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Friday, May 29, 2009

A note on Dharmasvāmin's travels

As most of you will have observed I am not quite up to date with secondary literature (nor with primary literature for that matter), so whatever I say here may have been discovered already. Jinajik tells me that there is an annotated Japanese translation of the first part of Chag lo the younger's priceless rnam thar. This is unavailable to me and I do not read Japanese (unfortunately).

The passage we are concerned here is from the second chapter of Dharmasvāmin's life (let's keep the re-Sanskritized name, although it is thoroughly unjustified in my view). When he - through his disciple - speaks of Thaṃ vihāra, he states: 
"Further, in Nepāla there is a Vihāra called Thaṃ, also called the "First Vihāra" [note 10: ka pa'i gtsug lag khang], or the "Upper Vihāra" [note 11: Gong gi lha khang]." (p. 55 in Roerich's translation)
You will find the Tibetan on p. 6.: 
yang Bal yul na Thaṃ bi ha ra Ka pa'i gtsug lag khang ngam Gong gi lha khang zer|
As far as I can tell Roerich read the ms. correctly here, but the translation is problematic. I know of no tradition that would call the Thaṃ bahi (or Vikramaśīla mahāvihāra if you prefer the Sanskrit) the 'first' or the 'upper' monastery.

It is not difficult to see the Newari Kwāpā dyaḥ behind ka pa'i gtsug lag khang. It should then follow that the expression gong gi gtsug lag khang is a corruption of *ā gaṃ [/gi] gtsug lag khang, rendering Newari āgaṃ dyaḥ. I am not quite sure how this might have happenned if it is indeed a corruption. Chances are that 'gong' or 'gi' originally read *gaṃ and the *dang a (instead of 'dang ā') was somehow misread '-ng ngam'. All this can happen quite easily in dbu med and one can play further with adding or deducting a few strokes. But the syntax is still unsatisfactory. zer does indeed seem to suggest that we are dealing with alternative names here. Perhaps Chos dar did not quite understand what his master was trying to explain?

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Blogger Dan said...

I just checked this edition of the text:

Shākya'i Dge bsnyen Chos dpal dar dpyang, Chag Lo tsā ba Chos rje dpal gyi rnam thar [Bla ma'i gsung dri ma med pa bsgrigs pa], ed. by Paṇ chen 'Os sprul, A.K. Bose, The Indian Press Ltd. (Varanasi 1969).

At p. 4. It reads just as you say: yang bal yul na tham bi hār ka pa'i gtsug lag khang ngam gong gi lha khang zer.

I don't have the other edition I know of at hand right now:

Shākya'i Dge bsnyen Chos dpal dar dpyang, The Biography of Chag Lo tsā ba Chos rje dpal, critically edited by Champa Thubten Zongtse with a preface by Gustav Roth (New Delhi 1981).

As far as I can tell, you're right reading it the way you do. At least no viable alternative presents itself! Was the informant attempting to interpret the name of the Bahal/Vihara? In that case we'd have to figure out how, in Newar, Tham could have two alternative meanings... Just a thought. Cheers!

8:24 pm  
Blogger PDSz said...

hmmm, that is a thought. I have just checked thaṃ in Jorgensen's Dictionary of Classical Newari and tha(ṃ) with all kinds of verbs means 'up', 'upwards'. so that would account for 'gong'. still not so sure about ka pa though. this is definitely one for a Newar speaker. Jinajik?

8:58 pm  
Anonymous I.S. said...

Nakayama (1994:247, n.13) gives readings of his MSS: Tham pa'i ha ra, Tham bi ha ra, Thaṃ bi ha ra, Tham bi hār, and notes also Thang bhi ha ra from the Jo bo rje lha gcig dpal ldan a ti sha 'i rnam thar. Nakayama says that sTham derives from Skt. stamba [sic] (referring to Roerich, Blue Annals, but I didn't trace this), and thus 'ka pa' should be read as 'ka ba'.

Without commenting on the particulars, for now I would only add that to perceive Newar words in Tibetan accounts of the Valley is a perfectly legitimate thing to do, even in those dating from the thirteenth century.

1:21 pm  
Blogger PDSz said...

So if we are right, could this be one of the earliest attestations of these two terms?

1:23 pm  
Blogger Sitahu said...

The Newari word khvaaHpaaH means mask, khvaaHpaaH dyaH is the "mask of the deity". But maybe you know all that.

1:24 pm  
Blogger Dan said...

There is a spelling Stham Vihāra in Roerich's Blue Annals, p. 247 (didn't look up what spelling is in the original).

If you're in the neighborhood, see if they have Indic Dzogchen manuscripts there. Orgyanpa (O-rgyan-pa Rin-chen-dpal) when he visited Thang Bi-ha-ra said he saw a lot of them.

I used to walk past it every week or so back in 1989. I would often peek in and see what was going on there. Love that place.

11:35 pm  
Blogger Dan said...

I just looked in Hubert Decleer's very fine paper, Master Atiśa in Nepal: The Tham Bahīl and Five Stūpas' Foundations according to the 'Brom-ston Itinerary, Journal of the Nepal Research Centre, vol. 10 (1996), pp. 27-54, at p. 41, where he quotes that passage from the Roerich translation. In a footnote H.D. says,

"Puzzled by 'the monastic complex of ka pa,' Roerich looked it up in Das's Tibetan-English Dictionary, where he found (p. 2): 'the first volume of a work or a series of works; a volume or anything else marked with the letter KA', and, conveniently forgetting that this is more or less true only for books or chapters—corresponding to a mark with the first letter of the alphabet—translated 'also called the first vihāra or upper vihāra.'

So H.D. saw the problem, and later in the same foot note offers a solution:

"The ka pa, in fact, stands for Ka[śya[pa, as is clear from the story following; so that ka pa is either a misprint in the Tibetan original (one syllable dropped) or represents the Newari pronunciation at the time. 'Upper' refers to the northernmost point of the city, on the north-west trade route to Tibet via Kyirong."

I'm favoring Jinaj.'s reading as ka-ba or 'pillar' right at this moment. Good night for now.

12:28 am  
Blogger PDSz said...

Indic Dzogchen mss.??? wow, that would be sensational.

no, unfortunately I am back to delightfully boring Oxford.

thx for the citation from good old Hubert. I wish he published more and i think i am not alone. I cannot agree with his interpretation of 'gong' for the time being. Thaṃ bahi is well outside the old city wall (although not visible today, the trace of a procession proves this and Kashinath Thamot once showed us a stone from the old gate few meters north of the proxy Dakṣiṇakālī temple).

yes, it is a lovely place!

7:45 pm  

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