Khyentse Foundation Supports Donation of Ancient Gandhari Buddhist Manuscripts to Pakistan

- through Henry Oudin

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Exchange of agreements between Dr Abdul Azeem, Director General of the Department of Archeology and Museums of Pakistan, and Dr Mark Allon of the University of Sydney. Image courtesy of Khyentse Foundation

The Khyentse Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by renowned Bhutanese lama, filmmaker and author Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, has announced that a significant collection of 2-year-old Buddhist manuscripts in the Gandhari language and Kharoshthi script has been donated at the Islamabad Museum. In Pakistan.

The approximately 50-60 birchbark scrolls and scroll fragments of Buddhist texts represent the largest collection of Gandhari birch scrolls known to date and, based on preliminary paleographic analysis and dating to radiocarbon of some manuscripts, they are thought to date from the first century BCE to the second century CE.

“The collection preserves a wide variety of text types that testify to the rich Buddhist literary culture of Gandhara, a region corresponding to present-day northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. Examples of texts from the early period of Buddhist literature are a Gandhari version of what is known in Pali as the "Chapter of Eight" (Atthakavagga), which is part of the canonical text. Suttanipataand a section of the discipline of monks (pratimoksa) rules,” the Khyentse Foundation said in an announcement shared with BDG. “Indeed, these manuscript finds and the like have been called the Dead Sea Scrolls of Buddhism. »

An excerpt from a new verse biography of the Buddha; published in the Journal of the International Association for Buddhist Studies 44 (2021): 355–401. Image courtesy of Khyentse Foundation

The Khyentse Foundation was founded by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in 2001 with the aim of promoting the teachings of the Buddha and supporting all traditions of Buddhist study and practice. The foundation's activities include major text preservation and translation projects, support for monastic colleges in Asia, a worldwide scholarship and awards program, the development of Buddhist studies at major universities, training and development Buddhist teachers and the development of new Dharma-inspired education for children.

"The Islamabad Museum's collection of Gandhari manuscripts is, in fact, one of many such collections to have surfaced since the early 1990s. These other collections of manuscripts, all of which must have originated in Pakistan or Afghanistan, have found their way into the antiquities market, with some donated to major public institutions such as the British Library and others ending up in private collections in Europe, Japan, Pakistan. , and the United States,” the Khyentse Foundation observed.

With the support of the Khyentse Foundation, the donation was made to the Museum of Islamabad under an agreement between the Department of Archeology and Museums of Pakistan (DOAM) and the University of Sydney, with the assistance from the Australian High Commission in Islamabad and the Pakistan High Commission in Canberra. The deal was formalized at the Museum of Islamabad on December 20 last year by the Director General of DOAM, Dr. Abdul Azeem, in the presence of the Secretary of Pakistan's National Heritage and Culture Division, Fareena Mazhar.

Une partie de la Discourse on Direct Encounter Meditation with the Buddhas of the Present (Pratyutpannabuddhasammukhavasthitasamadhi-sutra), published in the Journal of the International Association for Buddhist Studies 41 (2018): 117-43. Image courtesy of Khyentse Foundation

“The Islamabad Museum collection is unique in that it has found a permanent home in a major public institution in Pakistan. This agreement sets a precedent for the reversal of the common scenario that these materials were taken out of the region as part of the antiquities trade, resulting in a great loss of cultural heritage for Pakistan and Afghanistan,” explained the Khyentse Foundation. . "Housing these Gandhari manuscripts in the Islamabad Museum and their preservation there will form the basis for collaboration with Pakistani scholars and training of Pakistani students to promote the conservation and study of these manuscripts. materials and documentation of Pakistan's rich Buddhist heritage. »

Under this agreement, the collection of manuscripts will be curated, analysed, digitized and published by the Gandhari Manuscript Project (GMP), an international team of researchers led by Professor Mark Allon of the University of Sydney. The team is made up of experts in Buddhist literature, languages, history, art, archeology and epigraphy of ancient Gandhara, as well as digital humanities and museum governance and curation.*

"These new manuscripts are invaluable for the study of the development of Buddhist thought in South Asia, the transmission of Buddhism in China, and the history of Buddhism in ancient Gandhara (a region corresponding to the north of present-day Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan), South Asia more generally, and Central Asia and China,” the University of Sydney noted. “They are also central to our study of Buddhist languages ​​and literature, providing examples of previously unknown texts and very early copies of known texts in other languages, such as Pali, Sanskrit and Chinese. . (The University of Sydney)

An unpreserved roll of birch bark. Image courtesy of Khyentse Foundation

Achievements of the Khyentse Foundation over the past 20 years include: over 15 million pages of Buddhist texts preserved and posted online; the education provided to the children of more than 1 families; support for Buddhist studies at more than 000 major universities through endowed chairs and professorships, support for graduates, and the establishment of centers for Buddhist studies; more than $35 million in sponsorship for Buddhist teacher training awarded; sacred Buddhist texts translated into more than 15 languages, through the efforts of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, the Kumarajiva Project, and the Khyentse Vision Project; more than $1,8 million in funding awarded to support Buddhism in its home countries, including local partnerships to revitalize interest in Buddhism in India; more than 2 scholarships and awards in recognition of excellence in Buddhist study and practice; supporting over 000 monks and nuns to maintain the tradition of Buddhist scholarship in a monastic setting; and over 3 open-access Ashoka and Trisong scholarships distributed to support Dharma and wellness programs.

* The University of Sydney in Australia is seeking crowdfunding for Buddhist Gandhari (BDG) texts, scholars move closer to understanding and sharing ancient Buddhist manuscripts (BDG), and an ethical complaint about Gandharian manuscripts leads to Australian academic warning (BDG)

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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