What are the oldest Mahayana sutras?

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Dharma Flower
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Re: What are the oldest Mahayana sutras?

Post by Dharma Flower » Mon May 29, 2017 8:33 pm

This article in Tricycle on the Gandharan manuscripts called into the question the idea that any school of Buddhism surviving today can exclusively claim to have the historical Buddha's teachings:
https://www.spiritrock.org/document.doc?id=5336
Here is where I clicked Rewind: these newly found manuscripts, he declared, strike the coup de grâce to a traditional conception of Buddhism’s past that has been disintegrating for decades. It is now clear that none of the existing Buddhist collections of early Indian scriptures—not the Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, nor
even the Gandhari—“can be privileged as the most authentic or original words of the Buddha.”. . .

Cox suggests that “rather than asking the question what single language did the Buddha use and what
represents the earliest version of his teachings, we might have to accept that from the very beginning
there were various accounts of his teachings, different sutras, and different versions of sutras transmitted
in different areas. At the very beginning we might have a number of different sources, all of whom
represent or claim to represent the teaching of the Buddha.”

Cox emphasizes that the Gandharan Buddhism is clearly not a “rebel offshoot” of the Pali canon but its own entirely localized strand— unique, but not unrelated. Early Buddhists in different regions shared many texts in common. Clearly, Buddhist monks of different language traditions in early India were in contact, and they traded ideas and influenced each other in complex ways.
https://www.spiritrock.org/document.doc?id=5336
We can contrast this with the Pali scriptures:
The climate of Theravāda countries is not conducive to the survival of manuscripts. Apart from brief quotations in inscriptions and a two-page fragment from the eighth or ninth century found in Nepal, the oldest manuscripts known are from late in the fifteenth century,[53] and there is not very much from before the eighteenth.[54]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C4%81li ... anuscripts
The oldest manuscripts of the Lotus Sutra are among the oldest manuscripts in the world:
The Gilgit manuscripts[34] were nominated[35] in 2006 to be included on the UNESCO Memory of the World register, but without success. The Gilgit manuscripts are among the oldest manuscripts in the world, and the oldest manuscript collection surviving in Pakistan,[34] having major significance in the areas of Buddhist studies and the evolution of Asian and Sanskrit literature. The manuscripts are believed to have been written in the 5th to 6th centuries AD, though some more manuscripts were discovered in the succeeding centuries, which were also classified as Gilgit manuscripts.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgit#Gilgit_manuscripts
May you be happy and well. :anjali:

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Coëmgenu
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Re: What are the oldest Mahayana sutras?

Post by Coëmgenu » Tue May 30, 2017 8:35 pm

Dharma Flower wrote:The oldest manuscripts of the Lotus Sutra are among the oldest manuscripts in the world:
The Gilgit manuscripts[34] were nominated[35] in 2006 to be included on the UNESCO Memory of the World register, but without success. The Gilgit manuscripts are among the oldest manuscripts in the world, and the oldest manuscript collection surviving in Pakistan,[34] having major significance in the areas of Buddhist studies and the evolution of Asian and Sanskrit literature. The manuscripts are believed to have been written in the 5th to 6th centuries AD, though some more manuscripts were discovered in the succeeding centuries, which were also classified as Gilgit manuscripts.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgit#Gilgit_manuscripts
This wikipedia article is very strange. It claims that the oldest Buddhist manuscripts are from 5th c. ce, was this written before the Bāmiyān find? That is at least 3 hundred years older, and furthermore, we have several manuscripts from before 400CE that have to do with Buddhism.

This article on the manuscript is even stranger, it claims that the Lotus Sutra is the only Buddhist manuscript to have ever been found in India (what?). Very strange. I blame "popular archaeology".
並畢竟空。並如來藏。並實相。非三 而三三而不三。非合非散而合而散。非非合非非散。不可一異而一異。
All three truths are ultimately empty, all are tathāgatagarbha, all are true aspect. Not three, they are three; three, they are not three. Neither combined nor separated, neither uncombined nor unseparated. Neither same nor different, yet in a sense same, and in a sense different.

夫三諦者。 天然之性徳也。 中諦者。 統一切法。 眞諦者。 泯一切法。 俗諦者。 立一切法。
The three truths. Heaven-sent natural characteristics. The middle truth unifies all dharmas. The ultimate truth demolishes all dharmas. The conventional truth establishes all dharmas.

摩訶止観始終心要Móhēzhǐguān, Shǐzhōngxīnyào.

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Re: What are the oldest Mahayana sutras?

Post by Dharma Flower » Tue May 30, 2017 11:34 pm

Coëmgenu wrote: This article on the manuscript is even stranger, it claims that the Lotus Sutra is the only Buddhist manuscript to have ever been found in India (what?). Very strange. I blame "popular archaeology".
“The language
is similar to early Mahayana texts, a
mixed Sanskrit of a peculiar type,” using
mostly Sanskrit words, often with Prakrit
inflections. They are very important in that
they are perhaps the only corpus of ancient
Buddhist manuscripts unearthed in India.

Dr Lokesh Chandra, a well-known scholar
of Buddhism, first published a facsimile
edition of the Gilgit Manuscripts in New
Delhi in 1974.
http://www.fom.sg/Passage/2014/05manuscripts.pdf
The Gilgit manuscripts are the only ancient corpus or collection of Buddhist manuscripts found in India.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: What are the oldest Mahayana sutras?

Post by Coëmgenu » Thu Jun 01, 2017 4:03 am

Dharma Flower wrote:The Gilgit manuscripts are the only ancient corpus or collection of Buddhist manuscripts found in India.
I'm very sorry but this claim is simply false, even if the BBC claims it to be so.

For instance, the Skandapurāṇa manuscript KL 699-4 is from 234CE*, and it was found in the historical territory of Northern India, contemporarily Nepal.

*some scholars argue that this date should be approx 800CE (I am unimpressed by their reasonings, I would recommend this source for more information on the dating of the Skandapurāṇa manuscript KL 699-4), but that still means that regardless of if the Gilgit LS is the oldest Indian archaeological find to do with Buddhist texts, it is still not the only find from India.
並畢竟空。並如來藏。並實相。非三 而三三而不三。非合非散而合而散。非非合非非散。不可一異而一異。
All three truths are ultimately empty, all are tathāgatagarbha, all are true aspect. Not three, they are three; three, they are not three. Neither combined nor separated, neither uncombined nor unseparated. Neither same nor different, yet in a sense same, and in a sense different.

夫三諦者。 天然之性徳也。 中諦者。 統一切法。 眞諦者。 泯一切法。 俗諦者。 立一切法。
The three truths. Heaven-sent natural characteristics. The middle truth unifies all dharmas. The ultimate truth demolishes all dharmas. The conventional truth establishes all dharmas.

摩訶止観始終心要Móhēzhǐguān, Shǐzhōngxīnyào.

Dharma Flower
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Re: What are the oldest Mahayana sutras?

Post by Dharma Flower » Thu Jun 01, 2017 5:16 am

Coëmgenu wrote:
Dharma Flower wrote:The Gilgit manuscripts are the only ancient corpus or collection of Buddhist manuscripts found in India.
I'm very sorry but this claim is simply false, even if the BBC claims it to be so.

For instance, the Skandapurāṇa manuscript KL 699-4 is from 234CE*, and it was found in the historical territory of Northern India, contemporarily Nepal.

*some scholars argue that this date should be approx 800CE (I am unimpressed by their reasonings, I would recommend this source for more information on the dating of the Skandapurāṇa manuscript KL 699-4), but that still means that regardless of if the Gilgit LS is the oldest Indian archaeological find to do with Buddhist texts, it is still not the only find from India.
I'm sorry. I think we might be having a miscommunication. There's a difference between discovering one manuscript and discovering an entire corpus of manuscripts. :namaste:

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Re: What are the oldest Mahayana sutras?

Post by Anonymous X » Thu Jun 01, 2017 6:14 am

Coëmgenu wrote:
Dharma Flower wrote:The Gilgit manuscripts are the only ancient corpus or collection of Buddhist manuscripts found in India.
I'm very sorry but this claim is simply false, even if the BBC claims it to be so.

For instance, the Skandapurāṇa manuscript KL 699-4 is from 234CE*, and it was found in the historical territory of Northern India, contemporarily Nepal.

*some scholars argue that this date should be approx 800CE (I am unimpressed by their reasonings, I would recommend this source for more information on the dating of the Skandapurāṇa manuscript KL 699-4), but that still means that regardless of if the Gilgit LS is the oldest Indian archaeological find to do with Buddhist texts, it is still not the only find from India.
The site linked requires sign up and I usually don't like 'signing up' for much. Can you paraphrase what is used to date the texts? Was there any carbon 14 dating done on it? This would immediately assign a period of time it would likely have been written in.

Bristollad
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Re: What are the oldest Mahayana sutras?

Post by Bristollad » Thu Jun 01, 2017 8:58 am

Anonymous X wrote: The site linked requires sign up and I usually don't like 'signing up' for much. Can you paraphrase what is used to date the texts? Was there any carbon 14 dating done on it? This would immediately assign a period of time it would likely have been written in.
You can read the paper online without signing up - just scroll down the page. The signup simply allows you to download the pdf to read later.

Dharma Flower
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Re: What are the oldest Mahayana sutras?

Post by Dharma Flower » Thu Jun 01, 2017 9:15 am

The basic point I am trying to make is that, even though the Pali suttas are considered a more ancient, reliable record of the Buddha's teachings, there is actually better manuscript evidence for Mahayana Buddhism instead:
The leaves are inscribed with eight excerpts from the Pali Canon.
Professor Harry Falk has now dated them, on paleographic
grounds, to the second half of the fifth century A.D., which
makes them by far the earliest physical evidence for the Pali
canonical texts (Stargardt, 1995).

I am glad to make this correction. However, the survival of a
few short extracts is not important for the overall picture I am
trying to present. The gross fact remains that almost all our
evidence for the texts of the Buddhist Canon comes from
manuscripts and that hardly any Pali manuscripts are more than
about five hundred years old. The vast majority are less than
three hundred years old...

During centuries of transmission
both oral and written they were inevitably subject to corruption.
And I think that anyone who reads the texts while keeping this
simple fact in mind rapidly becomes aware that plenty of
passages do indeed appear to be corrupt.
http://elibrary.ibc.ac.th/files/private ... egan_0.pdf

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Anders
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Re: What are the oldest Mahayana sutras?

Post by Anders » Thu Jun 01, 2017 10:01 am

Coëmgenu wrote:
Dharma Flower wrote:The oldest manuscripts of the Lotus Sutra are among the oldest manuscripts in the world:
The Gilgit manuscripts[34] were nominated[35] in 2006 to be included on the UNESCO Memory of the World register, but without success. The Gilgit manuscripts are among the oldest manuscripts in the world, and the oldest manuscript collection surviving in Pakistan,[34] having major significance in the areas of Buddhist studies and the evolution of Asian and Sanskrit literature. The manuscripts are believed to have been written in the 5th to 6th centuries AD, though some more manuscripts were discovered in the succeeding centuries, which were also classified as Gilgit manuscripts.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgit#Gilgit_manuscripts
This wikipedia article is very strange. It claims that the oldest Buddhist manuscripts are from 5th c. ce, was this written before the Bāmiyān find? That is at least 3 hundred years older, and furthermore, we have several manuscripts from before 400CE that have to do with Buddhism.

This article on the manuscript is even stranger, it claims that the Lotus Sutra is the only Buddhist manuscript to have ever been found in India (what?). Very strange. I blame "popular archaeology".
You find some odd claims about the lotus sutra circulating. I imagine it's a few nichiren or soka gakkai followers trying to pump up their alpha sutra a bit, but who knows.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra

tingdzin
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Re: What are the oldest Mahayana sutras?

Post by tingdzin » Thu Jun 01, 2017 3:38 pm

Yes, and one has to be very wary of taking Wiki as the last word on anything. Good for a starting point, but in some cases very questionable.

Dharma Flower
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Re: What are the oldest Mahayana sutras?

Post by Dharma Flower » Thu Jun 01, 2017 3:47 pm

Anders wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:
Dharma Flower wrote:The oldest manuscripts of the Lotus Sutra are among the oldest manuscripts in the world:
This wikipedia article is very strange. It claims that the oldest Buddhist manuscripts are from 5th c. ce, was this written before the Bāmiyān find? That is at least 3 hundred years older, and furthermore, we have several manuscripts from before 400CE that have to do with Buddhism.

This article on the manuscript is even stranger, it claims that the Lotus Sutra is the only Buddhist manuscript to have ever been found in India (what?). Very strange. I blame "popular archaeology".
You find some odd claims about the lotus sutra circulating. I imagine it's a few nichiren or soka gakkai followers trying to pump up their alpha sutra a bit, but who knows.
“The language
is similar to early Mahayana texts, a
mixed Sanskrit of a peculiar type,” using
mostly Sanskrit words, often with Prakrit
inflections. They are very important in that
they are perhaps the only corpus of ancient
Buddhist manuscripts unearthed in India.
Dr Lokesh Chandra, a well-known scholar
of Buddhism, first published a facsimile
edition of the Gilgit Manuscripts in New
Delhi in 1974.
http://www.fom.sg/Passage/2014/05manuscripts.pdf
What makes the Gilgit manuscripts unique is not that they are the only ancient Buddhist manuscripts to be discovered in India. What makes them unique is that they are an entire collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts, and the only one to be found in India. It's like the Buddhist equivalent to the Dead Sea Scrolls in that way.

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Re: What are the oldest Mahayana sutras?

Post by Queequeg » Thu Jun 01, 2017 5:43 pm

Just one of those people trying to pump up the alpha sutra.
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