June 12, 2016

Adhīśa = ཇོ་བོ་རྗེ།

What is nice about scientific approach (as opposed to rigid and religious dogmatic approach) is that enquirers can keep on correcting or enhancing our hitherto knowledge or hypotheses. Recently our esteemed colleagues Harunaga Isaacson and Francesco Sferra came up with a brilliant suggestion regarding the byname *Atiśa (or *Atīśa). Lest I distort their nuanced position, I plead the readers to read Isaacson & Sferra 2014: pp. 70–71, n. 51. Here is the full bibliographical detail: Harunaga Isaacson & Francesco Sferra, The Sekanirdeśa of Maitreyanātha (Advayavajra) with the Sekanirdeśapañjikā of Rāmapāla: Critical Edition of the Sanskrit and Tibetan Texts with English Translation and Reproduction of the MSS. With Contributions by Klaus-Dieter Mathes and Marco Passavanti. Naples: Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale,” 2014. To begin with, the byname *Atiśa (or *Atīśa), though very popular in Tibetan and secondary sources, is not attested in Sanskrit sources. Assuming that there indeed was a genuine Sanskrit byname of respect and recognition, Helmut Eimer has suggested that *Atiśa could have been a corrupted derivation from Atiśaya. Isaacson and Sferra, however, voice their doubts with the probability of the name *Atiśa and its derivation and speculated that the underlying epithet in Sanskrit (i.e. if it indeed existed) could have been Adhīśa, which, unlike Atiśaya, has the merit of being attested as a name and epithet. In addition, I wish to point out that also the pertinent byname in Tibetan “Jo-bo-rje” seems to support the Adhīśa hypothesis. In other words, it is very likely that Tibetan jo bo rje has been a rendering of the Sanskrit adhīśa. This would also precisely tally with the English rendering of adhīśa as “lord or master over (others)” (MWs.v.). The orthographic and phonetic imprecision or similarity between adhīśa and atīśa/atiśa could have easily caused the confusion between the two. The Tibetan rendering phul du byung ba (e.g. Tshig mdzod chen mos.v. a ti sha), like Helmut Eimer, of course, presupposes atiśaya. We shall have to see since when we start seeing the Tibetan rendering phul tu byung ba (as a byname). The only disadvantage is that, as pointed out by Isaacson and Sferra, it is not attested as a byname. Negi’s dictionary, too, does not seem to contain any entry phul tu byung ba in the sense of a byname. I think we should start using Adhīśa (instead of *Atīśa/*Atiśa).


  1. Dear D.W., Nice one. I don't know, I'm not so sure of it. But I can tell you that a few years ago in New Delhi there was an Atiśa conference, where Lokesh Chandra went into at least a half an hour discussion of the problem and concluded that Michael Hahn was right. I think the best solution to the "problem" is not to call him by yet another 'rediscovered' Sanskritic form, but to use the known one: Dīpaṅkaraśrījñāna (དཔལ་མར་མེ་མཛད་ཡེ་ཤེས་). There may be problems with this, not least the necessity of using so many diacritic marks, or the need to force non-Sanskritists to pronounce so many more syllables... and I guess sometimes his name appears as just Dīpaṅkara, which causes problems of disambiguating him from others with this or similar names, like Dīpaṅkarabhadra (མར་མེ་མཛད་བཟང་པོ་).་Especially Dīpaṅkarabhadra, since I'm not at all sure if he is or isn't the same as Dīpaṅkaraśrījñāna, and hope for enlightenment on that question, like most questions.

  2. Dear D, I just cite this: “It is perhaps worth recalling that no Sanskrit sources are currently available that refer to *Dīpaṅkaraśrījñāna at all, under any name” (Isaacson & Sferra 2014: pp. 70–71, n. 51 ). Tā.ra.nā.tha’i.rang.rnam (p. 164) has: bhaṅgalapaṇḍitabhikṣu-dīpaṃkaraśrījñānasya pustakaṃ (“a book of the scholar monk Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna from Bengal”). But this could still be invented by a Tibetan.

  3. gSer.gyi.thang.ma (p. 13): yongs kyi gtam mdzad byang med pa dpe ring lnga thig ldebs nga drug longs pa ’di’i gsham du (emended from ga gshamdu) bhikṣudīpaṃkarasya pustakaṃ zhes jo bo’i phyag dpe yin zhes bris. This, too, could have been written by a Tibetan. Oh Jo-bo-rje (Adhīśa)!

  4. So I take it "Monk Dīpaṃkara" existed in Indic lettering on a book cover or label of an Indic text kept in Tibet, and that this was seen by Gendun Chömpel. That's good enough evidence (for me) that we do indeed have an Indic source for his name. But yes, the problem remains that it could refer to someone other than Atiśa.

    Actually, I found my note on Kano, TSM,* and notice discussion on p. 83 of what might possibly be the more original form of his name, Adhīśa, actually attested in Tibetan script form as A-dhe-sha, or A-rhe-sha.

    We'll ask the author about this at the IATS! But this evidence does help the case that the original form of his Indic name in Tibet would have been something like Adhīśa. So, my mind goes back and forth and settles nowhere. Perhaps that's the nature of mind?

    *Kano Kazuo, The Transmission of Sanskrit Manuscripts from India to Tibet: The Case of a Manuscript Collection in the Possession of Atiśa Dīpamkaraśrījñāna (980-1054), contained in: Carmen Meinert, ed., Transfer of Buddhism Across Central Asian Networks (7th to 13th Centuries), Brill (Leiden 2016), pp. 82-117.