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The Mongolian Tanjur Version of the Bodhicaryavatara.

In a snake year, 1305-6, the Sa-skya monk Chos-kyi 'od-zer translated the seventh-century Indian Santideva's long poem, the Bodhicaryavatara (A Guide to the Path to Enlightenment), from its Tibetan translation into Mongolian prose, and this was one of the very first Buddhist works the Mongols could read in their tongue. The same monk wrote a commentary to the poem, an "appraisal of the way to enlightenment"; and his translation with the commentary was printed in Daidu, the Yuan capital, in 1312. A large fragment of one of the one thousand block-printed copies of this early edition was found in the Turfan basin (it is kept in the Berlin Turfan Collection). Numerous sixteenth-century manuscript fragments were discovered in Olon Same (Inner Mongolia; they are now in the possession of the Toyo Bunko, Tokyo); the 1305 translation is known from seventeenth- or eighteenth-century manuscript copies (the oldest is now in New Delhi, another in St. Petersburg). It was such an old manuscript from which the learned monk, Urad guusi Biligun dalai prepared his revised text, a modernized version of Chos-kyi 'od-zer's Middle Mongolian Bodhicaryavatara for the Manchu imperial edition of the Printed Mongol Tanjur (Danjuur; 1748). Boris Vladimirtsov, Erich Haenisch, Francis Woodman Cleaves, Nicholas Poppe, Walther Heissig, Louis Ligeti, and other Mongolists and a non-Mongolist worked on this early monument of Mongolian Buddhist literature. In his Comparative Grammar, Vladimirtsov stated that the Kanjur and the Tanjur preserved several Middle Mongolian texts revised by the late editors. He published the typeset text of the Kowalewski MS (1929) which proved to be useful for the study of the earlier fragments and the edition of the Tanjur-text. Ligeti gave a preliminary reading of this latter in his Mongol Nyelvemlektar (1966); according to him, the Tanjur-text, despite its classical orthography and some modernization of its vocabulary, better represents the version of 1305 than the older Kowalewski MS. He accepted Heissig's evaluation of the New Delhi MS (that was presented to Lokesh Chandra in Ulaanbaatar in 1957), but then he had no access to that text. (Lokesh Chandra edited its facsimile with Heissig's short but essential foreword in 1976). Ligeti could only consult Heissig's first Olon Sume monograph published in 1966. He was working on a revised edition of the text in his last years: once in his home I saw his copy of the transcription, which was full of corrections and notes.

Now we have a new transcription of the Tanjur-version with a word-index and a white-on-black facsimile. Like the originally darker, now pale-ochre, print of the Mongol Tanjur, the photo-copy is not always easy to read, and so is the poorly printed facsimile of the precious New Delhi MS. Nevertheless with Vladimirtsov's edition and Ligeti's edition, or now with this new transcription, these "dark" copies can be "deciphered" more easily. Igor de Racbewiltz gives a reliable romanization of the Mongol text written in prose but arranged here in quatrains of the Tibetan version in isosyllabic verses; the quatrains are numbered by chapters (the same way as in Vladimirtsov's text and in Ligeti's transcription). The editor restituted the interpunction of the 1013 quatrains (often distorted in the Tanjur print and in the Delhi MS as well). Though in prose, the Mongol version has some rhythmic passages - maybe due to the strong beat of the original, or to its parallelism - in the texts of the early translation. Several word-order inversions (e.g., X:30b: boltuyai tede ere boged in the print of 1312) affirm that here and there Chos-kyi 'od-zer, to whom we owe those beautiful stave-rhyme strophes of the postscript, tried to render his prose more rhythmic (cf. my notes on "Mongolian verses without Alliteration," in Annales universitatis de Rolando Eotvos nominatae, sectio linguistica, vol. VII, Budapest [1972]: 161-68).

Both the transcription (pp. 1-124) and the index (pp. 125216) are indispensable tools for further philological, grammatical, lexical, terminological, stylistic, orthographical, etc., investigations. Appendix I (pp. 219-28) shows the doubtful forms and textual emendations; appendix II (pp. 229-31) records the variant readings of the Daidu edition (without the differences in the usage of diacritics which are amply used in the early print, but almost ignored in the eighteenth-century printed Mongol Buddhist Canon).

Fortunately, Bilig-un dalai (active in the first half of the eighteenth century) was a wise and moderate corrector. Albeit he was consistent in "weeding out" (Ligeti's words) archaic orthography, replacing, e.g., the wrong bodisung (distorted from bodistv), with the scholarly bodhi-satuva (or, for a Mongolian tongue, -saduva), using the narrow transliteration of the Sanskrit form instead of Manjusiri, or lingqu-a instead of linqu(-a) 'lotus', etc., he left many old forms, words and expressions, intact in this "splendid text" (de R.'s words), which in 1305 was as great an achievement for the Mongolian literary expression as were the early Bible translations in the national languages of Europe.

An old, enigmatic word begins quatrain 1.5, line a: niyu-tan qar-a soni-deki egulen-u dotor-aca gilbelju : nigen dayun-u jayur-a cayayan oytaryui ujegdekui metu : In the Delhi MS I read iyutan qara soni-deki egulen-u dotor-aca : gilbelju nigen dayun-u cay-tur oytaryui ujegdekui metu (or: situ?). Ligeti (continuing Bilig-un dalai's weeding work) silently replaced the first word with yambar metu from the Kowalewski MS. The Tibetan version in the Manchu imperial print reads ji-ltar mtshan-mo mun-nag sprin nang-na | glog-'gyu skad-cig rabsnang ston-pa ltar | 'just as inside a cloud (in) the dark black night / the lightning shows (its) bright flash for a moment.' The quatrain in the Kowalewski MS has only qara 'black' for munnag; its structure yambar mete . . . metu translates Tib. ji-ltar . . . ltar. De Rachewiltz identified niyu-tan with niyta 'dense, compact', which could fit the context, but the question remains open if the funny form is a simple scribal error, or a phonetical variant of the latter word. This iyutan should be the Middle Mongolian word hi'utan 'narrow' (HY) or hiyutan 'obscurity' (Vocab. of Istambul, ed. Ligeti, with comparative data), the "classical" Mongolian uyitan 'narrow', cf. in modern dialects and languages, e.g., Kalmyk uut'n, Oolot uutn, and Kaita. uut'r- 'eng werden, sich beengt, beklommen fuhlen, sich gramen' . . . uut'rmj 'Bedrangnis, Kummer, Gram' (Ramstedt, Kalrn. Wb., 462b, 455a; < uyita-ra-mfi). The same word appears in 1.8b: qamuy amitan-u jiyutah [read iyutan] sedkil-i tarqayulsuyai 'let me dispel the fear [= angst] of all living beings' in the Tanjur print, and qamuy amitan-u iyutan sedkil-i tarqayul=suyai in the Delhi MS, f. 2a13, translating Tib. sems-can mi-bde gsal-bar 'dod-pa 'wishing to dispel the discomfort/misery of sentient beings'.

Tanjur 1.19a tere cay-aca terigulen umartabasu ber 'from that time on, even if one forgets (it, or . . .)' corresponds to Delhi MS f. 3al tere cay-aca terigulen umtarabasu her 'from that time on, even if one falls asleep (or)', an exact rendering of Tibetan de-nas gzung-ste gnyid-log-gam; thus umarta- is either a simple lapsus for urntara-, or an arbitrary interpretation.

Tanjur II.12d degil should be degel (as in the Delhi Ms); actually the Tanjur scribe must have in mind takil 'sacrifice' (of fragrant substances), more common than '(scented) garments', Tib. na-bza'. So there is no word degil, but takil instead of degel.

In Tanjur II. 18b, the phrase gilbel-un buku qongqad-u unjiyuluysan subud erdeni cimeg contains two morphological errors. The plural marker -d is unexpected with qongqo 'bell' (busud < busu is a regular irregularity because of the -s-), and the single-vowel genitive is only used for -n-stems. So we may emend the word and read qongqos-i, accusative, and translate the line 'ornament(s of) pearl-jewel(s) with shining bells suspended' (almost literally: '. . . jewel[s] that caused shining bells to hang'). The Delhi MS, f. 5b11-12, has no bells: gilbel-un (buku) 700 unjiyu=luysan subud erdenis cimeg 'shining and gorgeous(ly) suspended ornament(s) of pearl-jewels', exact translation of Tib. mu-tig rin-chen rgyan 'phyang mdzes 'bar-ba. The bells suspended from the pearls in the Tanjur-print come from misinterpretation, due to sonosqu metu maytal dayutu 'sounding harmonious like hymns', the first attribute of the pearlornaments in the preceding line. Indeed, bells could sound better than pearls, but not in the original quatrain.

In the threefold homage at the beginning of the text nam-a-h with the visarga is not an anomalous, but the more accurate, Sanskrit form namah for the Samgha.

Read soytanggi 'intoxicated' instead of ki in V.2c, degerukei instead of gei in X.30d. Instead of the corrupt nisvanis arqad jayur-a ayu in VIII.1d, the Delhi MS, f. 35a3-4, offers nisvanisun ar[a]y-a=sun jayura ayu, Tib. nyon-mongs mche-ba'i phragna gnas '(that person) dwells between the teeth of the passions'.

The editor says that for the romanization of Mongolian he has used the system generally employed by Mongolists, in preference to the one introduced by Ligeti (p. xii, and n. 18). Actually the main difference is that he disregards those few preclassical orthographical features that remained in the Tanjur print. These concern the usage of the initial allographs of the graphemes taw (T) and lamedh (D) in suffix-initial or in word-division. Marking deviation from the classical norms (which are far from consistent in the eighteenth-century prints, esp. in the printed Kanjur), Ligeti's system extended the method of the old Berlin school of Uigur studies: transcribing the "original" value (i.e., d for lamedh) of the grapheme and marking its non-standard usage. For Mongolian, the classical orthography with its norms - having, for instance, syllable final and final tau render d (in Qubilai's square script d, but in the Chinese transcription of Middle Mongolian usually t), and having initial tau mark both t and d - is accepted as standard, and so in Ligeti's system it is enough to show the non-standard forms marked. In the St. Petersburg system for Ancient Turkic in Uigur script (as in the Drevnetjurkskij slovar'), the standard (or, what is considered to be the standard) form is written and deviation is marked with diacritics. Otherwise, reflecting these and other orthographical features is only a part of the system. Like Cleaves, Mostaert, or Poppe, Ligeti endeavored to reconstruct the phonetical shape, especially the vocalism, of Middle Mongolian as it appears in the pre-classical monuments. In this he used evidence from sources in square script, in Chinese transcription, or in Arabic, perhaps more consistently than others did. But he did not mark those phonetical features that had no direct trace in the text: the vanishing laryngeal h, the difference of spirant and stop non-aspirated gutturals, etc. The result is what is grosso modo followed in this book as well, except for some minor differences: "etymological" forms like buged or bugetele, instead of the standard and old and modem boged and bogetele (cf. MNT boet and boetele as well as Khalkha bogood and bogootol); the bookish ukiya- for ugiya- 'to wash'; the too modern morgo- instead of classical morgu- and preclassical murgu- 'to bow'; or ku instead of -gu, interrogative particle with aspirant g, in IV. 2d, uiledkugu ulu-gu 'to do or not (to do)' = Delhi MS f. 10622-23 uiled=kuu uu-gu (Tib. bya 'am gtang 'to do or to cease'), in VII 4d, ese-gu medebe ci = Delhi MS f. 29 esegu medebe ci (Tib. mi shes-sam), etc. Ligeti used to write capital initials in proper names (and ethnonyms), which is a useful addition to the original, which does not distinguish, for instance, mayidari 'non-passionate love' and Mayidari 'Maitreya'.

What Ligeti wrote in the introduction to his edition of 1966 is still true: "Useful as are the late copies of the translation of 1305 we know today, at present it is impossible to restitute with their aid the original text without any doubt whatever. The first step on the way to this is the thorough examination of the extant versions." Heissig's monograph on the Olon Sume fragments was a significant step in that direction, and now this new avatar of the Tanjur version with the word-index is another vital step towards a deeper knowledge of the formation of Buddhist Middle Mongolian, with its Tibetan and Uigur sources.

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Author:Kara, G.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1997
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