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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 13, 2014

Looking into water-pots and over a Buddhist scribe's shoulder – On the deposition and the use of manuscripts in early Buddhism

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The article investigates the modes of use of early Buddhist manuscripts in a monastic environment. Based mainly on the evidence of archaeological and manuscript data from North-West India (Gandhāra) it discusses the circumstances under which manuscripts were produced, used and deposited by early Buddhist communities. In this regard, the article critically evaluates the hy-pothesis of a “ritual burial” of manuscripts in the stūpas of “Greater Gandhāra”. A special paragraph is devoted to the unique birch-bark manuscript of a portion of the Prātimokṣasūtra from the Bajaur Collection of Kharoṣṭhī manuscripts. The two sides of the birch-bark contain two different versions of the initial part of the naiḥsārgika pātayantika chapter of the Prātimokṣasūtra. A comparison with known canonical texts shows that these two versions can be associated with two different Prātimokṣasūtra traditions. They are, however, not identical with any of the known versions which are usually attributed to specific Buddhist schools (nikāyas). It therefore seems justified to characterise them as proto-canonical or/and local/regional versions of this fundamental text. The analysis of the language and the contents of the two versions allows cautious conclusions about certain aspects of the role of writing and of manuscripts in the emergence of authoritative canonical texts within Buddhist textual traditions.

Published Online: 2014-11-13
Published in Print: 2014-11-1

©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Munich/Boston

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