Two leaves from early West-Tibetan ‘Perfection of Wisdom’ manuscripts.
What is the ‘Perfection of Wisdom’?
The ‘Perfection of Wisdom’ sūtras (Sanskrit: Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra) are among the oldest sutras of the Mahāyāna Buddhist canon. They highlight the insight into the empty nature of all phenomena. The sutras exist in a number of versions of different sizes, occupying twenty-one volumes in the Tibetan Buddhist canon. The largest Perfection of Wisdom is in 100,000 verses with other versions measuring 25000 and 8000 verses. The most famous of the shorter versions is the so-called Diamond Sūtra (Sanskrit: Vajracchedikā), in 300 verses. The Perfection of Wisdom Sutra has also played an important role in the religious practice of Buddhist lay practitioners either by commissioning precious copies of the sutra as a means to create religious merit (e.g. for the benefit of a deceased relative), or by inviting monks from a monastery into a private household for long recitations to receive the blessing from the text.
What is shown here?
These are two single leaves from copies of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra in 100,000 verses. They date both from some time in the 14th century. Though similar in style they come from two different manuscripts. The image in the middle of the first, Or 14980, possibly displays the family of the sponsor of the manuscript. The second, Or 14981, displays a miniature of the Buddha Shakyamuni on the left and his disciple Subhuti on the right.