MS 2379/44
Description MS in Sanskrit on palm-leaf, India, 6th c., 6 partial ff. and 41 fragments, originally ca. 3-4x35 cm, single column, (ca. 3x33 cm), 4-5 lines in a tiny delicate upright Gilgit/Bamiyan type I script.
Binding India, 6th c., Poti with 1 string hole, dividing the leaves ca. 25 % - 75 %.
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. The original numbers of this MS was MSS 2378/uf/1/1a, 2378/46, 2380/6, 2378/35, 2379/7, 2380/7, 2380/5, 2380/21, 2379/uf/1/6b, 2378/48, 2381/6, 2378/41, 2379/61, 2379/65n, 2379/65r, 2379/50, 2378/38, 2379/44.
Provenance 1. Buddhist monastery of Mahasanghika, Bamiyan, Afghanistan (-7th c.); 2. Cave in Hindu Kush, Bamiyan.
Commentary 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. Text 2 belongs to a separate MS, of 1 f. only, and contains the beginning of the text.
Published Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection I, Jens Braarvig, Editor-in-chief: Buddhist manuscripts, vol. 1. Oslo 2000.
Place of origin India
Dates 6th c.