Perfection of Wisdom literature

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Perfection of Wisdom literature (Prajñāpāramitā). This Buddhist literature was composed over a long period, the nucleus of the material appearing from 100 BCE to 100 CE, with additions for perhaps two cents. later. There followed a period of summary and restatement in the form of short sūtras such as the Diamond and Heart Sūtras, c.300–500 CE, followed by a period of Tantric influence, 600–1200 CE. The oldest text is Aṣṭasāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā-sūtra (Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines).

The Prajñāpāramitā literature was innovative in two principal ways: (i) it advocated the bodhisattva ideal as the highest form of the religious life; and (ii) the ‘wisdom’ it teaches is that of the emptiness (śūnyatā) and non-production of phenomena (dharmas), rather than their substantial, albeit impermanent, mode of being.

Other important developments in the Perfection of Wisdom literature are the concept of ‘skilful means’ (upāya-kauśalya) and the practice of dedicating one's religious merit to others so that they are assisted in realizing śūnyatā in their own case. The major exponent of the Perfection of Wisdom school was Nāgārjuna.

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