Two questions - Taranatha and Robert Gussner

David Dargie dargie at CLTR.UQ.EDU.AU
Mon Mar 9 01:15:04 UTC 1998

>1. What is the period in which Taranatha wrote his account of the
>history of Buddhism in India? Is the original in Tibetan or in Sanskrit?
>There are remarkable mirror stories about Dharmakirti and Kumarila, if
>one compares Taranatha's account with the Sankaravijaya texts. Also,
>Taranatha's description of the initial conversation between Aryadeva and
>mAt.rceta is almost identical to the traditional description of the
>Sankara-maNDana miSra dialogue, beginning with "whence the shaven head?"
>"from the neck up ..." and both stories include a theme where the
>eventual loser in debate was performing an annual sacrifice for his
>2. Is anyone on this list aware of a publication by Robert Gussner (PhD,
>1974, Harvard) about a stylometric study of the Dakshinamurti stotra
>attributed to Sankaracharya? A 1976 paper by Gussner analyzes a number
>of other stotras, and ends with a brief statement that the Dakshinamurti
>hymn was probably written by Sankara, and a tantalizing promise that the
>more detailed discussion will be provided in a subsequent paper.
>However, I've been unable to track down the second paper, and have seen
>only the first one quoted.

1. Though I am no Buddhism expert, the references that I see have Taranatha
born in 1575.  His "History of Buddhism in India" (Rgya gar chos 'byun) is
translated from the Tibetan in the following reference.

 AUTHOR       Taranatha, Jo-nan-pa, b. 1575.
 TITLE        Taranatha's history of Buddhism in India / Translated from the
                Tibetan by Lama Chimpa [and] Alaka Chattopadhyaya ; edited by
                Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya.
 PUBLISHER    Simla : Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1970.
 DESCRIPT     xvi, 472 p : facsim ; 23 cm.
 BIBLIOGRAPHY Bibliography: p. [471]-472.
 NOTE         Translation of: Rgya gar chos 'byun.
 SUBJECT      Buddhism -- India -- History.
              Mahayana Buddhism -- History.
 OTHER AUTH   Chimpa, Lama.
              Chattopadhyaya, Alaka.

(I have no doubt that there are many such similarities in the hagiographies
of ancient Indian religious teachers.)

2. Gussner's doctoral dissertation (1973) and the JAOS article (1976)
covered mostly the same ground. The same seventeen strotras are mentioned in
each, and I do not think that the latter was the product of further
research. I have nearly completed my own PhD dissertation on statistical
authentication of some of Sankaracarya's works (mostly bhaashyas and other
philosophical compositions) and I would certainly be interested in further
work in this field by Gussner, but sadly I do not think there is any.

As for Gussner's conclusions about the authenticity of any of the stotras, I
would have to hold them in doubt for the following reasons:
(a) He selects only seventeen stotras on the advice of another scholar that
these are the most likely to be genuine.
(b) He uses for quantitative evidence a few dozen medium to high frequency
words, some of which are doubtless context-sensitive (e.g. avidyA, saMsAraH,
bhakti) and others that are relatively insensitive (e.g. yathA/tathA, tu,
yadvat/tadvat) and assumes that if the author of the stotras and the
metrical portion of the Upadesha SAhasrI is one and the same Sankaracarya,
then the frequencies of all of these selected words would be nearly equal.
This in itself is a difficult assumption to defend, and neither  does the
evidence support it.
(c) In a more traditional philological analysis, Gussner examines the
occurrences of bhakti, hRd, and Ananda, assuming (perhaps rightly) that
these words are definite indicators of spurious authorship in the Sankara
corpus. Only the DakShiNAmUrti stotra passes as authentic due to the
non-occurrence of these words.
(d) Gussner uses the metrical portion of the Upadesha SAhasrI as his control
sample of true Sankara authorship, but he calls into question various
sections of that work when they fail to meet the above criteria of authenticity.

However, Gussner's work is important if only for his assiduous editing and
collation of manuscripts for the seventeen stotras, including documenting
from where in India each manuscript was recovered.

I do have a copy of Gussner's dissertation on microfilm, but for copyright
reasons I think I am bound not to distribute further copies. However, if you
want to know more about its contents, then I guess I could oblige.

The following reference is the only other Gussner work that I know of.  I
would be happy to hear of others.

    TITLE    Ending the enslaving power of karma doctrine : Osho Rajneesh's
               teachings on awareness, karma and rebirth /
   AUTHOR/S      Gussner, Robert, 1931-
                 La Trobe University. School of Asian Studies.
  PUBLISHER    Bundoora, Vic. : School of Asian Studies, La Trobe
University, 1996.
  COLLATION    26 p. ; 21 cm.
  SUBJECT/S     Rajneesh, -- Bhagwan Shree, -- 1931-
  SERIES     Asian studies papers. Research series ;  7.
      NOTES    CIP changed: formerly had series number 6.
               Includes bibliographical references.
     ISBN #    186446092X :
    ABN RID    abn96070000


David Dargie

David Dargie
Centre for Language Teaching and Research
University of Queensland
email: dargie at
Phone: +61 7 3365 6917
Home: +61 7 3397 6863

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list