Citations from the BCA

In document Remaking Buddhism for Medieval Nepal (Will Douglas) (Page 72-75)

Figure 2.3: Partial map of the narrative frame structure of the GKV

2.2.2 Citations from the BCA

The author of the GKV has embellished and enlivened the story in the process of setting it to verse. This is counterbalanced by a tendency to simplify the language of the KV, sometimes quite drastically. The KV goes on to tell us the reason for their rebirth as worms, at the same time as it expresses the power of their liberation:

te ca sarve

bhittvā, sarve te lokadhatāv (KV

N1 f. 80)

And they all shattered the 20-peaked mountain of belief in a permanent self with a vajra of awareness which consisted only of the recollection of the invocation of Buddha. All of them were reborn in the realm of Sukhāvatī.

2.2.2 Citations from the BCA

The citations from the BCA occur in two blocks; in GKV VIII we find verses from all chapters of the BCA, and in GKV XVIII, verses from chapters five through nine. The verses for students in XVIII follow the order of the source text with some breaks:41

V.1–59, 70–102, 107–8

The citations in VIII do not follow the order of the BCA so closely:

II.1–9, 21–32, 34–50ab, 51cd, 57–9, 61–6 III.1–5

1.4–19, 26–31, 34–5.

IV.1, 3cd, 12cd, 4–6ab, 8cd–10, 13, 17–9, 21, 23cd, 25, 28–9ab, 27ab, 30, 33, 35, 39–40.

VI.13, 100. VII.12. VI.14, 45. VII.15, 39, 27, 46ab, 37, 38ab, 41–5, 48, 52–3, 55–7ab, 58ab, 59, 64

VIII.5–13, 19ab, 20, 22ab, 40–1, 60ab, 63cd, 64cd, 77–8.

IX.144, 151–68.

VIII.117, 119–37.

VI.1–2. V.12cd. VI.6cd–7ab, 9–10, 21, 25, 33, 47–49ab, 67ab, 69, 97–

9, 101–3, 105–7, 110–9, 122–3, 126–7, 133–4.

V.97, 99–102.

original material for a few ślokas III.6–23, 25–33.

IV.48. V.1–19, 22, 25–33.

Bali’s speech makes more extensive and creative use of the BCA than the simple citations of XVIII. First, the order here does not strictly follow the order of the verses as they occur in the BCA. More significantly, while the verses listed here correspond to verses in the BCA, in many cases the exact verse cited does not match the BCA in its printed editions, that is, Minayeff’s edition of the root text and de la Vallee Poussin’s edition with Prajñākāramati’s commentary, together with the two more recent editions of the root text and commentary in the Bibliotheca Buddhica and Bauddha

Granthāvalī series.


The variations in the BCA as cited within the GKV and as found in other BCA traditions are of two kinds. First, the authors of the GKV adapted the BCA for their purposes; and second, the verses of the BCA itself which are cited appear to include variants not known in other Sanskrit manuscripts.

Adaptations Citations have been changed into second person exhortations from the reflective monologue of the original text. The composer of the GKV rearranged various verses to fit the meter while consistently substituting tvam for aham and so on. I have included edited fragments which highlight these changes in an appendix.

Variations What is more startling for contemporary historians of Buddhism is the variant readings which the manuscripts of the GKV preserve. In some cases half verses are completely different; elsewhere, we simply have variations in a particle. The GKV manuscripts are remarkably uniform in preserving these variants, however, and there are occasional subsequent errors within the GKV tradition at these loci which serve to confirm the age of the readings. These variant readings appear to be concentrated in the citations from what is now chapters 2 and 3.42 The systematic substitution of second person for first person forms is not a factor in the citations from chapter 2, and there is no

Remaking Buddhism for Medieval Nepal 58

similar programmatic pattern that I can detect which informs the variants. It seems, therefore, that the composers of the GKV had access to a manuscript tradition of the BCA different from any presently available in Sanskrit.

From the evidence of the manuscripts, it is clear that this BCA tradition did not include the Pañjikā of Prajñākāramati, for that commentary in several places cites the root text against the variants in the GKV tradition. The existence of other manuscript traditions of the BCA has been known for some time. Skilton and Crosby, in the introduction to their translation (1995), summarize the present state of study of the textual transmission of the BCA. In brief, there is an earlier, shorter version which survives in three manuscripts from Dunhuang. This material is being studied by SAITO Akira, who has published studies of the latter chapters. They write,

This Tun-huang recension is considerably shorter than the present version, by some 210½ verses (701½ as against 912). Furthermore, a number of the verses appearing in the Tun-huang recension are not in the canonical recension. The bulk of the internal differences between the two recensions appears from Chapter 5 onwards. (xxxi)

Unfortunately, so far as I know the Dunhuang materials which SAITO Akira has been using to build a comparison of the older and newer recensions of the BCA are not yet available, and it is therefore impossible for me to do much more than note the existence of these variants. This would appear to have been the attitude of the more intelligent scribes within the Nepalese tradition as well. Within the past twenty years, printed editions in Newari of both the GKV (Sakya 1997) and BCA (Vājrācarya 1986) have been published in Nepal. Both books preserve the original verses in Sanskrit, however, and it is immediately clear that they do not attempt to harmonize the two transmissions; the GKV’s version of the BCA verses is apparently considered an independent recension.

Even where, as is the case in manuscript C1, a Nepalese scribe recognized that there was a problem, the two versions of the verse are simply noted side by side. At XVIII.58 the GKV recension has:

yasmād bhayāni apramitāny api

cittād eva samudyānti ||

a tattvavadinā: C1 (194v) adds, following known texts of the BCA

Note, however, that manuscript C1 adds the text of the BCA transmission in this instance.

While the scribe of C1 is not consistent in his corrections, and makes no such efforts in chapter VIII, here he apparently did have a copy of the BCA available (in what became its published transmission, probably with the Pañjikā) and simply added its reading of the BCA into his transcription.43 This refusal to eliminate the reading of the GKV suggests that there was some awareness of the different readings preserved in the two textual traditions.

When I asked the editor44 of the recent Newari translation of the GKV why so much material from the BCA was cited in the GKV even when the GKV continues to circulate independently in Nepal, I was told that chapter VIII, in particular, was a commentary on

Form, genre and dating 59

the BCA especially suitable for Newars. Although I presume he knew that the two versions were substantially different, as he is a scholar widely read in the Sanskrit Buddhist literature, I did not call his attention to them directly. We will return to consider this description of the relation between the GKV and one of its major sources below, but here let me assess its accuracy. It is not uncommon for a commentary to preserve otherwise lost readings in a root text, and in this the GKV certainly does act as one. It offers no glosses or explanations for the cited verses, however, and it would be most unusual for a commentary to change its root text as radically as the GKV adapts the BCA.

At least one manuscript of the as yet unedited45 AśAM (Cambr. add. 1482) includes the entire BCA as its ninth chapter, although I have not consulted the manuscript to see if the version preserved there shows the same idiosyncrasies as the GKV transmission. No Newar pandit has ever mentioned this fact to me, although it is relevant to the question of the inclusion of BCA material in the GKV. The AśAM is not, however, a widely used text at the present time. The bluntness of this inclusion suggests that the AśAM was compiled at a time when there was not the skill or time needed to select from, and redact, the BCA as part of enfolding it into a Garland text.


The explanation offered by a present day Buddhist intellectual, that the GKV functions as a Newar commentary on the BCA, can be seen as a legitimating or apologetic strategy for explaining an awkward feature. The wholesale inclusion of another text may be taken by modern scholars as a sign of unoriginality, especially where, as in the GKV, there is vanishingly little commentary in the text. In practical terms, of course, the GKV was composed with no expectation that the intended audience (wealthy lay supporters and the politically powerful) would have any access to the text as written, since they had no Sanskrit.46 It was understood from the outset that the GKV was only part of a textual performance which would take one of two exclusive forms: ritual recitation or public exposition. The latter necessarily involved wrapping the Sanskrit text with oral commentary in Newari and frequent recourse to paintings. This embedding of the (unintelligible) Sanskrit text in a visual context is more familiar from the

(GV), a text whose narrative is found in murals from Tabo to Borodubur.

In document Remaking Buddhism for Medieval Nepal (Will Douglas) (Page 72-75)