We are in receipt of the following email from Dr Mark Allon and his team, Dr Allon is the Chair, Dept. of Indian Subcontinental Studies, The University of Sydney. He is a good friend of @sujato and a fan SuttaCentral.
If you care to help with their crowdfunding initiative please visit the link in this email.
I hope this finds you well.
We have just launched a crowdfunding campaign for the study and digital publishing of two newly available 1st to 2nd century CE Gāndhārī scrolls. The first contains a portion of the first chapter of a Gāndhārī version of the Samādhirāja-sūtra , the Discourse on the King of Concentrations. The second contains a portion of a Gāndhārī version of the ninth chapter of the Pratyutpanna-buddha-saṃmukhāvasthita-samādhi-sūtra , the Discourse on the Concentration of Direct Encounter with the Buddhas of the Present Time. Both are, by centuries, our earliest witnesses of these important Mahāyāna texts and shed new light on the rise of the Mahāyāna and its literary traditions.
For further information on these texts, our project and the donation platform, see https://crowdfunding.sydney.edu.au/project/10335
If enough people donated even a modest amount, our crowdfunding initiative will easily reach its goal. The University of Sydney handles all transactions and receipts for your donation. For Australian donors, gifts before the 30th of June are tax deductible for this financial year.
I would be grateful if you could circulate this among your contacts who you think may be interested and if you have any groups or individuals you think I should contact, please let me know.
Dr. Mark Allon
Prof Paul Harrison
Prof Richard Salomon
Dr Andrew Skilton
Thanks so much for posting this, these are very worthwhile projects and I hope they receive their funding goals.
These texts, as noted, belong to the Mahayana literature rather than the early Buddhist texts with which we are most interested. as a little background, the Gandhari texts that Mark works with, dated around 2nd century CE, are by far the earliest physical records of Buddhist texts that have been found. They contain a variety of the kinds of literature that one would expect from that time period: early suttas, Vinaya, tales, Dhammapada-style verses, Abhidharma, and Mahayana sutras.
For the Buddhist traditions of the time, all of these were considered their scriptural heritage, and to understand one part of them it is extremely important to understand the whole. The Gandhari language is effectively only known from these and similar texts, so each new manuscript radically improves our understanding of the writing methods, vocabulary, and so on, and allows us a more clearly focused snapshot of the texts preserved in the Buddhist community of that time.
Mark has previously spent several years working on the painstaking editing and publishing of several Anguttara-style texts. From speaking with him, I know the care and time it takes to complete this work. Fundamental research into Buddhist texts is hard work, with little recognition or support from the Buddhist community, who rarely recognize the significance of what is being done. While I regret the fact that this is not directly funded by the Australian University system, I hope the Buddhist community can step up and help make it happen.
For more resources on this:
Could you explain what you meant by this bhanthe?
When speaking with the Buddhist community, hardly anyone understands anything about the situation with manuscripts.
For example, in recent discussions regarding the proposal to have the Pali Tipitaka inscribed in the UNESCO memory of the world register, I tried to ask what manuscript or manuscripts this would cover. I usually just received blank stares. “The Tipitaka. It is the Buddhist suttas.” “Yes, thanks, I know that. But there are many manuscripts scattered all over Sri Lanka. Which ones are we talking about?”
- “Ummm …”
- “The Tipitaka written in the Aluvihara”. “But that was over 2,000 years ago. That manuscript has vanished long ago.”
- “The Buddha Jayanthi.” “But that is not a manuscript, it is a published set of books, and is not in need of preservation.”
I have not yet met a single non-specialist who has any idea whatsoever about the reality. No-one knows that all the Sinhalese manuscripts are only a few centuries old. No-one knows that all our Pali texts derive from physical witnesses of the 18th and 19th centuries. No-one knows that the virtually all of these manuscripts are in peril of destruction by flood, insects, decay, theft, and increasingly, climate change. Plenty of people are, however, familiar with the wacky conspiracy theories that are so popular today!
Study and preservation of manuscripts is critically important to the Buddhist tradition. It is our most direct link to the Buddha’s historical teachings. Each new manuscript studied adds substantively to our knowledge.
I haven’t had much exposure to this issue of the current study of scrolls, and the painstaking work that is applied to these text fragments. Here is a summary of atext that includes some fragments, and offers a sample of the work that is involved in the analysis of these texts. OMG…
Our current knowledge of early Indic Buddhist literature is based on what has been passed on from generation to generation, whether orally or by copying old manuscripts before they were destroyed by nature or men. As in its original homeland, India, Buddhism died out around the thirteenth century CE, very few Buddhist manuscripts did survive there, because the lineage of textual transmission was interrupted. In Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, the Theravāda tradition has remained alive since former times, and the manuscripts which record the so-called Pali canon have been copied again and again and in large numbers.1
Also in Nepal, many Buddhist manuscripts did survive,but the majority are not very old, and only a few date back to more than one thousand years ago (Salomon 1999a: 8). Thus, the manuscripts found in ‘Greater Gandhāra’2 and also Central Asia around the Tarim Basin are the earliest testimonies to the (local) Buddhist tradition in regard to their textual and doctrinal corpora, and they give us a direct impression of the ideas that prevailed at the time. Among them, the manuscripts from Central Asia, written in Brāhmī script and Sanskrit or other local languages, are mostly dated to the 7th century or later, although the earliest specimens are from the 2nd or 3rd century.3 The manuscripts found in Bamiyan range from the 2nd to 7th/8th centuries, and the ones found in Gilgit are from the 5th to 8th centuries. Finally, the Gāndhārī manuscripts written in Kharoṣṭhī script are mostly dated to the first two centuries CE, but in a few cases radiocarbon testing even points to the first centuries BCE.
Here’s the download link to the entire treatise: On the Bodhisattva Path in Gandhāra Edition of Fragment 4 and 11 from the Bajaur Collection of Kharoṣṭhī Manuscripts - PDF