無異 所以者何?色則是空 空則是色
Kj.舍利弗 色不異空 空不異色* 色即是空 空即是色
Xz.舍利子 色不異空 空不異色 色即是空 空即是色 hi śāradvatīputrānyad rūpam anyā śunyatā nānyā śunyatānyad rūpam rūpam eva śunyatā śunyataiva rūpam evaṃ nānyā vedanānyā śunyatā |
Nep.tathā hi śāriputra nānyad rūpam anyā śūnyatā nānyā śūnyatā anyad rūpaṃ rūpam eva śūnyatā śūnyataiva rūpam
*The notes in the Taishō Tripiṭaka say that some editions have 非色異空 非空異色 here. This is important because the two main versions of the Heart Sutra have different versions of this. T251 has the form above, while T250 has this alternate form.
The syntax here is one of the key differences that Nattier noted in 1992 as evidence for her Chinese origins hypothesis. PPS has na anya X anya Y, whereas Heart Sutra has X na pṛthak Y. Note that anya "other" is a pronoun which takes the gender, case, and number of the noun it qualifies. These both mean the same thing; i.e., that X and Y are not different or, in plain English, "X is the same as Y".

There are also two different syntaxes in Chinese: X 不異 Y and 非 X 異 Y (which, in some ways, mirrors the Sanskrit paraphrasing). The Chinese texts all follow very similar conventions:
ChineseEnglishSaṃsṛktam notes
form rūpa
emptiness śūnyatā
not naGeneric pre-verbal negative
without, un-, -lessa-
is not na (asti)Generic negative for sentences, especially identities
different anya/pṛthak
則/即only eva
Comparing the versions, we can see here that Xuanzang largely followed Kumārajīva. All that he changed was the spelling of the name Śāriputra. Kumārajīva uses a phonetic transcription which in Middle Chinese would have been something like sharibut. The final /t/ was pronounced strongly in Old Chinese and may have sounded very like the Central Asian pronunciation of the name in Prakrit (cf. Gāndhārī: Śariputra; Pāli: Sāriputta). Note that final -a is also dropped in modern Hindi with similar effect (compare also Nattier 1992: 216, n.91). Xuanzang kept the shari, but replaced the last syllable with the Chinese character for son, 子, to translate Sanskrit putra.

An oddity is that Gil. has Śāradvatīputra for Śāriputra. This is actually common, but not reflected in the Chinese translations, which all have the latter.

Mokṣala phrases his first sentence differently: 色與空等無異 means "form and emptiness, etc 等, are not different"; while 所以者何?is "And why?". What follows is the same except that Sanskrit eva is conveyed with 則 where Kumārajīva and Xuanzang both use 即.

Section 1 was the entrée, now we move onto the main course.

Section 3
Mok.亦不見生 亦不見滅 亦不見著 亦不見斷 亦不見增 亦不見減 亦不過去當來今現在
Kum.舍利弗 是諸法空相 不生不滅 不垢不淨 不增不減 是空法非過去 非未來 非現在
Xz舍利子 是諸法空相 不生不滅 不染不淨 不增不減 非過去非未來非現在
Gil.yā śāradvatīputra śunyatā na sā utpadyate na nirudhyate | na saṃkliśyate na vyavadāyate | na hīyate na vardhate | nātītā nānāgatā na pratyutpannā
Nep.śūnyatā śāriputra notpadyate na nirudhyate na saṃkliśyate na vyavadāyate na hīyate na vardhate nātītā nānāgatā na pratyutpannā yā ca īdṛśī
These are all saying something similar. Here, something does not arise (不見生, 不生, na sā utpadyate, notpadyate) it does not cease; it's not defiled and not pure; it is not deficient* and does not grow; it is not part, future, or present. The big difference involves what that something is.
* hīyate (passive form of √) is the verb from which the adjective hīna derives. It means "deficient, wanting; excluded; abandoned; etc."
In both the Gilgit and Nepalese PPS texts, it is śūnyatā that is the subject of these sentences; i.e., it is śūnyatā, itself, which does not arise or cease, etc. However, in the Chinese text of Kumārajīva a whole new phrase is inserted which says: "all dharmas are marked with emptiness" (是諸法空相). Xuanzang also has this phrase; he may simply have followed Kumārajīva. As Nattier points out, "In this context, without an explicit subject in the Chinese text, the reader would most naturally conclude that the subject is 'all dharmas'." (1992: 205, n.26). And this is, indeed, how the translator of the Heart Sutra seems to have read the text, translating sarvadharmāḥ śūnyatālakṣaṇā...

This discrepancy is not one of paraphrasing or selecting different synonyms as it is in other cases. The new phrase completely changes the meaning of this sentence, though the (intransitive) actions are the same, the subject "undertaking" the actions is different.

Another major difference here, of which Nattier says "most striking of all", becomes apparent when we look at the Sanskrit Heart Sutra passage:
iha śāriputra sarvadharmāḥ śūnyatālakṣaṇā anutpannā aniruddhā amalā avimalā anūnā aparipūrṇāḥ
Nattier notes (172 and notes) that where the Sanskrit PPS has singular verbal forms, consistent with śūnyatā being the grammatical subject, the Heart Sutra has nominal forms in the plural. She reminds us that while plurals may be marked in Chinese, they frequently are not; and that any given character may function as noun, adjective, or verb depending on context.
Gil.Kj.Heart Sutra
na sā utpadyate 不生 anutpannā
na nirudhyate 不滅 aniruddhā
na saṃkliśyate 不垢 amalā
na vyavadāyate 不淨 avimalā
na hīyate 不增 anūnā
na vardhate 不減 aparipūrṇāḥ
"In each case the Chinese is a perfectly good rendition of the terminology contained in the Sanskrit Large Sutra, while the Sanskrit Heart Sutra, in turn, represents a perfectly good rendition of the Chinese" (Nattier 1992: 172).
Repairing this artefact of translation would be relatively easy, were it not for the phrase 是諸法空相. However, the Chinese Heart Sutra contains this phrase because it is in the source text. Admittedly, the terms have been altered from verbal to nominal forms, and we could fix this; the matter of the extra phrase is more difficult because we only have a small number of Sanskrit texts and it is not found in either, despite the antiquity and relative fidelity of the Gilgit ms.

All Dharmas and the Mark of Emptiness

Where does the phrase 是諸法空相 come from? The CBETA Lexicon tool shows that the phrase does not occur in any Chinese text before Kumārajīva uses it in T223, his translation of PPS. In the Sanskrit PPS (Kimura) the compound sarvadharma occurs quite often with svabhāvaśunya; e.g.:
  • tathā hi svabhāvaśūnyāḥ sarvadharmāḥ. (PSP_2-3:129)
  • svabhāvaśūnyā hi subhūte sarvadharmāḥ. (PSP_4:55)
  • svabhāvaśūnyā hi kulaputra sarvadharmāḥ. (PSP_4:94)
  • tathā hi bhagavan sarvadharmāḥ śūnyāḥ. (PSP_4:130)
But in the whole text śūnyatālakṣaṇa occurs only twice:
bhagavān āha: śūnyatālakṣaṇā hi devaputrā iyaṃ gambhīrā prajñāpāramitā, ānimittalakṣaṇā hi devaputrā iyaṃ gambhīrā prajñāpāramitā, apraṇihitalakṣaṇā hi devaputrā iyaṃ gambhīrā prajñāpāramitā. (PSP_4:67)
"The bhagavan said, for this profound perfection of wisdom, O small gods (devaputrā), has the mark of emptiness; this profound perfection of wisdom, O small gods, has the mark of signlessness; this profound perfection of wisdom, O small gods, has the mark of desirelessness." (Cf Conze 1975: 351 - the text is almost obscured by imposed subject headings).
Which is a reference to the three vimokṣas and thus to śūnyatā as meditative state, not abstract principle. And:
sarvadharmā hi subhūte viviktā asvabhāvāḥ svabhāvaśūnyāḥ, anena subhūte paryāyeṇa yena lakṣaṇena prajñāpāramitā saṃvidyate tenaiva lakṣaṇena sarvadharmāḥ saṃvidyante yad uta viviktalakṣaṇena śūnyatālakṣaṇena. PSP_5:12
"For, Subhūti, all mental objects are isolated, without essence, empty of essence. In this way, Subhūti, perfection of wisdom is recognised by this mark, that is, by the mark of isolation, the mark of emptiness." (Cf Conze 1975: 441, who seems to translate every other verb as "exists", but here and elsewhere saṃvidyate clearly does not mean "exist", but instead means, "is known, is recognised; is perceived")
This doesn't really help us, because, here, it is prajñāpāramitā that is marked with emptiness (śūnyatālakṣaṇa). Now ,we have a third object to which this condition can apply. In a related passage from the Aṣṭasāhasrikā we find:
śūnyatāsvabhāvā hi subhūte pañca skandhāḥ, asvabhāvatvāt / na ca subhūte śūnyatā lujyate vā pralujyate vā (Aṣṭa XII; Vaidya 126. Cf. Conze 1973: 173)
For, Subhūti, the five skandhas are the essence of emptiness, because they have no essence. And, Subhūti, emptiness cannot break or destruct.
The point is that śūnyatā cannot be broken (√ruj, pra√ruj), which is at least related to the idea that it doesn't arise and pass away.
As an aside, here lujyate is from a PIE root *leug̑- "to break" (the only common English cognate is lugubrious). The dialect of the composers of the Ṛgveda only had r; however, the text was redacted by speakers of a dialect that retained the r/l distinction who reinserted l. The Eastern dialect of Māgadhī developed into l-only (King Asoka referred to himself as lāja rather than rāja); whereas Western dialects tended towards r-only (See Despande p.70ff.). This is interesting because recent evidence has shown that the original Prajñāpāramitā text was composed in a western dialect, namely Gāndhārī (Falk and Karashima).
There is an interesting passage in Aṣṭa XV:
iha subhūte bodhisattvā mahāsattvā anuttarāṃ samyaksaṃbodhim abhisaṃbuddhāḥ santo lokasya ākāśagatikaṃ rupamiti dharmaṃ deśayanti | evaṃ vedanā saṃjñā saṃskārāḥ | evameva subhūte sarvadharmā ākāśagatikā anāgatikā agatikā ākāśasamāḥ | yathā ākāśam anāgatam agatam akṛtam avikṛtam anabhisaṃskṛtam, asthitam asaṃsthitam avyavasthitam, anutpannam aniruddham, evam eva subhūte sarvadharmā anāgatā āgatā ākṛtā avikṛtā anabhisaṃskṛtā asthitā asaṃsthitā avyavasthitā anutpannā aniruddhā ākāśakalpatvādavikalpāḥ | (Aṣṭa 15.2)
Here, Subhūti, the bodhisatvas mahāsatvas, being unexcelled fully-enlightened Buddhas, teach the Dharma that form has the [same] condition of space in the world. So also sensation, apperception, and volition. In the same way, Subhūti, all dharmas have the condition of space, not coming, not going, just like space. Just as space does not come or go, it is not made or unmade or shaped, it does not last, remain, or endure, it does not arise or cease, so also all dharmas do not come or go; they are not made or unmade or shaped, they do not last, remain, or endure, they do not arise or cease, they are not falsely distinguished from these aspects of space.
And the reason this is true is that, "all dharmas are in a state of emptiness" (śūnyatāgatika sarvadharmāḥ).

Another interesting passage is the section which uses the Gāndhārī alphabet (a ra pa ca na...) as an acrostic by which to remember various aspects of emptiness upon which to meditate. In PPS (Kimura 1-2: 85) we find the phrase:
akāro mukhaḥ sarvadharmāṇām ādyanutpannatvāt
The letter 'a' is a door, because of the primordial non-arising of all dharmas.
Here mukha is usually (following Conze) rendered as "door" or "opening", but may also mean "mouth, face, head; chief". What the letter 'a' (a-kāra) is, in practice, a mnemonic, a place holder or a reminder, for a word that begins with that letter, i.e., anutpanna 'unarisen'. More hints about the meditation practice are found elsewhere in the text:
"Moreover, Subhuti, the Bodhisattva, who courses in perfect wisdom, admonishes the Bodhisattvas as follow: 'Sons of good family, may you become skilled in the consummation of the letters! May you become skilled in one letter, in two letters, etc., to: in forty-two letters! May you through these forty-two letters come to a state which has moved away from everything. May you meditate on the 42 letters as contained in one letter, and may you meditate on one single letter as contained in 42 letters!" (PPS VIII 5.3; Conze 1975: 587. For more on this, see my essay The Wisdom Alphabet Meditation on
Although I don't think there is any direct connection between the Heart Sutra and the Arapacana Alphabet, this does, at least, confirm that the idea of dharmas not arising was also stated in this context. However, as discussed in the essays about form is emptiness, I think this refers to the state of śūnyatā-samādhi, where there is no experience. Buddhists involved in the Prajñāpāramitā texts seem to have come to ontological conclusions on the basis of this experience. By this I mean they adopted the stance that śūnyatā-samādhi was reality, or at least a more fundamental reality than what we normally experience. When you take consciousness and subtract all experience, what you are left with is awareness with no subject or object, no spatial or temporal orientation, and so on. This state is often described as "luminous".

While this certainly tells us something interesting and profound about the nature of our minds, I think it is a mistake to turn from epistemology to ontology on this basis. Defining reality on this basis seems, frankly, foolish to me. Reality is almost impossible to understand from a single point of view, which has led to a tendency to solipsism in both Western and Eastern philosophy, even after the power of comparing notes on experience has been demonstrated by scientists.

The solipsistic tendency in "hardcore" Buddhism is pronounced and, perhaps, unavoidable. The experience of no (normal) experience is so vivid and compelling that it must be hard not to use it as an absolute reference point around which we organise our worldview, if we have it, just as ontological dualism seems entirely plausible to those who've had out of body experiences, or God seems to exist for those who've had that kind of experience.


In many cases where the Heart Sutra is problematic, where Conze has made a mistake (Nattier 1992, Attwood 2015) or where the original Sanskrit translator has made a mistake (Huifeng 2014, Attwood 2017), the philologist can see the error and suggest a solution (although some philologers seem reluctant to offer such solutions, I am not). Of course, whether religieux accept such suggestions is another matter. Even errors can be authoritative when they are over 1000 years old.

But in this case there is no obvious resolution. The introduction of the phrase "all dharmas are marked with emptiness" is a discontinuity, because it is not found in any Sanskrit witness, albeit that we have very few Sanskrit witnesses: only a handful of manuscripts in two small caches.

That said, the idea is itself fairly orthodox and in keeping with many statements found elsewhere in the Prajñāpāramitā literature. So it is not wrong in the way that some other parts of the Heart Sutra are wrong. Once again, we see the issues of authority and authenticity are complex with respect to the Heart Sutra. The creator of the text appears to have faithfully copied a passage from Kumārajīva's text, and the Sanskrit translator to have tackled it with some success, even if some of his word choices were not. But where did Kumārajīva get it from? Did Xuanzang also have a source with this phrase, or did he include it because it was in Kumārajīva's text, which he was apparently copying (at least in this passage)?



Conze, Edward. (1973). The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines and its Verse Summary. San Francisco: City Lights, 2006.

Conze, Edward. (1975). The Large Sutra of Perfect Wisdom. University of California Press.

Deshpande, Madhav M. (1995) 'Vedic Aryans, non-Vedic Aryans, and non-Aryans: Judging the Linguistic Evidence of the Veda', in Erdosy, George. The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co.

Falk, Harry and Karashima, Seishi. (2012). ‘A First-Century Prajñāpāramitā Manuscript from Gandhāra — parivarta 1 (Texts from the Split Collection 1)’. ARIRIAB 15: 19-61.

Karashima, Seishi, et al. (2016) Mahāyāna Texts: Prajñāpāramitā Texts (1). Gilgit Manuscripts in the National Archives of India Facsimile Edition Volume II.1. The National Archives of India and The International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology, Soka University, Tokyo.

Kimura, Takayasu. (2010). Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā. Tokyo: Sankibo Busshorin.

Nattier, Jan (1992). ‘The Heart Sūtra: a Chinese apocryphal text?’ Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 15 (2) 153-223. Online:

03 April 2015

Chinese Heart Sutra: Dates and Attributions

One of the important conclusions of Jan Nattier's 1992 article on the Heart Sutra was that the traditional dates ascribed to its composition could not be correct and that it is more likely that it was composed in the 7th century, a time period which coincides with the life of Xuánzàng (602 – 664 CE) and his activity as pilgrim and translator. This coincidence allows Nattier to speculate that it might even have been Xuánzàng who translated the text from Chinese into Sanskrit. The speculation is bolstered by the fact that Xuánzàng has form in this area. He is known to have translated the Chinese authored 《大乘起信論》 (Dàshéng qǐxìn lùn) or Awakening of Faith in Mahāyāna into Sanskrit.

In this essay I will rehearse Nattier's arguments about chronology and attribution of the Chinese translations as a prelude to discussing the challenge to them published by Dan Lusthaus. Lusthaus (2003) draws attention to two Chinese commentaries on the Heart Sutra, one of which appears to refer to alternate versions of the Heart Sutra in a way that Lusthaus claims poses "serious problems" for Nattiers conclusions about the chronology of the Heart Sutra. As one of the few scholars to engage critically with Nattier's thesis in print, Lusthaus's article is interesting both for the new information it presents and for the test it provides for the Chinese Origin thesis.

Another reason to rehearse this aspect of Nattier's thesis, is that that the popular Zen inspired commentaries seem to struggle with it. Red Pine, Mu Seong, and Kazuaki Tanahashi all seem to be in denial about the evidence. As such, most modern readers are given the impression that Nattier's argument is weak or improbable. But this is not the case.

In this essay I favour the Pinyin Romanisation of Chinese characters. Lusthaus and Nattier both use the Wade-Giles system. Additionally, Lusthaus uses McCune–Reischauer for the name of the Korean monk 원측, and the Revised Romanisation of Korean proposed by the South Korean government is now standard. I silently emend their Romanisation to fit my own preference (and recent scholarly convention). In particular I change the names:
  • 玄奘: Hsüan-tsang > Xuánzàng
  • 원측: Wŏnch’ŭk > Woncheuk
  • 窺基: K'uei-chi > Kuījī

Nattier's Comments on the Authorship and Dates of The Heart Sutra

The Heart Sutra exists in three short versions in the Chinese Tripiṭaka. This essays focusses on T250 and T251 attributed to Kumārajīva (334–413 CE) and Xuánzàng respectively. T256 is now thought to be attributable to Amoghavajra (705–774) and directly influenced by the Sanskrit text. The main argument for this is in Japanese, but a summary can be found in Tanahashi (2014: 68).

As Nattier points out, the attributions of T250 and T251 first appear in an 8th century catalogue of Buddhist texts called 《開元釋教錄》Kāiyuán shìjiào lù (T2154) long after both men were dead (1992:174). This raises the question of why this very popular text failed to be associated with either in their lifetime, especially when we consider the explicit links between Xuánzàng and the Heart Sutra in his biographies. The simplest answer is that neither was involved in the creation of these versions. As we will see this is also the most plausible answer.

The catalogue of Buddhist texts in China 《綜理衆經目錄》 Zōnglǐ zhòngjīng mùlù (compiled in 374), itself now lost but reproduced in 《出三藏集記》 Chū sānzàng jíjì, compiled around 515 by Seng-yu (僧祐; 445-518), records two texts considered to represent lost versions of the Hṛdaya in Chinese. The two titles mentioned are:
Móhēbōrěbōluómì shénzhòu yī juàn
Great Perfection of Wisdom Vidyā in one scroll
bōrěbōluómì shénzhòu yī juàn
Perfection of Wisdom Vidyā in one scroll
These titles are certainly similar to the Chinese sutra titles:
T250 《摩訶般若波羅蜜大明呪經》
Móhēbōrěbōluómì dàmíngzhòu jīng
T251 《般若波羅蜜多心經》
Bōrěbōluómìduō xīn jīng
T256 《唐梵翻對字音般若波羅蜜多心經》
Táng fàn fān duì zì yīn bōrěbōluómìduō xīn jīng
Tang [i.e. Chinese] Transcription of the Sanskrit Prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya-sūtra.
However the similarity itself is suspicious, because it was Kumārajīva who introduced the transcription 般若波羅蜜 bōrěbōluómì for prajñāpāramitā. Nattier points out that earlier translations of the Large Perfection of Wisdom Sutra do not use this terminology. For example:
T221 《放光般若經》Fàngguāng-bōrě-jīng, by Mokṣala (291 CE)
T222 《光讚經》 Guāng zàn jīng, by Dharmarakṣa in 286 CE
    However early translations of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra use 般若bōrě for Sanskrit prajñā, and one uses 摩訶 Móhē for Sanskrit mahā. Eg.
    T224 《道行般若經》Dàohéng-bōrě-jīng, by Lokakṣema (179 CE).
    T226 《摩訶般若鈔經》Móhēbōrěchāo-jīng, by 竺佛念 Zhúfóniàn (382 CE).
      I think this undermines the argument that the title is anachronistic. Nattier's dismissal on the grounds that the two supposed early texts containing the term 神咒 shénzhòu because "both are clearly intended to be construed as mantras based on - or at least associated with - the Prajñāpāramitā corpus." (1992: 183) is less convincing because mantras did not come into Chinese Buddhism for some centuries after the supposedly early period of the texts. On the other hand the use of the phrase 神咒 may itself be anachronistic. Mantras were non-Buddhist until after this period, but dhāraṇī and vidyā (along with Pāḷi parittas) were not. The idea that the Heart Sūtra is itself intended as a dhāraṇī is one that Nattier herself discusses (1992: 175-6). On the other hand, another early translation of Aṣṭa, 《大明度經》Dàmíngdù-jīng (T225) by 支謙 Zhīqiān (225 CE), uses the character combination 神呪 (or possibly 神祝, the editions disagree) to represent Sanskrit vidyā, and Xuánzàng apparently employs 神咒 for the same word. So the titles of the two "lost translations" are not so unusual after all. But it is possible that the catalogue was edited at a later date to include texts that could not have existed at the time, and it's also plausible that a no-longer extant text predates both T250 and T251 because of their variations (and differences between them and the Sanskrit mss.). I do not think that T250 or T251 are a plausible ur-text.

      If they did exist, the two texts are now lost and we cannot draw any hard and fast conclusions about them, however ambiguous the evidence. We certainly ought not to join Red Pine in taking their existence on face value.

      Kumārajīva & T250

      Having decided that we must set aside non-existent texts, Nattier then turns to the ascription of T250 to Kumārajīva. This was already in doubt as Conze attributed it to Kumārajīva’s pupils (1978: 20). Nattier summarises the consensus view:
      " seems clear that the students of Kumārajīva (in particular, Sēngzhào) read and commented on the core passage of the Heart Sūtra found in Kumārajīva's version of the Large Sūtra [ie. T223]. There is no evidence, however, that they were aware of the existence of the Heart Sūtra as a separate text, nor is there any evidence that Kumārajīva himself had any role in the production of the 'translation' associated with his name." (1992: 184)
      It is precisely this consensus of informed opinion that Tanahashi (2014) rejects when he refers to T250 as the "α-version", doing his readers a disservice. There is simply no way that T250 is the ur-text for the Heart Sutra. It clearly dates from after Kumārajīva's death and has been edited by third parties unknown. It's interesting to note also that Sēngzhào (ca. 378—413 CE) is associated with the establishment of Madhyamaka, whereas Xuánzàng and his students were instrumental in establishing Yogācāra thought in China.

      That the Heart Sūtra is based on Kumārajīva's translation T223, or perhaps on the version found embedded in 《大智度論》Dà zhì dù lùn (= *Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa; T1509), is not in doubt. The similarity between the two is too great to be a coincidence. That the Heart Sutra is based on the large Perfection of Wisdom text is also evident in some of the Nepalese Manuscript titles. For example the new Hṛdaya manuscript (EAP676/2/5) I described in 2014: is titled Ārya-pañcaviṁśatikā-pajñāpāramitā-mantra-nāma-dhāraṇī which translates as The Dhāraṇī named The Mantra of the Noble 25,000 Perfection of Wisdom.

      The argument against attributing T250 to Kumārajīva is complex (Nattier 1992: 184-189). Where T250 has two passages of extra characters, these can be traced to T223. Nattier asserts, not entirely convincingly I think, that it is unlikely that the parallels would have been translated identically by Kumārajīva and that the exact correspondence argues for a plagiarism. The argument would be stronger if we had some concrete examples of this actually happening. I can supply an example of Kumārajīva's inconsistency from his translation of the Aṣṭasahāsrikā-prajñāpāramitā-sūtra, i.e. 《小品般若經》 T227. At 8.542.b5-6 Kumārajīva translates vidyā as 呪術 zhòu shù, while a little later at 8.543b25-29 he translates first as 明呪 míng zhòu, and then simply as 呪 zhòu. More examples would be needed to establish a pattern, but it lends plausibility to Nattier's assertion.

      Nattier further points out that the initial equation of form and emptiness conforms not to T223, but to T1509 《大智度論》. The combination of observations leads Nattier to propose that T250 is based on, or has been made to conform to, T1509, rather than T223. Thus, the earliest possible date (terminus post quem) for T250 is the date of the translation of T1509, ca. 406 CE (1992:188).

      Nattier's next step is to point out that, unlike Kumārajīva's other translations, which eclipse Xuánzàng's in popularity even to this day, T250 was never popular in China. Unlike T251, T250 is not craved into stone, copied, or printed. Not only are all the Chinese commentaries on the Heart Sutra on Xuánzàng's version, T251, but they do not date from earlier than Xuánzàng's lifetime, whereas Kumārajīva was active 250 years earlier. Thus the attribution of authorship of the Heart Sutra to Kumārajīva rings hollow. And in fact Kumārajīva is frequently apocryphally given as author or translator when it is clear that he is not.

      Xuánzàng & T251

      However the attribution of T251 to Xuánzàng is also problematic. Xuánzàng was a prolific translator. His compendium of Prajñāpāramitā texts (T220) takes up vols. 5-7 of the Taishō edition of the canon, each of which is thicker than Vol. 8 containing all the other Prajñāpāramitā texts translated by all the other translators. If Xuánzàng translated the Heart Sutra why was it not attributed to him in his lifetime, and why was his translation not included in T220? Why does the legend of his association with the text speak of him receiving the text from a sick man if he composed it or translated it from Sanskrit?

      Curiously T251 largely sticks to the terminology found in T250 (and thus in T223/1509). But three key terms: the names Avalokiteśvara and Śāriputra, and the Sanskrit word skandha, are written in a way that is distinctive to Xuánzàng. A text containing 觀自在, 舍利子, and 蘊 can only have been completed during or after the work of Xuánzàng. Nattier concludes that Xuánzàng did indeed receive a text and made minor amendments. T250 seems also to be an amended text, which suggests to me an ur-text of which both T250 and T251 are revisions. This is supported by the Sanskrit text which is significantly different in places from either of the two Chinese versions, in particular it has no equivalent of 度一切苦厄 in the first sentence. That the Sanskrit translator would drop this phrase is less plausible than that at some later date it was added to the Chinese text. This is because everywhere we look, Buddhists add words, phrases, and chapters to their texts, but we very seldom see them subtracting. Indeed in light of recent scholarship, Conze's view that the Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya and Vajracchedikāprajñāpāramitā represent 3rd or 4th Century condensations of the Prajñāpāramitā texts seems unlikely. Vaj is now thought to be contemporary with Aṣṭa and the character of Hṛdaya is not a condensation, but simply a quote or two.

      Either way the Heart Sutra as we know it can be no older than the early 5th century, i.e. after Kumārajiva's translations of the Pañcaviṃśatisahāsrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra and/or Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa because it is an extract of one or both of them. Another part of the text that is cited word for word from the same source is the passage with epithets of prajñāpāramitā, found at T223, 8.286b28-c7 and many other locations: see Nattier (1992 footnote 54a) and my forthcoming article for JOCBS.

      So the catalogues which list earlier texts are most likely forgeries. And on this basis Nattier proposes that the Heart Sutra was composed in or near the 7th Century in China. The close association with Xuánzàng suggests that he may have been involved in the translation of it into Sanskrit, though given how botched the translation is, it was presumably well before his work on 《大般若波羅蜜多經》(T220). My view is that the translator from Chinese to Sanskrit was more at home in Chinese than in Sanskrit, and not very familiar with the Prajñāpāramitā literature in Sanskrit.

      Woncheuk's Commentary.

      Xuánzàng’s students 窺基 Kuījī (632–682) and 圓測 Woncheuk (613-696) produced commentaries on the Heart Sutra in the late 7th century (Nattier 1992: 173). These have both been translated into English: see Shih & Lusthaus (2006) and Hyun Choo (2006) respectively.

      Lusthaus (2003) cites four passages from Woncheuk's commentary 《般若波羅蜜多心經贊》 (T1711), which he says lead us to two main conclusions: 1. that versions of the text once existed that were different from the extant versions; and 2. that these versions were older than the extant versions. And thus Nattier's preference for a later composition date is seriously challenged.

      The first passage comments on Xuánzàng’s use of the form 觀自在 Guānzìzài for the name of Avalokiteśvara Woncheuk comments:
      若依舊本名觀世音 (T1711, 33.543b.21)
      "This is what the old text(s) named Guānshìyīn" (Lusthaus 2003: 82)
      Quite a lot of Lusthaus's argument rests on his conclusion that it is "natural in this context to understand this as a reference to older versions of the Heart Sutra" (82). Hyun Choo (2006) concurs, he translates the passage "According to the old version of the translation [of the Prajñāpāramita-sūtras]" (138). However, as is well known Avaoliketśvara does not appear in any other Prajñāpāramita sūtras, so this is an unlikely interpretation. In fact, Woncheuk's commentary immediately proceeds to a discussion of the deity and the name 觀音in Buddhist literature, a discussion that does not include any Prajñāpāramitā sūtras or mention of the
      Heart Sutra, but does include the Avalokiteśvara-sūtra (觀音三昧經), Avalokiteśvara-bodhisattva-mahāsthamaprapta-bodhisattva-sūtra(觀音授記經), and the Larger Sukhāvatīvyuha-sūtra (無量壽經). If we are talking about "natural" conclusions then Woncheuk's reference to 舊本 'old texts' appears to reference these other named texts.
      The next passage concerns the first sentence of the Heart Sutra:
      或有本曰 「照見五蘊皆空」 雖有兩本。後本為正。撿勘梵本有等言故後所說等準此應知。(added punctuation for clarity)

      There is another version of the text 或有本 which says "illuminatingly, he saw the five skandhas, and so on (), are all empty." Although there are two versions of the text 有兩本, the latter text is correct. An examination of the Sanskrit text [梵本] shows that is has the word "and so on" (). Hence the 'and so on' stated by the latter (text) should be understood to be the standard." (Lusthaus 2003:83, emphasis added)
      By 'and so on' we can probably interpret Sanskrit ādi. T251 here simply has 照見五蘊皆空 without the extra character 等. Given that the text does list the skandhas and other lists such as the dhātus and āyatanas this interpolation is not wrong. However, as Lusthaus concedes, ādi doesn't appear in any known Sanskrit text. Nor does any extant Chinese text have 等 here. The mention of a Sanskrit text with a different wording here is interesting of course, but the manuscript tradition of the Heart Sutra is widely variable - so much so that editing it proved very difficult for Conze and led him to make several errors (See my forthcoming article in the JOCBS 7). No two manuscripts of the Sanskrit Hṛdaya are identical, even the oldest manuscript (the Hōryūji Manuscript; probably from the 8th century) is obviously corrupt in many places.

      Next, Lusthaus cites this passage:
      又解此經自有兩本 一本如上。一本經曰受想行識亦復如是。所言者準下經文有六善巧。謂蘊處界緣生四諦菩提涅槃。(T1711, 33.546.13-15)
      "Further, for interpreting this sutra we have two texts (自有兩本). One text is as above 如上 (i.e. Xuánzàng's version, which says 'vedanā, saṃjñā, saṃskāras, and vijñāna are also like this'). The other text of the sutra says: 'vedanā, saṃjñā, saṃskāras, vijñāna, and so on , also like this.' The word 'and so on' [deng] indicates what is [discussed] below in the text of the sutra, i.e. the six skill in means, the aggregates, āyatanas, dhātus, pratītysamutpāda, the four truths, Bodhi, and Nirvāṇa." (Lusthaus 2003: 84).
      From this we infer that Woncheuk has at least two texts in front of him. Possibly two Chinese texts and at least one Sanskrit text. And one of the Chinese texts again has 等 (= Sanskrit ādi) at the end of a list of skandhas, seeming to indicate the other lists that follow in the sutra. Again no extant Chinese or Sanskrit text has this additional feature, but it is not inconceivable, in the light of the manuscript tradition, that it could have been added by a scribe or editor.

      Woncheuk's contemporary and rival, Kuījī, also wrote a commentary on the Heart Sutra and also seems to have a text with 等, and does not problematise it in the way that Woncheuk does, suggest that he only had the one text and it included 等. And this raises the question of why we do not find it in the text attributed to their teacher Xuánzàng. Lusthaus avoids the conclusion from Nattier's study, that the text of T251 was at best edited by Xuánzàng, or more likely by his later students, rather than being a translation he produced.

      Finally in relation to Chinese versions corresponding to the Sanskrit passage "cittāvaraṇanāstitvād atrastro viparyāsātikrānto nirvāṇaparyavasānam", which in Chinese becomes:
      心無罣礙;無罣礙故,無有恐怖,遠離顛倒夢想 ,究竟涅槃。(T251)
      His mind is not obscured, since it is not obscured he is not afraid, far from upside-down dreamlike thinking, he finally attains nirvāṇa. (My translation).
      Lusthaus observes that Woncheuk's two texts differ and that Woncheuk favours the one that says 遠離一切顛倒夢想 "far from all upside-down dreamlike thinking." And in this case the T250 has 離一切顛倒夢想苦惱. Lusthaus says "Unfortunately for Nattier's thesis, the alternate version this time is recognisable. It is Kumārajīva's version". Except that it is not. T250 does not include the character 遠 and adds two characters 苦惱. The difference Lusthaus is highlighting involves the interpolation of just two characters, 一切 (literally 'one cut'; figuratively 'all'), so having three other differences is significant. Certainly the two are similar, but then all of these Chinese texts derive have similarities. In fact we have reference to yet another version of the text here which is not the same as either T250 or T251.

      One possible good to come out of this is that in looking for parallels in the wider Canon for the last passage, which to my knowledge has not previously been identified with any existing text, we now know to look for alternate readings, though a preliminary search did not turn up any parallels for any of the variants.


      On the point about the dating of versions of the Heart Sutra referred to in Woncheuk's commentary we need first to address the issue of "older texts". Crucially, Lusthaus says earlier in his article,
      "We have no dates of other background information on when or where the two commentaries were written... We don't know for certain even if these commentaries were written before or after [Xuanzang's] death, though my sense is that they were written after." (2003: 66: emphasis added)
      The conjecture by Lusthaus that the commentaries he is discussing were written (i.e. composed) after the death of Xuánzàng is important in assessing his claim that the alternate readings found in them amount to a text from a much earlier period, particularly contemporary with Kumārajīva in the early fifth century.

      We've seen that when Woncheuk mentioned old texts" (舊本) he was in fact directly referring to a number of other sutras in which Avalokiteśvara plays a prominent role. So Lusthaus's conclusion that it would be "natural" in this context to conclude that this referred to the Heart Sutra looks wrong. We've also seen that his attempt to connect Woncheuk's text with Kumārajīva fails. Lusthaus's challenge to Nattier's theory falls well short of its mark.

      What we're left with is evidence of multiple versions of the Heart Sutra, probably around the time of, or not long after, the death of Xuánzàng. No texts with the readings evinced by Woncheuk, in either Chinese or Sanskrit are extant. Thus there is no good case for pushing back the date of composition of the Heart Sutra before Xuánzàng. On the other hand, the evidence for multiple versions at this time is intrinsically interesting in terms of the history of the text. And in drawing attention to these early commentaries. Lusthaus has made an valuable contribution.

      Nattier's thesis on the origins of the Heart Sutra certainly has stronger and weaker points. However, it is beyond reasonable doubt that the Heart Sutra per se began life in China as a compilation of extracts from Kumārajīva's《摩訶般若波羅蜜經》(T233) or possible the commentary on it 《大智度論》and probably other texts including the Mahāmegha Sūtra (possible source of the dhāraṇī). And her arguments about the attribution and dates of T250 and T251 largely stand. Neither seem to be the product of authors to which they were attributed in the 8th Century.


      Conze, Edward. (1978). The Prajñāpāramitā Literature. Tokyo, The Reiyukai.
      Hyun Choo, B. (2006) 'An English Translation of the Banya paramilda simgyeong chan: Wonch'uk's Commentary on the Heart Sūtra (Prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya-sūtra)' International Journal of Buddhist Thought & Culture. February 2006, Vol.6, pp.121-205.
      Lusthaus, Dan. (2003) 'The Heart Sūtra in Chinese Yogācāra: Some Comparative Comments on the Heart Sūtra Commentaries of Wŏnch’ŭk and K’uei-chi.' International Journal of Buddhist Thought & Culture. September, Vol. 3: 59-103.
      Nattier, Jan (1992). 'The Heart Sūtra: a Chinese apocryphal text?' Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. 15 (2) 153-223. Online:
      Shih, Heng-Ching & Lusthaus, Dan. (2006) A Comprehensive Commentary on the Heart Sutra (Prajnaparamita-hyrdaya-sutra). Numata Center for Buddhist Translation & Research.
      Tanahashi, Kazuaki. (2014) The Heart Sutra: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classic of Mahayana Buddhism. Shambhala.