More on "musical trees," etc.

Christian K. Wedemeyer wedemeyer at HUM.KU.DK
Thu Dec 14 15:34:23 UTC 2000

Dear Friends,

First of all, thank you for all the helpful suggestions.  I apologize
for the delay in my responding.  I do indeed want to share more about
this question, but my own interior data processor does not work as
fast as the digital age technology found on my desk.  I have been a
bit swamped and have struggled to find the time to follow up all the
helpful threads.  Here is some more information for those interested
and my thoughts on some of the suggestions.  As before, I appreciate
any feedback.

In terms of context, this passage occurs in the second chapter of
Aryadeva's _Caryaamelaapakapradiipa_, which work was a significant
focus of my recent doctoral dissertation ("Vajrayana and its Doubles:
A critical historiography, exposition, and translation of the Tantric
works of Aryadeva," Columbia 1999).  This text is (to my knowledge)
the most thorough-going and important Indian source which describes a
gradual process of Tantric yoga--the inspiration for later Tibetan
compositions in the "progressive stages" genre, such as
Tsong-kha-pa's _sNags-rim chen-mo_ and the like.  In terms of date,
the conventional wisdom (such as it is) would put it somewhere in the
second half of the first millennium, though the indigenous tradition
considers it to have been written in the first half of the first
millennium (though there is some interesting ambiguity in these
latter traditions).

This second chapter is the "kaayaviveka" chapter, which treats of the
process of eliminating the pride of ordinariness
(praak.rtaaha.mkaara), by (among other strategies) breaking down the
ordinary world and teaching that these are the jurisdiction
(adhi.s.thaana--actually somewhat more than mere "jurisdiction,"
since the one who has jurisdiction actually *is* the thing in
question) of the Five Tathaagata-s.  Aryadeva thus breaks down the
five aggregates (skandha), the four elements (dhaatu), the six sense
media (aayatana), and the ten vital winds (vaayu) five-by-five.

The passage in question is a dissection of one of the winds, the
"re-moving" (vi-vaaha) wind.  Aryadeva says, (in my old working
translation) "(the wind called) 're-moving,' in collaboration with
the aural media, performs the five-fold activities of sound.  With
regard to that, sounds inside the ear (kar.naabhyantare zabda.h) and
head [and] hair sounds (zira.h-keza-zabdaz ca) are Vairocana's
[jurisdiction].  Sounds of singing and stringed instruments
(giita-tantrii-zabda) are Ratnasambhava's.  Palatal, labial, and
vocal sounds (taalvo.s.thavaak-zabda) are Amitaabha's.  Instrumental
music such as wooden [instruments], nadii, snapping of fingers,
clapping, and drums
(vanaspati-nady-uccha.taa-taala-murajaadi-vaadya-zabda) is
Amoghasiddhi's.  The peaceful and wrathful sounds of the syllable
Huu.m (huu.mkaara-zaanta-raudra-zabda) are Ak.sobhya's jurisdiction."

Now, regarding Stephen's valuable suggestion concerning an abhidharma
reference: this is a very nice reading in many ways.  Abhidharma is
indeed the most likely source, since (as a former colleague of mine
once quipped in a lighter moment) Vajrayaana commentaries are "like
abhidharma on drugs."  Further, having discussed it a bit, (my
current colleague) Ken Zysk and I agreed that to list *five* members
with an -aadi construction could be seen as a bit of an overkill.
Thus, the notion that the -aadi is to be construed only with muraja
is not at all unlikely.  (Any comments from the grammarians out there
on such use of -aadi would be appreciated.)
        A further question for Stephen, however: is Asanga's
breakdown intended to be comprehensive (i.e. as a total analysis of
sound) or is it partial (i.e. an analysis of percussive sounds
alone)?  If the latter is the case, it would fit well: in addition to
the songs and strings of Ratnasambhava, and the vocal sounds of
Amitaabha, the complete range of percussive sounds (i.e. those made
by all natural percussion, those made by human self-percussion, and
those made by impact of human parts on natural things) would fall
under Amoghasiddhi.

There may be some hope for the musicological interpretation, though.
For in the above classification (on that reading) we see only vocal,
string, and percussion.  Thus, among the four kinds of vaadya (taata-
or string, avanaddha- or skin-covered drus, su.sira- or wind, and
ghana- or solid metal musics) only the first and second would be
covered.  This raises some difficulties.
        Consider this passage from S. Bandopadhyay's _Musical
Instruments of India_ (Varanasi: Chaukhamba, 1980): "The instruments
of wind, percussion, and stringed [sic] were represented by turva,
baakura, naadi, and kanna.davii.naa, karkarii, vii.naa, and also
dundubhi, bhuumidundubhi, and vanaspati respectively."  This is said
to be a breakdown of instruments mentioned in Vedic literature.
        So, vanaspati could be a wooden percussion instrument of some
sort; "nady" could either be emended to read naadi (and thus be a
wind instrument--perhaps a kind of flute?) or, as suggested by
Daniela Rossella, read as nadii and interpreted as a kind of
jala-taraNga (did these exist in the first millennium?  Bandopadhyay
suggests that they are quite ancient.)  Furthermore, taala could be
interpreted to mean cymbals, rather than clapping.
        Thus we would have: an old-fashioned wooden instrument (very
possibly singed, or possibly percussive, but not including a skin
membrane), a wind instrument, finger-snapping (?), cymbals (cf. Apte:
taala = "a musical instrument made from bell metal"), and
skin-membraned drums like the muraja.
        What do you think?  This would provide full coverage of the
four types of music: muraja representing avanaddha-vaadya, taala
representing ghana-vaadya, naadi representing su.sira-vaadya,
vanaspati representing taata-vaadya, and uccha.taa being another type
of vaadya made with human hands.  The major difficulty I see with
this interpretation (besides the fact that it is so convoluted!) is
that we already have tantrii-zabda under another category and so
vanaspati as stringed instrument might be redundant.

I apologize for going on at such length.  I hope Dominik and all of
you will be patient with me.  Thanks again for all the assistance to
date.  Thanks in advance for any future comments on the above.


Christian Wedemeyer
University of Copenhagen

P.S. I am also interested that Narender Mohkamsing finds the
rendering of ucchaTaa as "snapping of fingers" problematical.  It
does seem to be a weird expression.  The recent edition of the CMP
published by J. Pandey (Sarnath 2000) reads ucchaa.ta instead, but
the manuscript clearly reads uccha.taa, which is attested in the
_Dictionnaire Tibétain-Sanscrit_ of Tshe-ring dBang-rgyal (published
by J. Bacot, Paris 1930) as an equivalent of the Tibetan se gol
(found in the Tibetan translation of the CMP), which unambiguously
means "snapping of fingers."  To my knowledge, this expression does
not occur in other dictionaries (e.g. Monier Williams, Apte, etc.).
        Though this is obviously the reading of the Tibetan
translators, can anyone make anything of ucchaa.ta in this context?

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *
                        Christian K. Wedemeyer, Ph.D.
                University Instructor of Tibetan Studies
Department of Asian Studies                     Asien-Instituttet
University of Copenhagen                        Københavns Universitet
Leifsgade 33,5                                  Leifsgade 33,5
DK-2300 Copenhagen S                            2300 København S
DENMARK                                         DANMARK
Phone: (45) 35 32 88 38                         Fax: (45) 35 32 88 35
                        E-mail: wedemeyer at
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