24 July 2020

The Extended Heart Sutra: The Buddha's Samādhi

Continuing my close reading of the extended text of the Heart Sutra, completing paragraph D in Silk's (1994) Tibetan edition. In this passage the Buddha enters a samādhi  (in Recension One). Recall that I am comparing:
  • Conze's edition of the Extended Text (with caution)
  • T 253, 254, 257 
  • TibA and TibB and Silk's indicative translations 
I will make a few remarks about T 252 but, as I said previously, it seems to me to be a separate recension, probably a separate attempt to extend the standard text. R2 starts to diverge from R1 at this point notably because the Buddha does not enter samādhi. This event is skipped and Avaklokiteśvara starts a conversation that goes in a wholly different direction until such time as it merges with the standard text. The ending is also very different. This will be more apparent in the next instalment. 

So the passage of interest in the texts that are under discussion are:

253  佛世尊即入三昧,名廣大甚深。
Buddha, Bhagavān, entered the samādhi named Vast and Extremely Profound.

254  世尊入三摩地,名廣大甚深照見。
the Bhagavān, entered the samādhi named Vast  and Extremely Profoundly Examined.

255  世尊等入甚深明了三摩地法之異門。
the Bhagavān, entered the  Profoundly Illuminated Samādhi and preached the Dharma. 

257  世尊即入甚深光明宣說正法三摩地。
the Bhagavān entered the Profound Illumination and Proclaiming the True Dharma Samādhi. 

Skt.  bhagavān gambhīrāvabhāsaṃ nāma dharmaparyāyaṃ bhāṣitvā samādhiṃ samāpannaḥ| 
The Bhagavan, having taught a Dharma teaching named “profound illumination”, entered samādhi.

Tib A  de'i tshe bcom ldan 'das zab mo snang ba zhes bya ba chos kyi rnam grangs kyi ting nge 'dzin la snyoms par bzhugs so //
the blessed one was entered into the concentration of the preaching of the Dharma called “profound illumination” (Silk 1994: 172)

Tib B  de'i tshe bcom ldan 'das zab mo'i chos kyi rnam grangs snang ba zhes bya ba'i kyi ting nge 'dzin la snyoms par zhugs so //
the blessed one was entered in the concentration called “Illumination of the Profound Preaching of the Dharma”. (Silk 1994: 173)

The Name of the Samādhi


In the Sanskrit manuscripts the name of the samādhi is not given. The Buddha taught (bhāsitva) a dharma-paryāya or "Dharma teaching" called (nāma) "Profound illumination" (gambhīra-avabhāsa). Then, he "entered a samādhi" (samādhi saṃpannaḥ). The order of the actions is given by the gerund (bhāsitvā) which indicates an action preceding the main verb, which as here may be substituted with a past participle (saṃpanna). So the sequence is dharmaparyāyaṃ bhāsitvā then samādhi saṃpannaḥ. 

Bhāṣitva is not used in Pañcaviṃśati. Elsewhere we see it used with respect to a verse or some verses, i.e. gāthāṃ bhāṣitvā "having spoken these verses". For example, in the Ajitasenavyākaraṇa:
athāyuṣmān ānando bhagavata imā gāthā bhāṣitvā tūṣṇīṃ sthito 'bhūt / 
Having spoken these verses to the Bhagava, Elder Ānanda stood silently.  
However, this need not be significant. Because we know the extended text was composed after the standard text, probably not before the end of the 7th Century (neither Kuījī nor Woncheuk mention it). So whoever added the extra parts was using 8th Century Sanskrit, not 1st or 2nd Century Sanskrit. 

Dharmaparyāya in this context probably means practical instruction as opposed to an inspirational talk (dharmakathā) or doctrinal sermon (dharmadeśana). Some manuscripts have other names for the dharmaparyāya, notably the Hasedera manuscript (Jb) has gambhīra-avasaṃbodhaṃ though the latter part is not a real word.

In Buddhist Sanskrit is is common for both a dharmaparayāya and a samādhi to have a name. 


The distinction between dharmaparyāya and samādhi is not made in the Chinese except for T 255 which we know was translated from the Tibetan. In fact, the Chinese texts of R1 all seem to collapse this passage down to the Buddha entering a samādhi. In R2 he does not even do that.

T 253 and 254 call the samādhi (sānmèi 三昧, sānmóde 三摩地 ) "extensive" guǎng dà 廣大 (mahat, vaipulya) and "profound" shèn shēn 甚深 (gambhīra). We have a term corresponding to gambhīra but we don't have one that corresponds to avabhāsa (illumination). We might expect a word including the character guāng 光 such as guāngmíng 光明or guāngzhào 光照.

There are no text critical notes in either T 253 or 254 that might help explain this. The phrase guǎng dà shèn shēn 廣大甚深 is used fairly often, including in Xuanzang's Prajñāpāramitā translations. So it's not some random mistake, but there is some kind of misunderstanding at work here. 

In T 254, the addition of zhàojiàn 照見 onto guǎng dà shèn shēn 廣大甚深 is a puzzle. Zhàojiàn does occur earlier in the text as a binomial verb and thus doesn't seem to parse here. Possibly just a scribal error, but why was it not picked up as such?

T 255 and T 257 do a better job of conveying the Sanskrit, i.e. "profound (shèn shēn 甚深) illumination (míng liǎo 明了)" and "profound (shèn shēn 甚深) illumination (guāng míng 光明)". This is just what we expect.

T 255 mentions a dharmaparyāya (fǎ zhī yì mén 法之異門) although T 257 has a phrase that is similar, i.e.  xuān shuō zhèng fǎ 正法宣說 which means "proclaim the true Dharma" (saddharma) but appears to include this in the name of the samādhi.


TibA looks like a translation of the Sanskrit:
de'i tshe (at that time) bcom ldan 'das (bhagavan) zab mo snang ba (profound illumination) zhes bya ba (called) chos kyi rnam grangs kyi (of the dharma teaching) ting nge 'dzin la snyoms par bzhugs so (he entered the samadhi). 
Although this is more ambiguous than the Sanskrit, it appears that one could read it as saying the "concentration of the dharma teaching called..." as Silk (1994) has it. Perhaps his rendering of the particle kyi here is a little too literal (I see other options in my Tibetan dictionary).

The text of TibB has the same terms but they have been shuffled—four of the five syllables of the last phrase have moved forward into the middle of the first— and the result is less like the Sanskrit.
zab mo snang ba zhes bya ba chos kyi rnam grangs kyi
zab mo'i chos kyi rnam grangs snang ba zhes bya ba'i kyi
Now, I don't know Tibetan grammar or syntax, so I can't comment on which is the correct or better reading, but given that Silk translated both TibA and TibB without comment, I'm guessing that both versions make sense. Similarly, I'm not sure what the difference between zab mo and zab mo'i is. All I can do is a get a sense of the sentence construction and compare to the Sanskrit text. However, I think that the last kyi belongs to the phrase chos kyi rnam grangs (dharma-paryāya; dharma teaching). It seems to make less sense attached to zhes bya ba meaning "called, titled" etc and which comes after the name. In any case, TibA certainly follows the Sanskrit and the transposition in TibB would be a typical scribal error.

Whether the Tibetan was translated twice or once and then evolved into two recensions is moot. Silk notes that without a proper edition of the Sanskrit it's very difficult to understand the relationship of the Tibetan texts. We can provisionally say that Ben Nourse's unpublished work on the Dunhuang manuscripts suggests the existence to earlier Tibetan texts that correspond with the TibA and TibB. 


What can we say about this? At the beginning I stipulated that a Sanskrit text was likely the source for all the extant versions of the extended Heart Sutra. This conjecture is consistent with the Tibetan recensions, T 255 translated from Tibetan, and T 257 which all appear to be translations of something like the extant Sanskrit text though they are all confused about the distinction between having given a teaching (dharmaparyāyaṃ bhāsitvā) called Profound Illumination (gambhīrāvabhāsaṃ nāma) after which he entered samādhi (samādhiṃ samāpannaḥ).We can at least say that the grammar and syntax of the Sanskrit is all quite standard and parsable (unlike the standard version). 

The earlier Chinese texts present some problems. T 252 appears to be a different recension in which the whole subject of the Buddha's presence and his samādhi are handled very differently. T 253 and 254 concur with each other on the name of the samādhi but they do not concur with any other texts. Furthermore, there is something not quite right about the name of the samādhi in these text, although the term used is a common one. Whether something has been lost in translation or they had a different source text is not clear. 

Admittedly, this is one of the most problematic areas of the text and the confusion here is at something of a peak (even if we ignore T 252). As yet I see no simple explanation that would account for the differences. I see what look like scribal errors but too few to account for all the differences. I simply don't understand how we got from Sanskrit to Chinese (or vice versa since I have not ruled out this possibility) for this passage. 

The one positive is that the oddities in the texts are often individual to the texts and thus diagnostic. For any translation we should be able to see to which of our existing texts it was made. I can already reliably do this with the standard text, usually by reading the first paragraph.

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