From the Lankavatara Sutra:

Bodhiruci: 能轉一切微細識
Śikṣānanda: 能以妙慧轉所依識
Suzuki: to cause a revulsion in the depth of the mind fittingly by means of an exquisite knowledge
Red Pine: and who make use of the subtlest wisdom to transform their consciousness.

Bodhiruci's version is easy to understand: "able to transform their vijñanas" where 識 means vijñana.

I find Śikṣānanda harder to parse, especially 轉所依識.

My question is: is it 識 (vijñana) that is transformed, or is it 所依 (āśraya)?

The Sanskrit terms mentions the basis of transformation (vijñānaparāvṛtti). It makes sense to say the basis of transformation (understood as the alaya) is being transformed.

But if we were to read the Chinese without being informed by the Sanskrit or by Buddhist philosophy, would we read it this way too? I'm struck by the difference between Bodhiruci and Śikṣānanda.

  • Again, it is difficult to translate word by word. I think 轉所依識 means 改變對事物的即有認知. 所依 - 過去所依傍的; 識- 認識, 認知.
    – r13
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 12:46
  • 1
    I think "能轉一" and "能捨一" at the beginning are typos, I can't find them in my source.
    – L Parker
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 14:04
  • 1
    @LParker You are right, my bad. I (stand) corrected. Commented May 4, 2021 at 14:25
  • @Tenzin Dorje, what is the difference between Lankavatara Sutra and Ramayan? Or Lankavatara Sutra is written by whom?
    – user27485
    Commented May 5, 2021 at 10:55

1 Answer 1

  1. It may read like 轉所依之識 here in Śikṣānanda: 'to transform vijñāna which is the basis'. To me, 所依 sounds like a dummy object (for the transitive ) that has a slightly negative connotation, is more generic, and semantically weaker; whereas is specific to the context here. They are however syntactically equivalent.

  2. Technically it should be , because there is the Sanskrit word for (vijñāna) but not 所依 (āśraya) in the original text (sūkṣmamabhivijñānaparāvṛttikuśalānāṃ).

  3. in classical Chinese means 'to rely on' as a verb. The -construction passivises and nominalises the verb. So 所依 means 'that which is relied on' (or more idiomatically, 'basis' in English). However, , especially when following another verb, can act as a noun, itself meaning exactly 所依 (i.e. the is omitted). An example of which is 轉依 (āśraya-parāvṛtti, or v. 'transform the basis'; n. 'transformation of the basis').

  4. Because (parāvṛtti) is commonly collocated with 依(=所依) (āśraya), even though it is not in this instance (i.e. there is no āśraya in the text), some Chinese translations still add .

  5. When forming the Sanskrit compound, the accusative case (of vijñāna) is not specified. However, it is quite certain that an entity as brilliant as subtle wisdom (妙慧) itself needs not be transformed, so it is not the accused. It leaves little doubt that the generic vijñāna is the accused, i.e. 轉識.

  6. Let us look at a few more (relatively modern) Chinese translations:

    Tam Shek-wing [談錫永] (2005:20) 能以妙慧於內心起轉依
    Huang Baosheng [黃寶生] (2011:22) 善於以妙慧轉變識

    Tam translated vijñāna into 於內心 (in the inner-heart). 轉依 is a noun meaning 'transformation of the basis'. The transformation occurs at the heart of a person. Huang's translation is also straightforward: it is vijñāna that is transformed (轉變識).


  1. The modern Japanese translation by Tokiwa (1994:20) is as follows:


    (translation) People who excel in accomplishing the transformation of the basis of consciousness to even the finest detail

    To compare with the above, Tokiwa has both 轉依 (根拠の転換, where =転換 and =根拠) and (知覚), and corresponds well to my interpretation of Śikṣānanda in point 0, because they are linked by the particle (italicised ).

  2. A word on sūkṣmamabhi: Huang (2011:22) thinks it may have been sūkṣmamati ('subtle perception') instead, which corresponds to translators adopting 妙慧 (i.e. Śikṣānanda, Suzuki, Red Pine, Tam, and Huang). Those who did not (i.e. Bodhiruci and Tokiwa) placed their focus only on sūkṣmam ('subtle').


  1. 談錫永(2005)《入楞伽經梵本新譯》。臺北:全佛文化。

  2. 黃寶生(2011)《梵漢對勘入楞伽經》。北京:中國社會科學出版社。

  3. 常盤義伸(1994)『「ランカーに入る」:梵文入楞伽経の全訳と研究』Part 1. 京都:花園大学国際禅学研究所.

  • Thank you. It makes sense, especially given the Sanskrit. I wonder how native Chinese speakers who knew nothing of Buddhism, a foreign religion, and of Sanskrit, understood this type of text, but that is not a subject for this section of SE :) Commented May 4, 2021 at 16:44
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    For normal texts in classical Chinese, when in doubt, I would simply look up the dictionary. For Buddhist texts though, out of respect, I feel like it is good to read annotations (if any), compare translations, or even consult Sanskrit (which of course requires even more research).
    – L Parker
    Commented May 5, 2021 at 3:32
  • Right. What threw me off the most was Suzuki's translation. It looked to me as if he found an āśraya in there, and although I found vijñana in Sanskrit, I saw that if parsed in a certain way, there were the Chinese characters for āśraya... Commented May 5, 2021 at 6:12

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