Reply To: "The Thus Gone One ?"


Here’s another thing I found, should be very interesting to anyone familiar with linguistics.

Bryan Levman in his book “Linguistic Ambiguities in the Transmission Process, and the Earliest Recoverable Language of Buddhism” says this about tathāgata:

…Aspiration and de-aspiration could also have the same effect, and although
Buddhaghosa did not explore this phenomenon, this kind of change is fairly common … and
would lead to such interpretations as tata-gata, “gone to the father” or “gone to the wind” (from
tata as noun < p.p. of √tan) or “he who has manifested/diffused and departed” (taking both
tata and gata as past participles)…

…Thomas suggests that tathāgata was derived from tatthagata or tatthāgata < S tatraāgata (“he who has arrived there, i.e. at emancipation”) and Buddhaghosa seems to have
recognized this possibility in his fifth interpretation above (tattha tatha-dassi-atthe) with his
juxtaposition of the two phonetically similar forms…

…Moreover, no one has examined the possibility that gata (which was probably transmitted as gaya with the intervocalic -y-, often written as -ẏ- standing for the weakly articulated intervocalic stop) may have stood for gaja (“elephant”; tatha-gaja, “true elephant”) or gaya itself (“household, abode, family”; tatha-gaya, “one’s true family”)…

…I am only indulging in these last two fanciful derivations to make a point: we are not sure what the word tathāgata means, anymore than Buddhaghosa was 1500 years ago; and it is quite possible, since its etymology was never handed down, that neither were the original users of the term, except for the Buddha himself. Indeed, the word was probably transmitted in a
Prakritized form as tahāgaya and later Sanskritized to tathāgata…

…Tathāgata described in the Introduction – we are not sure of the meaning of this common Buddhist word; although we know it refers to some kind of minor misdemeanour, we do not know how it gets its meaning…