Re: [INDOLOGY] Another Udāna enquiry

Matthew Kapstein mkapstei at
Mon May 13 21:43:05 UTC 2019

Dear Dan,

The THL translation tool is of no use unless it is used intelligently by someone who has learned the Tibetan language the old-fashioned way. As a specialist in Tibetan Studies, I have been frequently dismayed by the dependency of current students on tools that they do not adequately control.

In this case, "definitely emerge" is a red herring. It results from a failure to understand that nges(-par) as used here is simply a calque substitute for the Skt. upasarga nir- and that the verb 'byung, though often meaning "to emerge" has a broader semantic range and can also mean "to happen, occur," "to obtain," "to be born" and "to arrive, come."

As you may recall, one of the nice old renderings of the Buddhist term niH-sR  is "to come forth" and this, indeed, is pretty close to what the Tibetans were after with their coinage nges-par 'byung.

It would be a good thing to definitely emerge from unwarranted misreadings.

all best,


Matthew Kapstein
Directeur d'études,
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes

Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
The University of Chicago
From: Dan Lusthaus <yogacara at>
Sent: Monday, May 13, 2019 4:22:12 PM
To: Valerie Roebuck
Cc: Matthew Kapstein; indology List List
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Another Udāna enquiry

Dear Valerie and Matthew,

If you go to the online THL Tibetan to English Translation Tool and enter nges par ‘byung it will spit out:

JH-ENG definitely emerge/arise
JH-OE, IW, RY going forth
JH-OE {C}*; goes forth; go forth
JH-T 'byung 'byung byung byung
JH-SKT {C,MV}niryANa; (nir _/yA): {C,MSA,MV}niryAti; {C}niryAyanAya; {MSA}niHsRti


On May 14, 2019, at 6:08 AM, Valerie Roebuck via INDOLOGY <indology at<mailto:indology at>> wrote:

Dear Matthew

Thank you, that does explain it. The most likely corresponding verse in the Sanskrit then seems to be 15.19, which has naiṣkramya. The order of the verses in the Sanskrit (ed. Bernhard) and the Tibetan must be different in this chapter. Considering that this comes from a long series of verses repeated with only one or two words changed each time, it is easy to see how this could happen.

Valerie J Roebuck
Manchester, UK

On 13 May 2019, at 20:52, Matthew Kapstein <mkapstei at<mailto:mkapstei at>> wrote:

Dear Valerie,

"Definite emergence" is the translator's rendering of nges par 'byung, the standard Tibetan for niHsaraNa and  niryANa and some similar expressions. As I do not have the Skt text of the UdAnavarga handy right now, I cannot verify exactly what it translates here.

Broadly, translators of Buddhist Tibetan have divided between those who prefer to translate according to the Indic terms in the background, and those who prefer to represent more literally the Tibetan. The latter practice can be in some cases misleading, as it is here. The most authoritative Tibetan-Tibetan dictionary (the Tshigs mdzod chen mo, p. 658), for instance, defines nges par 'byung in this way:
"it is the attitude that is desirous of freedom from the imprisonment of saMsAra and of arriving at the happiness of nirvANa..." I do not think that this is very well conveyed by "definite emergence."

best regards,

Matthew Kapstein
Directeur d'études,
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes

Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
The University of Chicago
From: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at<mailto:indology-bounces at>> on behalf of Valerie Roebuck via INDOLOGY <indology at<mailto:indology at>>
Sent: Monday, May 13, 2019 9:20:35 AM
To: Indology List List
Subject: [INDOLOGY] Another Udāna enquiry

Dear Friends

Following my previous enquiry about Rockhill’s translation of the Tibetan Udānavarga, I now have Gareth Sparham’s rather more recent version, The Tibetan Dhammapada: Sayings of the Buddha. Needless to say, it is quite free of stray spiders. However as an indologist who doesn’t read Tibetan, I find many of his translations of Buddhist terminology  idiosyncratic, to say the least. E.g. the equivalent of apramāda is translated as ‘caution’ (ch. 1 passim), samādhi apparently as ‘stabilization’ (13.8 of the Sanskrit Udāna, 13.6 of Sparham’s version, which seems to put several verses together earlier in the chapter). A particularly puzzling one is ‘definite emergence’ in Sparham’s 15.26, referring to some meditation state - possibly for bhāvanā in the Sanskrit, though there seems to be a big difference in word order here.

Do these translation choices reflect anything in the Tibetan, or is the translator simply trying to get away from earlier translations he regards as hackneyed? I would be very grateful for any insights.

Valerie J Roebuck
Manchester, UK

INDOLOGY mailing list
indology-owner at (messages to the list's managing committee) (where you can change your list options or unsubscribe)

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

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list