Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Recovering ancient texts of Gandhāra

Bark unto Dust: Recovering the Ancient Buddhist Texts of Gandhāra (UC Berkeley)

Between 1994 and the present, several collections of early Indian Buddhist manuscripts written in the Gāndhārī language and Kharoṣṭhī script have come to light. Significant as the earliest (1st-2nd cent. CE) texts of any type yet to have been discovered in greater South Asia, these texts also provide unparalleled evidence for reconstructing the early history of Buddhist text styles and textual collections.

These early Gāndhārī Buddhist manuscripts are currently being studied and published under the auspices of the Early Buddhist Manuscripts Project (University of Washington).

Following a brief overview of the collections and of certain methodological and text-critical issues that these manuscripts raise, this presentation will explore the practical side of working with such manuscripts, from the initial stages of preservation and reconstruction through the process of formulating an edition, translation, and contextual interpretation.

After setting out the specifics of manuscript work, the discussion will turn to one particular manuscript, a fragment of a polemical, scholastic or Abhidharma text that treats the controversial issue, "everything exists." We will examine, as time permits, its contents, its argument structure, and its significance for the emergence of the scholastic commentarial genre and for our understanding of early Indian Buddhist sectarianism. More>>

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