Thor bu - Curiosia Indo-Tibetica

Textual and visual odds and ends from India, Tibet, and around.

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

The martyrdom of Karuṇāśrīmitra

Roughly one thousand years ago a roughly similar sight greeted a marauding army from Bengal. For reasons best known to themselves they came here - the great monastery of Somapura - to set it on fire. We know of this because four academic generations later a monk called Vipulaśrīmitra commissioned an inscription describing how the fountainhead of his lineage met his end in this sad event.
"For example, we find construction in honor of the martyrdom of the eminent monk Karuṇāśrīmitra, who went to the Buddha's heaven after having been burned to death by a Baṅgāla army while he was trying to save his monastery of Somapura. A disciple in his line constructed statues and monasteries in several locales around North India, including a monastery specifically dedicated to his Vinaya lineage, the Mitras. The interesting part, though, is the inscription celebrating this in the proximity of the Nālandā grounds, where it was set up so that its message might gain greater response and achieve the public appreciation that was its due."
Ronald Davidson, Indian Esoteric Buddhism (p. 110)

There are several problems with these statements. It seems that the inscription was not commissioned to commemorate Karuṇāśrīmitra's martyrdom, but rather the collective achievements of Vipulaśrīmitra himself and possibly his masters beginning with Karuṇāśrīmitra. That an army should burn monks is not unusual, attrocities are committed everywhere and against everyone. But here it seems that Karuṇāśrīmitra simply refused to leave the hall which was burning around him. Instead he clutched the feet of the Buddha (most likely an image) and died, presumably consumed by the fire. He did not go to "the Buddha's heaven", this somewhat odd collocation is the result of miscontruing a genitive. The text simply says in a polite manner that 'he died', lit. 'went to heaven'. Whether he was trying to save the monastery or not is unclear. I do not see any strong evidence for this in the verse. There are more problems with the paragraph, but I'll leave it here for the moment. Instead, here is the stanza in question:

śrīmatSomapure babhūva Karuṇāśrīmitranāmā yatiḥ
kāruṇyād guṇasaṃpado hitasukhādhānād api prāṇināṃ[|]
yo Vaṅgālabalair upetya dahanakṣepāj jvalaty ālaye
saṃlagnaś caraṇāravindayugale Buddhasya yāto divam|| [2]

"There was in majestic Somapura an ascetic/a devotee called Karuṇāśrīmitra, who - because of his compassion, abundance of virtues, as well as his dedication to act for the welfare and happiness of beings - when the armies of Bengal arrived and started a conflagration, passed away in a burning hall clutching the lotus-feet of the Buddha."

UPDATE: for a high-resolution b/w image of the inscription click here.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

The date of the Gūḍhapadā (updated)

Much can be said of the Gūḍhapadā, and doubtless much will be said once we get down to work on this massive (180-folio!) commentary on the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṅgīti [henceforth MNS]. The only known ms. of this work is kept at the Royal Asiatic Society as no. Hodgson 34. There is no Tibetan translation, or if there is, it is certainly not canonical. The author is named as one Advayavakra(!), perhaps a slip for Advayavajra. The colophon (see the image) says that 'he came here, to Kashmir'.

Until today I thought that the work had gained little currency (only one ms. survives, no Tibetan translation) and was not at all influential (nobody seems to mention it or quote from it). I am happy to report that I was very wrong.

Leafing through the so-called Vanaratna codex (see Isaacson 2008) I noticed that the colophon (40r) of the Amṛtakaṇikā (henceforth AK), Raviśrī's commentary on the MNS,  contains two verses not attested elsewhere (that is to say the mss. used in the Sarnath edition and the Cambridge ms., Add. 1108/13). I am not very familiar with the script, so I will not give the full reading, only pāda b of the first verse, which says:

'ślāghyā* gūḍhapadāśritādbhutabṛhatkāśmīrapañjī sakhā(?)'

[*make sure you read the comments by HI on how to construe this]

In other words Raviśrī not only mentions the title, but also tells us that it is a Kashmirian work. Moreover, he seems to have been a fan ('ślāghyā'* [see above]), and openly admits to have drawn upon it. Oh, and he also says that the work is 'massive'. Everything seems to match.

As far as I know Raviśrī's dates are not settled with satisfying certainty. However, he must precede roughly 1200 CE, because the Uddyota, Vibhūticandra's sub-commentary to the AK, by definition must have been written after the AK. The mahāpaṇḍita came to Tibet for the first time in 1204 (see Stearns 1996), therefore Raviśrī should roughly date to the middle/second half of the twelfth century or before.

Since our Advayavajra not only knows the Kālacakra, but also quotes lenghtily from the notorious Ādibuddha, he must date after roughly the mid-11th century. Therefore the date of the Gūḍhapadā must fall between cca. 1040 to cca. 1160 CE.

Well, maybe I should have entitled this entry 'The (very rough) date of the GP'.

Isaacson 2008 -- Harunaga Isaacson, "Himalayan Encounter: The Teaching Lineage of the Marmopadeśa (Studies in the Vanaratha codex 1)". (pdf) Manuscript Cultures Newsletter 1.

Stearns 1996 -- Cyrus Stearns, "The Life and Tibetan Legacy of the Indian Mahāpaṇḍita Vibhūticandra". JIABS 19.1.

UPDATE: One more thing. I have somewhat incautiously regarded the two verses transmitted in the Vanaratna codex as auctorial, simply because they sounded like it. Here is some further evidence to back that up: Vibhūticandra has some lemmata from the verse we are interested in, including the line mentioning the GP. The end of the Uddyota is unfortunately not very legible on the only ms.* I have at hand, which is Tokyo Univ. Lib. 18 (see for yourself here - you will have to navigate to the end of the codex by yourself). The Sarnath edition gives: ...... dapadam āśritā|

But if you squint a little you can almost make out: + ślāghyā gūḍhapadām āśritā| I would be happier if it read gūḍhapadā āśritā or gūḍhapadāśritā, but there we are. I think this shuts the case. The remaining question now is: why on earth did other mss. of the AK decide to get rid of these two verses?

*A plea: if you happen to have the other two mss. of the Uddyota (1. Āśā sāphu kuṭi DH 366, or 5254 in the catalogue • 2. NAK 3-655 = NGMPP A 117/10) I'd be very grateful if you could tell me what they read just before 'ślāghyā'.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gautama 'Buddha' Siddhārtha, M.Phil. (Nāl.)

Nālandā is being rebuilt, which is good news.

The bad news is that:

- one can write in a [semi-]prestigious newspaper that the Buddha was a visitor here (visiting research fellow?) and an alumnus (I gave him an M.Phil. by default);

- that there does not seem to be too much money for this;

- that the revival project is trying to get past bureaucrats; 

- not to speak of the fact that "Chinese sensibilities will have to be respected" (whereas one usually does not? or is it the case that one does not respect other nations' sensibilities?) or else " the university will be a non-starter";

- that the Bihari government promises to provide security;

- that the as yet non-existent university already revives the Bengal-Bihar/Mithila thing;

- that Amartya Sen seems to think that Nālandā taught economics and public health;

zhes bya ba la sogs

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Kīli kīlaya

viditam astu bhavatām that Rob Mayer and Cathy Cantwell have opened a blog with a rather fascinating first post and hopefully many more to come.

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