Avalokitasvara / Avalokiteśvara, Amitābha / Amitāyus and pratyekabuddha / pratyayabuddha: Misinterpretations of Gāndhārī Buddhism by Sanskrit Composers of the Mahāyāna Scriptures

Lecture | April 4 | 5-7 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Seishi Karashima, Soka University, Tokyo

 Center for Buddhist Studies

Śākyamuni seems to have preached in a colloquial language, namely Māgadhī. The scriptures of early Buddhism were transmitted also in various colloquial languages, e.g. Pāli. Probably, many of the early Mahāyāna scriptures were originally transmitted in colloquial languages as well, e.g. Gāndhārī, which were later gradually translated into (Buddhist) Sanskrit. There are quite a few instances where later Sanskrit translators and composers misunderstood the meanings of Gāndhārī forms and created hyper-sanskritised ones, from which new interpretations also appeared. Avalokitasvara, meaning “One Who Surveys Sounds”, Amitāyus (“Infinite Life”), pratyayabuddha (“one who has become a buddha by [understanding] causes”) are some such instances. We shall trace the misinterpretations of Gāndhārī Buddhism by Sanskrit composers by means of comparing Sanskrit texts and the early Chinese translations whose underlying language is probably Gāndhārī.

Seishi Karashima is Professor of Sino-Indian Buddhist Philology at The International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology, Soka University, Tokyo. From 1976 to 1994, he studied Indology, Buddhist Studies and Sinology at the University of Tokyo (B.A. and M.A.), Cambridge University, Beijing University (Ph.D.) and at Freiburg University. Areas of publication and research include philological studies of early Buddhist Sanskrit Texts and early Chinese Buddhist translations. Among his publications are: A Glossary of Lokakṣema’s Translation of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā, 2010; A Critical Edition of Lokakṣema’s Translation of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā, 2011; Die Abhisamācārikā Dharmāḥ, 2012, 3 vols.; Buddhist Manuscripts from Central Asia: The British Library Sanskrit Fragments, ed. with Klaus Wille, vol. 1 (2006), vol. 2 (2009), vol. 3 (2015); Buddhist Manuscripts from Central Asia: The St. Petersburg Sanskrit Fragments, vol. 1 (2015) ed. with M. I. Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya; Mahāyāna Texts: Prajñāpāramitā Texts,(1) (2016), (2) (2019) (Gilgit Manuscripts in the National Archives of India Facsimile Edition Volume II.1, 2).