The names of wisdom : a critical edition and annotated translation of chapters 1-5 of Vilasavajra's commentary on the Namasamgiti, with introduction and textual notes
The Nāmamantrārthāvalokinī ('An Explanation of the Meaning of the Namemantras') is an early, and major, commentary on the Nāmasaṃgīti ('The Chanting of Names'). Written by the eighth century Indian ācārya Vilāsavajra, it survives in the original Sanskrit and in Tibetan translation. The Nāmasamgīti enumerates the 'Names' of Mañjuśrī, the Mahayana figure embodying wisdom, and it exerted a strong influence on liturgy, ritual and meditation in the later phase of Buddhism in India (750-1200 CE). Vilāsavajra's commentary is written from a Yogācāra perspective and interprets the 'Names' within an elaborate ritual framework which consists in a maṇḍala that has Mañjuśrī as its central deity. The central part of the thesis comprises a critical edition and annotated translation of the Sanskrit text of the first five chapters of Vilāsavajra's commentary, approximately a quarter of the whole. The critical edition is based on eight Nepalese manuscripts for which a stemma codicum is established. Two blockprint editions of the Tibetan translation are consulted at cruces in the Sanskrit. Their readings, treated as those of any other witness, are incorporated into the apparatus as appropriate. The edition is followed by textual notes. Introductory material is divided into two parts. Matters relating to the Sanskrit and Tibetan materials are discussed in a section placed before the edition. These include a description of the manuscripts, discussion of the method of editing, establishment of the stemma codicum and an assessment of the Tibetan translation. An introduction to the contents precedes the translation and is primarily concerned with an outline of the ritual structure of the commentary, giving particular attention to chapters 1-5. Evidence concerning the life and date of Vilāsavajra is considered, suggesting he should be placed in the latter part of the eighth century. Assessing the work's significance for the study of Buddhism, 1 suggest that it is of historical importance in that it throws light on the process by which Tantric methods were being related to soteriology in this period; and that it contains material, especially in the sādhana of chapter 4, that contributes to an understanding of the development of Tantric forms of Buddhist meditation. The work is also the only known instance of a commentary of a Yogatantra type that survives in Sanskrit.