A Study on the Ratnagotravibhāga (Uttaratantra): Being a Treatise on the Tathāgatagarbha Theory of Mahāyāna Buddhism-Review by de Jong

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A Study on the Ratnagotravibhāga (Uttaratantra): Being a Treatise on the Tathāgatagarbha Theory of Mahāyāna Buddhism-Review by de Jong
Citation: De Jong, Jan Willem. Review of A Study of the Ratnagotravibhāga (Uttaratantra): Being a Treatise on the Tathāgatagarbha Theory of Mahāyāna Buddhism, by J. Takasaki. Indo-Iranian Journal 11, no. 1 (1968): 36–54.

Article Summary

For several reasons the Ratnagotravibhāga deserves our attention. It is the only text on the tathāgatagarbha which has been preserved in Sanskrit. There are many problems connected with its place in the history of Mahāyāna philosophy and with its authorship. The Tibetan tradition attributes the verses to Maitreya and the prose commentary to Asaṅga. This text is held in high regard as one of the five treatises composed by Maitreya. However, the Chinese tradition attributes the whole work to Sāramati. This tradition is mentioned by Yüan-ts'e (613-696) in his commentary on the Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra[1] and by Fa-tsang (643-712) in his commentary on the Dharmadhātvaviśeṣaśāstra.[2] Probably the earliest reference to Sāramati as author of the Ratnagotravibhāga is to be found in Chih-i's Mo-ho chih-kuan (Taishō, Vol. XLVI, Nr. 1911, p. 31b18-26) which has been dictated by him in 594 (cf. p. 125 of Tsukinowa's article mentioned in note 8). The identity of Sāramati raises many problems. Some scholars have identified him with Sthiramati,[3] others have distinguished two Sāramati's.[4] There are also many obscurities in the Chinese traditions concerning the translator of the Chinese version. Chinese catalogues mention two translations, one by Ratnamati and the other by Bodhiruci.
     In 1931 E. Obermiller published a translation of the Ratnagotravibhāga from the Tibetan: "The Sublime Science of the Great Vehicle to Salvation", Acta Orientalia, Vol. IX, Part II.III, pp. 81-306.[5] His interpretation of the text is based upon a commentary by Tsoṅ-kha-pa's pupil and successor rGyal-tshab Dar-ma rin-chen (1364–1432)[6] The Sanskrit text has been edited by E. H. Johnston and published by T. Chowdhury: The Ratnagotravibhāga Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra (Patna, 1950). This edition is based upon two manuscripts found in Tibet by Rāhula Sāṁkṛtyāyana. The edition of the Sanskrit text has given a new impulse to the study of the Ratnagotravibhāga. Several passages of the Ratnagotravibhāga have been translated by E. Conze (Buddhist Texts through the Ages, Oxford, 1954, pp. 130-131, 181-184 and 216-217). In Die Philosophie des Buddhismus (Berlin, 1956, pp. 255-264) E. Frauwallner has given a summary of the ideas contained in this text and a translation of several verses.[7] In 1959 Ui Hakuju published a detailed study on the Ratnagotravibhāga (Hōshōron Kenkyū) which contains a complete translation (pp. 471-648), together with a Sanskrit-Japanese glossary (pp. 1-60 with separate pagination).[8] Professor Takasaki's translation was undertaken during his stay in India (1954-1957) and continued afterwards. Apart from this book he has published between 1958 and 1964 ten articles relating to the Ratnagotravibhāga (a list is given on pp. xii-xiii).[9] . . .
           The translation of the Ratnagotravibhāga by Professor Takasaki is the first to be based on the Sanskrit text and the Chinese and Tibetan translations. Obermiller utilized only the Tibetan version and his translation, excellent as it is, contains a number of mistakes which are obvious in the light of the Sanskrit text. Ui utilized both the Sanskrit text and the Chinese translation, but he was unable to consult the Tibetan translation directly. His knowledge of it was based upon a Japanese translation, made for him by Tada Tōkan, and upon Obermiller's English translation. It is clear from many indications that the Chinese translation is closer to the original than both the Sanskrit text and the Tibetan translation. However, as concerns the interpretation of the text, the Chinese translation is now always a reliable guide. There are several places where Professor Takasaki has been too much influenced by it but in general he indicates very well the wrong interpretations which are to be found in the Chinese translation. For the Tibetan translation Professor Takasaki has consulted only the Derge edition. A comparison of the passages quoted in the notes with the corresponding passages in the Peking edition (the only one at my disposal) shows that the Derge edition does not always give a satisfactory text. An edition of the Tibetan translation based on the Derge, Peking and Narthang editions would be highly desirable. In view of the importance of the vocabulary of the Ratnagotravibhāga for both Buddhist Sanskrit and Mahāyāna terminology, it would also be very useful to have indexes, on the lines of those compiled by Professor Nagao for the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra.

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  1. P. Demiéville, BEFEO, XXIV, 1-2 (1924), p. 53.
  2. N. Peri, BEFEO, XI (1911), p. 350; Takasaki, p. 9.
  3. Cf. H. W. Bailey and E. H. Johnston, "A Fragment of the Uttaratantra in Sanskrit", BSOS, VIII (1935), pp. 77-89 (esp. p. 81) and Johnston's foreword to his edition of the Sanskrit text, pp. x-xii. To this Sthiramati the Tibetan tradition attributes a commentary on the Kāśyapaparivarta. The Chinese translation (Taishō, 1523) is due to Bodhiruci. According to Chinese catalogues this commentary, just as the Ratnagotravibhāga, has been translated by both Bodhiruci and Ratnamati. Cf. A. Staël-Holstein's edition (A Commentary of the Kāśyapaparivarta, Peking, 1933) and P. Pelliot's review, TP, XXXII (1936), pp. 75-76. According to Chinese traditions both Bodhiruci and Ratnamati have translated also the Daśabhūmikasūtraśāstra (Taishō, No. 1522), cf. Noël Peri, "A propos de la date de Vasubandhu", BEFEO, XI (1911), pp. 352-353; Stanley Weinstein, "The concept of ālaya-vijñāna in pre-T'ang Chinese Buddhism". Essays on the History of Buddhist Thought. Presented to Professor Reimon Yūki (Tokyo, 1964), pp. 34-35. On the relations between Bodhiruci and Ratnamati see P. Demiéville, "Sur l'authenticité du Ta tch'eng k'i sin louen", Bulletin de la Maison Franco-Japonaise, II, 2 (Tōkyō, 1929), pp. 30ff.
  4. See the references given by Ét. Lamotte, L'Enseignement de Vimalakīrti (Louvain, 1962), pp. 92-93, n. 2. According to Hattori Masaaki, there is only one Sāramati who lived between Nāgārjuna and Asaṅga-Vasubandhu.
  5. Cf. La Vallée Poussin's interesting review, MCB, I (1931-1932), pp. 406-409.
  6. Cf. G. Tucci, Tibetan Painted Scrolls, I (Roma, 1949), p. 119: A Catalogue of the Tohoku University Collection of Tibetan Works on Buddhism (Sendai, 1953), No. 5434. Ogawa Ichijō, "Butsu (Nyorai) to Busshō (Nyoraizō) — Darumarinchen-zō Hōshōron Shakuso o shoe to shite", IBK, XIII (1965), pp. 247-250. Id.: "Indo Daijō Bukkyō ni okeru Nyoraizō-Busshō-shisō ni tsuite — Darumarinchen-zō Hōshōron Shakuso no kaidoku o kokoromite —", Tōhōgaku, 30 (1965), pp. 102-116. A complete translation of this commentary would be very welcome.
  7. According to Frauwallner Sāramati lived about 250 A.D.
  8. For completeness' sake mention must be made of a synoptic edition of the Sanskrit text in Roman letters and the Chinese translation by Nakamura Zuiryū: The Ratnagotravibhāga-Mahāyānottaratantra-çāstra. Compared with Sanskrit and Chinese, with introduction and Notes (Tokyo, 1961) (published originally in Ōsaki Gakuhō, 103-110, 1955-1959). More important are the following articles: Tsukinowa Kenryū, "Kukyōichijōhōshōron ni tsuite", Nihon Bukkyō Kyōkai Nenpō, VII (1935) pp. 121-139; Takata Ninkaku, "Kukyōichijōhōshōron no johon ni tsuite", Mikkyō Bunka, 31 (1955) pp. 9-37; Hattori Masaaki, "'Busshōron' no ichi kōsatsu", Bukkyō Shigaku, IV, 3-4 (1955), pp. 16-36 (I have not been able to consult the last two articles); Takata Ninkaku, "Hōshōron ni okeru tenne (āśrayaparivṛtti) ni tsuite", IBK, VI (1958), pp. 501-504; Ogawa Ichijō, "'Busshō' to 'buddhatva'", IBK, XI (1963), pp. 544-545.
  9. Not mentioned are two articles published in 1953: "Hōshōron ni okeru nyoraizō no igi", IBK, 1, pp. 368-369 ; "Nyoraizō to engi — Hōshōron o tegakari to shite —", IBK, II, pp. 244-247.