Das rmayaphala-Stra: synoptische bersetzung und Glossar der chinesischen Fassungen verglichen mit dem Sanskrit und Pliby Konrad Meisig

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  • Das rmayaphala-Stra: synoptische bersetzung und Glossar der chinesischen Fassungenverglichen mit dem Sanskrit und Pli by Konrad MeisigReview by: Paul J. GriffithsJournal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 109, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1989), pp. 147-149Published by: American Oriental SocietyStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/604372 .Accessed: 20/06/2014 06:57

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  • Reviews of Books 147

    knew 'no institution that we can usefully call kingship,' the nature of the monarchy in this period appears unlike any- thing existing earlier.... For the first time it became the conventional practice to transfer the kingship through hered- ity." This formulation makes it sound as though the Iksvaku lineage were the inventors of the practice of hereditary kingship. If he meant to say that the Ramayana is the earliest text in which this practice is taken for granted, that is a different matter and requires much more thorough discus- sion than we are given here. The evolution of monarchy in ancient India and the distinction between clan and state are pocked with too many philological and chronological un- certainties to make so smooth a statement as the one above.2

    Questions of chronology aside, a claim can be made for the Rdmdyana being an important validator of the notion of the royal state. The entire structure of the story is built around rigid advocacy of monarchy:

    -the right to the throne is the central plot device; -the core of antagonists-the rdksasas-are the antithesis

    of this state. -there is a sharp contrast between the constituents of the

    two states (Ayodhya and Lanka): armies, subordinates, and populace.

    It has even been suggested that it is the strong legitimation of the state which has made the Rdmdyana such a popular court epic throughout South and Southeast Asia.3

    The introductory matter and the translations would be enough of a contribution for this project to merit high praise, but there is the additional benefit to the serious user of these volumes-the annotation: 200 pages for this book alone. In nearly every case where the text is troublesome or obscure, Pollock has attempted to provide help to the reader. There are some lacunae in the notes; for example, he does not seem to have noticed that the Rdmdyana provides one of the most explicit-and probably earliest-references to the practice of sitting dharana to extract the payment of a debt (103.17),4 and he does not seem to know Norman Brown's work on the satyakriyd.5 But to list such items is to say that the extensive annotations are not exhaustive: an unachieve-

    2 See, for example, Romila Thapar, From Lineage to State: Social Formations in the Mid-first Millennium B.C. in the Ganga Valley (Bombay, 1984). 3 Ibid., 134. 4 See H. H. Wilson, A Glossary of Judicial and Revenue

    Terms (London, 1855), 138. 5 "The Metaphysics of the Truth Act (*satyakriya)," in Me-

    langes d'Indianisme c la memoire de L. Renou (Paris, 1969), 171-77, and "Duty as Truth in Ancient India," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 116 (1970): 252-68.

    able and undesirable goal. The annotation differs from that of the first volume6 in that it draws much more heavily on the commentatorial tradition than did the annotation of the Bdlakdnda. This is a welcome trend since much of this literature is hard to consult.7 Pollock has also chosen not to provide a summary of each asterisked passage of the critical edition as was done in the Bdlakdnda (although some of the longer passages are summarized). This is one of the few editorial inconsistencies between the two volumes. In these annotations Pollock has an occasional tendency to subject us to arguments with himself over the interpretation of a verse or to wander about in a desultory commentatorial style of his own (1.20; 9.22; 18.13; 54.6, 18; 60.9 are random ex- amples). The preparation of such a work involves the amass- ing of huge amounts of data for each verse. The natural tendency for an author is to want to preserve it in the notes. The annotation is rich and helpful, but it might have bene- fited from a slightly more parsimonious editorial hand.8

    Nevertheless, this is good work. The translation is scholarly and accurate, but at the same time it is fluent and lucid. It is free of the Sanskritisms which can creep into the translation of the vastnesses of epic Sanskrit. Pollock's contribution to the Ramayana project continues to justify the investment of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


    6 The annotation in the first volume was a collaborative effort by the translator, R. Goldman, and his assistant editor, Sally Sutherland.

    7 Future volumes of the translation project should give full bibliographic details for each commentary: an omission of both volumes so far.

    8 There is sometimes uncertainty about the intended audi- ence for these notes. For example, we are carefully told who Skanda is in the notes to 22.4 and sthapati is defined in detail (by citations and quotes from secondary literature) at 44.9, but technical terms from diverse literary traditions are used with little or no explanation, yathdsamkhya (20.28) and asyndeton (58.10).

    Das Srdmanyaphala-Siltra: synoptische Ubersetzung und Glossar der chinesischen Fassungen verglichen mit dem Sanskrit und Pdli. By KONRAD MEISIG. Freiburger Beitrage zur Indologie, Band 19. Wiesbaden: OTTO HARRASSOWITZ, 1987. Pp. x + 625.

    The author has three closely connected aims in this work. The first is to clarify the textual history of the various versions of the 9rdmanyaphalasutra (SPS), and by so doing

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  • 148 Journal of the American Oriental Society 109.1 (1989)

    to throw some light on the relations between those versions of the text preserved in Chinese translation, and those pre- served in Indic languages (principally Sanskrit and Pali). The second is to lay bare, through this textual study, some early developments in Buddhist doctrine. And the third is to improve on the paths "durch den Dschungel des buddhist- ischen Chinesisch" (p. viii) currently available, principally by giving an extensive Chinese-Sanskrit-Pali-German glossary, arranged by Chinese-character order. This last comprises more than one-third of the entire work (pp. 380-625).

    There is no doubt that Meisig's study makes an important contribution to an area where much work is needed and those qualified to undertake it are few. It has been obvious to the Western Buddhological community for several genera- tions that anyone seriously interested in early Buddhism needs to be competent not only in Sanskrit, Pali, and a variety of other Middle Indo-Aryan languages, but also in Chinese. This is because many of the early texts preserved in Pali in the canonical collections of the Theravada school, or in Sanskrit or other Middle Indo-Aryan languages, are preserved also, in relatively early translations, in Chinese versions. These Chinese versions are very valuable witnesses to the development of specific texts and text-collections, and detailed studies of all the available versions of individual texts are badly needed in order to answer questions about textual history and developments in Buddhist doctrine and practice. Meisig's work, centering as it does upon the textual

    history of a particular discourse, that on the fruit of the

    ascetic life (Srdmanyaphala), which contains an important (and very early) summation of the religious path (mdrga) to

    be followed by a virtuoso Buddhist practitioner, is a splendid example of what is needed.

    Meisig begins by outlining the five versions of the SPS on which his study is based. First, there is a Sanskrit version, available in a single manuscript as part of the Vinaya of the

    Miflasarvastivadins. Meisig uses as his source for this version the critical edition already published by Raniero Gnoli.1

    Second, there is the Pali version contained in the Digha

    Nikdya; for this version Meisig makes use of virtually all the

    published editions of the Pali canon, and in so doing provides some useful emendations to the text given in the most widely used edition, that of the Pali Text Society. Thirdly, there is

    the Chinese version found in the Dfrghdgama, a translation made in 412-13 C.E., probably from a Prakrit version in some language akin to Gandharli. This version may have

    belonged to the Dharmaguptakas. In support of this scholas- tic and linguistic base for the Chinese Dirghagama (deciding which Indic language a given Chinese translation was made from is a difficult matter, resting largely upon delicate deci-

    1 Raniero Gnoli, The Gilgit Manuscript of the Safighabhe- davastu (Rome: ISMEO, 1977-78).

    sions about the phonetic values of certain characters) Meisig

    cites the work of Ernst Waldschmidt and Oskar von Hinuber;2

    to this may now be added the evidence cited in Egaku

    Mayeda's very useful survey of Japanese studies on this

    question,3 a work that appeared too late for Meisig's use.

    Fourthly, there is the Chinese version found in the Ekottard-

    gama, a translation made in 397-98 C.E. This version, Meisig

    claims, was made from a canonical collection belonging to

    the Mahasarighika school. In support of this he cites von

    Hinuber again, and Masao Shizutani,4 but here there are

    many dissenting voices, some discussed by Mayeda,5 and

    even Shizutani is less definite than Meisig makes him sound.

    The evidence in this case appears to be insufficient for a firm

    attribution of the Ekottardgama to any school. The same is

    true for the question of which language the Chinese transla-

    tion of the Ekottardgama was made from. The most that can

    be said with certainty is that it was not Sanskrit. Finally,

    there is a Chinese version of the SPS which is not part of

    any dgama-collection. This was translated between 381 and

    395 C.E., and, as Meisig tersely puts it, "Sprache und Schul-

    zugehorigkeit des indischen Vorlage lassen sich nicht exakt

    bestimmen" (p. 19). Meisig first gives a sectional division of the SPS and then,

    for each section, gives in full the rendering found in each of

    the five versions (or as many of them as contain material for

    each section). For the Sanskrit and Pali versions the original text (in roman letters) is given, with textual notes and

    apparatus but without translation. For the Chinese versions

    a full German translation is given, but no original Chinese

    text. In the best of all possible worlds, perhaps, the full

    Chinese text would have been given in the original, alongside

    the Sanskrit and Pali versions; there were, no doubt, tech-

    nical reasons which prevented this from being done, and it is

    true that the extensive glossary goes a good way towards

    remedying the lack. But the lack of a translation of the

    Sanskrit and Pali versions makes this book almost unusable

    2 Waldschmidt, "Central Asian Suitra Fragments and their

    Relation to the Chinese Agamas," in Die Sprache der ditesten

    buddhistischen Uberlieferung, ed. Heinz Bechert (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1980), 136-74; von Hinuber,

    "Sanskrit und GandharT in Zentralasien," in Sprachen des

    Buddhismus in Zentralasien, ed. K. Rohrborn & W. Venker

    (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1983), 27-34. 3 See Mayeda, "Japanese Studies on the Schools of the

    Chinese Agamas," in Zur Schulzugehorigkeit von Werken

    der Htnaydna-Literatur, ed. Heinz Bechert, (Gdttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1985), 97.

    4 Masao Shizutani, "To Which School Belongs the Chinese

    Version of the Ekottaragama?" Indogaku Bukkyogaku

    Kenkyi 22-1 (1973): 54-59. 5 Mayeda, "Japanese Studies," 103.

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  • Reviews of Books 149

    for the Sinologue who is not at ease with Indic languages; the fact that the glossary is arranged by Chinese character-order makes it difficult to use for the Indologist who is not at ease with Chinese; and the fact that no original Chinese text is given within each section means that the process of compar- ing different Chinese versions with different Indic versions (for the user equally at home in all the relevant languages) is made much more laborious than it need have been. But even bearing these criticisms (perhaps they are counsels of perfec- tion) in mind, there is no doubt that Meisig's complete presentation of all the versions of the SPS, coupled with his comprehensive glossary, does effectively achieve his first and third goals: those of clarifying the textual history of the SPS and providing another guide through the jungle of Buddhist Chinese.

    I am rather more dubious, though, that Meisig has met his second goal, that of laying bare some early developments in Buddhist doctrinal thinking. This is largely because the results of the textual study undertaken by Meisig are not of a kind to drastically modify the picture we already have of the key elements of the thoughtworld of early Buddhism. To illustrate: the monolingual reader of (say) the easily available English version of the SPS provided by the Pali Text Society would get the impression that the narrative frame of the text (Ajatagatru's question as to the fruits of following the asceti- cal path, his expression of confidence in the Buddha's answer, and his regret at having his father put to death) has only a tenuous connection with the self-contained unit of tradition that forms the Buddha's exposition of grdmanyaphala. It is this self-contained unit of tradition with its rich doctrinal content that gives the text its weight, and this which the casual reader comes away remembering. Meisig's investiga- tions support this nalve impression: he judges that the con- nection between the narrative frame of the SPS and the core schematization of the Buddhist path (which he calls the "Tathagata-predigt") is secondary (p. 37), and that the latter is best understood as an instance of canonical commentarial literature (p. 55)-though he never clearly explains what he means by this interesting genre-term.

    Most of Meisig's attention is given to this "Tathagata- predigt." He claims to be able to disentangle the original schema of this complex unit of tradition from various later accretions (present in varying degrees in the five versions upon which his investigation is based). Meisig's discussion is detailed and complex, and thus not easily susceptible to summary; it must suffice to say that the original structure of the Tathagata-predigt uncovered by his analysis (p. 74), differs from that now found in any of the versions only in (doctrinally) minor ways. For example, the principal differ- ence between the extant Pali version of the SPS and the amended, cleaned-up ("bereinigte") version offered by Meisig, concerns the placing of a brief pericope on "contentment" (santutthi/samtusti). Even if Meisig is right in his conjectures

    as to the original placing of this pericope within the larger unit of tradition that now forms the core of the SPS, his conclusions are not likely to result in immediate and drastic revisions of contemporary scholarly orthodoxy as to what early Buddhists thought about anything important.

    A final point. There are a number of instances in which Meisig's presentation of his sources raises questions for which no answer is given. For example: it is hard to imagine a more standardized and stereotyped pericope than that describing the four rapadhydndni. It occurs hundreds of times, essentially without variation, in many Pali, Sanskrit, and Middle Indo-Aryan texts. One would have expected it to have been well known to the Chinese translators of these texts, and that they would have given it an equally stan- dardized form in Chinese. Meisig's German translation of the relevant sections of the Chinese versions of the SPS (pp. 298-317), though, leads one to believe that such was not the case. There appear to be a number of interesting differ- ences in terminology and phraseology. Why is this so? Meisig notes the differences, certainly (see pp. 45-47), but makes no attempt to explain them. Are they due to differences in the Indic original(s)? To an imperfect understanding on the part of the Chinese translator(s)? Or to some other factors? It would have been helpful, in this and like cases, to have been given more in the way of discussion.

    In sum, Meisig's work is, as far as this reviewer can judge, a model of careful philological work and accurate scholar- ship. His glossary is a useful addition to the growing body of lexical aids available for those interested in Chinese transla- tions of Indic Buddhist materials; and his study of the versions of the SPS makes available much material not previously analyzed. It remains unclear, though, to what extent such studies will further our understanding of early Buddhist thought.


    Primordial Experience. Translated by NAMKHAI NORBU and KENNARD LIPMAN. Boston: SHAMBHALA, 1987. Pp. 158. $14.95.

    The very title of this study Primordial Experience points to the core idea of what was to evolve into a unique aspect of Buddhist thought, known as rDzogs-chen 'utmost comple- tion/completeness'. Since the Tibetan text of this study, whose title has been translated according to what is intended by it, 'cultivating the state of pure and total presence' (byang- chub-sems bsgom-pa), but is known in rDzogs-chen circles

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