Different Versions of Sutras

Different Versions of Sutras

Date Posted:
April 2007

A student wrote to Rinpoche commenting on how to check the authenticity of different versions of sutras.

My very dear Karl,
Thank you for kindly and compassionately existing in this world, helping sentient beings and, of course, helping the buddhas and bodhisattvas. I was shocked to hear that there were six Sanskrit texts of Arya Sanghata Sutra. I heard there are two Chinese translations, one is quite different to the original.

What I would like to comment on is what you said about the original Sanskrit being developed more and more over time. I can understand this happening if it is for the purpose of clarifying the text, if it was hard to understand in its original form. If it is for this purpose I can understand.

Also, one needs to check if the translators were known, great holy beings and scholars, or whether they were just ordinary beings. The Arya Sanghata Sutra is not like a root text with commentary, like the five main texts studied in the monasteries that have different commentaries by the great holy Indian pandits. And it is not like the situation with Sera, Ganden, and Drepung monasteries having different authors of debating texts, and from time to time there are contradictions or different explanations, but none of these contradictions or different explanations are obstacles to achieving enlightenment, to actualizing the path.

These days some people make their own commentaries on a text, not following the meaning. I think it is best to see which Sanskrit text was used by great Tibetan lamas, holy beings, and scholars to translate into Tibetan, and follow these. They would have checked and used the best Sanskrit version.

I am sure the original Chinese translation of the Arya Sanghata Sutra may be interesting. That would have been closer to the original Sanskrit. I checked the Beijing, Lhasa, and Dergye editions and found very small differences in the wording.

It is true that people who have strong faith in this text have to have a lot of merit. It is similar with certain subjects in the lam-rim. If it is difficult to generate a lot of faith, then that is the whole reason for preliminary practices: to purify and collect merit.

With much love and prayer...