QUERY> Sanskrit Vimalakīrtinirdeśa

Dhivan Thomas's picture

Dear Colleagues,

I'm looking for some more information about Vimalakīrtinirdeśa: A Sanskrit Edition Based upon the Manuscript Newly Found at the Potala Palace, Taisho University Press, Tokyo, 2006. The Sanskrit text is available online both at Bibliotheca Polyglotta (https://www2.hf.uio.no/polyglotta/index.php?page=volume&vid=37) and at DSBC (http://www.dsbcproject.org/canon-text/titles/Vimalak%C4%ABrtinirde%C5%9B-s%C5%ABtram). It is such a boon having these online resources. I know that the edition had been made by scholars in Japan, so my query concerns what if any critical apparatus has been provided in the new edition. Alas I cannot read Japanese or Chinese, hence my query. I have been reading the Sanskrit edition, however, and have already seen ways in which it does not seem to be exactly the same text as the Sanskrit text which Thurman's translation was based on. There are also various odd readings in the newly discovered Sanskrit text, and I wonder what critical work might have been done on it.

I've found a previous H-net thread with a useful bibliography of studies on the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa (http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=h-buddhism&month=0810&week=b&msg=iEc...) and I have also looked at the recent 'integrative review' of research on the Sūtra in Buddhist Studies Review (https://journals.equinoxpub.com/index.php/BSR/article/view/17493). But I can't find in these anything specifically on the new Sanskrit ed.

Many thanks!

Dr Dhivan Thomas Jones

Associate Lecturer, Open University, Bristol, UK

Dhivan Thomas Jones wrote: "I have been reading the Sanskrit edition, however, and have already seen ways in which it does not seem to be exactly the same text as the Sanskrit text which Thurman's translation was based on."

The explanation for such discrepancies is that Thurman's translation is not from Sanskrit but from Tibetan (which itself was almost surely translated into Tibetan from a/some different Sanskrit manuscript/s as that found in Potala). To quote Jan Nattier:

'For his part, Thurman states frankly that his translation is based on the Tibetan version "as I am most at home in that language" (ix), but he does not go on to provide any textual details. And what he does say is sometimes less than illuminating. His comment that the text "was translated into Tibetan twice, the definitive version completed in the ninth century by the well-known translator Chos Ñid Tshul Khrims" (ix) leaves the reader to wonder what the status of the "non-definitive" version might he. It is only by consulting Lamotte's introduction (xxxviii-xliii) that it becomes clear that Thurman is referring to an earlier translation, preserved in manuscript fragments found at Dunhuang, which differs in numerous respects from the version that was later incorporated into the Tibetan canon. Clearly Thurman does not wish to engage the full range of textual issues dealt with by Lamotte, but a brief clarification of the identity of this mysterious "other version" would have alleviated much potential confusion.' (Nattier 2000, 238)

Nattier, Jan. 2000. "The Teaching of Vimalakīrti (Vimalakirtīnirdeśa): A Review of Four English Translations". Buddhist Literature. Vol. 2: 234-258.

Best wishes,
Charles DiSimone

In addition to Charles DiSimone's reply to Dhivan Thomas Jones' query about the publication in Japan of the Sanskrit edition of the Vimalakirtīnirdeśa discovered in the Potala, let me add the following.

First, anyone who has seen any of the unpublished manuscripts of the full translation of the Vimalakirtīnirdeśa from Kumārajīva's Chinese by Richard Robinson will notice that Thurman's later translation borrowed heavily from Robinson.

Prior to the discovery of the Sanskrit edition, all translations were based on either the Chinese or Tibetan, or, in Lamotte's case, both.

As for the publication of the Sanskrit version, the Study Group in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature at the Institute for Comprehensive Studies of Buddhism, Taisho University, produced four volumes.

Initially three volumes appeared:

梵蔵漢対照「維摩經」「智光明荘嚴經」(Bon-Zō-Kan taishō "Yuimakyō" "Chikōmyō shōgongyō") = Vimalakīrtinirdeśa and Jñānālokālaṃkāra : tranliterated Sanskrit text collated with Tibetan and Chinese translations
大正大学綜合佛敎硏究所梵語佛典硏究会[編].
Taishō Daigaku Sōgō Bukkyō Kenkyūjo Bongo Butten Kenkyūkai [hen].
(Study Group in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature at the Institute for Comprehensive Studies of Buddhism, Taisho University)
東京 : 大正大学出版会, 平成16 [2004]
Tōkyō : Taishō Daigaku Shuppankai, Heisei 16 [2004]

This edition had, on the left side page, a Sanskrit passage above its Tibetan parallel, and on the facing page, the three Chinese parallels (Zhi Qian, Kumārajīva, and Xuanzang). An incredibly useful resource, but they reproduce the readings of the Potala ms. with minimal revision or correction. That, in my opinion, is also valuable, since it is often difficult to gain access to published Skt texts that haven't been sanitized and "standardized" first. It is instructive to see how these such things look in the raw, as it were. It is closer to a diplomatic than a critical edition of the Skt itself. The ability to compare the various editions without turning a page is also invaluable.

This edition was accompanied by two editional volumes:

Introduction to Vimalakīrtinirdeśa and Jñānālokālaṃkāra,
edited by大正大学綜合佛敎硏究所梵語佛典硏究会[編].
Taishō Daigaku Sōgō Bukkyō Kenkyūjo Bongo Butten Kenkyūkai [hen].
(Study Group in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature at the Institute for Comprehensive Studies of Buddhism, Taisho University)
東京 : 大正大学出版会, 平成16 [2004]
Tōkyō : Taishō Daigaku Shuppankai, Heisei 16 [2004]

which gives details on the find, the ms., etc.

and, third:

Jñānālokālaṃkāra: Transliterated Sanskrit Text Collated with the Tibetan and Chinese Translations.
edited by大正大学綜合佛敎硏究所梵語佛典硏究会[編].
Taishō Daigaku Sōgō Bukkyō Kenkyūjo Bongo Butten Kenkyūkai [hen].
(Study Group in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature at the Institute for Comprehensive Studies of Buddhism, Taisho University)
東京 : 大正大学出版会, 平成16 [2004]
Tōkyō : Taishō Daigaku Shuppankai, Heisei 16 [2004]

Two years later the Taisho Study Group published:

梵文維摩經 : ポタラ宮所蔵写本に基づく校訂 (Bonbun Yuimakyō : Potara kyū shozō shahon ni motozuku kōtei) = Vimalakīrtinirdeśa : a Sanskrit edition based upon the manuscript newly found at the Potala Palace
Taishō Daigaku Sōgō Bukkyō Kenkyūjo Bongo Butten Kenkyūkai [hen].
(Study Group in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature at the Institute for Comprehensive Studies of Buddhism, Taisho University)
東京 : 大正大学出版会, 平成 18 [2006]
Tōkyō : Taishō Daigaku Shuppankai, Heisei 18 [2006]

This contains only the Sanskrit text, which the editors have set about to standardize and revise according to philological standards, with footnotes flagging their emendations. As they explain in the Foreward (p. v):

"It was at the end of the twentieth century, in July 1999, when the Sanskrit manuscripts of these two texts were discovered at the Potala Palace in Tibet... Considering it was our duty to publicize them as soon as possible, we first published the above mentioned Sanskrit texts collated with corresponding Tibetan and Chinese translations. Although we had produced a provisional edition in parallel with the transliteration, it took more than a year to standardise and complete it for this publication.

"In the process of revising the text, there was an in-depth exchange of opinions regarding possible emendations among members of the group. We eventually decided to provide minimum annotations in this edition since the transliterated Sanskrit text, which is presented with the corresponding sections of the Tibetan and Chinese translations, was already available."

In the Introduction. they explain:

"The text of the earlier publication was faithfully transliterated from the manuscript preserved at the Potala Palace. Even though there were obvious mistakes in the manuscript, no emendations were made because our intent was to publish as soon as possible and to reproduce the only manuscript so far available in Sanskrit with diplomatic accuracy.

"In the present publication, on the other hand, obvious scribal errors are corrected, missing words supplied, and grammatical emendations are made by consulting the Tibetan and Chinese translations... We refrain from entitling it a 'critical edition' because it is difficult for us to be as critical as we would like with a single Sanskrit manuscript." (p. xi)

"There are about twenty instances in which the Sanskrit is different the Tibetan translation and/or the Chinese translations." (p. xiii)

which they then go on to examine five cases in more detail.

The online DSBC version is based on the later proto-critical edition, minus the footnotes. The Bibliotheca Polyglotta online version cites the earlier pubication, but also seems to have incorporated the later emendations, minus the notes.

Dan Lusthaus

Many thanks to Charles DiSimone and to Dan Lusthaus, for the extremely helpful information on the new ed. of the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa. I can see that my initial query suggested that Thurman's translation was from the Sanskrit; I should have written, 'the Sanskrit text which the Tibetan translation was based on which Thurman's translation was based on'. But Dan Lusthaus nicely answers my question at the end of his informative note; he writes that the Japanese editors of the new Sanskrit text noticed about twenty instances in which the new Sanskrit text differs from the Tibetan and/or Chinese translations, suggesting indeed that the new Sanskrit ed. is not exactly the same text as the one used to make the (second) Tibetan translation (11 centuries ago!). I'm very grateful to Dan and Charles, and also to the Japanese scholars who've prepared the new Sanskrit ed., so many thanks again.