Lost texts

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avatamsaka3
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Lost texts

Post by avatamsaka3 » Tue May 05, 2020 9:22 am

Let's say you had a ticket to go to India or China or some other place that was predominantly Buddhist a long time ago. Let's say there's a team of archaeologists, linguists, and monks who will go with you. A few years from now, you journey out there. Your job is to find long-lost Buddhist texts. Which ones would you look for? I'm thinking about this from two perspectives: which texts would be valuable to practitioners in a certain lineage or school, and also which texts should be "out there" somewhere (according to evidence in academic research) but haven't been tracked down for whatever reason. Let's assume that funding is not an obstacle.

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PeterC
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Re: Lost texts

Post by PeterC » Tue May 05, 2020 10:35 am

avatamsaka3 wrote:
Tue May 05, 2020 9:22 am
Let's say you had a ticket to go to India or China or some other place that was predominantly Buddhist a long time ago. Let's say there's a team of archaeologists, linguists, and monks who will go with you. A few years from now, you journey out there. Your job is to find long-lost Buddhist texts. Which ones would you look for? I'm thinking about this from two perspectives: which texts would be valuable to practitioners in a certain lineage or school, and also which texts should be "out there" somewhere (according to evidence in academic research) but haven't been tracked down for whatever reason. Let's assume that funding is not an obstacle.
From a practice perspective - the longer versions of the tantras which are no longer extant (assuming they existed in the human realm).

From an academic perspective - there are a lot of Mahayana sutras references by e.g. Shantideva which no longer exist.

avatamsaka3
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Re: Lost texts

Post by avatamsaka3 » Tue May 05, 2020 5:42 pm

there are a lot of Mahayana sutras references by e.g. Shantideva which no longer exist.
Thanks, but can you give the specific references please? I'm guessing these are in his main text, but where specifically? I'll make note of them. Do you have any idea where these texts could be found today?
the longer versions of the tantras which are no longer extant
Which ones? The more specific, the better.

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Grigoris
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Re: Lost texts

Post by Grigoris » Tue May 05, 2020 6:33 pm

avatamsaka3 wrote:
Tue May 05, 2020 5:42 pm
Do you have any idea where these texts could be found today?
Dude! If he knew where they were to be found they wouldn't be lost, would they? :tongue:
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

avatamsaka3
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Re: Lost texts

Post by avatamsaka3 » Tue May 05, 2020 7:02 pm

I'll rephrase: Do we have any evidence suggesting they might be in a certain area, rather than another? I'm not familiar with the state of academic research on these kinds of texts.

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Queequeg
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Re: Lost texts

Post by Queequeg » Tue May 05, 2020 7:49 pm

There is quite a bit of scholarship speculating where texts originated (ie. a lot of Mahayana is thought to have been composed in Afghanistan and thereabouts.) Maybe zero in on those areas. Also areas that were known centers of learning.

Next would be to zero in on places where environmental conditions are best to preserve old texts. Best bet is probably dry areas along the silk road. Those conditions offer best promise that texts have somehow survived the centuries.

Alternatively, find a monastery with a big library that has not had a lot of resources. Those places have all kinds of stuff in archives. Many times, they have no idea what they actually have. Every once in a while, some scholar gets access to one of these libraries and after spending years cataloging, comes across something that was thought to be lost, or even totally forgotten. The joys and excitement of nerds.
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Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

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Malcolm
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Re: Lost texts

Post by Malcolm » Tue May 05, 2020 9:27 pm

avatamsaka3 wrote:
Tue May 05, 2020 7:02 pm
I'll rephrase: Do we have any evidence suggesting they might be in a certain area, rather than another? I'm not familiar with the state of academic research on these kinds of texts.
The best place to find lost Sanskrit Manuscripts is a) the Library of Sakya, which has thousands of manuscripts that are just mouldering 2) Bejing, where whole libraries were carried after the Tibetan Diaspora.

avatamsaka3
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Re: Lost texts

Post by avatamsaka3 » Wed May 06, 2020 12:16 am

There is quite a bit of scholarship speculating where texts originated (ie. a lot of Mahayana is thought to have been composed in Afghanistan and thereabouts.) Maybe zero in on those areas. Also areas that were known centers of learning.

Best bet is probably dry areas along the silk road. Those conditions offer best promise that texts have somehow survived the centuries.
I will google this myself, but if you're willing to drop some references here from your own experience, that would be great.
the Library of Sakya, which has thousands of manuscripts that are just mouldering... Bejing
My understanding is these are kept behind a barrier, and they're not allowing access... the first one I mean. I wouldn't know where to look in Beijing. I'll have to research it.

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PeterC
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Re: Lost texts

Post by PeterC » Wed May 06, 2020 12:57 am

avatamsaka3 wrote:
Wed May 06, 2020 12:16 am
the Library of Sakya, which has thousands of manuscripts that are just mouldering... Bejing
My understanding is these are kept behind a barrier, and they're not allowing access... the first one I mean. I wouldn't know where to look in Beijing. I'll have to research it.
National library of China, BeiDa, MinzuDa. They aren’t restricted, with an invitation and proper academic credentials you can just go look at them. The problem is that there is a lot of uncategorized material sitting around in storerooms and that’s where the interesting texts would be. The best approach would be to get a research fellowship at one of the universities and poke around a bit.

avatamsaka3
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Re: Lost texts

Post by avatamsaka3 » Wed May 06, 2020 1:00 am

an invitation and proper academic credentials you can just go look at them.
Don't have either of those.

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PeterC
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Re: Lost texts

Post by PeterC » Wed May 06, 2020 1:03 am

avatamsaka3 wrote:
Tue May 05, 2020 5:42 pm
there are a lot of Mahayana sutras references by e.g. Shantideva which no longer exist.
Thanks, but can you give the specific references please? I'm guessing these are in his main text, but where specifically? I'll make note of them. Do you have any idea where these texts could be found today?
Ones quoted in the Siksa-samuccaya. I have it on good authority that they’re all hidden in a cave in Afghanistan, next to the missing Iraqi WMDs and the cure for cancer.
the longer versions of the tantras which are no longer extant
Which ones? The more specific, the better.
For instance there is supposed to be a longer root Tantra of Kalachakra. Many tantras assert that they are shortened versions of much longer texts. Whether these were ever revealed in the human realm is questionable though.

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PeterC
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Re: Lost texts

Post by PeterC » Wed May 06, 2020 1:03 am

avatamsaka3 wrote:
Wed May 06, 2020 1:00 am
an invitation and proper academic credentials you can just go look at them.
Don't have either of those.
Then your question would seem to be a little...academic?

avatamsaka3
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Re: Lost texts

Post by avatamsaka3 » Wed May 06, 2020 1:05 am

Then your question would seem to be a little...academic?
Great, so what.

avatamsaka3
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Re: Lost texts

Post by avatamsaka3 » Wed May 06, 2020 1:52 am

Ones quoted in the Siksa-samuccaya.
Thanks.
For instance there is supposed to be a longer root Tantra of Kalachakra. Many tantras assert that they are shortened versions of much longer texts. Whether these were ever revealed in the human realm is questionable though.
And thanks.

humble.student
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Re: Lost texts

Post by humble.student » Wed May 06, 2020 7:12 am

PeterC wrote:
Wed May 06, 2020 12:57 am
National library of China, BeiDa, MinzuDa. They aren’t restricted, with an invitation and proper academic credentials you can just go look at them. The problem is that there is a lot of uncategorized material sitting around in storerooms and that’s where the interesting texts would be.
Unfortunately not so simple. This article provides a good (but depressing) overview of the state of the field: http://www.downloads.prajnaquest.fr/Boo ... leaves.pdf

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PeterC
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Re: Lost texts

Post by PeterC » Wed May 06, 2020 9:20 am

humble.student wrote:
Wed May 06, 2020 7:12 am
PeterC wrote:
Wed May 06, 2020 12:57 am
National library of China, BeiDa, MinzuDa. They aren’t restricted, with an invitation and proper academic credentials you can just go look at them. The problem is that there is a lot of uncategorized material sitting around in storerooms and that’s where the interesting texts would be.
Unfortunately not so simple. This article provides a good (but depressing) overview of the state of the field: http://www.downloads.prajnaquest.fr/Boo ... leaves.pdf
Thanks for that

It is, perhaps stating the obvious, written from the perspective of an outsider. It's very clear that scholars who are not part of and trusted by the PRC academic community will not be able to do this kind of research in the forseeable future. A lot of the scholars outside China working in this field hold political stances, explicitly or implicitly, that mean they will never meet this standard. However the bigger hurdle is actually time on the ground getting to know the relevant people - an appointment at a Chinese university, building the trust of the relevant academic/government community, etc. Would take years and I don't think it's the sort of investment most scholars outside China are willing to make. Government will see no particular upside and possibly quite a lot of downside in letting random foreigners come and look at troves of ancient documents, so it's not a decision they'll take lightly or something they'll allow untrusted individuals to do. There are a few Chinese researchers in China who have that access and can work on these documents - the article mentions a couple but there are more - but understandably that isn't a very large community, and they have no particular interest in integrating into the academic community outside China, nor does the academic community outside China really make them feel welcome. So the materials remain under-explored.

humble.student
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Re: Lost texts

Post by humble.student » Wed May 06, 2020 9:25 am

PeterC wrote:
Wed May 06, 2020 9:20 am

Thanks for that

It is, perhaps stating the obvious, written from the perspective of an outsider. It's very clear that scholars who are not part of and trusted by the PRC academic community will not be able to do this kind of research in the forseeable future. A lot of the scholars outside China working in this field hold political stances, explicitly or implicitly, that mean they will never meet this standard. However the bigger hurdle is actually time on the ground getting to know the relevant people - an appointment at a Chinese university, building the trust of the relevant academic/government community, etc. Would take years and I don't think it's the sort of investment most scholars outside China are willing to make. Government will see no particular upside and possibly quite a lot of downside in letting random foreigners come and look at troves of ancient documents, so it's not a decision they'll take lightly or something they'll allow untrusted individuals to do. There are a few Chinese researchers in China who have that access and can work on these documents - the article mentions a couple but there are more - but understandably that isn't a very large community, and they have no particular interest in integrating into the academic community outside China, nor does the academic community outside China really make them feel welcome. So the materials remain under-explored.
Yes, that is true. And in the meantime, the manuscripts continue to moulder.

avatamsaka3
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Re: Lost texts

Post by avatamsaka3 » Wed May 06, 2020 9:53 pm

Maybe there's some lost stuff in India/Nepal that could be uncovered. I hear Mongolia also has treasure troves of untranslated / undocumented texts.

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Grigoris
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Re: Lost texts

Post by Grigoris » Wed May 06, 2020 10:37 pm

avatamsaka3 wrote:
Wed May 06, 2020 9:53 pm
Maybe there's some lost stuff in India/Nepal that could be uncovered. I hear Mongolia also has treasure troves of untranslated / undocumented texts.
And you are going to translate them?
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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PeterC
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Re: Lost texts

Post by PeterC » Thu May 07, 2020 1:32 am

avatamsaka3 wrote:
Wed May 06, 2020 9:53 pm
Maybe there's some lost stuff in India/Nepal that could be uncovered. I hear Mongolia also has treasure troves of untranslated / undocumented texts.
During the purges a Mongolian monk took a huge amount of books, ritual items, etc., mostly passed down from Zanabazar, out into the desert and buried them in airtight containers. Hundreds of crates, done by night over a period of months. Only a couple of people from that monks family know where they are. They’ve dug up one or two but since there are no secure places to store everything - theft from museums and monasteries is still a problem - they’re leaving it in the ground for now.

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