|Nicholas Roerich (1933), White Stone (Sign of Chintamani |
or Horse of Happiness)
yid bzhin nor bu'i dgos pa gang yin ltos //
What use is a Wishgranting Jewel? Look into it!
— Padampa's Mahāmudropadeśavajraguhyagīti.
Dergé Tanjur - Tôh. no. 2440.
Today’s blog isn’t meant as much more than an alert for a new article that deserves notice. Not because I think it’s the answer to everything, just that it may be the most detailed and serious study yet of a very interesting problem in Eurasian cultural history. And not because I know the author. I have no idea who he is, except that his name is Marinus Anthony van der Sluijs, and he lives in Surrey in the UK. (Oh, wait, I think I found a photo and a website here. Maybe he’s in the U.S., or somewhere else in the world? You know, it really is hard keeping up with those young people these days...)
His widely ranging article opens the latest (2011) issue of the well-known [Euro-]medievalist journal called Viator (issue no. 2 of vol. 42).
The title is, and I can’t emphasize this boldly enough, The Wish-Granting Jewel: Exploring the Buddhist Origins of the Holy Grail.
Here is the official abstract:
“It is argued that the specific portrayal of the Holy Grail as a miraculous gemstone, first found in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, was ultimately inspired by the concept of the cintāmani or “wish-granting jewel” in the literature of India. Traditions regarding this object were popular in Buddhist folklore and parallels with the Grail literature are drawn from Japan, Indonesia, Śrī Lankā, and especially Tibet. Lha Thothori Nyentsen, king of Tibet, is identified as a plausible model for Titurel, the Fisher King. Parallels drawn from the legendary biography and the extant allegorical writings of Padmasambhava, a Gnostic, alchemist and warrior-monk revered as the principal founder of Tibetan Buddhism, extend to the entire core narrative of Parzival’s quest. It is suggested that these traditions reached medieval literati as a part of the astronomical, astrological, and alchemical corpus that was conveyed from India to Baghdād by Kanaka, translated into Arabic by Māshā’allāh, and rendered into Hebrew by Abraham ibn ‘Ezra.”
If your academic library has kept its JSTOR subscriptions up to date, go there and find it. If not, you may need to take your photocopy card with you, or use the interlibrary loan. When you’ve read it, come back here and put up your comments. I’ll do the same. Is this what we’ve been looking for? Have we reached the end of our quest? Will light come flooding into the most obscure corners of the world?
Don Croner’s blog about the three-ball motif in Ottoman carpets possibly being the Triratna is here. (I wonder if the Triratna, representing the Three Jewels — Buddha, Dharma and Saṅgha — might have gotten crossed somewhere along the way with the Wishgranting Jewel or Cintamāṇi? Not that I don’t empathize with and even share in the confusion, but one very simple thing ought to be clear, or made clear. The Wishgranting Jewel is a single jewel. The Triratna is the Three Jewels, represented by, well, three jewels. The Roerichs in the early ’30’s had a campaign to make the triple ball into a symbol to mark and protect cultural monuments in order to prevent their destruction in war. A most excellent idea that hasn’t gotten all that much attention, really, although if humanity would just grow up, learn from past mistakes, and abandon this other form of child sacrifice altogether, that would make even more sense. If it interests you, by all means look here. What, you may be asking, do the triple balls have to do with the Triratna? The three balls were standing for art, science and religion in the Roerichian system, the last I heard.
I must say, though, a Wishgranting Jewel isn’t just any old jewel. It is to be found only with extreme difficulty (remember that long and rambling sea captains’ blog?), and once found must be treated in very special ways. Otherwise it isn’t going to grant much of anything. It has to be ritually bathed, attached to the tip of a Victory Banner (Gyeltsen) and honored with incense and offerings. Then a solemn aspiration prayer (monlam) has to be made. Most or all of these elements are to be found wherever and whenever the Cintamāṇi appears, which is, to say the least, in very few places and seldom. For a typical story, look here, at p. 34 and following. As long as you have this entire scenario straight in your mind, I will allow you go to on and say that either one or all three of the Three Jewels are (metaphorically speaking!) a Wishfulfilling Gem. No problem. Just p-l-e-a-s-e don’t rush into it too quickly.
• • •
For more visual and verbal information about the three ball motif than you are likely to be willing or able to process, have the patience to download this PDF. I believe the author is Julie (Julianna) Lees, the owner of this presently-linked site full of really great photo albums (enter at your peril, since exiting may not be so easy once you get started admiring what you will find there). And no... no, I know what you're thinking, but I don’t know this person either.
yid bzhin nor bu'i gter thob pas //
rmongs pa'i dbul ba sel bar byed // gsungs so // • //
When you've found your treasure of a Wishgranting Jewel,
make use of it to get rid of the poverty of confusion.
(Dpal rdo rje mkha' 'gro ma'i mgur).
Dergé Tanjur - Tôh. no. 2441.