Sunday, August 20, 2017

To Bind a Book is to Protect it from the Elements

Taking up where this one left off, we continue looking at the contents of the consecration volume of the Bon Canon. Following is a translation of an interesting passage from its third title, followed by a brief comparison of early Tibetan texts that talk about the binding elements that go into the making of a scriptural volume. This leads to further intriguing questions, as for instance the meaning of “The Seven Seals” that we will go into in some future blog or essay.

The binding elements are intended to provide protection from the natural elements that might damage them. The Bon text has a remarkably pragmatic approach to this. Now, for comparison, a passage on the binding elements from the consecration work by the 12th-century Sakya master Grags-pa-rgyal-mtshan, first in Tibetan letters, and then in English translation:

Now we can add in information on the binding elements from the Atiśa text based on a draft translation done back in about 1988, albeit with more recent revisions. Here is how the three 11th-12th century works compare. The items in red are unique ones that ought to receive special attention.

A bookboard displayed in the Crow Collection exhibit last year (for more look here).

Thanks are due to Dagkar Geshé Namgyal Nyima, since I could not have translated the Bon consecration passage without his help. The translations you see here, which still require thinking and rethinking, will eventually be published as part of an article, so any suggestions for improvement will be appreciated, and acknowledged if they prove useful or interesting.

1 comment:

  1. This is a note to my future self to pay attention to similar things going on with the Sofer Stam, the scribes of holy books, and other holy objects such as the mezuzah, in Judaism. For an article with a lot of information about them and the consecrations performed at every step in the process of preparing the materials they need for the work, see Annett Martini, “Holy Consecration in the Contest of Writing the Holy Scrolls: Jews in Medieval Europe between Demarcation and Acculturation,” European Journal of Jewish Studies, vol. 11 (2017), pp. 174-202.


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