Thor bu - Curiosia Indo-Tibetica

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

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Indian Buddhist Biographies (1)

This very interesting blog entry posted on earlyTibet kickstarted some thoughts about Indian Buddhist biographies. I could not come up with that many off the top of my head, so Sam's assertion, namely that:
"The vast amount of biographical and autobiographical literature produced in Tibet over the centuries is an interesting phenomenon. For a culture so pervaded by the Buddha’s teaching of non-self, there is an awful lot of writing about the lives of individuals. And, interestingly, this is something that was not done to the same extent in India, the primary source of Tibetan Buddhism."
is probably correct. Note, however, that he did say "to the same extent in India". Indeed, "biographies" of Indian Buddhists do exist and some of them are absolutely fascinating. True, there are not that many. Here is one of my favourites from the time of Devapāla (most likely around 810-840 CE). The inscription is usually referred to as the Ghosrawa inscription. It celebrates the life, endowments, and career of one Vīradeva, a native of Nagarahāra (Nangarhar in today's Afghanistan).

Copy of an estampage as published in the Gauḍalekhamālā.

The text is remarkably rich in biographical details. We come to know that Vīradeva's father was one Indragupta, who became a confidante of the king (who is unfortunately not named). He had a faithful wife, Rajjekā (or perhaps: Rajjokā). Their son proved to be a very intelligent boy and he displayed lack of interest in this-worldly affairs from a very early age. After his Vedic studies he went to the Kaniṣka monastery (in today's Peshawar) and became a student of one Sarvajñaśānti. At some point he came to Mahābodhi to bow to the Vajrāsana. After he had done so he went to meet his compatriot monks at the Yaśovarmapura monastery (this toponym to my knowledge is still unidentified). He became so famous that he was venerated by Devapāla himself. Later on he was appointed to a high office at Nālandā and became a munificent donor for several important buildings.

(For editions see Kielhorn in Indian Antiquary vol. XVII - which I do not have at hand now -; the Gauḍalekhamālā, and Tsukamoto's wonderful collection of Indian Buddhist inscriptions. Here I tried to follow the estampage as much as possible, but several problems remain. Bear with me until I get hold of Kielhorn's article.)


@ śrīmān asau jayati sattvahitapravṛtta-
sanmānasādhigatatattvanayo munīndraḥ| 
kleśātmanāṃ duritanakradurāsadāntaḥ 
saṃsārasāgarasamuttaraṇaikasetuḥ|| 1


asyāsmadguravo babhūvur abalāḥ saṃbhūya hartuṃ manaḥ 
kā lajjā yadi kevalo na balavān asmi trilokaprabhau| 
ity ālocayateva mānasabhuvā yo dūrato varjitaḥ 
śrīmān viśvam aśeṣam etad avatād bodhau sa vajrāsanaḥ|| 2


asty Uttarāpathavibhūṣaṇabhūtabhūmir 
deśottamo Nagarahāra iti pratītaḥ| 
tatra dvijātir uditoditavaṃśajanmā 
nāmnEndragupta iti rājasakho babhūva|| 3


Rajjekayā dvijavaraḥ sa guṇī gṛhiṇyā 
yukto rarāja kalayāmalayā yathenduḥ| 
lokaḥ pativratakathāparibhāvanāsu 
saṃkīrtanaṃ prathamam eva karoti yasyāḥ|| 4 


tābhyām ajāyata sutaḥ sutarāṃ vivekī 
yo bāla eva kalitaḥ paralokabuddhyā| 
sarvopabhogasubhage 'pi gṛhe viraktaḥ 
pravrajyayā sugataśāsanam abhyupetum|| 5 


vedān adhītya sakalān kṛtaśāstracintaḥ 
śrīmatKaniṣkam upagamya mahāvihāram| 
ācāryavaryam atha sa praśamapraśasyaṃ 
Sarvajñaśāntim anugamya tapaś cacāra|| 6 


so 'yaṃ viśuddhaguṇasaṃbhṛtabhūrikīrteḥ 
śiṣyo 'nurūpaguṇaśīlayaśo'bhirāmaḥ| 
bālenduvat kalikalaṅkavimuktakāntir 
vandyaḥ sadā munijanair api Vīradevaḥ|| 7 


Vajrāsanaṃ vanditum ekadā'tha 
śrīmanMahābodhim upāgato 'sau|
draṣṭuṃ tato 'gāt sahadeśibhikṣūn 
śrīmadYaśovarmapuraṃ vihāram|| 8 


tiṣṭhann atheha suciraṃ pratipattisāraḥ 
śrīDevapālabhuvanādhipalabdhapūjaḥ| 
prāptaprabhaḥ pratidinodayapūritāśaḥ 
pūṣeva dāritatamaḥprasaro rarāja|| 9 


bhikṣor ātmasamaḥ suhṛd bhuja iva śrīSatyabodher nijo 
Nālandāparipālanāya niyataḥ saṅghasthiter yaḥ sthitaḥ| 
yenaitau sphuṭam IndraśailamukuṭaŚrīcaityacūḍāmaṇī 
śrāmaṇyavratasaṃvṛtena jagataḥ śreyo'rtham utthāpitau|| 10 


Nālandayā ca paripālitayeha satyā 
śrīmadvihāraparihāravibhūṣitāṅgyā| 
udbhāsito 'pi bahukīrtivadhūpatitve 
yaḥ sādhu sādhur iti sādhujanaiḥ praśastaḥ|| 11


cintājvaraṃ śamayatārtajanasya dṛṣṭyā 
Dhanvantarer api hi yena hataḥ prabhāvaḥ| 
yaś cepsitārthaparipūrṇamanorathena 
lokena kalpatarutulyatayā gṛhītaḥ|| 12 


tenaitad atra kṛtam ātmamanovad uccair 
Vajrāsanasya bhavanaṃ bhuvanottamasya| 
saṃjāyate yad abhivīkṣya vimānagānāṃ 
KailāsaMandaramahīdharaśṛṅgaśaṅkā|| 13 


sarvasvopanayena sattvasuhṛdām audāryam abhyasyatā 
saṃbodhau vihitaspṛhaṃ saha guṇair visparddhivīryaṃ tathā| 
atrasthena nije nijāv iha bṛhatpuṇyādhikāre sthite 
yena svena yaśodhvajena ghaṭitau vaṃśāv Udīcīpathe|| 14 


sopānamārgam iva{ṃ} muktipurasya kīrtim 
etāṃ vidhāya kuśalaṃ yad upāttam asmāt| 
kṛtvāditaḥ sapitaraṃ guruvargam asya 
saṃbodhim etu janarāśir aśeṣa eva|| 15 


yāvat kūrmo jaladhivalayāṃ bhūtadhātrīṃ bibharti 
dhvāntadhvaṃsī tapati tapano yāvad evograraśmiḥ| 
snigdhā lokāḥ śiśiramahasā yāmavatyaś ca yāvat 
tāvat kīrtir jayatu bhuvane Vīradevasya śubhrā|| 16 


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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the post; this is rather lovely poetry too.

Just a few very small remarks. I have not strained my eyes over the image of the estampage (by the way, is your repeated 'estompage' a typo or some kind of conscious Gauḍism?).

7b. 'nurūpaguṇaśīlayaśo 'bhirāmaḥ --> 'nurūpaguṇaśīlayaśo'bhirāmaḥ, a single compound.

10a. suhṛdbhuja iva śrīSatyabodher nijo (niṣṭho?). Not sure if the reading in brackets is something you think could possibly be read, or if it is supposed to be a proposed emendation. In any case, niṣṭho would be unmetrical, and nijo gives good sense. I think you do have to divide suhṛd bhuja iva though; nijaḥ goes with bhujaḥ.

10d. śreyo 'rtham --> śreyo'rtham

14a. abhyasatā. Grammar and metre demand abhyasyatā.

Thanks again,

H.I.

10:24 a.m.  
Blogger PDSz said...

Thank you for the corrections, H.I. Do you agree that svadeśibhikṣus can only mean his compatriot monks? This would rather interesting, implying that there was some sort of "regionalism" involved, in this case a monastery with monks (mostly?) from beyond the Khyber. Or is it simply the case that he has some compatriots in that monastery? I haven't come across this expression before.

Thanks again!

2:22 p.m.  
Blogger Dan said...

Nice one, P!

Good to see you up and blogging.

What about the bio. of the alchemist/Great Siddha Vyadi (Bya-li-pa, Vyalipa...) in Alberuni? I was thinking to blog about it, but you go ahead!

Yours,
D

1:42 p.m.  
Blogger PDSz said...

Goodness me, by all means go ahead, please! I'll stick to the inscriptions, but now I have some pressing matters.

p

3:37 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you ever get a copy of the article? I just received one I'd be happy to send to you.

9:00 p.m.  
Blogger PDSz said...

Yes, please! I forgot to follow this up.

p

9:56 p.m.  

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