Translating Translation: An Encounter with the Ninth-Century Tibetan Version of the Kāraṇḍavyūha-sūtra.

Peter Roberts


The Kāraṇḍavyūha-sūtra is the source for Avalokiteśvara’s mantra: Oṃ maṇi padme hūm, the most popular mantra in Tibet. This article examines why the sūtra itself is little known, the history of its translation, the challenges that faces the translators, and evidence of corruption in the Sanskrit manuscript that was the basis for their translation. Finally there are thoughts on the meaning of Avalokiteśvara’s name, the sutra’s title, and the mantra itself.

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