The Ontology of the Prajnaparamita

Edward Conze

Philosophy East and West

Vol.3 (1953)


(C) by University of Hawaii Press


P. 117

    WORKS ON praj~naapaaramitaa,"perfect wisdom," were composed by Indian Buddhists over a period of more than 1,000 years, between 100 B.C. and A.D.1,100.The resulting literature is very extensive,(1)and,on the whole,quite unknown at present outside Japan and Tibet. Historically, has had considerable importance. Within Buddhism it inaugurated the emergence of the Mahaayaana and continued to guide its further development. Its basic doctrines were taken up and developed by Gaudapaada and 'Sa^mkaraa-caarya and thus became a part of the Hindutradition.The intrinsic value of the ideas embodied in this literature is,I think,commensurate to their historical effect.

    It would be a mistake, of course, to regard these texts as philosophical treatises in the European sense of the word. To begin with,they do not develop their doctrine by reasoned argumentation but rely entirely on simple dogmatic affirmation.As suutras,these works are held to be the word of the Buddha himself,and his authority is thought to be sufficient support for their veracity and truth.By a division of labor,the Buddhists left reasoned argumentations to another class of works,called 'Saastras.It is in the 'Saastras of the Maadhyamika school,from Naagaarjuna onward,that we must seek for anything in the nature of philosophical argumentation. Second,it is not the purpose of the texts to expound some novel view about the constitution of reality or the nature of the universe.They are religious texts and were composed to further religious emancipation or salvation.A large part of their contents is devoted to purely religious,or theological,concepts.

    If ontology in the usual sense is interpreted,however,to mean any attempt to contact the true nature of reality,the Praj~naapaaramitaa Suutras are replete with it. The passages dealing with this ontology are scattered in writings which are still rather inaccessible. Their combination into one single argument might, therefore, be held to be a useful undertaking. For reasons of space I must confine myself, however, to a straightforward description.


1.I have given a survey of it in The Middle Way(London),XXVII,No-1(May,1952), 20-23.



    At every point, a comparison with European philosophers suggests itself Parmenides, Pyrrho, Proclus, Sextus Empiricus, Berkeley, Hegel, etc that must be left to other occasions.

    First of all, we must consider the earlier developments of the theory of "dharmas,"and of their "own-being,"which led up to the Praj~naapaaramitaa doctrine of "emptiness" ('Suuyataa). Second, we will survey the doctrine of "emptiness" from an ontological, psychological, and logical angel. As it would be a grave mistake, however, to treat the doctrine of emptiness as a philosophical theory only, we must round off our account with a consideration of the religious motivation behind it.


    In agreement with many philosophers,Buddhists assume that sense things around us are a false appearance. The ultimate facts of reality technically known as dharmas, are different. Normally, they are covered from sight by ignorance. In order to penetrate to them, one must generate in oneself a special virtue,or force,known as "wisdom" (praj~naa),which alone is able to attain knowledge of what the dharmas themselves are of their "own-being."(2)

    No rational approach can be content to accept the crude data of common sense as ultimate facts. The scientific propositions of modern science always refer to abstract entities, such as atoms, molecules, electromagnetic fields, etc., their properties, tendencies, and habitual behavior.Similarly the Buddhist science of salvation regards the world as composed of an unceasing flow of momentary dharmas.

    Dharmas are either conditioned or unconditioned. Only two dharmas are unconditioned, i.e., and space (or ether). Conditioned dharmas are classified into a number of groups, common to all Buddhist schools, such as the five skandhas, the twelve sense-fields, the eighteen elements, and the twelve links of conditioned co-production. The more scholastically minded appalled by the untidy duplications involved, tried to draw up an over-all list of dharmas. The Theravaadins counted 174 dharmas, the Sarvaastivaadins seventy-nine, and the Yogaacaarins one hundred. The Praj~naapaaramitaa adopts none of these lists but devotes a few pages(3) to the classification of dharmas accordance with their nearness to enlightenment.First of all,it


2.Buddhaghosa,Visuddbimagga (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950), p.370.

3.N.Dutt, ed., Pa~ncavi^m'satisaabasrikaa,Calcutta Oriental Series, No. 28 (London:Luza&Co.,1934),pp. 165-168. (Hereafter abbreviated as P.)See also P. Ghosha, ed.,'Satasaabasrikaa, Bibliotheca Indics (Calcutta: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, n.d.), pp. 1257-1263). (Hereafter abbreviated as 'S.)


guishes wholesome,unwholesome, and neutral dharmas.The wholesome are then further subdivided into worldly and supramundane,with and without outflows, conditioned and unconditioned,and common (to all saints) and uncommon (i.e., special to the Buddhas).The definition of each class consists in giving a list of its constituent members.As we shall discuss them later,I give here the definitions of "conditioned" and "unconditioned" dharmas:

    Conditioned dharmas are:The world (dhaatu) of sense-desire, the world of form,the formless world.And also any other dharmas that are included in the conditioned element(dhaatu),i.e.,the 37 wings of enlightenment, etc.Unconditioned dharmas are:That of which there is no production,no passing away,no alteration of stability.Extinction of greed, hate, and delusion Suchness, Non-falsehood(avitathataa),undharma,Suchness,the true nature of dharma(dharmataa),the element(dhaatu)of the established order of dharma(dharma-sthititaa),the fixed sequence of dharma(dharma-niyaamataa),the unthinkable element, the Reality-limits((3a)

    The distinction between "dharmas" and "things" is implicit in the Praj~naapaaramitaa Suutras and without it one misses their reaching completely. As a matter of fact, the first step toward wisdom, which is held to be accomplished before perfect wisdom can get started, consists in getting the dharmas, like the skandhas, etc., into view. This involves three steps: (1) an act of differentiation, the breaking up of the seemingly unified personality and of its experiences--persons and things are understood as mere conglomerations, or "heaps," of dharmic events; (2) an act of depersonalization, the elimination of all references to "I," "me," or "mine"; and (3) an act of evaluation: one must feel that description in terms of skandhas and dharmas is superior to description in ordinary terms.

    When one sees the dharmas as they really are in themselves, one sees their "own-being"(sva-bbaava).The Praj~naapaaramitaa presupposes a knowledge of this term also.We are fortunate that Gndrakirti has,in his Prasannapadaa,(4)given a fairly elaborate philosophical account of it. According to him,Buddhist tradition uses the term "own-being" in at least three ways:

    1.It may mean the essence, or special property, of a thing.A concrete fire is a "thing," and heat is its "own-being." This kind of own-being is defined as "that attribute which always accompanies the object, because it is not tied to anything else."(5)


3 P.,p.168.

4.Louis de la Vallee Poussin, ed.,Bibliotheca Buddhica, IV(St.Peterburg: Commissionaires de I'Academie Imperiale des Sciences , 1903-1914). (Hereafter abbreviated as Pr.)




    2.It may be the essential feature of a dharma.(6) The own-being is that which carries its own mark.(7) Each dharma, as a separate entity,(8) carries one single mark, no more than one. In a sense, "own-being" and "own-mark" are, therefore,one and the same thing. In one passage(8) the Praj~naapaaramitaa,gives a survey of the "own-marks" which define thirty basicdharmas.The definitions concern either the function of the activities, or the effects of the entities considered.Thus, the marks of feeling, perception, impulses,and consciousness are, respectively, "experiencing, taking up, together-making, and being aware." The marks of the skandhas, elementsand sense-fields are that they are "suffering,venomous snakes, and doors to misfortune."

    3.Finally, "own-being" may be defined as the opposite of "other-being." Then it is that which looks only to itself, and not to anything outside.It is what we call the "Absolute," compared with which all separate dharmas are parabhaava (relative). The mark ( of that own-being is that it is not contingent, not conditioned, not related to anything other than itself.(10) Own-being, therefore, implies full and complete ownership and control.(11)

    It is now the principal teaching of Praj~naapaaramitaa with regard to own-being that it is "enmpty."The Sanskrit term is svabhaava'suunya.This is compound (one in which the last member is qualified by the first without losing its grammatical independence), in which svabhaava may have the sense of any oblique case.(12) The Mahaayaana(13) understands it to mean that dharmas are empty of any own-being, i.e.,that they are not ultimate facts in their own right, but merely imagined and falsely discriminated,for each and every one of them is dependent on something other than itself.From a slightly different angle this means that dharmas, when viewed with perfected gnosis, reveal an own-being which is identical with emptiness, i.e in their own-being they are empty.


6.In the words of Candrakiirti,the data of experience are not taken as "sprouts," etc.,but as sa^mskaaras,


9.'S., pp. 1410-1411; Cf. P., p. 197.

10.Pr., p. 262.

11.Pr., p.263, svabhaava is equal to svo-bhaava, Sein an sich.It is aatmiiya,a term which implies rightful ownership (as of one's own slaves),as distinct from what is the property of others, or what is lent for a time only, a borrowed article.

12.The Suutras, by speaking often of svabhaavena 'suunyah,suggest that the instrumental is the case normally present.

13.As distinct from the Theravaadins.For them, "sabhaava-su~n~na" means that, by reason of their own-being, dharmas are "empty of self." They are content to stress the absence of self in persons by treating those persons as mere conglomerations of dharmic events. The Mahaayaana then argued that, in order to get a perfect understanding of emptiness, one had also to see those ultimate events themselves as empty. In other words, ultimately, by comparison with ultimate reality, they do not exist as separate entities. The Kaa'syapa-parivarta compares the emptiness of the old school to a termite hole--termites bore a hole into a piece of wood (absence of self in persons), but they leave, all round, thin outer walls standing (dharmic events). The new kind of emptiness, on the other hand,was compared to vast space.A.von Stael Holstein,ed.,Kaa'syapa-parivarta.(Shanghai:Commercial Press, 1926).



    The Mahaayaana, in other words, rejects the first two kinds of own-being as mere provisional constructions. Only the third is regarded as ultimately real,as the one and only standard of truth.The own-being of all separate things or dharmas is obviously contingent and tied to conditions,a result of the co-operation of many conditions.Heat, as the essential feature of fire,for instance, depends on a lens, the sun, fuel, oxygen, etc. Of all this kind of own-being, one can say that "previously not having been,it is produced later on."The mere fact of change is incompatible with own-being and indicates a lack of it.The true own-being is something which would be independent of conditions and which would be owned forever, at all times. Once own-being is defined in such a way, no separate own-being can be found for the separate phenomena. "There is no own-being of a dharma (acting)in causal connection, because of conditioned co-produccion."(14) "Own-being is the unpervertedness of essential nature."(15) But "there are not two essential natures of dharmas, but just one single is the essential nature of all dharmas.(16)In the one place where the Praj~naapaaramitaa gives a definition of dharmas,it defines it as "the unbroken unity of all dharmas."(l7)


    This basic idea can be expressed in a variety of ways: All separate dharmas lack an own-being (they are ni.h- svabhaava), and in that sense they are called empty.In a sense, one can speak of a "monism," since all multiplicity is relegated to a lower plane and denied ultimate validity. Or, each separate entity can be said to be devoid of itself.(18) Or, in the same way and by the same argument, emptiness is the "own-mark" of all dharmas. The own-being of dharmas actually consists in emptiness and the absence of own-being.


    The exposition of the theory of emptiness takes either the form of a description of the ontological status of separate dharmas, or of the psychological attitudes we should adopt toward them, or of the logical structure of any statements that may be made about them. We must consider these three points of view one by one.


14.Naasti saa^myogikasya dharmasya svabbaava pratiitya-samutpannatvaad.P.,p.197.Cf.P.,p252:naasti saa^myogikahsvabhaavab. Candrakiirti expresses the same idea by saying: sarva- svabbaava-Pr.,p.515.


16.R. Mitra, ed., A.s.tasaabasrikaa, Bibliorheca Indica, 110 (Calcutta: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal,1888),VIII,

p.192.(Hereafter abbreviated as A.)

17.Sarva-dharmaa.naam asambhedah .P., p. 171.

18.E.g., form should be seen as empty of form,etc. 'Satasaahasrikaa, Cambridge Add.Ms., 1632, LIII,fol. 279b. Or, LIII,fol.295:name is empty of name,sign is empty of sign.


A. The ontological status of dharmas is considered in six ways:

    1.Dharmas are non-existent."What has no own-being,that is non-existent."(19) As Candrakiirti puts it:"Now this own-being of entities which is identical with Non-production [see point A-5] is at the same time pure non-being, and that in the sense that it is not anything in particular.Therefore the (absolute) own-being is a negation of the(pluralistic) own-being,and it is in this sense that one must understand our thesis that the own-being of entities is unreal."(20)

    2.Dharmas have a purely nominal existence.They are mere words,(21) a matter of conventional expression (vyavahaara), "The dharmas on which beings seek a false support are names and signs; they are not,they are imagined, artificial adventitious designations which are added on to what is really there."(22) Or, as it is put in another passage,(23) they are "mere words," and "words are merely artificial constructions,which do not represent dharma,"but which constitute "adventitious designations,which are imagined and unreal."A bodhisattva "does not expect to find any realities behind those words, and, in consequence, he does not settle down in them.The dharmas themselves are inexpressible."(24)"One cannot properly express the emptiness of all dharmas in words."(25) 'The Buddha is the same as speechless silence."(26)

    3.Dharmas are "without marks, with one mark only, ie., with no mark."(27)A "mark" ( is defined as the distinctive property which keeps dharmas apart.The most essential mark of a dharmas is,however that it is empty,and this mark swallows up all the others, so that all dharmas have one and the same mark, i.e., to be empty.(28)In one very characteristic passage(29) Saariputra asks, "What, then, is the own-being of form, etc.?" Subhuuti answers: "Non-existence is the own-being of form, etc. It is in this sense that form is lacking in the own-being of form. And so with the other skandhas. Moreover, form is lacking in the mark which is characteristic of form. The mark, again, is lacking in the own-being


19.Pa~ncavi^m'satisaahasrikaa,Cambridge.Add. Ms., 1628, fol. 505b.

20.Pr., p.264. My translation follows S.Schayer,who has done much to clarify these doctrines in his Ausgewaehlte Kapitel aus der Prasannapadaa(Krakowie:Nakladem Polskiej Akademji Umiejetno'sci,1931).

21.E.g., A. I. 16,25; rx.200.

22.'S., LXIV,fol.456a.




26.J.Masuda,ed.,Sapta'satikaa,Journal of the Taisho University,1930,Vols.6-7,part 2,p.221.

27.See e.g.,'S.LIX,fol.343b.


29.P., pp. 136-137.


of a mark. The own-being, again, is lacking in the mark of being own-being.

    "The absence of marks is often expressed by a standard formula(30) which says that "dharmas are not conjoined nor disjoined, immaterial, invisible non-resisting, with one mark only, i.e., no mark." The formula harks back to what in the older scriptures had been said about the self, space,and the Tathaagata.The self and the Tathaagata were called "immaterial,"(31)and space both "immaterial and invisible."(32) Anidar'sana properly means "with no attributes,"(33) that which cannot be characterized, therefore, cannot be "pointed out" as something definite.(34) "Nonresisting" (apratiigha) means that dharmas do not react or impinge on each other, do not resist and obstruct each other.

    4. Dharmas are isolated (vivikta),(35)absolutely isolated (atyantavivikta).In the Suutras, this term is treated as a familiar synonym of "empty," and nowhere explained. A dharma is called "empty" when one considers that it has no properties, "isolated" when one considers that it has no relations to other dharmas. As isolated, dharmas cannot act on each other, and, therefore, they are not made or produced.

    5. Dharmas have never been produced, never come into existence; they are not really ever brought forth(anabhinirv.rtti); they are unborn(ajaata); they have never left the original emptiness. In order to understand why the aspect of non-production (an-utpaada) is so much emphasized sized in these Suutras, one must bear in mind the tradition within which they stand. They were written for Buddhists brought up on the Abhidharma and Suutras of the Sarvaastivaadins. To contemplate the rise and fall of dharmas had been recommended as one of the central practices of the Abhidharma. It is on this kind of Abhidharma meditation that the Praj~naapaaramitaa now comments, saying that the experiences made,while perhaps salutary, referred to nothing but an illusion. Furthermore, the emancipation of the arhat was traditionally carried out by means of a k.saya-j~naana (cognition of extinction) followed by an anutpaada-j~naana (cognition of non-production). The latter term was interpreted by the Sarvaastivaadins as meaning that there would be no future production of


30.Na sa.myuktaa na visa.myuktaa, nidar'sanaa apratiighaa; e.g.P.,pp.164, 225, 244, 258, 261, 262;'S.LIX, fol. 340a; LXXX, fol. 587b.

31.Diigha-nikaaya I.31,and Majjhima-nikaaya I.127.

32.Majjhima-nikaaya I.127.

33.Diigha-nikaaya I.123 ff.

34.Tam nidassana-abhaavato.In A.XII.265 it is identified with lack of marks( with being"invisible"(ad.r'sya).

35.E.g .,A.VI.149-150;VII.177;VIII.192;IX.204-205;XII.276;



defilements in the arhat. The Mahaayaana now takes up this term, and gives it a metaphysical significance to the effect that for the enlightened there is no production of any dharma at all.(36) And even before enlightenment is reached, one of the most distinctive virtues of the Mahaayaanistic saint is the 'patient acceptance of dharmas which fail to be produced"

    6. Non-production is illustrated by a number of similes, which have the function "to inform about non-production."(37)If dharmas do not exist,are without own-being, have never been produced, the question may well be asked how they can appear to be so different from what they are. The answer is that, just as things in a dream, though illusory,appear to exist at the time, so all dharmas appear to exist although they do not. The A.s.tasaahasrikaa knows only six such similes, i.e., dreams,(38)magical illusions,(39) echoes,(40) reflected images,(41)mirages,(42)and space.(43)The "'Satasaahasrikaa,"in an often-repeated standard list,(44) raises the number to ten by adding the comparison with the moon reflected in water, a village of the Gandharvas, a shadow, and a magical creation (

B. The following psychological attitudes are enjoined upon us as a result of this state of affairs:

    1. Non-apprehension. If separate dharmas are non-existent,cognitive activities directed toward them will be without a basis in fact. It would be a mistake, therefore, to regard such cognitive activities as a means of approaching reality. The apprehension (upalabdhi) of a multiplicity of separate entities actually gets us away from the true reality, from emptiness. It should, therefore, be avoided.(45) Even emptiness should not be apprehended.(48)

    2.The emotional concomitants of non-apprehension are summed up in the term anabhinive'sa. which might be rendered as "no settling down."(47) Its meaning is threefold:(a) There should be no conviction


36.E.g.,Haribhadra,Abhisamayaala^nkaaraaloka,ed., U.Wogihara(Tokyo:Tokyo Bunko,1932-1935),p.879.

37.Anutpaada-vij^naapanataam-upaadaaya,A.rx. 205.



40.A.VIII.198; rx. 201, 2O5;xxx. 484.

41.Pratibhaasa A.rx.205; xxvI. 442; xxx. 484. Cf. C. Bendall,ed., 'Sik.saasamuccaya,Bibliotheca Buddhica, I(St. Petersburg : Commissionaires de 1'Academie Imperiale des Sciences, N.D.), p. 261: "As an image appears in a bright mirror, though own-being empty, so Druma, know these dharmas!"




45.For the details see E. Lamotte, Le traite de la grande vertu de sagesse,Vol.I(Louvain: Bureaux du Museon,1944),pp.357-387.46.It is impossible here to discuss the many verbal expressions which the doctrine of non-apprehension has found in the Praj~naapaaramitaa Suutras.One is warned against forming notions(sa^mj~naa),or paying attention to signs (nimitta). The terminology is here very technical and cannot be explained briefly.



that dharmas have reality. (b) There should be no inclination toward dharmas ,no turning toward them (equivalent to anaabboga). (c)There should be no attachment to dharmas equivalent to asannga). It would be futile to establish a relation with what is essentially unrelated (vivikta).(48)

    3. No attainment (praapti). No person can "have," or "possess," or "acquire," or "gain" any dharma. There is no person who could be there to get, reach, achieve or realize anything.(49) There is no entity that could be got.(50) Not only is attainment, or the more or less permanent combination between dharma and a personal continuity, impossible as a fact. The selfless also have no motive to desire it. As Subhuuti expresses it, "I do not wish for (icchaami) the attainment of an unproduced dharma, nor for re-union (abhisamaya) with one."(51)

    4. Perfect wisdom gains body in the virtue of non-relying which is caught "through an almost infinite variety of expressions."(52) It must suffice here to indicate only a few of these expressions. "Dharmas, because they lack in either single or manifold own-being, are unworthy of reliance."(53) In consequence, the mind of the Tathaagata is not supported on anything,(54) and those who wish to emulate him should "raise a thought which is not supported anywhere."(55)It is in the practice of the six perfections that one learns to lean on nothing whatever. When one practices giving, that should be done in a spirit of complete disinterestedness and inner freedom, i.e., one gives without grasping at any ideas concerning the gift, its recipient, or the reward which one may reap for oneself for one's generosity. The same "threefold purity" should be observed with the other five perfections.

    5. Finally, one may say that the attitude of the perfected sage is one of non-assertion. His individual self is extinct, and so he will not assert himself in any way. And, since he has no belief in separate things, he will not affirm anything about any of them. Such an attitude of nonassertion must lead to logical rules which differ radically from those commonly held. We must now nun, therefore, to a discussion of the logic of the Praj~naapaaramitaa.


48.See A. xxII .399.

49.This is a simple consequence of the anattaa doctrine.

50.This is a simple consequence of the doctrine of non-production.

51.A.r.30= P., p. 261.

52.E.Conze,Buddhism(Oxford:Bruno Cassirer,1951),p. 137.

53.Haribhadra,Abhisamayaala^nkaaraaloka,ed.,U.Wogihara., p. 123.

54.Aprati.s.thita-maanaso hi Tathaagato.A.II.37.

55.M.Muuller,ed., Vajracchedikaa(Oxford: University Press,1881), Chap. 10c.


C. The assumption of any kind of duality is considered as the basic error of logical thinking. "Those who course in duality cannot grow in merit.All the foolish common people are supported (ni'srita) by duality, and their merit cannot grow. But a bodhisattva courses in non-duality."(58) Buddhism sees in ignorance of the facts of life the root of all evil, and the traditional formula of conditioned co-production shows how the whole world of suffering arises from ignorance as its starting point. The Praj~naapaaramitaa now claims that discrimination (vikalpa) is the core of ignorance and that the empirical world, with its attendant sufferings, is a thought-construction derived from false discrimination. But "the Tathaagata is one who has forsaken all discoursings and discriminations."(57)

    If dharmas are non-different, they are, by that very fact, all the same(sama). Like the majority of Buddhist writings, the Praj~naapaaramitaa Suutra have, however, a marked preference for negative terms. The positive term "sameness" is used sparingly,(58) and nowhere is it further developed or explained. It is sometimes coupled with another one of the rare positive synonyms of emptiness, i.e., with "suchness." (59) When you abstract the differences between dharmas,you proceed to their "suchness," i.e., you take each dharma as it is, without adding to what is actually there, or subtracting from it.

The doctrine of non-duality can be stated from three points of view,insofar as it is applied to (1) subject and object, (2) affirmation and negation,and (3 )the conditioned and the unconditioned.

    (1) The duality of subject and object exists where there are the five senses and their objects, mind and mind-object (dharma), and enlightenment and the enlightened, but in absolute knowledge it is abolished.

    (2) Affirmation and negation, existence and non-existence, are not to be held apart as two. It is the same to be as not to be. If existence and non-existence are equalized, if yes and no are identified, then the disorder of the mind is said to disappear. By this step the basic laws of logical thought are abolished. The principle of contradiction, in particular, is abrogated in emptiness. It is obvious that to say "X is empty of the ownbeing of X" amounts to identifying a dharmas with its own negation.In a bold and direct manner the Praj~naapaaramitaa Suutras explicitly proclaim the identity of contradictory opposites, and they make no attempt to



57.A. XIX.358, hi Tathaagatah.

58.E,g.,A. IX. 206;XXIX.476;XXXI.526. Vajracchedikaa,Chap.23 and ed.,T.Mutsumoto,Suvikraan-tavikramiiparp.rcchaa II,fol.20a,in P.Kahle,Studien(Leiden:E. J.Brill,1935),p.182,sama is opposed to vi.sama,"uneven,"disparate" Terms such aseka-naya and eka-rasa should also be considered in this context.

59.Tathataa or tatbatva.


mitigate their paradoxes. What is essential nature is no essential nature,(60)what is practice is no practice.(61) In a celebrated passage,(62)the absolute thought ,which is "without modification or discrimination," and to which one should aspire, is identified with no-thought. But "that thought which is no-thought is not something which is, because one cannot find in it either a 'there is' or a 'there is not."' The "self," which is the epitome of all that is unreal and false, deceptive and undesirable, is identified with perfect wisdom and with the Tathaagata.(63) Some of the considerable prestige of the Diamond Suutra derives from the fact that it makes throughout a point of observing that each one of the leading concepts of Buddhist theory is equivalent to its contradictory opposite.

    As in the case of other philosophical systems, it is, of course, the introduction of the Absolute which plays havoc with the rules of logic. The Absolute has on logical reasoning about the same kind of effect which a vast subterranean mass of iron would have on the magnetic needle of a compass. In its apparent illogicality the Praj~naapaaramitaa aims at working out the principles of a logic of the Absolute.

    (3) Our traditional logic is adapted to a world of relatives. It must lose     its bearings where one considers the relations between the relative and the Absolute, the conditioned and the unconditioned, the world of becoming and Any relation into which the Absolute enters must ipso facto become an "absolute relation," a contradiction in terms, a thing not easy to recognize. There is room for surprise in this field of absolute relations. The Praj~naapaaramitaa teaches that is the same as this world of birth-and-death (sa^msaara),that "the very defilements are" The unconditioned is identified with the conditioned,the everchangeless with the ever-changing, the pure with the defiIed, the complete with the deficient. But, and this must be born in mind, the identity thus postulated is an absolute identity and does not exclude an absolute difference. As a matter of face, an absolute difference is equivalent to an absolute identity, as and I are absolutely different. I cannot get it, and it cannot get me. I can never find it, because I am no longer there when it is found. It cannot find me, because I am not there to be found. But Nirvaana, the everlasting, is there all the time. "Suchnessis everywhere the same, since all dharmas have already attained





63.J.Masuda,ed.,Sapta'satikaa,Journal of the Taisho

University,1930,Vols,6-7,part2,p.221 and fol.25b-26a.

P.128"(64) What keeps me apart from it, now, in me? Nothing real at all, since the self is a mere invention. So, even now, in truth, there is no real difference at all between me and The two are identical.


    It must be admitted that this kind of philosophy gives little comfort to common sense. As a matter of fact, it must leave the average person in a state of gasping bewilderment. On the other hand, this method of thinking is perfectly consistent with itself, although it does not draw its inspiration from the interests and concerns of the man in the street, but from the religious aspirations of what, by contrast, one might call "the man in the forest." It now remains for me to show briefly how a concern for religious values and for a holy life has shaped the leading tenets of the ontology of the Praj~naapaaramitaa.

    If selfess renunciation is the essence of the religious life, then these teachings reach the highest summit of unworldliness. If non-attachment is a virtue, then the negation of the multiplicity of all dharmas is the intellectual counterpart to the desire "to abandon all the points to which attachment could fasten itself."(65) If our basic anxiety is only perpetuated when we rely on something and is rooted out only when we give up this search for a firm support--what could be more conducive to depriving us of any stable support than a perpetual concentration on the self-contradictory nature of all our experience? If a peaceful attitude to others is the test of religious zeal,it can only be furthered by a doctrine which tells us not to insist on anything,not to assert anything. Subhuuti, the great expounder of perfect wisdom in these books, is expressly called "a dweller in peace" (ara.naa~vihaarin), one who can abide without fighting.

    Where this kind of ontology is actually believed to be true, it must lead to calm and evenmindedness. There is no calm like the calm of oneness,because it is withdrawn from everything that could disturb it.The one Absolute is also known as the "Dharma-element" (dharma-dhaatu),and of it is said: "The Dharma-element would be upset (vikopita), if there were any other Dharma outside it. But no other dharma can be apprehended outside it. If one could be apprehended, there would be an upsetting of theDharma-element."(66)






    The teaching of the sameness of everything is a somewhat roundabout way of describing the attitude,or virtue,of evenmindedness, which is the final crown of the Buddhist endeavor. "A bodhisattva, who courses in perfect wisdom ,produces an even state of mind toward all beings. As a result he acquires insight into the sameness of all dharmas, and learns to establish beings in this insight."(67) The Sanskrit word upek.saa, from upa + iik.s, means, literally,"to overlook." One overlooks what does not concern one,(68) because one is disinterested and expects nothing from the world.Far from being a mere feeling, evenmindedness results from two intellectual achievements: (1) One sees the equality of all beings and things, i.e., that they are essentiallly the same; and (2) One ignores the effects they have on oneself and considers the source of their doings in themselves. To be perfectly evenminded,one would also have to overlook the difference between and this world. This would help one to grow in fearlessness. Disgust with this world and fear of life seem to be signs of lack of courage, of lowspiritedness,which are permissible on the lower, but not on the highest,stages of the Path. Far from trying to get out of conditioned existence as soon as he can, the follower of the Praj~naapaaramitaa, armed with untrembling courage and unlimited compassion, voluntarily takes upon himself the calamities of further existence. Near even in this life, the saved do not isolate themselves from the world, but become its saviors.

    The ontology of the Praj~naapaaramitaa is a description of the world as it appears to those whose self is extinct. That is its justification, and the source both of its strengeh and of its limitation.



68.The word"indifference"is better reserved for a quality of feeling tone, end Buddhist. distiniguish evenmindedness from an unintelligent indifference which is just stupidity and denseness,the sign of a mind closed to the world.The evenminded can open themselves much more to the world than those who strive to maintain something in themselves.