wanted: Buddhist invocation (Skt / Pali)

Maciej St. Ziêba mszieba at UW.LUBLIN.PL
Mon Jan 17 05:29:31 EST 2000

Automatic digest processor wrote:
> There are 12 messages totalling 564 lines in this issue.
> Topics of the day:
>   1. wanted: Buddhist invocation (Skt / Pali) (3)
>   2. event announcement from SARAI
>   3. mitochondria and Indology (was Re: AIT, NEW genetic evidence)
>   4. New Publication
>   6. Etymology: sambar, the dish?
>   7. History of indian cooking (RE: Etymology: sambar, the dish?) (3)
>   8. History of indian cooking
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Date:    Wed, 12 Jan 2000 18:56:22 -0600
> From:    "Timothy C. Cahill" <tccahill at LOYNO.EDU>

> Indologists,
>    Is there a metrical invocation (preferably in Skt.) from a Buddhist
> text which in *any* way corresponds to verses like:
>         sarasvati namastubhyaM varade kaamaruupiNi (etc.)
> or      zuklaambaradharaM viSNuM zazivarNaM caturbhujam (etc.)
> I need something appropriate to teach a group of Intro. to Buddhism
> students on the first day of class. Or any metrical slogan dealing with
> the 1st Noble Truth.
> best,
> Tim Cahill
> ------------------------------
> Date:    Wed, 12 Jan 2000 10:07:36 +0100
> From:    Ashok Aklujkar <aklujkar at UNIXG.UBC.CA>
> Subject: Re: wanted: Buddhist invocation (Skt / Pali)
> Some suggestions (the first five may be preferable; the first three as
> short and manageable for beginners; the fourth and fifth because of the
> lilt of their metre and direct mention of Sugata/;Saast.r):

I have some more suggestions, some in Sanskrit, some in Pali. Mostly
traditional verses, I hardly know the source

1. Typical Buddhist "credo"

ye dharmA hetuprabhvA
hetuM teSAM tathAgato hy avadat
teSAM ca yo nirodha
evaM vAdI mahAshramaNaH

2) the most well-know maybe:
(in Pali)

aniccA vata saMkhArA
uppAda vaya dhammino
uppajjitvA nirujjhanti
tesaM vupasamo sukho

This verse has beeun paraphrased into japanese as the famous iroha-uta,
verse that served as Japanese alphabet.
To let you read about it (with the text thereof, as well as other
information) I join some excerpts from a discussion on Iroha on the
Buddha-L and H-Asia lists in summer 1997.

3) (in Pali)
sabba pApassa akaraNaM
kusalassa upasampadA
sacitta pariyodapanaM
etaM buddhana sAsanaM

4) as far as the 1st Noble Truth concerned

sabbe saGkhArA dukkhA'ti
yadA paJJAya passati
atha nibbindati dukkhe
esa maggo visuddhiyA

5) maybe also this one (Pali)

n'atthi me saraNaM aJJaM
dhammo me saraNaM varaM
etena saccavajjena
hotu me jayamaGgalaM

> ------------------------------
> Date:    Thu, 13 Jan 2000 11:13:10 -0700
> From:    Yashwant Malaiya <malaiya at CS.COLOSTATE.EDU>
> Subject: Re: wanted: Buddhist invocation (Skt / Pali)
> The best known invocation in ancient India, for others
> as well as Buddhists, was "Om Namah Siddham".

specifically Buddhist invocations might rather be:

1. (p) namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammAsambuddhassa

2. oM namaH buddhaya

3. oM namaH sarvajJAya

4. oM bhagavatyai prajJApAramitAyai namaH

But all these lack the metrical aspect


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From: Kyoko Selden <ks32 at cornell.edu>

The iroha-uta, said to be a loose translation of a 16-character "ge" from
the Nehan (nirvana) Sutra, is first mentioned 1079.  How far back it can be
traced is still a question.  There is a 970 mention of at least two other
poems similarly made up of 47 different syllables, none of which is
repeated.  One of them, by Minamoto no Shitagoo, is still very famous.  Ooe
no Masafusa (1041-1111) ascribed it to Kuukai (774-835), but this
ascription is now enjoyed only as a piece of legend.

we have Iroha-uta as follows:
     Iro-ha nihoheto
     waka-yo tare-so
     tsune naramu;
     uwi-no okuyama
     kefu koyete,
     asaki yume mishi
     wehi-mo sesu.

Kyoko Selden
(Japanese language instructor, Cornell University, NY)


William Bodiford  (bodiford at ucla.edu) Wrote:

        The Buddhist verse in question is the well-known Buddhist verse of
the dharma of impermanence:
                All compounded things are impermanent.
                This is the dharma of production & destruction
                When production & destruction is quieted
                Then that is bliss.
        or Pali:
                aniccaa vata sa at mkhaaraa
                uppaada vaya dhammino
                uppa jjitva nirujjhanti
                tesa at m vuupasamo sukho
        or Sino-Japanese:
                Shogyou mujou
                kore shoumetsu hou
                shoumetsu metsui
                jakumetsu i raku

__William Bodiford  (bodiford at ucla.edu)


Jon Babcock <jon at kanji.com> wrote:

A _quick_ check under iroha in the latest editions of the Daijirin and
Koujiten J-J dictionaries shows them stangely silent on IROHA-uta.
But old Nelson (to distinguish it from the new one that just came out)
has this:

Romanization            Kana Represented

Iro wa nioedo           I-ro-ha ni-ho-he-to
Chirinuru o             Chi-ri-nu-ru (w)o
Waga yo tare zo         Wa-ka yo ta-re so
Tsune naran             Tsu-ne na-ra-mu
Ui no okuyama           U-(w)i no o-ku-ya-ma
Kyoo koete              Ke-fu ko-e-te
Asaki yumei miji        A-sa-ki yu-me mi-shi
Ei mo sezu.             (W)e-hi mo se-su.

"A roughly literal parahrase might run: "Colors are fragrant, but they
fade away. In this world of ours none lasts forever.  Today cross the
hight mountain of life's  illusions [i.e., rise above this physical
world], and there will be no more shallow dreaming, no more
drunkenness [i.e., there will be no more uneasiness, no more

See page 1014 in Andrew Nathaniel Nelson, _The Modern Reader's
Japanese-English Character Dictionary_ 2nd Revised Edition. 1974.

The words in brackets are also from Nelson.

Note that Iro is the standard kanji translation of rUpa;
that Ui is the usual kanji translation of samskrita.

So, for example, a more 'technical' translation of line 5 would be,
"the high (or deep) mountain of the conditioned [world].  But Nelson
was making no claims for _Buddhist_ correctness in this gloss.

Jon Babcock


Jon Babcock <jon at kanji.com> wrote:

In my last message I mentioned that I found the latest editions of the
_Daijirin_ and the _Koujien_ "strangely silent" on the origin of the
_IROHA uta_ . Well, they aren't.  A more leisurely return visit to
the _Koujien_ 4th edition, revealed that I had overlooked the entry.

Koujien (p. 190) says that the song is a Japanese translation of the
_meaning_ of a gatha in Chapter 13 of the Nirvana Sutra (Ch. Niepan
Jing), the Sheng xing (or: read 'heng' among some Chinese Buddhist
circles) pin. (= Mahaaparinirvaan.a suutra) I looked through Ch. 13
(zhuan 13) of one edition of this sutra and could not find the gatha.
But, one zhuan later, near the end of zhuan 14, it appeared. Perhaps
there are several Chinese translations with different organizations?

I have a vague recollection that it is against the rules to include
doublebyte encodings in posts to this list; a pity because I would
rather include just the Chinese, since I've not studied this sutra.
But here is a rough gloss of the text.  Each line consists of four

1.  All actions have no permanence.       [actions, or conduct]
2.  This is arising and stopping dharma.  [arisal, or birth; stopping, demise]
3.  Arising and stopping once stopped,    [once, or having been]
4.  Utter stopping constitues joy.        [Utter, also silent ??]

The Koujien goes on to say what you and others have stated, that the
song is believed to have been made by Koubou Dai Shi (another name for
Kuukai, 774 -835), but that in fact it was composed sometime within
the Heian Peried, after Koubou Dai Shi's death.

Jon Babcock

PS I see I've been too slow to realize that this tread has reappeared as
"Mahaparinirvana Sutra".  Now I've got the Chinese text in front of
me; an attempt at translation may follow there.


From:    Mahinda Deegalle <mahinda at dpc.aichi-gakuin.ac.jp>

Volume three of Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan (Tokyo: Kodansha,
1983) contains an entry on 'iroha poem' (iroha uta), p. 332.  It
includes both the original poem and English translation.  It maintains
that iroha uta has its origins in the Heian Period (794-1185).  Though
author is `unknown,` it mentions that the authorship of iroha uta is
`traditionally` attributed to KUUKAI (774-835), the founder of Shingon
Sect of Japanese Buddhism.  It further states that the iroha uta first
appears in the eleventh century documents.  Asserting the iroha uta's
Buddhist background, it states that Buddhist teachings compare the
impermanent nature of human existence to "the short-lived beauty of a
flower" (p. 332).
  Another entry "Iroha jirui shoo," a Japanese language dictionary
produced by Tachibana no Tadakane in the late twelfth century,
mentions that this dictionary was organized using 47 syllables of the
iroha uta.  For explicit Buddhist backgrounds of Japanese alphabet
also see "gojuuon zu" (p. 40).
    When I came to know about the iroha-uta about one and half years
and read it for the first time, I also wondered about its Buddhist
  The doctrine of impermanence (Pali anicca, Japanese Mujoo) is
crucial to Buddhist teachings as a way of life and philosophy.  One of
the most ancient as well as mostly known Pali verse among Theravada
Buddhist communities is "aniccaa vata sa.nkhaara, uppaada vaya
dhammino" (conditioned things are indeed impermanent; they bear the
characteristics of rising and falling).  This verse is often recited
at funerals.  It highlights impermanent nature of human existence as
well as of all other things.
  The iroha uta begins:  "Iro wa nioedo chirinuru o--Waga yo tare zo
tsune naran" (The colors blossom, scatter, and fall.  In this world of
ours, who lasts forever?).  This part reminds me a Pali devotional
verse which is often recited in Sri Lankan Buddhist temples in
offering flowers to the Buddha and as a method of practising
meditation on impermanence (anicca).  It goes: "puppha.m milaayaati
yatha ida.m me-kaayo tathaa yaati vinaasabhaava.m" (as these flowers
fade away, so my body goes to destruction).

Mahinda Deegalle
Dept. of Religious Studies
Aichi Gakuin University


From: Marilyn Miller <mjmiller at bellsouth.net>

According to the Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese literature:
"Iroha uta"  Traditionally ascribed to Kuukai, this poem is now believed to
date from the mid-Heian period.

>3. Since when has the poem been used as an alphabet?

Iroha-uta is mentioned in some of the famous women's nikki of the Heian
period.  It seems to have been in common use in that period already as a
teaching/learning  device, a first step for children to learn kana

By the way the only syllable missing in the poem is "n", perhaps because
that was a later development in writing.

Marilyn Miller
Assoc. Prof. of Japanese Language & Literature
Davidson College
Davidson, NC


From: DWag at compuserv.com

A convenient place to see the poem itself is in Nelson's _Japanese-English
character dictionary_, Appendix 7, p. 1014.

Don Wagner


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