An old dhāraṇī from Xoxxot
The golden leaf seems to be inscribed in what I know as 'transitional Gupta', although being completely ignorant in the field of early Indian palaeography, it could be some other form of Gupta writing. At any rate, it seems quite old, pre-ninth century perhaps, maybe even older. It took some time to figure some characters out and it became quite clear that it is a dhāraṇī. I thought that Iain Sinclair would share my aesthetic bliss in contemplating this little page and sent the pictures to him. He promptly replied throwing some light on the Chinese characters inscribed on the left side of the leaf which he tentatively interpreted with his usual methodical caution as: "the dhāraṇī [for inscribing?] inside the discs and pole[?]" [of a stūpa?]" adding that the pole is probably *yaṣṭi here. He also pointed me to the following texts in the Chinese Canon: T 950, the so-called *Uṣṇīṣacakravartin-tantra and T 1024, the *Raśmivimalaviśuddhaprabhā-dhāraṇī. Since I don't read Chinese and the first work does not appear to have a Tibetan translation, I looked up the second, corresponding to Tōh. 510 and 982. And there it was:
yang mchod rten de'i srog shing gi gsang sngags bshad pa |
oṃ sarba ta thā ga tā vi pu la yaṣṭi | ma ṇi ka na ka rā dza ta | vi pu ṣi ta yaṣṭi dhu ru dhu ru | sa mante bi lo ki te | sa ra sa ra | ma ma sarba pā pa bi sho dha ni | saṃ bo dha ni | pra ba ra yaṣṭi | pa ri ma ṇi duṣṭa hu ru tsi ra ma la bi shuddhe hūṃ hūṃ svā hā |
rigs kyi bu ci nas kyang gsang sngags 'di nan tan du dgu bcu rtsa dgur yi ger bris te | mchod rten gyi srog shing gi ngos bzhir gzhug go ||
Furthermore, [the bhagavān] uttered the spell for/of the 'life-pole' of that stūpa: oṃ sarvatathāgatavipulayaṣṭi maṇikanakarājatavipuṣitayaṣṭi dhuru dhuru samante vilokite sara sara mama sarvapāpaviśodhani saṃbodhani pravarayaṣṭi parimaṇiduṣṭa huru ciramalaviśuddhe hūṃ hūṃ svāhā. "Oh, son of a good family, one should diligently write this mantra ninety-nine times and place it on the four sides [presumably 'wrap it around'] of the 'life-pole'."
Alright, this is one, but where did the other ninety-eight go? If one reads further, there is a directive for small votive stūpas:
yang (12b) gang la la zhig gis 'jim pa las mchod rten chung ngu zhig byas te | de'i nang du gsang sngags 'di dag bcug na yang rin po che sna bdun gyi mchod rten dgu khri dgu stong brtsigs pa dang 'dra'o ||
Furthermore, if some fashion a small stūpa out of clay and place this spell inside, it is as if they had raised ninety-nine thousand stūpas out of the seven precious materials.
What is the point of this whole exercise? Nothing really, except having fun. But is does give us something to think about, namely the incredible bit of luck we have with technology. In the old days this would have looked something like this: Olivér packs up his cases and comes home next August (2 months journey); then develops his pictures realizing that some of them are blurred (a week); sends them to me (a week); with my customary laziness I do nothing about it (1 month); then he reminds me of some pictures he developed for my use (1 day); I rummage through the ever growing pile on my desk to find them (1 day); realize I don't know Chinese (1/2 minute); send them to Iain for consultation (2 weeks in the mail); Iain browses the Chinese Canon (days?) and finds the reference; sends it back (2 weeks); I look it up in the Tibetan Canon (days...) and put together this short note (pfff, weeks).
- Olivér "Erdeni-yin sang" Kápolnás maintains a site in Hungarian about rare Mongolian manuscripts and inscriptions.
- Iain "Jinajik" Sinclair maintains the Vajrayāna studies news blog .