Cundi Mantra Translation Help

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
Post Reply
DesertDweller
Posts: 78
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 7:13 pm

Cundi Mantra Translation Help

Post by DesertDweller » Fri May 25, 2018 6:19 am

Hello. I like the Cundi mantra--
namaḥ saptānāṁ samyak-saṁbuddha koṭīnāṁ | tad-yathā oṁ cale cule cundi svāhā--
but I'm looking for a reliable translation of the Sanskrit. Specifically, does it say "Homage to seven kotis of Buddhas" or "Homage to the MOTHER of seven kotis, etc." I've seen both, and that (possible) "mother" really makes a difference in meaning!

User avatar
sukhamanveti
Posts: 119
Joined: Fri May 21, 2010 5:50 pm
Location: U.S.A.

Re: Cundi Mantra Translation Help

Post by sukhamanveti » Fri May 25, 2018 1:27 pm

DesertDweller wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 6:19 am
Hello. I like the Cundi mantra--
namaḥ saptānāṁ samyak-saṁbuddha koṭīnāṁ | tad-yathā oṁ cale cule cundi svāhā--
but I'm looking for a reliable translation of the Sanskrit. Specifically, does it say "Homage to seven kotis of Buddhas" or "Homage to the MOTHER of seven kotis, etc." I've seen both, and that (possible) "mother" really makes a difference in meaning!
The word "mother" does not occur here, but some interpreters seem to believe that it is implied ("Homage to [the mother] of seven koṭis of samyak-saṁbuddhas"), evidently because of Cundī's title. If you look at the first line, the obeisance, word by word, the words are "homage," "seven," "fully-awakened ones," "ten millions (koṭi)."

I hope this is helpful.
namo bhagavate śākyamunaye tathāgatāyārhate samyaksaṁbuddhāya | namaḥ sarvabuddhabodhisattvebhyaḥ ||

"Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas love all beings in the world equally, as if each were their only child..." Buddhāvataṃsakamahāvaipulya Sūtra

DesertDweller
Posts: 78
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 7:13 pm

Re: Cundi Mantra Translation Help

Post by DesertDweller » Fri May 25, 2018 5:17 pm

Thanks, Sukhamanveti! That's what I thought--I didn't see the "mother" in there either, but since I don't know Sanskrit grammar I thought perhaps I'd overlooked some abbreviated form or something....

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 1549
Joined: Thu Jun 02, 2016 11:35 pm
Location: Whitby, Ontario

Re: Cundi Mantra Translation Help

Post by Coëmgenu » Sat May 26, 2018 12:27 am

sukhamanveti wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 1:27 pm
DesertDweller wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 6:19 am
Hello. I like the Cundi mantra--
namaḥ saptānāṁ samyak-saṁbuddha koṭīnāṁ | tad-yathā oṁ cale cule cundi svāhā--
but I'm looking for a reliable translation of the Sanskrit. Specifically, does it say "Homage to seven kotis of Buddhas" or "Homage to the MOTHER of seven kotis, etc." I've seen both, and that (possible) "mother" really makes a difference in meaning!
The word "mother" does not occur here, but some interpreters seem to believe that it is implied ("Homage to [the mother] of seven koṭis of samyak-saṁbuddhas"), evidently because of Cundī's title. If you look at the first line, the obeisance, word by word, the words are "homage," "seven," "fully-awakened ones," "ten millions (koṭi)."

I hope this is helpful.
I read this beginning as "homage to the seven completely awakened Buddha apices".

Obviously that is not correct. How do we differentiate koṭi from koṭi (in the sense of catuṣkoṭi)?
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.

吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

User avatar
sukhamanveti
Posts: 119
Joined: Fri May 21, 2010 5:50 pm
Location: U.S.A.

Re: Cundi Mantra Translation Help

Post by sukhamanveti » Sat May 26, 2018 5:22 am

Coëmgenu wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 12:27 am

I read this beginning as "homage to the seven completely awakened Buddha apices".

Obviously that is not correct. How do we differentiate koṭi from koṭi (in the sense of catuṣkoṭi)?
As I understand it, the contexts in which this mantra or dhāraṇī appears help us to determine which meaning of the word koṭi is intended. Presumably, any extant commentaries on or traditional teachings about these sūtras would do the same. The Saptakoṭibuddhamātṛ ("Seven-Koṭi-Buddha-Mother") Cundī Dhāraṇī Sūtra says that Cundī is the mother of seven koṭis of buddhas. For this reason, she is sometimes called “Buddha Mother.” (Similarly, prajñāpāramitā is sometimes referred to as “the Mother of all Buddhas”). The Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra says that seven koṭis of buddhas (or in an apparent transcription error “seventy-seven” koṭis) recited this Cundī dhāraṇī (elsewhere also known as a "mantra teaching"). In these texts, one possible meaning yields a better reading than the others.
namo bhagavate śākyamunaye tathāgatāyārhate samyaksaṁbuddhāya | namaḥ sarvabuddhabodhisattvebhyaḥ ||

"Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas love all beings in the world equally, as if each were their only child..." Buddhāvataṃsakamahāvaipulya Sūtra

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 1549
Joined: Thu Jun 02, 2016 11:35 pm
Location: Whitby, Ontario

Re: Cundi Mantra Translation Help

Post by Coëmgenu » Sat May 26, 2018 12:13 pm

sukhamanveti wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 5:22 am
Coëmgenu wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 12:27 am

I read this beginning as "homage to the seven completely awakened Buddha apices".

Obviously that is not correct. How do we differentiate koṭi from koṭi (in the sense of catuṣkoṭi)?
As I understand it, the contexts in which this mantra or dhāraṇī appears help us to determine which meaning of the word koṭi is intended. Presumably, any extant commentaries on or traditional teachings about these sūtras would do the same. The Saptakoṭibuddhamātṛ ("Seven-Koṭi-Buddha-Mother") Cundī Dhāraṇī Sūtra says that Cundī is the mother of seven koṭis of buddhas. For this reason, she is sometimes called “Buddha Mother.” (Similarly, prajñāpāramitā is sometimes referred to as “the Mother of all Buddhas”). The Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra says that seven koṭis of buddhas (or in an apparent transcription error “seventy-seven” koṭis) recited this Cundī dhāraṇī (elsewhere also known as a "mantra teaching"). In these texts, one possible meaning yields a better reading than the others.
That makes sense.

I was wondering if one sense of koṭi was in one gender and another in the other. That sometimes happens with synonyms.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.

吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

User avatar
sukhamanveti
Posts: 119
Joined: Fri May 21, 2010 5:50 pm
Location: U.S.A.

Re: Cundi Mantra Translation Help

Post by sukhamanveti » Sat May 26, 2018 9:59 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 12:13 pm

That makes sense.

I was wondering if one sense of koṭi was in one gender and another in the other. That sometimes happens with synonyms.
In Classical Sanskrit koṭi is normally understood to be a feminine noun. However, in four of the cases (vibhakti) it also has a masculine form, depending on its intended meaning. These are dative, ablative, genitive, and locative. This applies when it is singular only. The plural of each case has only one form. In the above mantra the word koṭi is plural, so gender cannot help us.

Moreover, there are some grammatical peculiarities in the homage preceding the mantra proper that make me wonder if it is in Edgerton’s so-called “Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit,” rather than Classical Sanskrit, or if perhaps the “missing mother” idea is correct. Normally, when one is giving homage to a buddha, bodhisattva, or deity, the name or word for the one receiving the homage is in the dative case: namo'mitābhāya buddhāya, namas tārāyai, namo'valokiteśvarāya mahākāruṇikāya, namo mañjuśriye kumārabhūtāya, namaḥ sarvanīvaraṇaviṣkambhine, etc. In the above homage, there is no dative case. Saptanām saṃyaksaṃbuddhakoṭinām is in the plural form of the genitive case (“of seventy millions of buddhas”). (However, even in Classical Sanskrit genitive is not always genitive. It can also be used when no case seems to apply, not that this is necessarily relevant here.) It isn’t that the word “mother” (mātā, , or mātṛ) has merely been dropped from the homage, however, because saṃdhí rules in Classical Sanskrit dictate that “homage” would be namo in front of any of the Sanskrit words for “mother” (that I know). It’s a puzzle. And I don’t know much about “Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit” yet, except that it combines features of Sanskrit and prakrit languages, resulting in a different grammar at times.
namo bhagavate śākyamunaye tathāgatāyārhate samyaksaṁbuddhāya | namaḥ sarvabuddhabodhisattvebhyaḥ ||

"Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas love all beings in the world equally, as if each were their only child..." Buddhāvataṃsakamahāvaipulya Sūtra

User avatar
sukhamanveti
Posts: 119
Joined: Fri May 21, 2010 5:50 pm
Location: U.S.A.

Re: Cundi Mantra Translation Help

Post by sukhamanveti » Sun May 27, 2018 3:23 am

*Correction: "of seventy millions of saṃyaksaṃbuddhas." I forgot the prefixes.
namo bhagavate śākyamunaye tathāgatāyārhate samyaksaṁbuddhāya | namaḥ sarvabuddhabodhisattvebhyaḥ ||

"Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas love all beings in the world equally, as if each were their only child..." Buddhāvataṃsakamahāvaipulya Sūtra

DesertDweller
Posts: 78
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 7:13 pm

Re: Cundi Mantra Translation Help

Post by DesertDweller » Tue May 29, 2018 6:34 am

That's really fascinating--thanks for you insightful reflections on this puzzle, Sukhamanveti. Please let us know in the future if you come across anything else that sheds light on it!

humble.student
Posts: 61
Joined: Wed Aug 19, 2015 1:35 pm

Re: Cundi Mantra Translation Help

Post by humble.student » Tue May 29, 2018 7:46 am

It looks like you are confusing the introduction to the dharani in the sutra with the actual contents of the dharani itself.

Here are some relevant instances taken from existing English translations:
Taishō Tripiṭaka volume 20, number 1077.
At one time the Buddha was staying in the Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍada’s park. At that time, the Bhagavān was contemplating and observing the sentient beings of the future. Out of pity for them, he spoke the teaching of the Great Cundī Dhāraṇī, the heart-mother of seven koṭīs of perfectly enlightened buddhas. Thus he spoke the mantra:
namaḥ saptānāṃ samyaksaṃbuddha koṭīnāṃ tadyathā oṃ cale cule cunde svāhā
from https://lapislazulitexts.com/tripitaka/ ... di-dharani

And the same text again in a different translation:
At one time the Buddha was dwelling in the Anāthapiṇḍika Garden of Jetavana Park in the city kingdom of Śrāvastī. The World-Honored One meditated, observing sentient beings of the future. Feeling sympathy with them, He expounded the Dharma of the Cundī Dhāraṇī, the heart of the mother of seven koṭi Buddhas. The Buddha then pronounced the mantra:
namaḥ saptānāṁ samyak-saṁbuddha koṭināṁ tadyathā oṁ cale cule cundi svāhā
from http://sutrasmantras.info/sutra02.html

Note that the "Buddha-mother" epithet - 佛母 - a much-debated term itself, is absent from Amoghavajra's translation (T1076). But it is present in Vajrabodhi (T1075) and Divakara's (T1077) translations, as well as in Śubhakarasiṃha's Cundi sadhana (T1078, but only as part of the title, it is not found in the text itself). It is also absent from the longer version of the dharani found in the Fangshan Stone Scriptures.

User avatar
sukhamanveti
Posts: 119
Joined: Fri May 21, 2010 5:50 pm
Location: U.S.A.

Re: Cundi Mantra Translation Help

Post by sukhamanveti » Tue May 29, 2018 11:24 am

humble.student wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 7:46 am
It looks like you are confusing the introduction to the dharani in the sutra with the actual contents of the dharani itself.

Here are some relevant instances taken from existing English translations:
Taishō Tripiṭaka volume 20, number 1077.
At one time the Buddha was staying in the Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍada’s park. At that time, the Bhagavān was contemplating and observing the sentient beings of the future. Out of pity for them, he spoke the teaching of the Great Cundī Dhāraṇī, the heart-mother of seven koṭīs of perfectly enlightened buddhas. Thus he spoke the mantra:
namaḥ saptānāṃ samyaksaṃbuddha koṭīnāṃ tadyathā oṃ cale cule cunde svāhā
from https://lapislazulitexts.com/tripitaka/ ... di-dharani

And the same text again in a different translation:
At one time the Buddha was dwelling in the Anāthapiṇḍika Garden of Jetavana Park in the city kingdom of Śrāvastī. The World-Honored One meditated, observing sentient beings of the future. Feeling sympathy with them, He expounded the Dharma of the Cundī Dhāraṇī, the heart of the mother of seven koṭi Buddhas. The Buddha then pronounced the mantra:
namaḥ saptānāṁ samyak-saṁbuddha koṭināṁ tadyathā oṁ cale cule cundi svāhā
from http://sutrasmantras.info/sutra02.html

Note that the "Buddha-mother" epithet - 佛母 - a much-debated term itself, is absent from Amoghavajra's translation (T1076). But it is present in Vajrabodhi (T1075) and Divakara's (T1077) translations, as well as in Śubhakarasiṃha's Cundi sadhana (T1078, but only as part of the title, it is not found in the text itself). It is also absent from the longer version of the dharani found in the Fangshan Stone Scriptures.
Hi, humble.student. Thank you for your thoughts. I'm writing while sleepy, so I hope this makes sense. Forgive me if I miss any of your points.

I think the idea you're getting at is that Cundī is not necessarily the mother being referred to in the sūtra. You may be right that she isn't and I think that's an interesting point, one worth mentioning. Some read the sūtra to mean that she is the mother. The dhāraṇī doesn't actually use the word "mother" in the only version of the Sanskrit I've ever seen. The only reason to think that the dhāraṇī might have an implied mother, as some do, is in the words preceding the dhāraṇī. If the words preceding the dhāraṇī don't refer to Cundī as mother in the "correct" reading, and maybe they don't, then there's no reason to see one in the dhāraṇī. If this is your point, then I think you're right. It's a good point. However, it doesn't change the point I was trying to make when I mentioned the (possibly incorrect) "Buddha Mother."

My point about the seven koṭis of buddhas was that the word koṭi is thought to be used in the numerical sense of the word to refer to a large number or "ten million" in the phrase "seven koṭis of buddhas" in the dhāraṇī (where it is saptanām saṃyaksaṃbuddhakoṭinām), rather than "seven peaks or apices of saṃyaksaṃbuddhas," at least partly because it is used that way in sūtras in which the dhāraṇī appears, in the same phrase right before the dhāraṇī. In the examples you give, I think the sense is that of a large number. In the second translation you give, the translator has "Cundī Dhāraṇī, the heart of the mother of seven koṭi Buddhas." If the dhāraṇī of Cundī here is "the heart of the mother of seven koṭi Buddhas," then the translation might be understood to be implying that Cundī is "the mother of seven koṭi Buddhas" and the dhāraṇī is her heart. In the first translation, the translator clearly sees the dhāraṇī as the mother, as "a heart-mother." Maybe that is the correct reading. Either way, my point that it is believed to be used in its numerical sense. In footnote 297 to the Peter Alan Roberts and Tulku Yeshi translation of Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra it says of this same dhāraṇī, "The mantra itself has seven times ten million buddhas." (Here's a pdf of the translation with the footnote: http://www.pacificbuddha.org/wp-content ... -Sutra.pdf) Cundī or the dhāraṇī is not the mother of seven "peaks or apices of saṃyaksaṃbuddhas" or even "seven ends of saṃyaksaṃbuddhas." I don't think that fits. And if the same phrase is used to mean "70 millions of saṃyaksaṃbuddhas" right before it is used again in the dhāraṇī, then one might think there's a reason for that, that it has some connection to the meaning of the same word and phrase in the (homage preceding the) dhāraṇī. That's what I was trying to say.

Best regards.
namo bhagavate śākyamunaye tathāgatāyārhate samyaksaṁbuddhāya | namaḥ sarvabuddhabodhisattvebhyaḥ ||

"Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas love all beings in the world equally, as if each were their only child..." Buddhāvataṃsakamahāvaipulya Sūtra

humble.student
Posts: 61
Joined: Wed Aug 19, 2015 1:35 pm

Re: Cundi Mantra Translation Help

Post by humble.student » Tue May 29, 2018 1:44 pm

sukhamanveti wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 11:24 am
Hi, humble.student. Thank you for your thoughts. I'm writing while sleepy, so I hope this makes sense. Forgive me if I miss any of your points.
Hi sukhamanveti,

Thanks for your response. I should have been more clear: I was replying to the very first post in this thread, and my intention was to pont out that the dharani itself does not contain this 'mother' word, but that rather it is to be found in the preceding sentence qualifying the dharani. This proximity and repetition is most certainly the source of the confusion. That is all.

There would be a lot to say about this dharani and its associated texts and teachings, if there is further interest, perhaps some discussion will ensue.

DesertDweller
Posts: 78
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 7:13 pm

Re: Cundi Mantra Translation Help

Post by DesertDweller » Thu May 31, 2018 8:26 am

It looks like you are confusing the introduction to the dharani in the sutra with the actual contents of the dharani itself.
No, I wasn't confusing the two--I wasn't thinking about the introduction at all, actually. I understood well enough (for a non-Sanskrit reader, anyway) that the words of the dharani don't contain "mother." This is why I was baffled (admittedly) as to why at least one translation I have seen does render it as "Homage to the Mother," etc. My original hypotheses were that 1) there is some feminine vocative form being used which I am not picking up, or (which seemed more likely) 2) that this has something to do with the traditional commentary on the dharani. I can see how both translations would make sense, though.

My original question was partly a "goad" to discussion about the above-mentioned traditional commentary (nothing I have seen in English addresses this, though I bet Chinese-conversant folks could dig up some great stuff, if so inclined). :namaste:

humble.student
Posts: 61
Joined: Wed Aug 19, 2015 1:35 pm

Re: Cundi Mantra Translation Help

Post by humble.student » Thu May 31, 2018 9:28 am

DesertDweller wrote:
Thu May 31, 2018 8:26 am
My original hypotheses were that 1) there is some feminine vocative form being used which I am not picking up, or (which seemed more likely) 2) that this has something to do with the traditional commentary on the dharani. I can see how both translations would make sense, though.

My original question was partly a "goad" to discussion about the above-mentioned traditional commentary (nothing I have seen in English addresses this, though I bet Chinese-conversant folks could dig up some great stuff, if so inclined). :namaste:
1. You are missing the vocatives Cale Cule (and in some forms Cunde rather than Cundi).

2. What is this "traditional commentary"?

3. There is plenty in English, although fragmentary and often contradictory. See for example:
During the late seventh century, the cult of the goddess Cundī (Zhunti 准提), a.k.a. Saptakotị Buddhabhagavatī, “the Buddhist goddess of the Seventy Million” (Qijudi fomu 七俱胝佛母), which is commonly mistranslated as “Mother of Seventy Million Buddhas,” was introduced to China.
– R. D. MacBride, Popular Esoteric Deities and the Spread of their Cults, in: Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia, Brill, 2011.
Shortly after Sarvanivaranaviskambhin receives Om Manipadme Hum, what is now generally agreed to be Cundi’s own concise formula, Om Cale Cule Cunde Svaha, appears as a dharani said to be spoken by seventy-seven families of tathagatas.
– Alexander Studholme, The Origins of Om Manipadme Hum, State University of New York Press, 2002.
“Seventy-seven times ten million samyaksaṃbuddhas gathered there, and those tathāgatas recited this dhāraṇī:

Namaḥ saptanām saṃyaksaṃbuddha koṭinām tadyathā
oṃ cale cule cunde svāhā.

(The homage by seven times ten million samyaksaṃbuddhas is like this: Oṃ cale cule cunde svāhā.)

That was the dhāraṇī recited by seventy-seven times ten million samyaksaṃbuddhas.”

This is the mantra of the Goddess Cundi in the form written in The Dhāranī Named Goddess Cunde (folio 46b7). However, it is oṃ cale cule cundi svāhā, the form that is popular in Chinese Buddhism, in the same text as repeated in the Dhāraṇī section of the Kangyur (The Dhāranī Named Goddess Cunde, folio 143a5). Cale cule cunde are the vocative forms of Calā, Culā, and Cundā, three variations of her name. Cundi is the vocative for Cundī. The words seventy million buddhas are a reference to her being the mother of seventy million buddhas as described in her sūtra, which was not translated into Tibetan, but was translated into Chinese (The Dhāraṇī of Cundī). This sūtra was evidently popular in India at the time of the creation of the Kāraṇḍavyūhasūtra, at least in its present form… No explanation for this dhāraṇī is given, so the reader is assumed to be familiar with it.

– The Basket’s Display: Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra, translated by Peter Alan Roberts with Tulku Yeshi, 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The dharani attributed to Cundi is said to convey infinite power because it is in continuous recitation by myriads of buddhas; hence, an adept who participates in this ongoing recitation will accrue manifold benefits and purify himself from unwholesome actions. The efficacy of the dharani is said to be particularly pronounced when it is recited before an image of Cundi while the accompanying Cundi mudra is also being performed. This dharani also gives Cundi her common epithet of “Goddess of the Seventy Million [Buddhas]”, which is sometimes mistakenly interpreted (based on a misreading of the Chinese) as the “Mother of the Seventy Million Buddhas”.
– The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton University Press 2013.
With the translation of the Cundī-devī-dharanī Sūtra by Divākara in the seventh century, the feminine aspect of Kuan-yin in the form of Cundī-Āvalokiteśvarā (Chun-t’i Kuan-yin), “mother of seven koṭīs (a huge number often represented as ten million) of Buddhas,” was established in China.
Cundī, more commonly Cundā, is a name for Durgā, “the violent or ferocious one” in Brahmanic mythology. Oda Tokunō (織田得能), who is followed by some Chinese and Japanese scholars, interprets it as “purity, in praise of the purity of mind and nature” (Bukkyo daijiten [Buddhist Dictionary], rev. ed. Tokyo 1954, p. 993b, s.v. “Juntei 準提”), which denotes the Dharmakāya.
[The Fo Guang Buddhist Dictionary, ed. Ding Fubao (丁福保) follows this interpretation.]
The three-chüan glossarial (詞彙式三卷), Translation of Cundi Sūtras (Chun-t’i-ching hui-shih 準提經會釋), ed. by Hung-tsan 弘贊 (1611-85) (Zokuzōkyō, pt. 1, case 37/3 續藏經一37第三冊), neglects to explain; and Prof. Edward Conze [says], “She is called ‘mother of the Buddhas’ because of the habit of devising feminine deities from Prajñā-pāramitā as prototype.”
– C. N. Tay, Kuan-Yin: The Cult of Half Asia, History of Religions, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Nov. 1976), p. 152.
We have seen that, according to a Mahāyānist theory, Māyā is “the eternal Mother of all the Buddhas,” though this theory loses some of its significance when we find that she is not the only divine being to whom this exalted title has been accorded.

There is one rather mysterious deity in whom we may possibly discern a deified form of Gotama’s mother. This is Chun-t’i (Chundi-devī), who is also sometimes described in Chinese as “Holy Mother” (Shêng-mu) and as the “Mother of Buddha” (Fo mu). This being plays a far more important part in Tantric Buddhism (that is, the Buddhism of word-mysticism and magic) than in the ordinary Buddhism of monastic China.
– Reginald Johnston, Buddhist China, John Murray, 1913.

Let us conclude with a classic piece of Victorian Orientalism:
Namo! Śakti-Buddha-Mâtrikâ-Mahá-Tchundi-Bôdhisatwa-Mâhâsatwa (or it may be “Hail! Mother of seven Kôtis of Buddhas! Maha Tchundi,” etc.)3
...
“In Humble prostration I adore thee, O Sastî (Durgâ)!
On my face I worship thee, O Sakti! I invoke thee and recite thy praises, O Tchundi! Oh! That thou wouldest, in thy great Love, come to my help!”

The Dharani of Tchundi:
(to be repeated 108 times)

Namo! Satanam, samyak, sambôdhi, kotînam Djeta! Om! Dala! Djila! Tchundi! Svah!
Note 3. I take the expression “tsi-kiu-ti” to be equal to “Sakti”. It might be also rendered “seven kotis.”
– Samuel Beal, A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, Trübner & co., 1871, pp. 411-415.
Actually, there is a lot to be unpacked here, so I cannot resist adding one more quote:
One of the first Western scholars to introduce the “Buddha Mother” interpretation was Samuel Beal, in his A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, first published in 1871. Beal actually uses “mother” to describe Cundā, a deity closely related to, and often confused with, Prajñāpāramitā. (This confusion is entirely understandable, since Prajñāpāramitā and Cundā share nearly identical iconographies.) According to Beal’s translation of the Chinese, Cundā is the “Mother of the Seven Kotis of Buddhas,” the “Holy Mother of all the Buddhas.” The Chinese terms Beal translates – fo mu, neang-neang, shing-moo – are themselves translations of several Sanskrit terms, bhagavatī, devī, and mātrkā, that occur in the Sādhanamālā and other iconographic texts that describe Cundā. As S.D. Singhal has put it recently, Beals’s overly literal translation, innocuous as it seems, “has remained a source of misapprehension and confusion,” transforming Cundā – and, by extension, Prajñāpāramitā – from a highly regarded female figure (even a goddess) into a divine mother.

Beal’s extrapolated translation has been repeated with a striking consistency over the years. In her 1928 Gods of Northern Buddhism, Alice Getty, for instance, directly refers to Beal’s translation, and says, without further comment, that Cundā “is sometimes called the ‘Mother of Buddha.’” Conze, for his part, nearly always refers to Prajñāpāramitā as a mother…”

Let me first return briefly to Beal, who set this particular wheel in motion. The words in question here are bhagavatī, devī, and mātrkā. The first two terms can certainly both be translated as “mother,” but this is not their primary sense; “blessed” or “respected” woman would have been more standard, or even “goddess”. Mātr (or mātrkā) is more ambiguous, since its primary meaning is, in fact, “mother,” although as with bhagavatī and devī, it has considerable semantic range. One immediate problem with relying on Beal’s translation/interpretation and incorporating it into the Prajñāpāramitā discourse is that he is translating from the Chinese recension of the Sādhanamālā, which itself reflects a variety of interpretations – some of them quite late. i.e. post eleventh century – of this very discourse.

– Imaging Wisdom, Seeing and Knowing in the Art of Indian Buddhism, Jacob N. Kinnard, Routledge, 1999.
Perhaps this will stimulate some conversation...

Post Reply

Return to “Mahāyāna Buddhism”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Baidu [Spider], ItsRaining, mechashivaz, narhwal90, Norwegian, shaunc, Tiago Simões and 47 guests