Re: an āmalakī in the palm of the hand

Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at GMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 30 19:21:02 UTC 2011

Dear Ryan,

In my view, your Tibetan colleagues are simply wrong.  Or else they are in
receipt some odd tradition that has strayed far from the original meaning of
the āmalaka-in-the-hand simile, and got lost on the way.

The āmalaka/ī is and was the Emblic myrobalan (Emblica officinalis,
There are many pictures on the web, and even one of some emblics in
someone's hands:

Emblics are a common fruit in South Asia, and have been so for over two
millennia.  The word "emblic" was very common in English amongst the British
in India, as it was a well-known, fruit often consumed daily.  Many
references in Hobson-Jobson<>(who
also asserts on good authorities that Skt. āmalaka is the origin of
name of the Malay city Malacca!).  My subjective impression is that British
Indian authors referred to emblics more or less as one might today refer to
an apple.  "Emblic" wasn't at all a rare word (or fruit).

The simile is just, as you say, something totally obvious.  Think, "as plain
as an apple in the palm of your hand."

I think we can just set aside all talk of transparency and inner structure.
(I also think that the idea that something with an exterior can in some
sense be explained by reference to its inner structure is probably a rather
modern idea, and probably not Sanskritic at all.  At the very least, it
should be questioned, as a concept.  Ask, with what vocabularly would such a
concept be expressed in Sanskrit?)



On 29 April 2011 07:47, Ryan Damron <rdamron at> wrote:

>  Dear all,
> I recently came across a reference to the āmalaki fruit in the Buddhist *
> Mahāmāyātantra* and in its commentary, the *Guṇavatī* by Ratnākaraśānti.
> The citations are as follows:
> First from the root tantra, in Tibetan (there is no extant Sanskrit
> manuscript):  *lag tu skyu ru ra bzhag bzhin*.
> Which Ratnākaraśānti glosses with: *svahaste sthitamekamāmalakam
> yathetyarthaḥ*
> I initially took this to mean simply that the referent was as clear to the
> subject as a fruit placed in one's own hand.  However, two Tibetan
> colleagues both asserted that the *āmalakī* fruit, as understood in the
> Tibetan Buddhist tradition at least, is a translucent fruit which reveals
> its inner structure to the subject (not my personal experience with the
> contemporary version of Amalaki fruit).  Thus for a situation to be "like an
> *āmalakī* fruit in one's own hand" means one is able to see the referent
> inside and out, that is, in totality.  My question then is this:  is this
> analogy common in Indic traditions and, more importantly, are there any
> known references to these properties of the *āmalakī* in Sanskrit works?
> Much thanks,
> Ryan
> Ryan Damron
> Graduate Student
> Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies
> University of California, Berkeley

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list