21 April 2011

Arapacana - translation

I've finished my translation of the Arapacana in the Sanskrit edition of the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (PPS), or The Discourse on Perfect Wisdom in 25,000 lines, produced by Takayasu Kimura (1986-2009).

In creating this translation I have also consulted the Sanskrit edition by Dutt (1934); the Chinese translations by Kumārajīva (T. 223) and Xuán Zàng (T. 220 - incorporating PP versions in 18k, 25k, and 100k lines) as found in CBETA online version of the Taisho Ed. of the Chinese Tripiṭaka ; and Edward Conze’s English translation (1975), particularly his notes on translation and ms. variants. Conze cites Mokshala [sic] which I take to be a reference to T. 221, the translation of the PPS by Mokṣa (or Mokṣala); and Yüan-tsang [sic; i.e. Xuán Zàng] which I take to be a reference to T.220.

I have also used Brough’s (1977) discussion of the Arapacana in 普曜經 (Pǔ yào jīng = The Lalitavistara Sūtra; T. 186), translated by Dharmarakṣa in 308 CE, to shed light on Chinese translations. Brough himself also refers to Kumārajīva’s translation of the Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa (T. 1509 ) a commentary on the PPS attributed to Nāgārjuna which appears not to coincide with T. 223 in every detail; and Xuán Zàng’s various translations of the large Perfection of Wisdom text contained within T. 220.

In addition there is a very old Arapacana Alphabet in the Bajaur Collection which is mostly unpublished and I have consulted it where possible. Salomon (1990) is invaluable for understanding the alphabet in any script or language. The Sanskrit editions, and presumably the Sanskrit mss. contain several conflicts that are resolved by Conze – and in each case I have followed his example, but only after consulting some of the same sources (particularly the Chinese texts) and the secondary literature. The last few lines are very confused and show a great deal of variation in both the syllable and the keyword, not to mention the fact that the number of syllables varies from 41 – 43, while the text itself later refers to 42 letters ‘dvācatvāriṃśad akṣarāṇi’.

Download a pdf of my Arapacana Translation

Please contact with any comments on this work. My thanks to readers of my VM Facebook page for contributing to Chinese translations.


  1. Hi Jayarava,
    Will you make another comparison with the Arapacana alphabet listed in the Gandavyuha?

  2. Hi Tante

    In the Gandhavyūha the words in the list no longer begin with the letter of the alphabet. I don't remember the exact words but it's as if it says

    A is for car, B is for dog, C is for apple...

    Given this fact this particular version has never been on much interest to me. It seems to be a blind alley leading of the main road. I think the authors were aware of the tradition of using the Arapacana, but did not understand the purpose. Or perhaps it got garbled by a scribe somewhere. Either way the mainstream of Arapacana goes from the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras to the Mahāvairocana Abhisaṃbodhi Tantra.

    Best Wishes