April 30, 2017

དོན་གྱི་བསྟན་བཅོས། (Arthaśāstra)

The life of a researcher is riddled with a mixture of feelings of frustration and elation. Often what one has assumed to be a straightforward thing turns out to be extremely knotty, complex, and infested with problems and uncertainties. Life seems smooth and without problems only if we afford to remain naive and non-analytical (ma brtag gcig pur nyams dga’ bar)! Solving or trying to solve bigger problems requires that tiny problems are solved first. But trying to solve these bits and pieces of problems first inevitably leads one further and further away from the main topic on which one is working in the first place. One’s philological sense does not allow one to return without thinking through the end and having  found a plausible and satisfying explanation or solution. In so doing, one often forgets the initial point of departure. Going astray or drifting away in this way is a disaster from a pragmatic point of view. One will never get anything done in time! In some Prajñāpāramitā contexts, the temptation to do one thing while one is doing another thing is considered a work of Māra (bdud kyi las). For example, the urge to go on reading a book (beyond one’s point of relevance or assignment). It is not easy to resist the temptation of the Māra! I often succumb to it. But why am I talking about it here. Oh, I see that Māra is at work.

I want to get my article on bka’/bkas bcad/bcas gsum done but a hundred or more factors seem to pose as stumbling blocks. In course of trying to trace some sources, I landed at ’Dar-tsha-khyung-bdag’s annotated commentary of an old biography of lHa-bla-ma ’Od-shes-’od. Quite an impressive work, I must say. Then suddenly I stumbled upon the famous Arthaśāstra by Cāṇakya/Kauṭilya/Viṣṇugupta. Theoretically, it appears that the word arthaśāstra can be used as a name of a genre and hence equatable with nītiśāstra (lugs kyi bstan bcos) or more specifically with rājanītiśāstra (rgyal po’i lugs kyi bstan bcos). But it seems to refer specifically to the famous work ascribed to Cāṇakya, also in MW, which states “a book treating of practical life (cf. -vidyā above) and political government (cf. -cintana above).” The work is translated into Tibetan by Lo-chen Rin-chen-bzang-po in collaboration with Paṇḍita Prabhākaraśrīmitra under the title Cānakya’s Rājanītiśāstra (Tsa na ka’i rgyal po’i lugs kyi bstan bcos) and it is transmitted in all accessible five bsTan ’gyur editions (i.e. PNDCG) as well as in the bsTan ’gyur dpe bsdur ma (vol. 114). The authenticity of the Sanskrit title of the work appearing in the Tibetan translation is doubtful. It turns out that the Tibetan translation is not a complete translation of the work extant in Sanskrit today. The Arthaśāstra is said to deal with 180 topics in 15 books and 150 chapters. The Tibetan translation seems to contain only the first book in eight chapters. A study of the Tibetan translation and the corresponding Sanskrit text seems to be desirable.

’Dar-tsha-khyung-bdag (p. 89) notes that the rGyal rabs nyi zla’i phreng mdzes states that Lo-chen Rin-chen-bzang-po also translated a certain work by Viṣṇugupta called the dKyil ’khor lnga pa. This little information posed two difficulties for me. First, the identity and whereabouts of the rGyal rabs nyi zla’i phreng mdzes. He does not bother to cite or provide bibliographical details consistently. This is one of the methodological weaknesses of the work. To be sure, I could trace the rGyal rabs nyi zla’i phreng mdzes (thanks to now the BDRC) and also the exact location (p. 446.4–5): lugs kyi bstan bcos khyab ’jug sbas pas mdzad pa |. The rGyal rabs nyi zla’i phreng mdzes is in dBu-med script. Second, what about the identity and whereabouts of the dKyil ’khor lnga pa? I frantically looked up internet sources for any clues but to no avail. The above source explicitly states that it is a nītiśāstra and that it was composed by Viṣṇugupta. Is this the same as the Arthaśāstra or the Cānakya’s Rājanītiśāstra (Tsa na ka’i rgyal po’i lugs kyi bstan bcos)? ’Dar-tsha-khyung-bdag is also asking the same question. And what, if there indeed was a Sanskrit word for dKyil ’khor lnga pa, would the Sanskrit name? Perhaps something like *Pañcamāṇḍalika? But why is there no clue elsewhere? Well, a researcher has to live with the fact that there are no satisfactory solutions to all the problems.

Oh, did I not begin this piece by saying that life of a researcher is riddled with a mixture of feelings of frustration and elation? The feeling of frustration of a researcher, especially if he or she tends to be idealistic, arises because no research result seems to get published because the work is full of question marks. In the mean time, a pragmatist gets many things published. A feeling of elation emerges in a researcher when he or she makes countless tiny discoveries on his or way, and whether these discoveries get to be published or not, there is the sheer joy of discovering and rediscovering little things which would otherwise not be possible. One feels like Alice in Wonderland.

April 24, 2017

རྒྱ་ཡན་པའི་ངེས་ཚིག །

The other day, I have made some reflections on rjes thob rgya yan pa. It was not an academic article. I did not provide my sources. It may be added that the Tibetan rendering for pṛṣṭhalabdha provided by Negi is rjes la thob pa. Also Ishihama’s edition of the Mahāvyutpatti reports that all four canonical editions (PNDC) read rjes la thob pa, whereas L (Leningrad Ms.) reads rjes su thob pa. He, in fact, does not seem to record rjes las thob pa, de’i rjes las thob pa, and the like. But, I think, we can be sure that also the rendering de’i rjes las thob pa is attested (for which search in BDRC). But this is actually not what I wanted to discuss here. Actually, I wanted to speculate a little about the etymology of rgya yan pa. And this for sheer fun.

What could be the meanings of rgya and yan pa in rgya yan pa? There seem to be two shades of the meaning of rgya, namely, in the senses of space and matter. (a) In the spatial sense, it means “spatial dimension,” “spatial magnitude,” or “expanse.” (b) In the material sense, it means “color.” Here, we can rule out the second sense. Thus, rgya here seems to mean “spatial scope or range.” The German word Umfang might come pretty close to rgya. Thus rgya che ba (as a verb) means “to be expansive/vast” and rgya chen po (as an adjective) “expansive/vast.” What about yan pa? Let us consider some Tibetan words that connote certain directions: yar, mar, phar, and tshur (which have been constructed from ya, ma, pha, and tshu). Also note that we can kind of nominalize yar, mar, phar, and tshur as yan, man, phan, and tshun and thus construct words such as yan chad, man chad, phan chad, and tshun chad. These words express spatial and temporal borderline or limit. I thus propose that yan in our rgya yan pa is related with yar. But ya here from which yar and yan are derived is not the same as ya in the sense of “above” but is the same as in cha/zung and ya. To be sure, cha/zung means “pair” and ya (as in zung bzhi ya brgyad) means “scattered” or “floating” piece that has gone asunder from the pair. This interpretation is obviously supported by the two words recorded by the Tshig mdzod chen mo, namely, kha yan pa and kha yar. In both cases, the meaning kha thor ba “scattered” is given. Thus it seems that rgya yan pa means something like “scattered out in the space” and “diffused” or “dispersed into an undefined spatial range.”

April 23, 2017


After wasting much time trying to trace some notes that I have taken many years ago in the monastic seminary about something called rjes thob rgya yan pa, I gave up looking for it. My “notebook” seems to have been swallowed up by the mother earth or it has simply vanished into the thin air. It is inexplicable! Nothing can substitute physical books. But the practicability of books presupposes that one has the luxury of space and privacy, especially if one is working on a theme and wishes to refer to a dozen of them. Every time one has visitors, one has to hastily put away the books that one is just working on. But I detest to do this. I want my books to be there where I left them. But alas, it is a wishful thinking! With the ever increasing mobility of researchers, physical books are becoming ever more impractical. The same also applies to taking down notes. Notes on blogs seem to be so convenient. Had I put on my notes on rjes thob rgya yan pa in a blog article, I would have already saved some time. But back then, there were no such thing as blogs. But digital sources, though never to be trusted naively, are a wonder! 

I have told a doctoral student of mine that rjes thob rgya yan pa is an interesting and important term and that she should investigate and devote a footnote to it. But she says she did not find anything worthwhile. I tried to look up myself what I wrote in my old tattered notebook. It has disappeared. I looked for it for quite sometime and wasted a great deal of time. So I am trying to piece back together some bits and pieces of information by looking up the BDRC (previously TBRC). So to begin with, what the hell is rgya yan pa? Let us first take a look at what a common Tibetan dictionary says about it. The Tshig mdzod chen mo (s.v. rgya yan) simply equates it with lhod yengs (“slackness,” “inattentiveness,” “absentmindedness”) and provides some examples. It seems to refer to what one would nowadays say in a slang, namely, “the state of being spaced-out.” But if we consider the usage nyon mongs rgya yan pargya yan pa seems to mean “rampant, reckless, unchecked, uncontrolled.” Of course, being inattentive and being reckless are related, aren’t they? 

But what about rjes thob rgya yan pa? To be sure, rjes thob (abbreviation of rjes las thob pa = pṛṣṭhalabdha), seems to be used in the sense of “post-meditative state.” The kind of (trans-phenomenal) gnosis or insight that occurs or is present after a noble awakened being (’phags pa: ārya) has gained direct cognitive access into the true reality in his or her composed or poised state of meditation (mnyam par bzhag pa or mnyam bzhag: samāhita) is called “(trans-phenomenal) insight or gnosis obtained subsequent to it (i.e. gnostic event in the samāhita state)” (de’i rjes las thob pa’i ye shes: tatpṛṣṭhalabdhaṃ jñānam). Expressions such as “meditative state” and “post-meditative state” may be misleading here because strictly speaking one who has once been in a samāhita state must be by definition a noble awakened being (’phags pa’i gang zag), that is, in the Mahāyāna case, at least one who has reached the level of the “path of seeing” (mthong ba’i lam: darśanamārga). Those of us who are soteriologically still “ordinary people” (so so’i skye bo: pṛṭhagjana) may attempt or pretend to meditate but for us, the very distinction between “meditative state” and “post-meditative state” is actually superfluous because we have never been in a samāhita state. We have actually always been in a “non-meditative state.” We have fallen into a state of deep sleep, coma, or swoon, but such a state is not a samāhita state. Those of us who try or claim to meditate without blinking our eyes or with closed eyes and who participate in scientific experiments as meditators cannot really claim that we have been in a samāhita state (presupposed by the Bodhisattva sotoeriology). A bit of śamatha meditation or so-called “mindfulness” meditation, too, has nothing to do a samāhita state. Importantly, also the state of so-called “analytical meditation” (dpyad sgom) is essentially disconnect with a samāhita state. “Analytical meditation” (dpyad sgom) is actually “analytical reflection or contemplation.” It can be a pre-meditative or post-meditative praxis, but not really meditation. We shall not go into the issue of whether there is a samāhita–post-samāhita distinction for a buddha. In short, to avoid confusion, let me use the term “post-samāhita state” for rjes thob instead of “post-meditative state.” 

Now let us return to our rjes thob rgya yan pa. If we consider various usages of the expression, we would find out that it is a kind of “spaced out post-samāhita state,” in which the non-conceptual sensorial perceptions are still functional or efficient whereas conceptions are stupefacient. The question is whether every post-samāhita state is a rjes thob rgya yan pa or it is one of the two possible types of post-samāhita state. Some rNying-ma sources use the expression zang thal dmigs med rgya yan pa, where the rgya yan pa is qualified or glossed by zang thal (“[subjectively/objectively] transparent”) and dmigs med (“free from subject/object of appropriation”). If to follow one Tibetan commentary on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, not every post-samāhita state is a rjes thob rgya yan pa. There are two kinds of post-samāhita state, namely, (a) “post-samāhita state, which is infused/suffused by [insight experienced during] the samāhita state” (mnyam bzhag gis zin pa’i rjes thob) and (b) “stupefacient post-samāhita state (rjes thob rgya yan pa), a state in which mental perception (yid shes: manovijñāna) is stupefacient (rgya yan pa) in that “objective/cognitive image [experienced] during the samāhita state has been forgotten” (mnyam bzhag gi dmigs rnam). In other words, two types of tatpṛṣṭhalabdha state have been presupposed here, namely, (a) a tatpṛṣṭhalabdha state infused by the certainty (nges shes) caused by the samāhita insight/gnosis, and (b) a tatpṛṣṭhalabdha state that is not infused by the certainty caused by the samāhita insight/gnosis. According to this explanation, the latter, rjes thob rgya yan pa, is certainly evaluated as inferior to the former. While we know that not pratyakṣa event, for several reasons, may give rise to a niścaya, no explanation seems to be given as to why certain samāhita gnostic events give rise to a niścaya in the post-samāhita state and why others do not. rDo-grub bsTan-pa’i-nyi-ma also seems to suggest that there are two kinds of noble awakened beings, namely, one with stupefacient post-samāhita state and one without it. He also seems to imply that the higher one ascends the staircase of the Bodhisattva spiritual development, the lesser does the stupefacient post-samāhita state become. This in turn seems to imply that once the manovijñāna has been transformed, there no longer remain the basis for the stupefacient post-samāhita state (i.e. perhaps at the last three, that is, eight, ninth, and tenth, bodhisattva stages).