Buddhist Texts · indica lingua

♦ A brief note on Lindtner’s edition of Bhavya’s Madhyamakahṛdayakārikā III, 253

Let us discuss a particular reading of Bhavya’s Madhyamakahṛdayakārikā (MHK) III, 253, as it has been established by Lindtner in his critical edition, based on the unique extant Sanscrit manuscript.1 The Sanskrit version of this kārikā, according to Lindtner, runs as follows:

yathā prasuptaḥ putra-strī-vimāna-bhavanādikam |
paśyet siddhavaśāt tatra pratibuddho na paśyati ||2

Now, if we consider the Tibetan version of the same passage, we read:

| dper na gnyid log gnyid dbang gis |
| bu dang bud med gzhal med khang |
| gnas la sogs pa mthong gyur pa |
| sad na de la mi mthong ltar |3

The problem, here, lies in the Tibetan gnyid dbang gis, which is not equivalent at all to the Sanskrit compound siddha-vaśāt.4 Although we do not have any Sanskrit version of Bhavya’s commentary Tarkajvālā (TJ) on MHK, nonetheless the Tibetan translation of TJ appears to confirm the Tibetan version of MHK III, 253, instead of the Sanskrit one. Indeed, TJ explains: dper na gnyid log pa’i rmi lam na med bzhin du yang gnyid kyi dbang gis bu mchog tu yid du ’ong ba.5 Now, the colophon of the Tibetan versions of MHK and TJ inform us that the translators of these two works have been Atīśa Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna and TSHul-khrims-rgyal-ba (alias *Śīlajaya or *Jayaśīla) who both flourished in the X-XI century A.D., at least four centuries after Bhavya’s epoch (VI century A.D.).

There is another text that has to be taken into account in our discussion: the Madhyamakabhramaghāta (MBG), ascribed to (an) Āryadeva according to the Tibetan sources.6 This work – of which, too, no original Sanskrit version have reached us – is nothing but a collection of passages taken – more or less verbatim – from TJ (and MHK); but fortunately, one of the sections of TJ quoted in MBG includes both MHK III, 253, and TJ on MHK III, 253. Our kārikā, according to MBG, runs as follows:

| dper na gnyid log gnyid dbang gis |
| bu dang bud med gzhal med khang |
| gnas la sogs pa mthong gyur pa |
| sad nas de yis mi mthong ltar |

The corresponding TJ passage in MBG is: gzhan yang dper na gnyid log pa’i rmi lam na med bzhin du yang gnyid kyi dbang gis bu mchog tu yid du ’ong ba. As we can observe, there are few (and not very significant) differences between the Tibetan translations of MHK III, 253 and TJ, on the one hand, and the same passages as quoted in MBG, on the other hand. The colophons of all the Tibetan editions of the MBG ascribe the translation into Tibetan of the original Sanskrit text to, once again, Atīśa Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna and TSHul-khrims-rgyal-ba.7 Besides this, we have to note that the translation of MBG took place, in all probability, before the translations of MHK and TJ.8

Now, a first conclusion can be suggested: (a) an original Sanskrit form siddha-vaśāt underwent a misreading which led to the Tibetan gnyid dbang gis; this misreading should have occurred long before the compilation of MBG,9 because the simple fact that MBG records gnyid dbang gis implies an already full-developed traditional attestation of that form over the other one (siddha-vaśāt, supposed to be original). This means that the corruption of MHK III, 253 (and TJ) started early in the line of transmission of the text, which sounds, of course possible, but a bit unlikely. Besides the unlikeliness of the “early-corruption” theory, we have also to note that, if we consider the theoretical context of MHK III, 253, the term gnyid, in the construction gnyid dbang gis, is a conceptually more proper word than the term siddha° of the compound siddhavaśāt: to speak of one who falls asleep (gnyid log) by force of tiredness (gnyid dbang gis) has more sense, in this particular context, than (1) to speak of one who falls asleep (prasuptaḥ) by force of what is accomplished or established (siddha-vaśāt), which has not much sense here, not to mention (2) of one who falls asleep under the control of a siddhaḥ (siddha-vaśāt), i.e., a sort of magician, which has no more sense than the previous reading (1), particularly if we take seriously into account the subject dealt with in MHK III, 251-256 (alongwith the historical emergence and affirmation of the idea of siddhaḥ, around VIIIth century A.D., i.e., two centuries after the composition of MHK). Indeed, in these stanzas three examples of illusion are expounded: the eyes disease by which one sees an illusory “net of hears” (keśoṇḍukaḥ), etc., which disappear with the right medicine (kārikā 251), the dream thought to be real until one wakes up (our kārikā), and the frightful creatures seen during a dark night, which one discovers to be nothing but, for instance, an old tree when the sun rises (kārikā 255); we note that all these instances portrait natural (i.e., not magical) illusions, and this, in my opinion, allows us – besides the textual evidences – to certainly reject the intervention, in MHK III, 253, of a supernatural siddhaḥ’s power over a weaker mind.

Thus, another (more reasonable) conclusion can be put forward: (b) an original Sanskrit form, corresponding to the Tibetan gnyid dbang gis, underwent a corruption after the Tibetan translations of these texts; in this case the Tibetan version(s) preserved the correct form, whereas in the case of Sanskrit manuscripts copyists continued to transmit a wrong form which has remained up to the unique maniscript survived. On the basis of a not improbable misreading of a Sanskrit syllable si° in a mi°, we can infer that the original Sanskrit for gnyid dbang gis should have been middha-vaśāt. A similar case occurs, for instance, in the Laṅkāvatārasūtraṃ, in which the Tibetan gnyid (Lha-sa, mDo-sde, vol. 51: Ca, 116a7), standing for the Sanskrit middha- (Nanjio 1923:49), leads Bunyiu Nanjio to emend the misreading siddha-.10

If conclusion (b) were right, the correct form of MHK III, 253 would be:

yathā prasuptaḥ putra-strī-vimāna-bhavanādikam |
paśyet middhavaśāt tatra pratibuddho na paśyati ||

This is the lectio rightly accepted by Ejima (1980).


(1) Lindtner (2001).

(2) Lindtner (2001:36).

(3) sDe-dge edition.

(4) Indeed, for siddhavasāt one would expect grub (pa’i) dbang gis.

(5) sDe-dge edition.

(6) See the colophons of the Peking, sDe-dge, dGa’-ldan, Co-ne and sNar-thang editions. Nonetheless, not all the traditions accept this paternity: Bu-ston does not list the MBG among the writings of Āryadeva (Obermiller 1999:131-132).

(7) See the colophons of the Peking, sDe-dge, dGa’-ldan, Co-ne and sNar-thang editions.

(8) In the colophon of the MBG it is said that Atīśa Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna and TSHul-khrims-rgyal-ba translated this text into Tibetan in the monastery of Nālandā. The colophons of the MHK and TJ affirm that these works have been translated by Atīśa Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna and TSHul-khrims-rgyal-ba when they were in Lhasa. We know that Atīśa Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna, after having reached Tibet, dead there, without never go back to India. Thus the translation of the MBG must have taken place before thetranslations of MHK and TJ.

(9) Even if we don’t know with certainty the date of the compiler of MBG, he must have flourished during the IX century A.D. or before.

(10) Nanjio (1923:49, note 6). Other examples are referred to by: Negi (1993-2005, vol. IV), s.v. gnyid; Lokesh Chandra (1992-1994, vol. 3), s.v. gnyid.


Bhāvaviveka, Madhyamakahṛdayakārikā: (1) dBu ma’i snying po’i tshig le’ur byas pa, in The Nyingma Edition of the sDe-dge bKa’-’gyur and bsTan-’gyur. Dharma Mudranālaya, Oakland (California) 1981 (dBu-ma, vol. 200: DZa, foll. 1a1-40b7); (2) Lindtner, Chr. (ed. by), Madhyamakahṛdayam of Bhavya, The Adyar Library and Research Center, Chennai 2001.

Bhāvaviveka, Madhyamakahṛdayavṛtti-Tarkajvālā: dBu ma’i snying po’i ’grel ba rTog ge ’bar ba), in The Nyingma Edition of the sDe-dge bKa’-’gyur and bsTan-’gyur. Dharma Mudranālaya, Oakland (California) 1981 (dBu-ma, vol. 200: DZa, foll. 40b7-329b4).

Ejima, Y., Chū-gan shi-sō no ten-kai: Bhāvaviveka ken-kyū 中観思想の展開: Bhāvaviveka 研究, Shunjūsha, Tōkyō 1980.

Laṅkāvatārasūtraṃ: (1) ’Phags pa lang kar gshegs pa’i theg pa chen po’i mdo, in Lha-sabKa’-’gyur, Dharamsala 1986-1988 (mDo-sde vol. 51: Ca 87b7-307a3); (2) Nanjio, B. (ed. by) The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, The Otani University Press, Kyōto 1923.

Lokesh Chandra, Tibetan-Sanskrit Dictionary. Supplementary Volumes (7 vols.), International Academy of Indian Culture & Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1992-1994.

Negi, J.S., Bod skad dang legs sbyar gyi tshig mdzod chen mo. Tibetan-Sanskrit Dictionary (16 vols.), Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath (Varanasi) 1993-2005.

I have already dealt with this subject here (Italian)

7 thoughts on “♦ A brief note on Lindtner’s edition of Bhavya’s Madhyamakahṛdayakārikā III, 253

  1. Ciao Elisa,
    in Lindtner’s edition (Adyar Library) of the MHK there is a reproduction of three folii of the Sanskrit manuscript in his possession (it is not clear if he has a copy or the original). Unfortunately the photo-reproduction in the book is not good – whereas Lindtner affirms that the manuscript itself is clearly readable -, but it seems to me it is in Devanāgarī scritp. In any case, because of my short-sightedness I can fail, thus I have scanned and added the page to this post. If you can better guess the script, please feel free to correct me 🙂


  2. Thanks for the scans. The photo’s resolution is very low, so that I can hardly read it at all, but I would not doubt it is Devanagari –and it also seems easily readable, if only one could have a less blurred scan! Anyway, a further evidence in favour of the easy mistake mi-si.


  3. I just read of another siddha/middha confusion (this time the other way round) in Kokkoka, Ratirahasya. The author of the Italian translation, Marcello Meli, emends the text (13th chapter) from middha- to siddha-. Possibly a common confusion, just like the one between nivṛtti and nirvṛtti (or visarga and vimarśa in śaradā)?


  4. Ciao Elisa!
    Many thanks for your post. Now, with Meli’s one, we have found three places in which the confusion middha/siddha comes out. (The other two being of course MHK III, 253 and Laṅkāvatārasūtraṃ – Nanjio 1923:49)… I do not know whether this could be considered a common confusion (like those you mention) or not – I think we need more examples. In any case, if not probable, it is at least possible!

    PS: does Meli’s book have also the edition of the Sanskrit text?


  5. Hi Annabel,
    thanks for your comment! I’m glad to know that you appreciate my blog (thanks also for getting my rss feeds!!)
    If you want you can join this site by means of Google Friend Connect, the square on the top of the right sidebar.


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