The Translator’s Obeisance

 

The Translator’s Obeisance

 

[‘JAM DPAL GZHON NUR GYUR PA LA PHYAG ‘TSAL LO,]

 

[From Entering the Middle Way:

 

I bow down to glorious Gentle Voice, become young.]

 

 

GNYIS PA NI, TSIG GI DON GO BAR SLA LA, ‘JAM DPAL LA PHYAG ‘TSAL BA NI, GZHUNG ‘DI DON DAM       {adding DAM as per other versions; Jik check carving} PA’I CHOS MNGON PA RNAM PAR BZHAG PA YIN PAS, SHES RAB KYI BSLAB PA GTZO BOR GYUR PA’I PHYIR, SNGON GYI BKAS BCAD PA DANG MTHUN PAR MDZAD PA’O,

 

This brings us to the second section from above: the translator’s obeisance.  The wording of this obeisance is easily understood.  As to why the obeisance is made to Gentle Voice, remember that Master Chandrakirti’s work is a presentation of the ultimate form of higher knowledge;[1] and as such it deals primarily with the training of wisdom.[2]  The object of the translator’s obeisance then is selected in keeping with the decree.[3]

 



[1] Ultimate form of higher knowledge: Higher Knowledge, or Abhidharma, as the lowest of the four great schools of ancient India is not itself the subject of Master Chandrakirti’s work.  Rather, the subject is “abhidharma” in its ultimate form, which is described as follows by great Cho-ne Lama Drakpa Shedrup (1675-1748), an author of important textbooks for the incomparable Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery: “Consider the paths of seeing, of habituation, and of no more learning—along with the unstained components which accompany them.  These are the ultimate [don dampay] form of higher knowledge [abhidharma, or chos mngon-pa in Tibetan].  And that is because they either consist of the ultimate [don dampa], or derive from it; and because a person on these paths is either headed towards [mngon du phyogs-pa] those objects [dharma] which are the higher truths of the end of suffering and of the path to this end; or because they have directly [mngon-sum-du] perceived them.  Thus these kinds of knowledge are called both ultimate [don dampa] and higher [mngon pa]” (see ff. 5b-6a of his Sun that Illuminates the True Intent of the Entire Mass of Realized Beings, the Victors and All Their Sons and Daughters: A Commentary upon the “Treasure House of Higher Knowledge,” entry %B5, ACIP S00027).

In the same work (at f. 6b), Cho-ne Lama contrasts this ultimate form of higher knowledge with its nominal form, which he describes in the following words: “The nominal form of higher knowledge consists of two different things: (1) any spiritual path which one engages in, in order to reach the resultant forms of higher knowledge that we just spoke of; and (2) higher knowledge as it is presented in scripture: in the classical commentaries which take such things as their subject matter.”

[2] Training of wisdom: A reference to the traditional classification of the teachings of the Buddha into three sections, or baskets (in Sanskrit, the tripitaka).  These are the sections on vowed morality (Skt: vinaya); on the classics (Skt: sutra); and on higher knowledge (Skt: abhidharma).  One of the traditional three “extraordinary trainings” is the primary subject matter of each of these three sections—respectively, the extraordinary training of morality; of concentration; and of wisdom.

[3] In keeping with the decree: This decree is described as follows by His Holiness the First Panchen Lama, Lobsang Chukyi Gyeltsen (@-@): “The kings, royal ministers, and sages of old decreed that at the beginning of a work belonging to the section on vowed morality, the translator should bow down to omniscience; and at the beginning of a work belonging to the section on higher knowledge, to glorious Gentle Voice; and at the beginning of a work belonging to the section on the classics, to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas.

“There was a reason for this decree, and the correlations contained in it.  The works found in the section of the teachings devoted to vowed morality describe the subtle details of what it is we should engage in, and what we should avoid—as well as the subtle details of karma and its consequences; and these are things that can be perceived directly by one person alone: by a being who possesses omniscience.

“The works in the section of the teachings devoted to higher knowledge describe the extraordinary training of wisdom, which is something that we must learn through deep understanding such as that possessed by Lord Gentle Voice.  And finally the section on the classics presents innumerable forms of meditative concentration which listeners and self-made buddhas would find it difficult even to describe the names of; we are thus meant to understand that these are unique practices of the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas” (see f. 9a of his “Explication of the First Chapter,” Part of “The Ocean of Fine Explanation, which Clarifies the Essence of the Essence of the ‘Ornament of Realizations,’ a Classical Commentary of Advices on the Perfection of Wisdom,” entry %B6, ACIP S05942).