gemination/degemination of stops in ligature with semi-vowels

victor van Bijlert victorvanbijlert at KPNPLANET.NL
Tue Dec 23 14:24:17 UTC 2008

Dear Stella,
I will repost the original questions posed by Allen down here, for I am
certain the scribes amongst us have forgotten them in the heat of philology:

'The bodhisattva takes a vow not to enter into Nirvana until all other
sentient beings have done so before him.

1.  Does this mean never?
2.  If so, is it because some beings are permanently disqualified from
3.  Or is it that they are literally infinite in number, and so though each
will eventually enter it, there will always be more?  (I'm not sure this
makes sense logically, but I'm asking what's said.) 4.  Or do new sentient
beings somehow get started, replacing the ones that have entered into
nirvana?  (I can't remember any S.Asian source that says new sentient beings
come into existence, except (according to B. L. Atreya somewhere, the
5.  Are these or similar questions ever raised at all?


I would like to suggest that the doctrine of the Bodhisattva postponing his
own final Nirvana, does not sound familiar to me from any Indian Mahayana
Sutras. Here the more knowledgeable Buddhologists could help. I am under the
impression such a doctrine did not exist. In the relatively old Mahayana
sutras like the Ashtasahasrika, the Lotus Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, the
Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra, the Vimalakirti-nirdesha Sutra, I did not find it. I
am rather under the impression a Bodhisattva is almost equal to a Buddha,
even a cosmis Buddha of the stature of Amitabha. The Bodhisattva takes a vow
to 'Nirvanise'in final Nirvana all living beings in the universe. This vow
is found among others in the Diamond Sutra, chapter 3 and 17a and the
Ashtasahasrika page 10 of the Vaidya edition. Note that the Ashtasahasrika
belongs to the earlier phase of Mahayana.

The simile of the endlessness of space is for instance worked out in some
detail by Gaudapada who was in all likelihood both a Vijnanavadin and an
Advaitin. The references to Gaudapada's texts are: in book 4.1 Gaudapada
compares the knowledge of the Buddha to space. The space simile occurs in
book 3.3-12. This simile explains in a way that the number of beings in
reality never exceeds the limits of the universe. In Gaudapada the
consciousness of the Self is compared to space. But this simile probably was
first worked out in the Ashtasahasrika.

In the Ashtasahasrika the simile of space is used throughout to describe the
depth of the Prajna-paramita (Vaidya, p 96) or the nature of Nirvana
(Vaidya, p 135, middle para). The online Sanskrit text of the Ashtasahasrika
could help in this case to locate all dozens of relevant passages by typing
in 'akasha'. One could do the same with the online translation of Conze.

Here is a link to the online Sanskrit texts:

Conze's translation of the same in pdf format:

The thing to remember is that the prajna-paramita sutras teach that a
bodhisattva should not entertain any thought of a being (Diamond Sutra 3)
nor of a thing nor of a no-thing (Diamond Sutra 6). Moreover, Buddha has not
taught anything (Diamond Sutra 7, 21), nor is he recognisable through outer
signs (Diamond Sutra 20). Nor did the Buddha reach anything like
enlightenment (Diamond Sutra 22-23).

I hope you enloy reading the Prajna-paramita Sutras and have a good

-----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
Van: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at] Namens Stella Sandahl
Verzonden: dinsdag 23 december 2008 13:52
Onderwerp: Re: gemination/degemination of stops in ligature with semi-vowels

Dear Victor,
Point taken. But can someone now answer Allen's initial questions  
which have been overlooked in the double t debate?
Happy New Year to all!

Stella Sandahl
ssandahl at

On 23-Dec-08, at 7:22 AM, victor van Bijlert wrote:

> I do not think the earlier posters were not making sense. For the
> significant difference between bodhisattva / bodhisatva and the other
> examples is that Buddhist Sanskrit has a tendency to invariably have
> meanings slightly different from 'normal' Sanskrit, also depending  
> on the
> context. This is part of the socio-religious rhetoric of Indian  
> sects in
> their debates. A good point to my mind is the very Buddhist advaya  
> and the
> terribly Brahmanical advaita.
> If the Sanskrit bodhisattva / bodhisatva is a kind of translation from
> Prakrit / Pali bodhisatta, the latter could have had the meaning of
> bodhisatvan with a meaning different from bodhisattva. The double  
> or single
> t makes a semantic difference possible which is not the case with  
> tatva /
> tattva or karma / karmma.
> But I agree, not being a pucka Buddhologist, that I could not care  
> less
> whether bodhisattva is a bodhisatva or a bodhisatta which is actually
> perhaps a bodhisatvan. The socio-religious meanings of the term can be
> understood from the way the term is used in various Buddhist texts.
> Victor van Bijlert
> -----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
> Van: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at] Namens Stella Sandahl
> Verzonden: dinsdag 23 december 2008 13:07
> Aan: INDOLOGY at
> Onderwerp: Re: gemination/degemination of stops in ligature with  
> semi-vowels
> At last something sensible in the double t debate! Thanks!
> Stella Sandahl
> --
> University of Toronto
> On 22-Dec-08, at 10:21 PM, Dominic Goodall wrote:
>> Surely the alternation bodhisatva/bodhisattva in manuscript
>> transmission has now been more or less explained.
>> Gemination of stops in ligature with semi-vowels is unproblematic
>> and no reader is fazed by karmma being written in place of karma.
>> Degemination of stops in ligature with semi-vowels has therefore
>> also long been assumed to be unproblematic by many transmitters of
>> Sanskrit texts.  For many a scribe, there is simply no meaningful
>> difference between sattva and satva (even if a grammarian might
>> baulk at writing the second). Reading one, a scribe may happen to
>> `copy' the other. Many editors therefore pass over this sort of
>> variation in silence on the grounds that there is no point
>> differentiating what transmitters of the text have clearly regarded
>> as functionally identical.
>> Michael Slouber has helpfully pointed out the parallel case of
>> tattva/tatva. But it is perhaps worth considering also such
>> examples as v.rttyaa (instrumental singular of v.rtti): some
>> transmitters may in the same text write v.rtti with a doubled t,
>> but v.rtyaa with a single one. Noone is likely to entertain
>> speculations about this difference reflecting different notions of
>> etymology.
>> Conclusion: it seems unlikely that anything can be useful known
>> about the history of the word bodhisattva/bodhisatva from the way
>> it is written in manuscripts.
>> Dominic Goodall
>> Pondicherry Centre,
>> Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient (French School of Asian Studies)
>> On 23 Dec 2008, at 02:47, victor van Bijlert wrote:
>>> But then again in Bengali script the difference would be very
>>> noticeable.
>>> Moreover, if this orthography also occurs in manuscripts from
>>> Central Asia
>>> that are not written in Nagari, the orthography still needs to be
>>> explained.
>>> Victor
>>> -----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
>>> Van: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at] Namens Allen W
>>> Thrasher
>>> Verzonden: maandag 22 december 2008 20:44
>>> Aan: INDOLOGY at
>>> Onderwerp: Re: bodhisattva/bodhisatva
>>> Frequently Nagari t's are written starting with a horizontal, with
>>> the
>>> result that t and tt can look virtually identical.
>>> Allen
>>> Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D.
>>> Senior Reference Librarian
>>> Team Coordinator
>>> South Asia Team, Asian Division
>>> Library of Congress, Jefferson Building 150
>>> 101 Independence Ave., S.E.
>>> Washington, DC 20540-4810
>>> tel. 202-707-3732; fax 202-707-1724; athr at
>>> The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the
>>> Library of
>>> Congress.

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