“Namtar” by Milaraiba in Buryatia

“Namtar” by Milaraiba in Buryatia

Bair Dugarov

(53rd Annual Meeting of the PIAC, St. Petersburg 2010)

Milaraiba (1040-1123) was a Tibetan yogin-hermit and a poet who belonged to the Buddhist school of Karchzhudpa (kagyu); many followers of this school saw their way in asceticism, in the withdrawal from the world. A classic example of this tradition is the life and the work of Milaraiba who became famous in the “country of snows” through his chants.

A sketch of Milaraiba’s life is contained in his “Namtar” or “Description of life”. This work which was published in a xylographic way gained wide acceptance in Tibet and beyond.

Of particular interest is a translation of Milaraiba’s “Namtar” to Mongolian made by Gushi Tsordzhi in 1618 who was a connoisseur of Tibetan culture, an outstanding writer and a translator of his time. This translation was published in a xylographic way in 1756 in Beijing and became well-known in the Mongolian speaking world.

“Namtar” by Milaraiba became widespread in Buryatia, too, in connection with the penetration of Buddhism into Trans-Baikal. At present, the Center of oriental manuscripts and xylographs of the Institute of Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies (TSVRK IMBT) in Ulan-Ude contains ten lists of the Mongolian translation of Milaraiba’s “Namtar”. The lull name of “Namtar” is “Yogacaris-un erketü degedü getülgegci milarasba-yin mamtar nirvan kiged qamuy-i ayiladayci-yin mür-i üjegülügsen kemegdekü orosiba” “A description of the life of Milaraiba, the supreme and powerful yogachar, the saviour who showed the path of omniscience and (achievement of) nirvana”.

The volume of each text which has a format of bodha mainly consists of 224 sheets. Each sheet has Mongolian pagination. A size of the sheet is 55 cm x 10 cm, a size of the text is 46,5 cm x 6,8 cm. A number of lines per page is 38. Printing is in black. Some texts have red pencil marks, which testifies about repeated reading. From some variant readings in Buryat xylographs it can be assumed that Milaraiba’s “Namtar” could be printed in Egituyskiy datsan and in some, not yet clearly specified place in Trans-Baikal.

Apart from the ten lists of Milaraiba’s “Namtar” in TSVRK IMBTS, there also exist other analogous texts of this work on the territory of Buryatia. To our knowledge, they can be found in the home collections of ancient books among elderly people who are acquainted with old Mongolian, and these texts are among favorite books to read. Various lists of the Mongolian translation of Milaraiba’s “Namtar” provide evidence about the widespread acceptance of this written monument in Buryatia in the past.