Book of the Golden Precepts in Tibetan?

By David Reigle on January 31, 2018 at 11:33 pm

In my “Report on a Search for the Book of the Golden Precepts in Kalimpong, March 1998,”1 I quoted Anthony Elenjimittam saying that he, with the help of a Tibetan Lama, had compared the original (apparently Tibetan) of The Voice of the Silence, the “Book of the Golden Precepts,” with Blavatsky’s English translation, in Kalimpong around 1950:

“In my return to Kalimpong I stayed in the Tibetan monastery, taking part in their choral office and learning various branches of Mahayana and Tantrism. It was in that monastery that I first read with Lama Ping the Voice of Silence, the Book of Golden Precepts, with the English translation by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. With the help of the Tibetan Lama I could compare the English translation made by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky with the original, taking notes from the interpretation given by the Lama.”2

Some years later (around 1965), he published an edition of The Voice of Silence in Bombay, with his own commentary. From the late 1990s until last month I had been unable to consult this edition, to see if he said anything more in it about the original. The only copy of this book listed on WorldCat (OCLC) is held by the British Library. They were not willing to lend it through interlibrary loan or to photocopy it or scan it. Finally, with the help of intermediaries Robert Hütwohl and Leslie Price, arrangements were made for Janet Lee to visit the British Library and see it in person. She was able to photograph all of its pages with her smartphone, and she kindly sent them to me. So at last I was able to see what is in this book.

The WorldCat listing, apparently provided by the British Library, is as follows:

The Voice of Silence. Translated from the Tibetan by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky [or rather, written by her]. With a commentary by Anthony Elenjimittam. Bombay: Aquinas Publications, [1965?].

From this, it seemed that the bracketed “[or rather, written by her]” was included by Anthony Elenjimittam in the title. This would contradict his statement quoted above, made in 1983. In fact, access to his book showed that this bracketed material is not on his title page, but is an addition apparently made by the person who catalogued the book for the British Library. This is quite irregular for librarians to do, which is why it seemed that the bracketed material in the listing was on the title page and was put there by Elenjimittam himself. Instead, what we find in his book is:

On the cover: “Voice of Silence, English Translation by Helena P. Blavatskey, with a Commentary by Anthony Elenjimittam”

On the title page: “The Voice of Silence, Translated from the Tibetan by Helena Petrovna Blavatskey, With a Commentary by Anthony Elenjimittam”

From Anthony Elenjimittam’s Introduction, dated 1964, p. ii: “. . . THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, or fragments from the Book of the Golden Precepts which has been beautifully translated by Helena Petrovna Blavatskey from the original Tibetan, . . .” “While preserving the original translation of the text from Tibetan by H.P.B., . . .”

From Elenjimittam’s “commentary and annotations,” pp. 35-36: “A Tibetan Lama with whom I first read the VOICE OF SILENCE in the original Tibetan and in its English translation . . . .”

As may be seen, he consistently reported that he had compared this with the original Tibetan. No one has yet found a Tibetan original for the “Book of the Golden Precepts,” part of which was allegedly translated into English by Blavatsky as The Voice of the Silence. This is despite the fact that huge numbers of Tibetan books have become available in recent decades. As I wrote in my 1998 Report, Lama Ping (actually named Lama Tinley) was from Bhutan, and went back there some time after working with Elenjimittam. The presumption was that he had the Tibetan book with him, and took it back to Bhutan when he returned there. He died in 1985. So we still seek a Tibetan original of the “Book of the Golden Precepts.”

 

Notes

  1. Published in Blavatsky’s Secret Books: Twenty Years’ Research, 1999, pp. 151-153 (attached as: report_search_golden_precepts_kalimpong).
  2. This statement is found in his book, Cosmic Ecumenism via Hindu-Buddhist Catholicism: An Autobiography of an Indian Dominican Monk, p. 270. Bombay: Aquinas Publications, [1983].

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