Apocryphal Treatment for Conze’s Heart Problems: “Non-attainment”, “Apprehension” and “Mental Hanging” in the Prajñāpāramitā Hrdaya

Shì Huìfēng


Conze’s critical editions, translations and commentary on the Sanskrit Heart Sūtra indicated three problematic statements: 1. “no attainment and no non-attainment” (§1.1); 2. “because of non-attainment(ness)” (§1..2); and 3. “without thought coverings” (§1.3). Utilizing Nattier’s theory of the text’s history (§1.4), we trace back these three phrases from the Chinese Heart Sūtra, to the Chinese larger Prajñāpāramitā texts, to the Sanskrit Pañcavimśati (§1.5). Subsequently, we generate new readings and incidentally a new structure for these three phrases, distinct from the Sanskrit Heart Sūtra, which is possibly apocryphal. Our new readings are: 1. “no attainment” as no realization (§2). 2. “due to engagement in non-apprehension” (§3). 3.“the mind does not hang on anything” (§4). The new structure ties the usage of the second phrase back to the first phrase within the Sūtra context of “therefore, in emptiness there is no form, … no attainment; due to engagement in non-apprehension”, rather than at the start of the next section. The third phrase indicates the mind which does not take any object, a synonym for non-apprehension. While the readings and overall structure are new, they still reflect the core notions, i.e. the heart, of the Astasāhasrikā and Pañcavimśatisāhasrikā, the key Perfection of Wisdom texts (§5).

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