Perfection of Wisdom

Stefano Zacchetti

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Perfection of Wisdom

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The Sanskrit compound Prajñāpāramitā (“Perfection of Wisdom” or “Insight”) may refer to both a set of (primarily cognitive) practices, and a class of scriptures devoted to their exposition. There is a broad albeit not unanimous consensus in modern Buddhist studies that the Perfection of Wisdom was one of the earliest scriptural traditions related to the Mahāyāna (“Great Vehicle”) movement. Prajñāpāramitā texts outline a method that a bodhisattva should follow in order to reach the ultimate goal of perfect awakening. The central idea of this method is that a practitioner should achieve a state of complete detachment from all things and factors (and particularly from his or her own spiritual achievements), through the understanding of their “emptiness” (śūnyatā). These ideas have found expression in a diverse and rich textual corpus, grown over a long period of time, and consisting of both base texts (i.e., scriptures presented as sermons preached by the Buddha, or sūtras), and their commentaries. A substantial part of this huge literature survives in Sanskrit (albeit mostly in rather late manuscripts), and most of it has been translated over the centuries into Chinese and Tibetan. The Perfection of Wisdom was arguably influential, to varying degrees, on any form of Mahayana Buddhism. It remained a central tradition even in later Indian and in Tibetan Buddhism and had a tremendous impact in China: after having been introduced in China during the 2nd century ce, the Perfection of Wisdom came to dominate the philosophical debate during the 4th–5th centuries.

Article.  6209 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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