Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Feast to Delight the Rishis

As reported earlier, Desi Sangye Gyatso's Mirror of Beryl: A Well-Explained History of the Glorious Science of Medicine, A Feast to Delight the Rishis, has been translated into English, and published this month as Volume 28 in the Library of Tibetan Classics, by Wisdom Publications. You can find out more by clicking here.

When I learned of this happy event, I immediately purchased a copy for review. The book arrived in due course, I am now reading it every day, and I am enjoying every word.

I do not believe there is a page in this well-indexed, 661 page, hardcover volume that does not delight and instruct, imparting some new element of information. If you are expecting dry history, you will be surprised at this work's vibrancy. Desi Rinpoche was a brilliant man, given to an elegant turn of phrase, as in this description of the Fifth Dalai Lama:
Like the single sphere of the moon effortlessly showing from its path in the sky its reflections in various and separate waters on this earth simultaneously, he appeared to the minds of the beings in this cool snowy land in the form of a monk king, with not a fraction of his auspicious birth and so forth distinct from that of a perfect Buddha.
The work begins with discussion of the science of healing in India, and then proceeds to examine the early development of medicine in Tibet. This is done in rich detail, and should be regarded as definitive. Because of his position, no resource was denied to the author, and with this palette at his disposal, he painstakingly extracts and explains that which it is essential to know. As the editor of this translation establishes, Desi Rinpoche meticulously recorded and cited numerous important works, many of which no longer exist.

After recording the later development of medicine in Tibet, up to his time, he next presents a complete exposition of the study of medicine and the three sets of vows. This material, which takes up half the book, may be said to be the heart of the matter. From my own point of view, his concise discussion of the Vidyadharma Tantric Vows is among the finest ever expressed anywhere. 

Tibetan translation can be difficult. Translating medical works can seem almost impossible, because of the broad knowledge required. Translating the medical work of a man whose own broad knowledge was in some respects unsurpassed, requires a translator with formidable skill and a sense of artistry. Gavin Kilty has such gifts, and he has employed them to give this gift to all future generations.

Very well done. You will want to purchase a copy.

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1 reader comments:

Geoff said...

I am not sure that the fifth Dalai Lama's "so forth" involving internecine struggle with the Kargyu and the shutting down by force of the Jonangpa monasteries has much to do with the actions of a perfect Buddha. A perfect something or other, that is for certain, but polite discourse does not permit me to mention.

The present Dalai Lama is a wonderful being, but I find it hard to endorse all of the emanations in that stream. This of course speaks to your most recent post about religion vs. spirituality. Just because a being is a tulku does not mean that all of the actions they perform are perfect, or even as you have repeatedly pointed out...all that nice or honourable.