The wisdom of getting another PR push

For some reason this Heart Sutra-based book from last year is back in the New Releases section at my local bookstore. It's called 『生きて死ぬ智慧』 (Ikite Shinu Chie, "Living and Dying Wisdom", p'raps?) and it includes a translation/commentary by YANAGISAWA "one of the greatest life scientists in Japan" Keiko (柳澤桂子) and pictures by HORI Fumiko (堀文子). Apparently an English translation is also included. You can look at some sample pages here.

As this multilingual version of the Heart Sutra shows, the original isn't very long, but this book elaborates on it plenty. For instances, after the framing device, the original (well, in Chinese) opens 舎利子,色不異空,空不異色,色即是空,空即是色 ("O Sariputra, form does not differ from emptiness, nor emptiness from form; form itself is emptiness, and emptiness form"). But the Ikite Shinu Chie version covers that same ground with something I quickly translate as:

Listen! We exist in a vast universe. However, there is nothing that can be called form in the universe. There is no truth. The universe is full of particles; the particles move and swirl freely and change form, becoming still when their relationships are in equilibrium...

And actually goes on for a few lines more. So you can see it's a rather sweeping modernisation, designed specifically to acknowledge the modern scientific view of reality.

Sariputra/Shariputra, incidentally, has some truly zany stories attached to him. My favorite is the one where he meets a guy who says "Alas, my mother is sick and the doctor says only a monk's eyeball can cure her!", so Sariputra pulls out his left eye and gives it to him. But then the guy says "No! It has to be the right eye, not the left!" So Sariputra sighs and pulls out his other eye and hands it over. Then the guy sniffs it and says "This is too stinky to give to my mother, you stinky-eyed fool!", throws it on the ground and stamps on it for good measure.

At which point Sariputra is just about to give up monking forever when the guy reveals that he was actually a Deva all along, come to test Sariputra's devotion. Which I'm sure made Sariputra feel a lot better. Although in some versions he never tells Sariputra what was going on, and Sariputra does give up monking, and suffers in hell for a while.

Popularity factor: 3



Appears his name is Śāriputra (शारिपुत्र - something like [çaːɾiputɾə]). In terms of the pronunciation, you'd think Shariputra was a better romanisation, but the Britannica has Sariputra in the index.

-- Tim May


I have always preferred "s" over "sh" in plain-text romanisations of the Freaky Sibilants, but that's just me. (And the Brittania)

Just for posterity, the current google scores for the likely Romanised versions of the name (-tta is the Pali form I think) are:

sariputta: 14500sariputra: 8730shariputra: 8580shariputta: 50

Interesting that with the -tra version people are divided evenly between s and sh, but the virtually every -tta is just s.


This page here says "Śāriputra (S) → Sāriputta (P)" (in addition to giving the Vietnamese name, Xá lợi phất), so I guess Sanskrit /ś/ merged with /s/ in Pali.

IIRC, both palatal ś and retroflex ṣ are pronounced [ʃ] in modern Sanskrit, which is why "sh" seemed like a good idea. (Unicode calls them SHA and SSA respectively, but that's never a reliable guide to anything.) There doesn't seem to be much uniformity in actual well-known loans into English (but then I can only think of a couple off the top of my head, and it's not clear whether they should be regarded as coming from Sanskrit rather than descendent languages).

--Tim May

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