Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Prof. Harrison on The Diamond

If that peaked your interest, you might want to try reading Paul Harrison's long article entitled Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā: A New English Translation of the Sanskrit Text Based on Two Manuscripts from Greater Gandhāra, contained in: Jens Braarvig, general editor, Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection: Buddhist Manuscripts Volume III, Hermes Publishing (Oslo 2006), pp. 133-159. It might take half an hour or a little longer. Depends on you.

If for some odd reason you're not willing to sacrifice the time and effort required to search out this publication in a large university research library near you, it would be worth your while to try reading this page in any case. Quicker, but not quite so rewarding.

I think it's interesting to gain some insight into what professional academic Buddhologists (if you prefer, we could call them Buddhist Studies experts) are up to. If you are young and you feel inspired to follow this career route, get started learning the languages you will need. If you were to follow my advice, you would start with Sanskrit and/or Pali. Then move to Chinese or Tibetan, in whichever order you prefer. Finally, Japanese is today the most important language for contemporary research about Buddhism. If you don't learn it you will always find reasons for regret. You might also want to seriously consider Korean or one or two of several Southeast Asian languages. Mongolian and Manchu are interesting options, since you find huge collections of Buddhist scriptures in them, also. I'm thinking it would not be good to neglect Khotanese Saka. Don't be too discouraged, though. In actual practice, there are a number of very respectable Buddhologists who do make do with fewer than all of these languages. Did I mention Apabhramsha? Guess not.

Oh, and Tangut. Don't forget Tangut.


  1. Thanks for drawing attention to the Paul Harrison video. I've read many of his papers. He's made some very important contributions to the field. This video gives a glimpse into the methods!

    The langauges are quite daunting - start young would be my advice! Sanskrit and Chinese... ai carumba!

  2. Dear Jaya,

    I guess you understand that I was just dispensing free advice. It's not like I did any such thing myself, or that I plan to do as I suggest. A little late for that, wouldn't you say?

    Anyway, I'd be the last one to suggest that you should start two classical languages, each with thousands of years of rich literary history, at the same time. Very few people can get away with this and expect to go anywhere. I've heard of a few cases. I'd recommend a two year waiting period before taking up a new language, even for young people such as yourself.


  3. You'll find a further commentary closely related to this blog posting at the
    Digital Altar. Have a look if you like.

  4. Of course. Advice is free. I did a year of Sanskrit and came away with less than i need to read Buddhist texts - though it was not useless. I found the demands on my memory too much - start before age 40 would be advisable! Pali is about 5 times easier but it seems to be losing ground in the academy. I get quite far with minimal amounts of Pali - and it's fun.

    Like the other blog btw :-)

  5. It would be nice to know all those languages but you don't need to. For Tibetan research you need Tibetan, Chinese, and a research language (German or Japanese for example). Sanskrit is helpful but Jayarava is right, Pali is losing ground.

    Of course with languages, the more the merrier, right?

  6. Scanning this blog. This is all very superficial analysis not even at a grad student's level.

    This is phony. You're no scholar.

  7. Dear Anon,

    Guilty as charged!

    Thanks for writing. By the way, who are you? Are you 'real'?


  8. I'm not sure it will be as interesting as Helmut Tauscher's catalog of the Gondhla Kanjur from Lahul that I mentioned a few blogs ago, but I'm eager to know what's in the new catalog of another Western Tibetan Kanjur, the one in Tabo Monastery in Spiti. The notice of the release of this work by Paul Harrison and Cristina Scherrer-Schaub just went up at Indological blog. Have a look HERE
    here if you like. Or, to spell out the URL:


    I keep a bookmark at Indologica to keep track of the most recent publications not only in Indian Studies, but Tibetan Studies as well.


    PS: I actually agree with Anon no. 1 above, and not just Anon 2. For Tibetan Studies, truly, nothing but Tibetan is necessary. (Although I can almost see one late Australian prof. turning over in his grave, not believing his ears...) Everything else is frosting on the cake. Forget all those other languages if by some accident of birth, or some other stupidity, you made the mistake of learning them.

  9. I was curious about Anon 2, not really understanding the 'scanning' terminology, or what provoked the outlash, although I've heard the verb 'to scan' used a time or two before, so I went over to Statcounter website (you can see it on my sidebar, there's nothing hidden here) and found that Anon wrote from the 20-yard line of a football field called Gunner's Lake Park in Germantown, Maryland. Anon 2 got to this blog at 7:07 pm and left it at 7:18 pm today. Finding this information was extremely quick and easy.

    Eleven minutes total, of which five minutes were spent trying to get the comment to load. That means Anon 2 had six minutes to "scan" the content of Tibetologic.

    I found another nice website that explains fairly well, as far as I can tell, what scanning is. As I suspected anyway, it doesn't mean reading.



    I don't know if there are enough depths of any kind to satisfy anyone in particular here in Tibetologic. But I do know that nobody should accuse it of superficiality unless they read it and read it slowly. The impression of superficiality may be a side effect of the scanning, You think? So, Anon 2, if you're reading this, which I doubt very much you would ever do, I just want you to know that I take no offense at your quick conclusions. After all, they may be correct. You just haven't bothered to find out.

    If scanning is what you do, and that's all you want to do, that's fine. You're welcome to stop by anytime. You may want to start by scanning through some of the earlier blogs, which after all lay some of the background for later ones.

    And for myself, I may have a thing or two to learn about writing for people who do this thing called scanning, if that's what blogging is all about. But really, I write because I like to, and because I feel like I have some stuff to say to some people some of the time. It doesn't have to be very many, and you (Anon 2) don't need to be one of them. What brought you here?


  10. I know that Germantown, Maryland IP address very well. You've heard from a clinically distressed individual who is angry because you linked to Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar, and will now likely begin stalking you.

    You might not think of yourself as a scholar, but at least admit you'll do until one comes along. Contrary to popular belief, pride in one's craft is not always a bad thing.

    Write for readers. Pray for scanners.

  11. There's something ambiguous about that 'scholar' label. It could be good. It could be bad. Depends who uses it how. There is so much judgement behind it. It always makes people uncomfortable. Hard to sit in this kind of category.

    But if that Germantown guy had told me I'm no researcher, now THAT would have got my hackles up, and I would have immediately leaped to my own defense. Hell yeah, I'm a researcher... one who sometimes takes an interesting in investigating superficial and useless things. You know, like backscratchers.

    Anyway, from Buddhist Abhidharma perspective, in the analyses of 51-or-so mental states, no. 50, research / analysis (Tibetan dpyod-pa) is paired with no. 51, pondering / deliberation (Tib. rtog-pa), as being neither here nor there in terms of progress on the Path. They might help. They might hurt. There's no telling.

    Shouldn't we pray for stalkers, too?

  12. "All sentient beings of the six realms" definitely includes stalkers.

    Jigme Lingpa used to pray that his stalkers would become his students in the next life.

    How, or under what circumstances, Jigme Lingpa was stalked I cannot pretend to know, but apparently he was.

  13. Always trying to improve my vocabulary, I was trying to think what the Tibetan word 'to stalk' might be. A modern dictionary offered 'jab-'gros byed-pa. It does have a sense of consciously sneaking around in an attempt to ambush someone. So I guess it works.

    Following my free associations, this brings to mind that Mind Training (Lojong) precept, "Don't lie in ambush." ('phrang ma bsgugs... more literally don't hang out in the narrow passageways)

    The next one is, "Don't go for the throat." (more literally, don't strike on vulnerable spots).

    I guess you and a lot of other Tibetanists will recognize the source as Chekawa's Seven Topics, from the mid-12th century.

    I take the first one to mean NOT sitting around biding one's time before responding to an injury, deliberating when would be the right time to lash out.

    I take it the second one was not intended to be a boxing instruction.

    That last one should get a smiley button.

    Enough skulking for today. I've got to get to the shop for the turtles' heads before they run out. Hmm. Then what would the Tibetan word be for skulking?

    I hope Mr. Germantown if he's scanning this doesn't find it way too superficial. (Was that an example? Of biding time before delivering the retort...) You think Lojong is his thing? Just teasing (seems like there's a Lojong precept that you shouldn't do that, either... Isn't there one saying "Don't laugh at mean jokes."?).

  14. Tenpa-laa,

    I just placed at the top of my sidebar a link to an Italian journal. In it, in the 2008 issue, is an obituary for Domenica Faccenna (1923-2008), the Italian archaeologist who worked so many decades excavating in the Swat Valley, home of Guru Rinpoche.

    I'll put the URL right here, also:


    I thought you would find it of interest. I wonder that more followers of the Nyingma don't write away to Rome for these books about the amazing relics from Orgyan.


  15. Thank you so much, Professor. This was news to me, and I have taken your suggestion to heart.

    I would have replied sooner, but the power went haywire, the back-up generator refused to back up, and we were down to the Petromax (well, the 500CP BriteLyt, which I am told is a handy trade item in Afghanistan these days).

    I am involved in a dialogue with the U.S. military on the preservation of Buddhist relics they may encounter whilst armed spelunking in the region. It really is a fascinating time in which we live.

  16. Following your link, I've discovered the place to get Faccenna's monographs is here: http://www.shop.isiao.it

  17. Dear Tenpa-laa,

    I find it auspicious that by some amazing stroke of good fortune, they seem to be having a sale. Which is excellent, especially since some of those archaeological titles are on the pricey side (like archaeology books everywhere, I've noticed).

    Sorry I misspelled the given name Domenico as Domenica (got to keep those genders straight) in the earlier comment.


  18. Amazon wasn't too bad, either. I just got his Reports and Memoirs: Volume I; Reports on the Campaigns 1956-1958 in Swat, with all maps and charts intact, for the reasonable sum of USD $28, which is a far cry from the USD $100 and up for everything else he ever published. For me, the maps are important, and these would seem to be among his first.

    Just might have to go tenting in Swat one of these fine days...

  19. Sorry, but I just deleted that last comment I posted about the Swat Valley, just because I thought it deserved more care. Maybe it will go up as a blog entry of its own soon, we'll see.


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