Norway gifts Thailand with 2,000-year-old texts written on palm leaves

I thought Ajahn @Brahmali and others might be interested in this story today from the Chiang Rai Times

BANGKOK – The Norwegian Ambassador to Thailand, Kjetil Paulsen and the Conservation Institute of Schoyen from Norway presented to the Kingdom of Thailand a 2,000-year-old Tipitaka today in Bankok.
The Tipitaka was enshrined at Wat Saket in Bangkok last night, with Minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office Omsin Chiwaphruek chairing the ceremony.
National Office of Buddhism Director Phanom Sornsin explained that the Tipitaka whose content was written on palm leaves was discovered on the mountains of Bamiyan in Afghanistan by the Conservation Institute.
The director also disclosed that the Norwegian institute purchased the relic from a British merchant and decided to hand it over to Thailand, in order to tighten the bond between the two nations as well as preserve Buddhism.
By Nuppol Suvansombut – NNT


Just to clarify, this would be a manuscript fragment from the Schoyen collection, not an entire Tripitaka, or anything even close to that. There are no 2,000 year old Tripitakas.


I’m killing some time this morning at the CNX airport,and looked at Bhante’s link, above, which lead me to some other information. Very cool stuff. I can see how digging further into the palm leaf history of, say, the Vinaya development, could be intoxicating. Wikipedia notes:

Scholars have generally agreed that the matter of dispute was indeed a matter of vinaya, and have noted that the account of the Mahāsāṃghikas is bolstered by the vinaya texts themselves, as vinayas associated with the Sthaviras do contain more rules than those of the Mahāsāṃghika vinaya. Modern scholarship therefore generally agrees that the Mahāsāṃghika vinaya is the oldest. According to Skilton, future historians may determine that a study of the Mahāsāṃghika school will contribute to a better understanding of the early Dharma-Vinaya than the Theravāda school.

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Bhante are there any surviving text from the Tipitaka written in Matale Aluvihara in Sri Lanka?
Do we have the copies of the original?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but much of what passes for modern scholarship is kevalaṁ gomayaṁ.

There is no reason to think the Mahasanghika Vinaya is the oldest. I demolished these arguments point by point in my research for Sects & Sectarianism. The “scholarship” on this point is so bad it defies belief. In fact it turns out that, on the whole, the Pali Vinaya is in most respects at least as old as any of the others, and possibly the oldest. But the point is really inconsequential, as what matters is a careful and contextual examination of each point, and each case is different.


Not even close. The oldest Pali Tripitakas are no more than a few hundred years old. Before that there are just a few bits and pieces. The northern mansuscripts, fragmentary though they are, reach back further, as the dry climate preserved them better.

The age of the manuscript, of course, has nothing to do with the age of the text.


My apologies, Bhante, for being lazy and depositing scholarly kevalaṁ gomayaṁ from Wikipedia on this thread. I’ll go through the links that you provided, and try to get at the heart of your scholarship on this interesting issue. Perhaps someone with access to Wikipedia editing can make a correction in this case ( or I’ll set up an account there and take a crack at it).

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Thanks for this. I am glad to see that my countrymen are generous with these valuable manuscripts. It would probably have cost Martin Schoyen a lot to acquire them.

Although the Schoyen collection is not a Tipitaka, it does contain some almost complete suttas from the EBTs, such as the Mahāsaṅghika version of the Caṅki Sutta. This, of course, is very valuable, and it can serve as a corrective to the Pali version. The entire collection is published by Hermes Publishing in Oslo, but I believe the price is exorbitant.

I just hope the manuscripts get properly looked after in Thailand. I doubt they have the best facilities for these things.


It wasn’t clear from the article exactly what was given. My assumption was that it would be just some samples, not the whole thing, but this may well be mistaken.

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Thanks for posting.

Martin Schøyen offers Gandhari texts to Thai government

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