The Perfection of Ultimate Wisdom

(Sanskrit: Maha-prajna-paramita-hridaya): abridged version


The noble Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara said, “If one wishes to study the profound Prajna-paramita [perfection of Ultimate Wisdom], she or he must ask themselves, ‘Personality? What is personality? Is it an eternal entity or is it made up of elements that pass away?’

“Personality is made up of five grasping aggregates which are by nature empty of any self-substance: form, sensation, perception, discrimination and consciousness–all of which the Blessed One [The Buddha] has taught us are, by nature, dream-like and empty.

“Form, or matter, is emptiness; emptiness is not different from form, nor is form different from emptiness; -indeed, emptiness is form. In the same manner, sensation is emptiness; emptiness is not different from sensation, nor is sensation different from emptiness; -indeed, emptiness is sensation. In the same way, perception, discrimination and consciousness are also emptiness.

“Thus all things, having the character of emptiness, have no beginning and have no ending; they are neither faultless nor not faultless; they are neither perfect nor imperfect.

Therefore, in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, no perception, no discrimination, no consciousness. There is no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no sensitiveness to contact, no mind. There is no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no mental process, no object, no knowledge, no ignorance. There is no destruction of objects, no cessation of knowledge, no cessation of ignorance. There is no decay and no death, nor is there any destruction of the notions of decay and death. There are no Four Noble Truths–no pain, no cause of pain, no cessation of pain, nor any Noble Path to the cessation of said pain. There is no knowledge of Nirvana, there is no obtaining of Nirvana, there is no not-obtaining of Nirvana.

“Why is there no such thing as the obtaining of Nirvana? Because Nirvana is the realm of no-‘thing’-ness. If the ego-soul of personality were an eternal entity, it could not attain Nirvana. It is only because personality is made up of elements and is, therefore, empty of an ego-soul, that it may attain Nirvana. So long as one is approaching Ultimate Wisdom, he or she is still dwelling in the realm of consciousness. If one is to realize Nirvana, they must pass beyond the realm of consciousness. In highest Samadhi, when consciousness has been transcended, one has passed beyond discrimination [distinguishing] and knowledge, beyond any reach of change or fear. That one is already enjoying Nirvana.

“The perfect understanding of this, and the patient acceptance of it, is the Ultimate Wisdom that is Prajna-paramita. All the Buddhas of the past, present and future, having attained highest Samadhi, awake to find themselves realizing this highest perfect Wisdom.

“Therefore, everyone should seek self-realization of Prajna-paramita, the Perfection of Ultimate Wisdom, the Unsurpassable Truth, the Truth that ends all pain, the Truth that is forever True. O Prajna-paramita! O Transcendent Truth that spans the troubled ocean of life-and-death, safely carry all seekers to that other shore.

“That is how a Bodhisattva should teach all seekers the profound Prajna-paramita.”


-from Goddard’s ‘A Buddhist Bible’, public domain; courtesy of, and scanned by, J.B.Hare, abridged version by