Sanskrit-Tibetan Textual Work

birgit kellner birgit.kellner at UNIVIE.AC.AT
Wed Oct 27 13:42:26 UTC 1999

"Ulrich T. Kragh" wrote:

> Dear list-members,
> I am working on a textual analysis of two works by the Buddhist philosopher
> Candrakiirti. One of my texts is his Prasannapadaa, which exists in
> Sanskrit editions and a Tibetan translation from the eleventh century AD by
> the Tibetan ba tshab lotsaba. My other text is his Madhyamakaavataara
> (kaarikaa + bhaas.ya), which now only exists in Tibetan translation
> produced by the same translator.
> I am now considering how to combine textual work on these texts - one in
> Sanskrit/Tibetan, the other only in Tibetan. Susumu Yamaguchi has published
> a complete Sanskrit-Tibetan / Tibetan-Sanskrit word index for the
> Prasannapadaa. Since Madhyamakaavataara was translated by the same
> translator as Prasannapadaa, I feel there is an adequate textual basis for
> comparing the terminology of the two texts. The problem rather is how to
> work with the Tibetan syntax of Madhyamakaavataara. May one at all try to
> consider its original (and now lost) Sanskrit syntax, and how may one do
> so? To which extent can one compare two texts originally by the same
> author, but now preserved in different languages.

Based on my (meager) knowledge, it seems to me that textual studies of MAV
would first of all have to start out with establishing the required textual
basis for the Tibetan translations, as there appear to have been different
traditions of transmission of this text, canonical as well as extra-canonical
(as hinted at for instance in a few publications by Helmut Tauscher).

Leaving this issue aside, it seems to me that the principles which are to be
applied depend on the goal that you want to pursue: Is this a "textual
analysis" that aims for instance at establishing a textual basis for
understanding one particular (Indian) author's reading of MAV, so that one
would search for the text that was available at a particular point of history,
or is it one which aims at primarily securing a textual basis in Sanskrit to a
degree sufficient to enable a philosophical interpretation of the text?These
are related goals which require partly shared methods, but some require more or
less than others ...

If reconstruction of a Sanskrit version is indeed what you have in mind, the
evidence of their being a translation of a second text by the same author, even
if carried out by the same translators, would in my opinion be of highly
limited value - much more important is the location of Sanskrit fragments and
quotations, since textual arguments, in a manner of speaking, by analogy of
"compositional and translational circumstances" require a host of
normality-assumptions that lack, in the absence of external evidence over and
above certain versions of texts and certain versions of their translations,
sufficient guarantees.

> Can anyone suggest literature dealing with such problems?

A good, and perhaps even the best, starting-point for the methods employed by
Tibetan translators in general and their implications for the philological
constitution of Sanskrit texts is perhaps Nils Simonsson's "Indo-tibetische
Studien. Die Methoden der tibetischen Uebersetzer, untersucht im Hinblick auf
die Bedeutung ihrer Uebersetzungen fuer die Sanskrit-Philologie I" (Uppsala

I hope this is of some use to you,


Birgit Kellner
Institut fuer Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde / Universitaet Wien
Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies / Vienna University

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