Skip to main content Skip to search
Āryadeva’s Measure of What Is at Hand
Madhyamaka (Middle Way)
Introduction

The Mahāyāna master Āryadeva, who lived in the 3rd century CE,[1] was the chief disciple of Nāgārjuna, founder of the Middle Way (madhyāmaka) school. The Middle Way school propounds the emptiness (शून्यता, སྟོང་པ་ཉིད་) of all compounded phenomena, refuting the common perception that things have their own nature (स्वभाव, རང་བཞིན་ / ངོ་བོ་ཉིད་). Āryadeva composed a number of treatises for this school, the most famous being, The Four Hundred Stanzas (चतुःशतकशास्त्तकारिका, བསྟན་བཅོས་བཞི་བརྒྱ་པ་ཞེས་བྱ་བའི་ཚིག་ལེའུར་བྱས་པ་). This essay is a translation of his short poem, or “versified essay” (प्रकरणकारिका, རབ་ཏུ་བྱེད་པ་...ལེའུར་བྱས་པ།), entitled “The Measure of What Is at Hand” (हस्ताभव, ལག་པའི་ཚད།), along with its auto-commentary.[2] As with many of the works within this school of thought, it focuses on the relationship between the ultimate truth of emptiness, or non-inherent existence, and the conventional truths we find here in cyclic existence, concluding that conventional truths do not exist ultimately. The gist of his meaning is that through deconstructing analysis of any conventional truth, one can arrive at the single realization of ultimate truth, that all phenomena are empty of the inherent existence we impute on them. Here his main focus is on the illusory nature of what we perceive. Our perceptions appear as something (inherently existent) they are not, and to illustrate this he uses the well-worn example of mistakenly perceiving a rope to be a snake. In the same way that we can see through the mistaken conception of a snake imputed on the rope by looking closely, we can also, through analysis, dispel our mistaken conception of the rope itself!

     Vimalamitra’s text, Instant Engagement, quotes this text of Āryadeva only once. The author claims that the passage is from the auto-commentary.[3] However, he in fact quotes the last couplet of the root text:

Those who desire to abandon all afflictions

Should strive with the excellent object.

The “excellent object” is of course emptiness, or the world’s lack of inherent existence, the topic of the preceding five verses. Āryadeva’s auto-commentary elaborates:

Those who wish to abandon afflictive emotions such as desire and so forth should thoroughly strive after those facts which characterize the ultimate [truth] as explained. When one thoroughly strives after things in that way, the stains of afflictive emotions such as desire and so forth will not subsequently be produced.

 Vimalamitra quotes Āryadeva along with two quotes from his master Nāgārjuna to show that “the object of meditation for instant engagement … also agrees with the quintessential instructions of scholars.”[4] So, according to this author, the putative Vimalamitra, the meditation of instant engagement employs non-conceptual emptiness as its object. This emptiness is what Āryadeva describes in his Verses on the Measure of What Is at Hand and his auto-commentary on them. The translation of both follows.

Translation
Root Verses

Verses on the Measure of What Is at Hand

By the master Āryadeva

In Sanskrit, हस्ताभवप्रकरणकारिका (hastābhavaprakaraṇakārikā).

In Tibetan, རབ་ཏུ་བྱེད་པ་ལག་པའི་ཚད་ལེའུར་བྱས་པ། (rab tu byed pa lag pa’i tshad le’ur byas pa).

[In English, the treatise called Verses on the Measure of What Is at Hand].[5]

Homage to the Transcendent Conqueror, the Lord of Speech!

One apprehends a rope thinking it is a snake.

When one sees the rope, there is no actuality [to it].

Even when one looks at a part of it, about that

The understanding is mistaken, as with the snake.

When one investigates the self-entity

In all things where it is imputed,

[One sees] the objective scope of conventional consciousness:

Namely, everything that exists[6] is imputed from elsewhere.

Because what does not have parts is not something that can be analyzed,

The final [constituent atoms] are the same as non-existent things.[7]

Therefore, the wise investigate what is mere illusion

As not being in fact real.

If something is mistaken, it is not pure.

Therefore, it does not exist the way it appears.

For something whose appearance is not what in fact exists,

How could it have an identity?

A person with a subtle awareness

Knows all [things] to be only imputed.

One with that awareness easily abandons

Attachment and so forth, just like fear of the snake.

One who realizes objects of the world,

Will establish them according to the world.

Those who desire to abandon all afflictions

Should strive with the excellent object.

This completes the essay [called] Verses on an Arm’s Length.

Auto-Commentary

In Sanskrit, हस्ताभववृत्ति (hastābhavavṛtti).

In Tibetan, ལག་པའི་ཚད་ཀྱི་འགྲེལ་པ་ (lag pa’i tshad kyi ’grel pa).

[In English, Commentary on The Measure of What Is at Hand.]

Homage to the wisdom-being, the Noble Mañjuśrī.

I compose this [work] so that beings, who have understood the fact of suchness, might authentically achieve the incontrovertible mind by way of thoroughly differentiating the nature of things in order to know the true meaning of the three realms that are merely conventional.

One apprehends a rope thinking it is a snake.

When one sees the rope, there is no actuality [to it].

As for this, when there is a place that is not very bright[8] but a little light appears, [23a] what is observed is the mere phenomenon of the general form of the rope. Thus, by mistake one generates a consciousness of this rope that definitively apprehends its nature to be “only a snake”, because one comprehends [only] a specific own-nature.[9] When there is a definite apprehension of its attribute [as a snake], one conceives of it not as it really is. Therefore, due to the spread [of this concept], that consciousness becomes a mistaken consciousness with no [foundation in] fact.

Even when one looks at a part of it, about that

The understanding is mistaken, as with the snake.

If you analyze that rope by differentiating it into parts, one does not observe the own-entity of that rope. When that is not observed, even the observation of a rope is nothing more than a mere mistake, just like the awareness thinking it is a snake. Also, just as the consciousness of a rope is mistaken, similarly if its parts—a section, strand, and so forth—are analyzed, their own-entity is definitely not grasped. Since that is definitely not grasped, the awareness that has the aspect of observing that [part] is simply mistaken like the awareness of the rope. 

When one investigates the self-entity

In all things where it is imputed,

[One sees] the objective scope of conventional consciousness:

Namely, everything that exists is imputed from elsewhere.

Just as, when one analyzes a rope and so forth by differentiating it into parts, etc., one does not observe its own-entity and therefore the awareness of a rope, etc., is nothing more than a mere mistake like the awareness thinking it is a snake. Similarly, all existing things that are analyzed—clay pots, bowls, etc.—depend on [their] sides and so forth. Therefore, objects of conventional consciousness, such as pot and so forth, have their final end in being thoroughly divided. These varieties are merely conventionally imputed from elsewhere, but are not ultimate, because there is nothing that cannot be analyzed into parts.

Because what does not have parts is not something that can be analyzed,

The final [constituent atoms] are the same as non-existent things.

[Some say] the end [result of dividing] anything that can be analyzed is a unitary, part-less substance, or very subtle atoms. Because these cannot be observed, they are the same as those own-entities which cannot be analyzed, such as a garland of flowers in the sky or the horns of a rabbit and so forth. Therefore, they are thus proven to be non-existent things. [23b] One might ask, “How can one know that ‘The very subtle atoms that are the substance of existence do not exist unitarily,’ [in other words] the reasoning that [if atoms were unitary] they would have the characteristic of being unanalyzable?”[10] Because that by which [something] exists is [its] different directional parts. Take for example, the existents, such as pots, clothes, chariots, and so forth. Because those substances have different directional parts, such as the east [side], west [side], north [side], top, and so forth,[11] all the parts appear. The substance of extremely subtle atoms would undoubtedly be like that, because it would have different parts. One would have to assert it has the different parts: east, west, top, and so forth. If it has different parts, then the unitary substance of very subtle atoms is not established. If—because many divisions of substance appear—it does not exist as a unitary thing, then an extremely subtle atom [that is unitary] is not observed. Therefore, abandon this proposition of extremely subtle [unitary] atoms.[12]

Therefore, the wise investigate what is mere illusion

As not being in fact real.

Since the three realms are thus merely mistaken, the wise who wish to attain what is good should not analyze this [world] as an authentic object. Should they think of this world, [they think that] those external things—pot and so forth—are [things] imputed from nothing because one cannot realize their entity [since it does not exist]. That is the truth. Some might assert the following: “The mistaken consciousness that has the aspect of observing those [things] exists. Take for instance, an illusory being or a city of Gandharvas and so forth. Those things do not exist, but there is a consciousness that has the aspect of observing them. It is like that.” If someone says that …

If something is mistaken, it is not pure.

Therefore, it does not exist the way it appears.

For something whose appearance is not what in fact exists,

How could it have an identity?

Even with regard to that mistake, it is not the case that, when there is a consciousness of [the mistake’s] own substantial entity, the substance exists in just that way as its own entity. This has already been explained. If something does not in fact exist, it cannot exist by way of its own entity. Therefore, it is not pure.[13] “Because it is not pure, it has the very nature of a mistake.” That is how one should understand it. It is like this, in the world one does not see anything which can be called “produced” such as a sprout and so forth if there is not also a producer such as a seed and so forth. For that very reason, it is explained that the self also is not established but is similar to an illusory being. [24a]

A person with a subtle awareness

Knows all [things] to be only imputed.

One with that awareness easily abandons

Attachment and so forth, just like fear of the snake.

According to this explanation, in these three realms which are merely designated by way of aspects, what the coarse mind distinguishes as pots and so forth are definitively apprehended by the subtle awareness as non-existent in retrospect, being merely conventionalities. That apprehension is just like when someone thinks a snake is a rope, but due to the fear that arises, they analyze it in detail and determine it is a rope. Just as [for such a person] there is no fear of it being a snake, [in the same way for a practitioner of this path] by means of thoroughly analyzing those very things that generate desire and the like, the webs of afflictive emotions, such as desire and so forth, will be abandoned easily, without difficulty, in no time at all.

One who realizes objects of the world,

Will establish them according to the world.

Those who desire to abandon all afflictions

Should strive with the excellent object.

Just as, because [people] think of worldly objects such as pot and so forth as existential entities, they designate them with conventions—“This is a pot”, “This is a cloth”, “This is a chariot”—in the same way, they act conventionally due to that previous establishment. After that, those who wish to abandon afflictive emotions such as desire and so forth should thoroughly strive after those facts which characterize the ultimate [truth] as explained. When one thoroughly strives after things in that way, the stains of afflictive emotions such as desire and so forth will not subsequently be produced.

This completes the Commentary on the Verses on The Measure of What Is at Hand
composed by the Master Āryadeva

 

This was translated by the Indian Master Dānaśīla and the translator, monk Peljor Nyingbo, and after questioning [Dānaśīla], it was revised by the editor-translator, the monk Peltsek Rakṣita.

 

Translated into English by Than Grove, Staunton, VA, July 2020.

Tibetan Text of Root Verses

Source: Āryadeva. “Rab tu byed pa lag pa’i tshad kyi tshig le’ur byas pa.” In Sde dge Bstan ’gyur [Degé Edition of the Translated Treatises], edited by Tshul Khrims Rin Chen, vol. 97, 46.1-46.5. Delhi: Delhi Karmapae Choedhey, Gyalwae Sungrab Partun Khang, 1982-1985. TBRC W23703.

རྒྱ་གར་སྐད་དུ། ཧ་སྟཱ་བྷ་བ་བྲ་ཀ་ར་ཎ་ཀཱ་རི་ཀཱ། བོད་སྐད་དུ། རབ་ཏུ་བྱེད་པ་ལག་པའི་ཚད་ལེའུར་བྱས་པ།

བཅོམ་ལྡན་འདས་ངག་གི་དབང་པོ་ལ་ཕྱག་འཚལ་ལོ།

།ཐག་པ་ལ་ནི་སྦྲུལ་སྙམ་འཛིན།

།ཐག་པར་མཐོང་ན་དོན་མེད་དོ།

།དེའི་ཆ་མཐོང་ན་དེ་ལ་ཡང་།

།སྦྲུལ་བཞིན་ཤེས་པ་འཁྲུལ་པ་ཡིན།

།བརྟགས་པའི་དངོས་པོ་ཐམས་ཅད་ལ།

།རང་གི་ངོ་བོ་བརྟགས་པ་ན།

།ཀུན་རྫོབ་ཤེས་པའི་སྤྱོད་ཡུལ་ནི།

།ཇི་སྙེད་ཡོད་པ་གཞན་ལས་བརྟགས།

།ཆ་མེད་བརྟག་པར་བྱ་མིན་ཕྱིར།

།ཐ་མ་ཡང་ནི་མེད་པར་མཚུངས།

།དེ་ཕྱིར་མཁས་པས་འཁྲུལ་བཙམ།

།ཡང་དག་དོན་དུ་མིན་པར་བརྟག

།འཁྲུལ་ན་དེ་ཡང་མ་དག་ཕྱིར།

།ཇི་ལྟར་སྣང་ན་དེ་ལྟར་མེད།

།དོན་ཡོད་མ་ཡིན་སྣང་བ་ནི།

།ཇི་ལྟར་དེ་ཡི་བདག་ཉིད་འགྱུར།

།གང་ཞིག་ཞིབ་མོའི་བློ་ཡིས་ནི།

།ཐམས་ཅད་བཏགས་པ་ཁོ་ནར་ཤེས།

།བློ་ལྡན་དེ་ནི་ཆགས་ལ་སོགས།

།བདེ་བར་སྦྲུལ་གྱིས་སྐྲག་བཞིན་སྤོང་།

།འཇིག་རྟེན་པ་ཡི་དོན་རྟོགས་པས།

།འཇིག་རྟེན་བཞིན་དུ་བསྒྲུབ་པར་བྱ།

།ཀུན་ནས་ཉོན་མོངས་སྤོང་འདོད་པས།

།དམ་པའི་དོན་གྱིས་བཙལ་བར་བྱ།

།རབ་ཏུ་བྱེད་པ་ལག་པའི་ཚད་ཀྱི་ཚིག་ལེའུར་བྱས་པ། སློབ་དཔོན་འཕགས་པ་ལྷས་མཛད་པ་རྫོགས་སོ།།

Bibliography

There are two Tibetan translations of both the root verses and the auto-commentary, an older one done during first wave of Buddhism in Tibetan during the reigns of Trisong Detsan and his descendants (late 8th and early 9th centuries ce), and a new one done during the second spread of Buddhism in Tibet at time of Atiśa (982–1054). The first (or old) translation was done under the guidance of the Indian scholar Dānaśīla[14] by the Tibetan translator monk Peljor Nyingbo (dpal ’byor snying po), and was settled (i.e., finally edited) by main editor/translator monk Peltsek Rakṣita (dpal brtsegs rakṣita). It was title “The Measure of What Is at Hand” (lag pa’i tshad) in Tibetan from the Sanskrit hastābhāva, which might translate as “the state of a hand”. The second, or new, translation was done under the guidance of the Indian master Śraddhakaravarma by the Tibetan translator Rinchen Sangbo (rin chen bzang po, 958–1055 ce). It was titled in Tibetan as “Branches of Parts,” and the Sanskrit title it gives (in Tibetan translation), that differs from the old translations Sanskrit title, is hastāvāsa, which could also be translated as “the state of a hand”. Both translations are found in all versions of the Tengyur.

Old Translation

Root Title Translation: Verses on the Measure of What Is at Hand

Indian Scholar: Dānaśīla

Tibetan Translator: Peljor Nyingbo (dpal ’byor snying po)

Final Revisor: Peltsek Rakṣita (dpal brtsegs rakṣita)

Degé

Āryadeva. “Rab tu byed pa lag pa’i tshad kyi tshig le’ur byas pa.” In Sde dge Bstan ’gyur [Degé Edition of the Translated Treatises], edited by Tshul Khrims Rin Chen, vol. 97, 46. Delhi: Delhi Karmapae Choedhey, Gyalwae Sungrab Partun Khang, 1982-1985. TBRC W23703.

Āryadeva. “Lag pa’i tshad kyi ’grel pa.” In Sde dge Bstan ’gyur [Degé Edition of the Translated Treatises], edited by Tshul Khrims Rin Chen, vol. 97, 46-49. Delhi: Delhi Karmapae Choedhey, Gyalwae Sungrab Partun Khang. TBRC W23703.

Narthang

Āryadeva. “Rab tu byed pa lag pa’i tshad kyi tshig le’ur byas pa.” In Sde dge Bstan ’gyur [Degé Edition of the Translated Treatises], vol. 106, 46. [Narthang]: [s.n.], 1800(?). TBRC W22704.

Āryadeva. “Lag pa’i tshad kyi ’grel pa.” In Sde dge Bstan ’gyur [Degé Edition of the Translated Treatises], vol. 106, 46-49. [Narthang]: [s.n.], 1800(?). TBRC W22704.

Serdrima

Āryadeva. “Rab tu byed pa lag pa’i tshad kyi tshig le’ur byas pa.” In Gser bris ma Bstan ’gyur [Serdrima Edition of the Translated Treaties], vol. 106,  55-56. Tibet: Snar thang, [17-?]. TBRC W23702

Āryadeva. “Lag pa’i tshad kyi ’grel pa.” In Gser bris ma Bstan ’gyur [Serdrima Edition of the Translated Treaties], vol. 106,  55-56. Tibet: Snar thang, [17-?]. TBRC W23702

Coné

Āryadeva. “Rab tu byed pa lag pa’i tshad kyi tshig le’ur byas pa.” In Co ne Bstan ’gyur [Coné Edition of the Translated Treaties], edited by Grags pa bshad sgrub, vol. 97, 46-47. [Co ne dgon chen]: [Co ne], [1926]. TBRC W1GS66030.

Āryadeva. “Lag pa’i tshad kyi ’grel pa.” In Co ne Bstan ’gyur [Coné Edition of the Translated Treaties], edited by Grags pa bshad sgrub, vol. 97, 47-50. [Co ne dgon chen]: [Co ne], [1926].  TBRC W1GS66030.

Beijing/Peking

Āryadeva. “Rab tu byed pa lag pa’i tshad kyi tshig le’ur byas pa.” In Pe cing Bstan ’gyur [Peking Edition of the Translated Treaties]. vol. 106, 51-52. [Pe cing]: [Pe cing pho brang], [1724]. TBRC W1KG13126.

Āryadeva. “Lag pa’i tshad kyi ’grel pa.” In Pe cing Bstan ’gyur [Peking Edition of the Translated Treaties]. vol. 106, 52-56. [Pe cing]: [Pe cing pho brang], [1724]. TBRC W1KG13126.

Other

Āryadeva. “Lag pa'i tshad ar+ya de bas mdzad pa." In ’Brug yul du bzhugs pa'i bod yig dpe rnying phyogs bsdus/ [Tibetan Texts Found in Bhutan Categorized as Old], vol. 21, ?-?. [s.l.]: [s.n.], [n.d.]. TBRC W3CN11633

New Translation

Title Translation: Treatise/Chapter called “Branches of Parts”

Indian Scholar: Śraddhakaravarma

Tibetan Translator: Rinchen Sangbo (rin chen bzang po)

Degé

Āryadeva. “Cha shas kyi yan lag ces bya ba’i rab tu byed pa.” In Sde dge Bstan ’gyur [Degé Edition of the Translated Treatises], edited by Tshul Khrims Rin Chen, vol. 96, 566. Delhi: Delhi Karmapae Choedhey, Gyalwae Sungrab Partun Khang, 1982-1985.  TBRC W23703.

Āryadeva. “Cha shas kyi yan lag ces bya ba’i rab tu byed pa’i ’grel pa.” In Sde dge Bstan ’gyur [Degé Edition of the Translated Treatises], edited by Tshul Khrims Rin Chen, vol. 96, 566569. Delhi: Delhi Karmapae Choedhey, Gyalwae Sungrab Partun Khang, 1982-1985. TBRC W23703.

Narthang

Āryadeva. “Cha shas kyi yan lag ces bya ba’i rab tu byed pa.” In Sde dge Bstan ’gyur [Degé Edition of the Translated Treatises], vol. 105, 628-629. [Narthang]: [s.n.], 1800(?). TBRC W22704.

Āryadeva. “Cha shas kyi yan lag ces bya ba’i rab tu byed pa’i ’grel pa.”  In Sde dge Bstan ’gyur [Degé Edition of the Translated Treatises], vol. 105, 629-634. [Narthang]: [s.n.], 1800(?). TBRC W22704.

Serdrima

Āryadeva. “Cha shas kyi yan lag ces bya ba’i rab tu byed pa.” In Gser bris ma Bstan ’gyur [Serdrima Edition of the Translated Treaties], vol. 105, 874. Tibet: Snar thang, [17-?]. TBRC W23702.

Āryadeva. “Cha shas kyi yan lag ces bya ba’i rab tu byed pa’i ’grel pa.”  In Gser bris ma Bstan ’gyur [Serdrima Edition of the Translated Treaties], vol. 105, 874-881. Tibet: Snar thang, [17-?]. TBRC W23702.

Coné

Āryadeva. “Cha shas kyi yan lag ces bya ba’i rab tu byed pa.” In Co ne Bstan ’gyur [Coné Edition of the Translated Treaties], edited by Grags pa bshad sgrub, vol. 96, 562. [Co ne dgon chen]: [Co ne], [1926]. TBRC W1GS66030.

 Āryadeva. “Cha shas kyi yan lag ces bya ba’i rab tu byed pa’i ’grel pa.” In Co ne Bstan ’gyur [Coné Edition of the Translated Treaties], edited by Grags pa bshad sgrub, vol. 96, 562-565. [Co ne dgon chen]: [Co ne], [1926]. TBRC W1GS66030.

Beijing/Peking

Āryadeva. “Cha shas kyi yan lag ces bya ba’i rab tu byed pa.” In Pe cing Bstan ’gyur [Peking Edition of the Translated Treaties]. vol. 105, 641-642. [Pe cing]: [Pe cing pho brang], [1724]. TBRC W1KG13126.

Āryadeva. “Cha shas kyi yan lag ces bya ba’i rab tu byed pa’i ’grel pa.” In Pe cing Bstan ’gyur [Peking Edition of the Translated Treaties]. vol. 105, 642-645. [Pe cing]: [Pe cing pho brang], [1724]. TBRC W1KG13126.

Tibetan Commentaries

Mi pham rgya mtsho. “Rab tu byed pa lag pa’i tshad kyi tshig le’ur byas pa/.” In Mi pham gsung ’bum las gzhung ’grel skor, vol. 10, 262-263. Khreng tu’u: ’jam dpal d+hI yig ser po’i dpe skrun tshogs pa, 2008. TBRC W1PD76231. (Accessed July 12, 2020, at which time the pages cited by the online recorder, 260-261, were wrong).

Mi pham rgya mtsho. “Rab tu byed pa lag pa’i tshad kyi mchan ’grel." In Gsung ’bum, Mi pham rgya mtsho, vol. 12, 324 - 325. Paro, Bhutan: Lama Ngodrup and Sherab Drimey, 1984-1993. TBRC W23468. (Accessed July 12, 2020).

Other Works

Nakamura, Hijame. Indian Buddhism: A Survey with Bibliographical Notes. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1989.

Tāranātha. Tāranātha’s History of Buddhism in India. Translated by Lama Chimpa and Alaka Chattopadhyaya, edited by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya. Delhi: Motilala Banarsidass Publishers, 1990.

Vimalamitra. “ཅིག་ཅར་འཇུག་པ་རྣམ་པར་མི་རྟོག་པའི་བསྒོམ་དོན། [Instant Engagement, the Object of Non-Conceptual Meditation]”. In The Five Bhāvanakrama of Kamalaśīla and Vimalamitra: A Collection of Texts on the Nature and Practice of Buddhist Contemplative Realisation. Gangtok: Gonpo Tsheten, 1977,  375–417.

 

[1]   H. Nakamura gives his dates as 170-270 A.D. Hijame Nakamura, Indian Buddhism: A Survey with Bibliographical Notes (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1989), 244.

[2]   There are two translations of this Sanskrit work in the Tengyur, an Old School (སྙིང་མ་) translation done around the early ninth century CE, and a New School (གསར་མ་) translation done around the early eleventh century CE. The main edition used for this translation is an Old School one: Tshul Khrims Rin Chen, “Lag pa’i tshad kyi ’grel pa,” in bsTan ’Gyur (sDe dGe), Delhi: Delhi Karmapae Choedhey, Gyalwae Sungrab Partun Khang, 1982-1985, TBRC W23703, vol. 97, pp. 46-49 (22b-24a). See http://tbrc.org/link?RID=O1GS6011|O1GS60111GS36095$W23703 (Accessed May 1, 2020). Because the Tibetan title of the New School translation is different from the Old School one, we know that the author of Instant Engagement was referring to this version. For other referenced versions see the bibliography following the translation. All paginations follow the Tibetan.

[3]   སློབ་དཔོན་ཨཱརྱ་དེ་བ༹ས་མཛད་པའི་ལག་པའི་ཚད་ཀྱི་འགྲེལ་བ་ལས་ཀྱང་ (Vimalamitra, “ཅིག་ཅར་འཇུག་པ་རྣམ་པར་མི་རྟོག་པའི་བསྒོམ་དོན།,” in The Five Bhāvanakrama of Kamalaśīla and Vimalamitra: A Collection of Texts on the Nature and Practice of Buddhist Contemplative Realisation (Gangtok: Gonpo Tsheten, 1977), 404.1. This translates as, “from the commentary to The Measure of What Is at Hand composed by the master Āryadeva ….”

[4]   ཅིག་ཅར་འཇུག་པའི་བསྒོམ་པའི་དོན་འདི་ནི། … མཁས་པ་དག་གི་མན་ངག་དང་ཡང་མཐུན་པ་ཉིད་དེ། (Vimalamitra, “ཅིག་ཅར་འཇུག་པ་,” 400.2-3).

[5]   The main Sanskrit title, हस्ताभव, given in the Old School translation, can be rendered in English as “the state/being/existence of a hand” or possibly “the non-existence of a hand”. The Tibetan title is ལག་པའི་ཚད་, or “measure of a hand”. “Hand” could also mean forearm, which is a common measurement of length. In either case, the title is far from clear and not explicitly referred to in the text. The New School translation on the other hand has a completely different Tibetan title, ཆ་ཤས་ཀྱི་ཡན་ལག་, which means “branches of parts” or “branches that are parts”. The Sanskrit they transliterate surprisingly also differs. Some have हस्तवल (“beam of the hand”?); some, हस्तवाल (“hair of the hand”?), but the Degé and Coné have हस्तवास, which can mean the same as हस्तभाव, or “state of the hand”. All this information has informed my choice for translating the title. However, I have used a looser, idiomatic translation, because I feel it captures the flavor of the text more closely. Needless to say, it is extremely tentative.

[6]   ཇི་སྙེད་ཡོད་པ་ (22b.3). Or, “variety of existence”.

[7]   ཆ་མེད་བརྟག་པར་བྱ་མིན་ཕྱིར། །ཐ་མ་ཡང་ནི་མེད་པར་མཚུངས། (22b.3).

[8]   The text reads བསྐལ་པ་ (“eon”, possibly “obscurity”) but, assuming scribal error, I am reading གསལ་བ་ (“clear”, “bright”). This is a stretch for sure, but the words are similar enough that such scribal errors do occur, and the latter term make infinitely more sense. The Degé clearly has བསྐལ་པ་ (D 22b.7), while in the Narthang (N 21b.7) is faded and could be either but the syllable looks like it has the prefix. I need to check further editions.

[9]   ཁྱད་པར་གྱི་རང་གི་ངོ་བོ་ཁོང་དུ་ཆེད་པའི་ཕྱིར་རོ། (D 23a.1). In other words, for the normal mind the item in question can only be perceived as one thing at a time. It is either a rope or a snake.

[10] This is an opponent speaking. The opponent claims that the smallest part of existence is an indivisible atom. It is “unitary” (gcig bu) in that it cannot be divided into parts. Āryadeva’s point is that only non-existent (i.e. imaginary) things are unitary and indivisible. These things are therefore unanalyzable. However, if something is matter, it is by nature divisible, analyzable, and therefore not unitary.

[11] Imagine facing a table from one side. One would be on the south (lho) end so that the east (shar) would be the right side g.yas); west (nub) would be the left side (g.yon); north (byang), the far side (phar), and top the actual table top (steng). Āryadeva has left out the south (near) side (nyer) and the bottom (under) side (’og) of the table as well as the intermediate directions, which could go on indefinitely following the logic employed here.

[12] Of course, this does not invalidate the modern notion of atoms, since modern scientists are clearly aware that the atoms they study are composed of parts. Āryadeva is here invalidating the Indian philosophical notions of unitary atoms that have no dimension, sides, or parts.

[13] མ་དག་པ་ (23b.6). Here “not pure” means “not correct”.

[14] Not much is known of this Indian figure. According to the legends, he was one of many masters invited to Tibet by Trisong Detsen (khri srong lde btsan, r. 755?-804) who included Śāntarakṣita, Kamalaśīla, Padmasambhava, and Vimalamitra, among others. Based on colophons of old school translations, he seems to have often worked with the Indian master Jinamitra. He is also mentioned as one of the compilers of the Mahāvyutpatti. See Tāranātha, Tāranātha’s History of Buddhism in India, ed. Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, trans. Lama Chimpa and Alaka Chattopadhyaya (Delhi: Motilala Banarsidass Publishers, 1970), p.259 n.10. Other, apparently later Dānaśīla-s are mentioned in the Blue Annals, but these figures appear to be unrelated.

Āryadeva’s Measure of What Is at Hand

This is a translation of the Tibetan text of Āryadeva’s text ལག་པའི་ཚད་ and it’s autocommentary. The main edition of the text used is from the Degé Tengyur, though other Tibetan editions are listed in the bibliography. The translation is a rough draft.

Collection Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Translations
Visibility Public - accessible to all site users (default)
Author Āryadeva
Translator Than Grove
Subjects
Creative Commons Licence