Buddhist Texts

♦ Who knows which work of Diṅnāga this stanza is taken from?

In the 5th chapter of the Madhyamakaratnapradīpa (MRP) we find the following stanza, attributed to Diṅnāga (sDe-dge 272b4-5):

slob dpon phyogs kyi glaṅ pos kyaṅ |

’di na mya ṅan ’das lam groṅ khyer du | | de bźin gśegs pa’i gsuṅ gi ñi ma’i ’od can gyis | |

bdag med śes pa’i ’phags pa stoṅ phrag ’jug | blo gros rtsiṅ ba dag gi yul ma yin | |

źes gsuṅs so | |

Into English, it could be rendered thus:

«Furthermore, by the ācārya Diṅnāga it has been said: “There, [only] the one thousand noble ones that knows selflessness by means of the radiant sun of Tathāgata’s words, enter into the citadel [at the end of] the path [leading] to nirvāṇa, [this opportunity] is not withing the domain of [those who has] coarse intellect”».

This citation comes immediately after another one from Kambala, whose contents are very similar (sDe-dge 272b4-5):

dpal kam pa las kyaṅ |

’di ni raṅ rig phra ba ste | | phra ba rnams kyi spyod yul yin | |

bdag cag lta bur gyur pa yi | | blo gros rtsiṅ bas mi śes so | |

źes gsuṅs so | |

That is:

«Moreover, by śrī Kambala it has been said: “This [reality is known by] subtle self-awareness and [therefore] is the domain/object of those who have subtle [intellect]; [it] is not known by the coarse intellect of that class [of low minded persons] like me”».

We owe to Christian Lindtner (1982: 175, note 39) the identification of this stanza with Ālokamāla 13:

svasaṃvedyā tu sā saukṣmyād buddhānām sūkṣmadarśinām |

mādṛśaiḥ svāśrayasthāpi sthūladhībhir na dṛśyate ||

As it can be observed, however, there are several discrepancies between the version quoted in the MRP and the one preserved in its original Sanskrit. These discrepancies are confirmed also by the Tibetan translation of the Ālokamāla:

raṅ rig de yaṅ phra ba’i phyis | | saṅs rgyas rnams kyis phra ba gzigs | |

raṅ la gnas kyaṅ bdag ’dra bas | | rtsiṅ ba’i phyir ni mthoṅ ba med | |

Lindtner translates:

«It [i.e., reality] can, however, due to its subtlety be personally experienced by the subtle-seeing Buddhas. Though (thusness) rests in one’s own body it canot be seen by blockheads like me».

Now, the remarkable lexical differences existing between the two versions open the door to a plenty of possible questions: did the author of the MRP misattribute to Kambala this stanza, which originally came out of the pen of another scholar? Or, do we have a version of Ālokamālā 13 that does not correspond to the one read/studied by our author? Or, did this stanza belong to a lost work of Kambala? And so forth.

Of course these doubts remain unsolvable, at least for the moment. Anyway, what is certain is the fact that the mention of the author’s name and the fact that Ālokamālā 13 is preserved – despite the different readings in MRP – allows us to figure out or, at least, to suppose which was the possible written source the compiler of the MRP had in mind.

On the contrary, after having checked his works listed in the Tibetan Canon and those preserved in Sanskrit, I have been unable to trace Diṅnāga’s stanza back to any of them. But of course I could have failed the task and may be the stanza went totally unnoticed to me for whatever reason. Moreover, I have to confess that I didn’t check the Chinese sources because to me Chinese is… Chinese! To that, I’ve also to add the fact that I’m not so well-versed in Diṅnāga’s texts, which I don’t know as well as I know Nāgārjuna’s or Bhāviveka’s ones. So it is also possible that I have not found the passage because I didn’t know where to look for it.

Thus, let us interact a bit, if you will, by making use of the same questions raised in the case of Kambala.

– Does anybody know if the one quoted above is really a stanza from Diṅnāga and, if yes, from which work it’s taken?

– Or, is it a stanza that could sound as one of Diṅnāga’s, but actually belonging to a text authored by someone else?

– Or, are we in front of a quotation whose original texts it belonged to we have to consider lost (and so, to accept or discard its diṅnāgan authorship, we can only trust, or not, the author of the MRP)?


Lindtner, Christian. 1982. “Adversaria Buddhica”, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens 26: 167-194.

Lindtner, Christian. 1985. “A Treatise on Buddhist Idealism: Kambala’s Ālokamālā”, in Christian Lindtner (ed. by), Miscellanea Buddhica, Akademisk Forlag, Copenhagen. 109-221.


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