« The Dalai Lama’s Seal »

FRANCKE A. H. « The Dalai Lama’s Seal ». Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. 1911. n°April, p. 528‑530.

Francke, August Hermann. “The Dalai Lama’s Seal.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, no. April, 1911, pp. 528–30, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25189886. FRA 1911 a1.

p. 528

The Dalai Lama’s Seal

In his note on the Dalai Lama’s seal, pp. 204-6 of this Journal, Colonel Waddell suggests a new interpretation of the seal, based mainly on the addition of two characters omitted by myself. He reads –

« Om talai blamai rtsa thamka rgyalva »;

and translates –

« Om ! The original seal of the Talai Lama, the Jina. »

Even if his reading of the seal were correct, his translation would still be wrong. The word rGyalva, Jina, if placed after thamka, seal, could only be understood to refer to the seal. It would mean that the seal was a Jina. If the man who composed the legend intended to express the idea that the Talai Lama and not the seal was a Jina, he would have placed the word rgyalva either

p. 529

directly before or directly after the title of Talai Lama. The legend would then run thus –

« Om rgyalva talai blamai thamka, »

or –

« Om talai blama rgyalvai thamka »

But there is no need to say anything about a Jina at all, for the word rgyalva, Jina, does not occur in the legend. It reads simply rgyal, and the sign after rgyal is either a full-stop or an ornemental sign without any meaning. This sign is used to fill up empty spaces at the beginning or end of a column. Let me refer to my reading of a Tibeto-Mongolian seal from Bhutan (ZDMG., vol. lxiv, p. 553), where the same square figure is found at the end of columns 2 and 3. If in this case we should have to read a va at the end of those lines, the sense would be obscured.

Now as to the om. I am very glad Colonel Waddell has nothing against my identification of the angular snake-ornament with the rounded form of the same (see my Table I, p. 1211 of this Journal for 1910). But when he says that both of them have to be read om I cannot help feeling a little doubtful. This sign is found at the beginning of every chapter. If it has to be read om, why, then, do not the Tibetans read om whenever they see it ? Why do not all the translators write om whenever the sign occurs in the Tibetan text ? Well, I have never heard a Tibetan say om when he saw this sign in the text he was reading. But the most extraordinary thing is this, that Colonel Waddell himself does not translate this sign by om in his translation of the Te Tsung edict. At the beginning of the text of this edict the sign is plainly written (see p. 948), but in his translation of the edict (see p. 930) an om cannot be found. Well, if Colonel Waddell himself does not read the sign as om, how can we expect me to do so ? The interpretation of this sign as a snake-ornament (relating to Naga worship) was advanced by Dr. B. Laufer

p. 530

on p. 26 of his edition of the Klu ‘abum bsduspai snyingpo (Mémoires de la société Finno-Ougrienne, No. xi).

Now as to Colonel Waddell’s reading rtsa instead of my reading ru. The latter is doubtful, as stated before. I should with much pleasure accept his reading rtsa if it were confirmed by an examination of the original seal. But unfortunately it is not, for Colonel Waddell, to my entire satisfaction, says that he has compared my revised copy with the original seal and finds it to be perfect. But then he says : « In the key-alphabet the letter tsa has its third horizontal limb from the top joined to the vertical, whilst in the seal this is not so – this is probably owing to a mistake in copying the key-alphabet, as presumably in the case of the seal care would be taken to ensure that the characters were formed correctly. » No ; I am fully convinced that in the case of the key-alphabet care was taken to ensure that the characters were formed correctly. I therefore prefer to stick to my reading ru, standard (compare ru dar, ru thson, banner, ensign, colours). But I readily admit that this syllable is the most doubtful part in my interpretation of the seal. Let me add that meanwhile I have succeeded in reading the seal of the West Tibetan king rDorje thse dpal mi ‘agyur don grub rnam rgyal. This again proves the usefulness of the key-alphabet.

A. H. Francke.

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