MS 2179/44
Description MS in Gandhari on palm-leaf, India, 2nd to early 3rd c., 6 partial ff., originally ca. 4x40? cm, single column, (ca. 3,5x38? cm), 3 lines in a late Kharosthi book script.
Binding India, 2nd to early 3rd c., Poti with 1 string hole dividing the leaves 85 % - 15 %.
Context MSS 2179, 2372-2386 and 2416 come from a Library that must have been of considerable size originally, maybe 1400 MSS or more. It probably belonged to a Buddhist monastery of Mahasanghika which was in Bamiyan, according to the report of the Chinese monk, Xuan Zhang (604-662) who visited this monastery in the 7th c. A few fragments with Karosthi script from the same library are in a private collection in Japan. Further 60 birch bark scrolls and fragments in Karosthi script in British Library, which according to Prof. Richard Salomon are "The Dead Sea Scrolls of Buddhism" (The Times, 26.06.1996). Similar fragments were in the Hackin collection in Kabul Museum, which was destroyed during the recent Afghan civil war. There are 725 leaves and fragments with similar scripts from this period found in Chinese Turkistan, now in Berlin. MSS 2179/44, 2544, 2552 and 2564 contain the same sutra. The original numbers of this MS was MS 2179/44, 2179/65, 2179/108 and 2179/109.
Provenance 1. Buddhist monastery of Mahasanghika, Bamiyan, Afghanistan (-7th c.); 2. Cave in Hindu Kush, Bamiyan.
Commentary This version is the earliest known, different from and predating the Sanskrit version. According to C-14 dating this MS could be as early as 1st century AD. The hoard contains a great number of hitherto unknown Buddhist texts, as well as the oldest surviving MS testimony to some of the most important texts of Mahayana Buddhism. Among these are the by far oldest Prajnaparamita MSS known (2nd-3rd c.) This literature is the earliest scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism. The Mahasanghikas are regarded as the traditional Buddhist school, which first propagated Mahayana ideas. The present collection stands right at the roots of the formation of Mahayana Buddhism, and is its single most important source.
Published Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection I, Jens Braarvig, Editor-in-chief: Buddhist manuscripts, vol. 1. Oslo 2000.
Exhibited Special exhibition for H.H. The Dalai Lama, Oslo, 8.5.2014.
Place of origin India
Dates ca 200 AD.