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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Unpublished Tantric Studies by A. Zigmund-Cerbu

A. Zigmund-Cerbu is a forgotten scholar of religious studies in general (spyir) and Tantric Buddhism in particular (khyad par). Born in Romania in a Jewish family of intellectuals, he opted to leave the country in 1947, just before the Soviets deposed the monarchy. He studied in Paris, consuming eastern languages at a prodigious rate, much to the exasperation of his French masters (Rolf Stein et al.) for this delayed the submission of his doctoral thesis.

In 1960 (still without a doctorate and hardly any publications) he was appointed assistant professor of Buddhism and Oriental Religions at Columbia. What looked like the start of a very promising career was cut short by a fatal heart condition four years later.

Here are some of the unfinished works related to Tantric Buddhism in two archives:

A. at the EFEO, Paris:

1. Mss Europ 558A, Le yoga à six membres selon le cycle de le "Réunion secrète" (Guhyasamājatantra), 33 fol.

2. Mss Europ 558B, a French translation of Guhyasamāja ch. 18, 34 fol.

3. Mss Europ 559, a study of Pélliot tibétain 337, a work related to the Guhyasamāja.

B. at New York (Columbia?)

1. A 150 page study of the Kriyāsaṃgraha[pañjikā].

*Roşu does not mention which mss. Zigmund-Cerbu used for this study. I conjecture that these were Filliozat 31, 32. I see nothing in his biography to indicate that he visited England to check the Oxford and Cambridge palm-leaf mss, the closest available witnesses to him at the time [for these see Tanemura 2004].

2. Transcribed Tibetan text of the Guhyasamājatantra with an annotated French translation. 200 fol.

3. An unidentified Sanskrit-Tibetan text with French translation. 150 fol.

*Roşu merely notes that it begins 'rgya gar skad du'. All canonical texts begin with this. Some non-canonical ones as well.

4. Tantric Buddhist ritual. 11 fol.

*On comparing this item with the list provided in the CNRS annual reports, this is presumably on homa.

Acknowledgements and bibliography:

For a short introduction to his life, published works and a useful list of unfinished works used above, see Arion Roşu, "Anton et Liza Zigmund-Cerbu, orientalistes de talent en exil," in Studia Asiatica 1 (2000), 1-2, pp. 11-23, Centre d'Histoire des Religions, Université de Bucarest.

Roşu used the following article (unavailable to me at present) for the list of manuscripts: M. Stephen Headley, "Preliminary Survey of A. Zigmund-Cerbu's MSS" 1969, CNRS annual reports [?] or New York [?].

A short and moving personal note by Mircea Eliade, "Anton şi Liza Zigmund-Cerbu," in Revista scriitorilor români, 1966 [reprint in his "Jurnal" Humanitas, Bucureşti].

(Thanks to Liviu Bordaş for both articles above.)

Two articles of Zigmund-Cerbu related to Tantric Buddhism can be accessed via a JSTOR account:

"Ả propos d'un vajra khmer," in Artibus Asiae 24. 3-4 (1961), pp. 425-431 + 2 pl.

"The ṣaḍaṅgayoga," History of Religions 3.1 (1963), pp. 128-134. [Note that this article is bristling with transcription mistakes: yāma and niyāma for yama and niyama, etc. Was his Sanskrit this bad, or is it a case of sloppiness on the editors' part?]

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