Lecture by Prof. Harunaga Isaacson

Title page of C. Bendall’s Catalogue

Friday 27 January, 3 pm, room 7, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge

Bendall and beyond: Cataloguing the (Buddhist) Sanskrit Manuscripts in Cambridge University Library.

Prof. Isaacson will give a lecture about the Buddhist manuscripts in Cambridge, the achievements of Bendall’s catalogue and someof the work that remains to be done.

Stormy Weather

MS Add. 1577 is a polychrome charm (yantra) against lightning made of seven intertwined letters (kūṭākṣara, monogram script): ya, ra, va, la, ma, kṣa and ha.

MS Add. 1577, paper (recto): Saptākṣarī Vajrapātādyahārī, no date (probably 19th c.)

The verso bears the following four-line stanza in the sragdharā metre (with caesurae marked by a small dot), listing each letter and explaining its symbolism:

MS Add. 1577 (verso)

yaṃ kāraṃ mārutākhyaṃ ∙ ram iti hutabhujaṃ vaṃ jalaṃ maṇḍalaṃ tat
laṃ kāraṃ bhūmisaṃjñaṃ ∙ tadupari mam idaṃ merusaṃjñaṃ tadurdhvaṃ ||
prajñopāyātmakaṃ kṣaṃ ∙ ham iti gaganataḥ śūnyanairaṃjanīyaṃ
kūṭaṃ saptākṣarīyaṃ ∙ praṇamata satataṃ ∙ vajrapātādyahārīṃ || 1 ||

“The letter ya is what we call the air, ra is fire, va is water: the circle we call earth is the letter la, on it ma is what is called Mount Meru, above the latter is kṣa, which has the nature of the means to wisdom; from ha, the sky, is the spotless purity that is emptiness. This seven-letter diagram is [such a] group: bow incessantly to this excellent one that wards off the fall of thunderbolt!”

Oncoming Events

On 27-28 January Professor Harunaga Isaacson (University of Hamburg), Professor Dominic Goodall (École française d’Extrême-Orient, Paris) and Dr. Csaba Dezső (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest) will visit Cambridge to examine some manuscripts in the UL Sanskrit collections and discuss cataloguing methods and priorities with the project team. On this occasion, on the afternoon of the 27th, Prof. Isaacson will also deliver a lecture about the Buddhist manuscripts in Cambridge, the achievements of Bendall’s catalogue and some of the work that remains to be done.