A Sanskrit problem
Update: Thanks to all who have contributed to this discussion. This translations is now live on SuttaCentral! We have released a large number of texts, and a few translations. Some of these have never before been released in digital forms. You can see the list of texts here. Original texts are the highlighted links in the left-most column; translations are on the right. Enjoy.
I’ve been dabbling in a little Sanskrit translation, and there are some points where you just go, “What the!?” I thought I’d try crowdsourcing, and see whether any of you can help with an occasional knotty turn of phrase. Here goes.
There is a Sanskrit version of the “Nagara Sutta”, which tells how the Buddha rediscovered the Dhamma, like coming across an ancient city. It is part of the Nidana samyukta, and is one of those dependent origination texts that does not complete the full 12 links, but goes as far as the mutual dependence of viññāṇa and nāmarūpa. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Ven Bodhi’s book on the Mahanidana Sutta is the best!)
Here, the Sanskrit has a peculiar phrase:
tasya mama vijñānātpratyudāvartate mānasaṃ nātaḥ pareṇa vyativartate
The Pali parallel is this:
Tassa mayhaṃ, bhikkhave, etadahosi– paccudāvattati kho idaṃ viññāṇaṃ nāmarūpamhā na paraṃ gacchati.
Which we would translate:
Monks, it occurred to me: this consciousness turns back from name and form, it does not go beyond.
There are a number of peculiar features of the Sanskrit. First, the opening phrase appears truncated, and probably should be read, “tasya mamaitad abhavat“.
vijñānātpratyudāvartate is straightforward, and directly parallels the Pali.
But where the Pali has nāmarūpa, the Sanskrit has mānasa. Mānasa just means “mind”, but it is a rare term, normally reserved for poetry (cf. Metta Sutta: mānasambhāvaye aparimāṇaṁ) It’s appearance here in dependent origination is just weird.
Then there’s the word nātaḥ, for which the only meaning I can find is “dancer”(!) The whole phrase looks to me as if it’s just dropped in there.
Finally we have pareṇa vyativartate, which looks to me like a misreading for: pare na vyativartate.
I have tentatively translated the phrase as:
“Then it occurred to me: ‘Consciousness turns back at the mind (mānasa), it does not go beyond.’
But I have to admit this is more a reconstruction based on what I think it probably means, rather than a direct translation.
Anyone care to offer some help?