Hello to Edgar, Erik, Kent and all...
Rather than allowing what may appear as speculation on my part (which is proven NOT to be, here (below), by Dr. Edward Conze himself)...I'd like to share this from the dear Doctor, regarding the dating, and a few (to say the least) interesting particulars which give a bit of insight into E.C. and why I chose to attempt this revision, as well as why I stand by the brief details on the introductory page TO The Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines here in our precious fount of knowledge and realization...The Dharma Dictionary and Encyclopedia of the World.
Lady's and Gentlemen, please welcome Dr. Edward Conze:
The Two Versions
"In this book the reader finds the same text presented in two versions, once in verse and once in prose. For early Mahayana (1) Sutras that was quite a normal procedure. Generally speaking the versified versions are earlier, and in all cases they have been revised less than those in prose. The reason lies in that the verses are in dialect, the prose in generally correct Sanskrit. The dialect is nowadays known as “Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit,” a term adopted by Professor F. Edgerton who first compiled its grammar and dictionary. (2) The verses are often difficult to construe, and require close comparison with the Tibetian translations which reflect the knowhow of the Indian pandits of the ninth century. Nevertheless most of my translation should be regarded as fairly reliable, and there are serious doubts only about the rendering of I 7, II 13 and XX 13, which so far no amount of discussions with fellow scholars has dispersed."
The verse form of this Sutra is handed down to us under the name of Prajnaparamita-Ratnagunasamcayagatha (3) (abbreviated as Rgs), which consists of 302 “Verses on the Perfection of Wisdom Which is the Storehouse of Precious Virtues,” the virtuous qualities being, as the Chinese translation adds, those of the “Mother of the Buddhas.” The text has acquired this title only fairly late in its history, for references to it occur only at XXIX 3 (idam gunasamcayanam) and XXVII 6 (ayu vihara gune ratanam), i.e. in the latest portions of the text. But Haribhadra, its editor, has not made it up from these hints because two verses from it are quoted by Candrakirti (ca 600) under the title of Arya-Samcayagatha.(4) Unfortunately our present text is not the original one. It has been tampered with in the eight century when, under the Buddhist Pala dynasty, which then ruled Bihar, the great expert on Prajnaparamita, Haribhadra, either rearranged (5) the verses or, perhaps, only divided them into chapters. Regrettably the Chinese translators also missed the original text and produced only a tardy and one too reliable translation of Haribhadra’s revision in A.D. 1001. But the verses themselves, are distinct from their arrangement, cannot have been altered very much because their archaic language and metre would resist fundamental changes. Although some of the poem’s charm evaporates in translation, it nevertheless comes through as a human and vital statement of early Mahayana Buddhism, simple and straightforward, pithy and direct. Not unnaturally the Ratnaguna is still very popular in Tibet where it is usually found in conjunction with two other works of an edifying character, the “Vows of Samantabhadra” and “The Recitation of Manjusri’s Attributes.” In my view the 41 verses of the first two chapters constitute the original Prajnaparamita which may well go back to 100 B.C. and of which all others are elaborations. Elsewhere I have given an analytical survey of their contents. (6) These chapters form one single text held together by the constant recurrence of the refrain “and that is the practice of wisdom, the highest perfection” (esha sa prajna-vara-paramita carya) and terminated by a fitting conclusion in II 13.7 In fact the title of the original document was probably “the practice (carya) of Perfect Wisdom,” just as the China the first P.P text had been the Tao-hsing, “the practice of the Way,” in one fascicle (8) and as in the three earliest Chinese translations the first chapter was called “practice (of the Way),” and not, as now, “the practice of the knowledge of all modes.” (9)
(1) Maha-yana, ‘great vehicle.” Opposite hina-yana, ‘inferior vehicle.’ Both arose about the beginning of the Christian era. What preceded them for 500 years was neither ‘Hinayana’ nor ‘Mahayana,’ and should be called the doctrine of the Elders. – Sutra = a sermon attributed to the Buddha.
(2) Published in 1953. Reprinted 1970 in India.
(3) Bibliographical notes on all the P.P. (abbreviation of Prajnaparamita) texts up to 1960 in E. Conze, The Prajnaparamita Literature, 1960; up to 1971 in P. Beautrix, Bibliographie de la litterature Prajnaparamita, 1971
(4) Verses xx 5 and ii 3d in Prasannapada, ed. de la Valle-Poussin, 1903-14, vii, 166-67.
(5) Suvihita. So in the second of two final verses omitted in the translation as being clearly the work of Haribhadra himself.
(6) In 1960. Reprinted in Thirty Years of Buddhist Studies, 1968, 124-30.
(7) Looking again at this verse I find that my translation is rather free and perhaps unduly interpretative. The Sanskrit just says: “Thus speaks the Jina, an uncontradicted speaker: “When I was (not deprived [so A]) of this supreme perfection, then, etc.” My translation is, however, partly suggested by the Tibetan.
(8) Kajiyoshi and Hikata (xxxvi-xxxvii), it is true, have doubted Seng-yu’s statement on this, but without giving convincing reasons.
(9) Sarva-akara-jhata-carya. “Knowledge of all modes” is a late scholastic term for the omniscience of the Buddha as distinct from that of other saints. The Ashta always uses the simpler term “all-knowledge, except at xxx 507.