Heart Murmurs: Some Problems with Conze’s Prajñāpāramitāhrdaya

Jayarava Attwood


In his critical edition of the Sanskrit text of the Prajñāpāramitāhrdaya, first published in 1948, Edward Conze treated the verb vyavalokayati as intransitive and declined pañcaskandha as nominative plural, making the first sentence in the text difficult to parse. A comparison of some of the extant manuscripts, the canonical versions in Chinese and Tibetan, the Tibetan manuscripts found at Dūnhuáng, and the Indian commentaries preserved in Tibetan shows that they all understand vyavalokayati to be transitive and thus requiring an object. They also show that the most obvious object for vyavalokayati is pañcaskandha . I show that a simple amendment to the critical edition solves these and two other minor problems with the Sanskrit text. Conze’s own translation not only reflects the grammatical problems of his Sanskrit edition, but may give us insights into the reasoning behind his Sanskrit text by highlighting the role his religious faith played in his reading of the text.

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