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.


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