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Nagarjuna Buddhist Foundation

National Seminar
March 7-9, 2006
Min Bahadur shakya
Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods
A center for Buddhist Studies

Title of the Paper: Exploring Sanskrit Buddhist Canon

Exploring Sanskrit Buddhist canon
Restoration of lost Sanskrit Buddhist literature and its importance
Digitization of Sanskrit Buddhist canon

I. Introduction:

We know that the various editions of Tibetan Kanjur contain the translation of the most of the
important texts of Sanskrit Buddhist canons. In the catalogue index of Tibetan Kanjur prepared
by Dharma Publishing there are more than 1000 Sanskrit titles in it.

Among them only 10 percent are available in original Sanskrit.

The canons of other schools of the Hinayana are largely identical to the Pali canonical tradition
of the Theravada; however, they are however compiled in other languages or dialects

The Vinaya Pitaka is found without too much variation in almost all schools.

The Sutta pitaka shows more variations, however, none of them being of a fundamental
nature. In Sanskrit it is mostly referred to as the Agama Pitaka. The large body of literature
concerning Agama texts is available only in Chinese Translations. Often Agama texts are longer
than Sutta texts.

Concerning the Abhidhamma Pitaka there is no agreement with Abhidharma literature in

Sanskrit. This could be explained by the later date of the redaction.

A lot of Sanskrit texts have been lost and only are extant in their Chinese and or Tibetan

Besides the Theravada school, the only other school with a completed (i.e. closed) canon is the
Mulasarvastivada school.

A great number of fragments are still being discovered, mostly in Sanskrit or Central Asian
languages (Sogdian, Tokhari, Khotanese,).

II. Exploration of Sanskrit Buddhist Canon
Nepal, Central Asia, Gilgit, Beijing-China, Tibetan Autonomous regions, Japan,
UK/USA, will be dealt with.

I. Nepal has the largest repository of Buddhist Sanskrit literature dealing with different
aspects of Mahayana creeds and practices. The monk scholars as well as Vajracharya
Pandits have contributed in producing and preserving Buddhist manuscripts

It was not until the advent of Sir Brian B. Hodgson (1824-1842 AD.) a British diplomat
in Nepal, discovered a great number of Sanskrit Buddhist manuscripts in Nepal.

The existence of these Sanskrit Buddhist Manuscripts before his time was unknown, and
his discovery entirely revolutionized the history of Buddhism, as Europeans knew it in
the early part of this century. Copies of these works, totaling 381 bundles of manuscripts
have been distributed so as to render them accessible to European scholars.

Of these 86 eighty-six manuscripts comprising 179 separate works, many were presented
to Asiatic Society of Bengal:1
85 to the Royal Asiatic Society of London;
30 to the Indian Office Library;
7 to the Bodleian Library, Oxford;
174 to the Société Asiatique, and to French scholar Eugene Bernouf.
The last two collections have since been deposited in the Bibliothèque Nationale of

It is in Nepal that most of the Sanskrit Buddhist documents have been found. Most of the
manuscripts originally preserved in Nepal have been carried out of the country by the
pioneers of the modern Indology.
At present following organizations are working hard for the preservation of these
Sanskrit Buddhist mss in Nepal.
1. National Archives: It has recently published a catalogue of all the important Sanskrit
Buddhist texts numbering 1800.
2. Nepal German Mss.Preservation Project: NGMPP has published a catalogue of all
microfilmed mss from National archive and the center’s collection.
3. Asha Archives In collaboration with the Buddhist Library of Japan, Nagoya, the
Asha Archives has recently completed the digitalization of its 7025
titles of manuscripts. All the manuscripts including their paintings and illuminations
are available on CD-ROM (368 cd's) The Collections in this archives there are several
valuable collections of palmleaf, loose leaf pothi and folded manuscripts .
4. Keshar Library: .Keshar Library has preserved valuable Buddhist Mss which is worth
mentioning dating back as early as 13th century..
II. Central Asia:
A summary of contents of 85 Mss was published as Sanskrit Buddhist literature of Nepal by Rajendra Lal
Mitra in 1882 published by The Asiatic Society of Bengal,Calcutta.

As we discussed, the discovery of Sanskrit Buddhist manuscripts in Nepal has
revolutionized the history of Buddhism and its academic study.
In the beginning of the 20th century, from a series of missions in Central Asia
Prof.A.F. Rudolf Hoernle, Prof. Stein Konow, Prof. A. Stein and others have reported
an existence of number of Sanskrit Buddhist Manuscripts, Prakrit,Uigurs,Sogdian,
Tokhania and others in Central Asia2.. As much as 33 Sanskrit Buddhist texts were
published in fragments or some in full text. The Central Asia Manuscripts belong to
all the major form of Buddhism.
Some of these important texts are as follows:
1. Samgiti Sutra-Dirghagama
2. Atanatia sutra-Dirghagama
3. Upali Sutra-Madhyamagama
4. Suka Sutra-Madhyamagama
5. Pravarana Sutra-Samuktagama
6. Candropama Sutra-do
7. Sakti Sutra-do
8. Ratnarasi sutra-Ratnakuta Class
9. Ratnadhvaja Sutra-Mahasannipata class
10. Candragarbha Sutra-do
11. Bhadrapala Sutra-do
12. Mahaparinirvana Sutra-Nirvana class
13. Suramgama samadhi sutra and several others.

II. Gilgit Manuscripts:

In 1931 Several Buddhist Sanskrit Manuscripts were discovered in a Stupa near Gilgit
in Kashmir.The Manuscripts were written in 5th or 6th century A.D and are some of
the earliest manuscripts discovered at the times.Most of these mss. are known through
Chinese and Tibetan translations and not in their original Sanskrit.

Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Nalinkasa Dutta who edited and published a series of rare
texts worthy of praise and admiration. These titles are
1. Samadhiraja sutra –
2.Vajrachedika Prajnaparamita
6.Mulasarvastivadavinaya vastu
7.Arya Buddhabaladhana sutra
9.Sri mahadevi vyakaranam
10.Sarvatathagata adhisthana vyuha and so forth.3
The report was published in the text" Manuscript remains of Buddhist literature found in Eastern
Turkestan" published by Sri Satguru Publication-Delhi , 1988 and first Oxford edition at 1916
Gilgit Manuscripts four volumes-9 parts published by Sri Satguru Publications,

III.. Afganistan:

Another important discovery is the Schoyen's collections



Buddhist manuscripts smuggled out of Afghanistan now in Norwegian collection of

Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan acquired by Martin Schoyen are now kept in his
private manuscript collection4. The Norwegian media has written quite a bit about the
Schoyen-collection in the course of the last few months. The coverage was initially
positive, but lately more critical views regarding the collection have been aired. The
Egyptian authorities, through their ambassador, are now considering a claim on the return
of Egyptian objects in the collection. The current debate in Norway concerning the
Schoyen-collection The Norwegian collector Martin Schoyen is the formal owner of the
alleged largest private collection of ancient manuscripts in the world.


I) Sutra:
a) Agama:
1. Camgisutra, -Jens-Uwe Hartmann
2. Fragments from the Mahaparinirvanasutra, Klaus Wille
3. Fragments of a Sanskrit Version of the Andhasutta, of a Sutra on the Three Bad Moral
Qualities of Devadatta, and of a Kavikumaravadana, - Siglinde Dietz
b) Mahayana:
4. New fragments from the Astasåhasrikå Prajñaparamita of the Kusana period,

Parts of the collection are presented on a web-page (in English) by the

Norwegian National Library:

Lore Sander
5. Candrottaradarikavyakara, -Jens Braarvig, Paul Harrison
6. Fragments of the Saddharmapundarikasutra, Hirofumi Toda
7. Samadhirajasutra, Andrew Skilton
8. Larger Sukhåvativyuha, Paul Harrison, Jens-Uwe Hartmann,
Kazunobu Matsuda
9. Another Fragment of the Ajåtasatrukaukrtyavinodanasutra,
Paul Harrison, Jens-Uwe Hartmann
II) Vinaya:
1. Mahåsånghika-vinaya, Seishi Karashima
2. Manuscript Remains of a Karmavacana Collection:
III) Abhidharma:
1. Three Fragments Related to the Sariputra-Abhidharma, Kazunobu Matsuda

IV) Miscellaneous:
1. 2nd century Abhidharma Commentary, Lambert Schmithausen,
Lore Sander, Jens Braarvig
2. A Sanskrit Fragment Mentioning King Huviska as a Follower of the Mahayana,
Richard Salomon
4. Jyotiskavadana, Stefan Baums
5. Poetical Texts
Buddhastotras by Matrceta, Jens-Uwe Hartmann
The Jatakamala of AryaSura, Jens-Uwe Hartmann
Haribatta’s Jatakamala, Michael Hahn

IV. Discovery of Buddhist Manuscript in Tibetan Autonomous regions

In year 2004, Prof. ERNST STEINKELLNER published his extensive article"

-On Sanskrit Manuscripts in Tibet, their Past and their Future"

Here is the summary of his article.

The Tibetan kingdom reached the apex of its power and extension by the end of the 8th century
A.D. and the new religion was officially adopted by king Khri-srong lde-btsan (755-797AD)for

his people in 779 AD. The first monastery, bSam-yas, was founded in A.D. 775_ with the help of
the famous Indian scholar Santaraks ita who ordained the first Tibetan monks in A.D. 779

Translating the scriptures and scholastic treatises, mainly from Sanskrit, but also from Chinese,
was considered to be a major task during this period. The following kings, particularly
Khri-gtsug lde-btsana lias Ral-pa-can (A.D. 815-841), _ continued this policy. The list of works
deposited in the palace of lHan-kar. Aa_ mentions seven hundred and twenty-two texts translated
and seven texts under preparation.

All these translations were done by teams consisting of Indian, Tibetan and
Chinese monastic scholars. For the translations of Sanskrit texts these teams must

have been working on the basis of manuscripts brought from the Indian Buddhist

What happened to these original materials after they were translated into Tibetan, we can
only guess. They were certainly treated carefully and with the highest respect and in all
probability safely kept in the royal palaces and the early temples, much in the same way as
they were kept in later times.

The so-called ‘‘later spread of the doctrine’’was initiated by the fervently Buddhist kings of the
Western Tibetan kingdom. It began with king Ye-ses-’od’s strong efforts to re-establish the links
to authoritative Buddhist traditions. Young Tibetans were sent to neighboring Kashmir and its
monasteries to learn the language of the Holy Scriptures, to translate, and to acquire Sanskrit
manuscripts to be translated in the new royal realm.

Rin-chen bzan -po, the leading figure of this period, reportedly worked on one hundred and sixty-

eight translations. Another Indian scholar of renown was invited to Western Tibet. Atisa (A.D.
982-1054) who subsequently went to Central Tibet to continue his missionary work. Monastic
centres soon began to develop again

Again Tibetans went to India and Nepal, and Indian scholars, monks and practitioners were
invited to Tibet. Manuscripts were imported once more and translated in much the same way they
had been during the old kingdom.

Clearly the influx of Indian Buddhists and Buddhist material from the 11th century onwards was
also substantially enhanced by the fact that Muslim raids swept through Northern India with
steadily increasing pressure during this period.

The great centers of Buddhist learning as for example in the Pala realm, were destroyed near the
turn to the thirteenth century, and with them their libraries"_: Odantapura, Vikramasila ,
Somapura, and Jagaddala. Nalanda ,"_ founded before the middle of the _th century, was already a
ruin when the Chag lotsaba Chos rjes- dpal alias Dharmasvamin visited. The libraries had long
ago been turned to ashes, and Dharmasvamin could not take a single manuscript back home.

All the manuscripts he brought back to Tibet were acquired in Nepal. Now we have to imagine
Indian refugees who went with their most precious treasures, consisting again, mainly of
manuscripts, to Nepal and even further to Tibet for safety.

Sanskrit Manuscripts in Sakya Monastery:

In Sa-skya, the Sanskrit manuscripts were kept in the so-called Phyag-dpe lhakhan
(’Manuscript-Chapel’). In this context Sankrityayana’s vivid description of his first visit
to these treasures was outstanding and marvelous. Thanks to Indian genious- a man called
Rahula who brought a great deal of Sanskrit Buddhist manuscripts from these Tibetan
monasteries and has been preserved at Bihar Research Society.
The list is given at the appendix.

K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute

In this aspect K.P.Jayaswal Research Institute has done a commendable job in publishing
important texts which were received from Tibet from Rahula 's expedition in Tibet.. I'd
like to express my special thanks and offer my obeisance to these scholars who worked
on this project of publication of these texts. Among these outstanding scholars of
international repute Prof. Karunesh Shukla is one of them who edited and worked on
Shravaka bhumi text energetically and thoroughly. Other Scholars are as follows:
Gustabh Roth, Padmanabha Jain, Ananta Lal Thakur, Nalinaksa Dutta, and so on.

V. New Sanskrit Buddhist texts from Japan

Vimalakîrtinirdesa and Jñânâlokâlamkâra

Sanskrit texts collated with Tibetan and Chinese translations

The Vimalakîrtinirdesa ("The Teaching of Vimalakirti") is one of the most well known
Mahayana sutra among Buddhist countries in Asia. The complete Sanskrit text had been
considered lost until a delegation team of Taisho University found out the complete and
beautiful palm-leaf manuscript at the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet
Autonomous Region. The news of the discovery of the manuscript was released in the
end of 1999.

  The Sanskrit manuscript of the Vimalakîrtinirdesa is preserved together with the

Jñânâlokâlamkâra mahâyânasûtra in the same bundle. This mahayanasutra is one of the
important sources for the study of the Tathâgatagarbha philosophy, for it is often cited in
the Ratnagotravibhâga.The bundle of both important Sanskrit manuscripts are
reproduced as the facsimile edition.

Apart from these two imporant texts, there are other such as
Siddhaikaviramahatantra Chapter II by Nobuo Otsuka.
Siddhaikaviramahatantra Chapter III by Hideaki Kimura.
The Script of the Sravakabhumi Manuscript by Koshin Suzuki.
On the inserted verses among the citation from Prajnopayaviniscayavidhi IV in
Samputodbhavatantra II-ii by Keiya Noguchi.
Dakarnavamahayoginitantra Chapter 15 by Takashi Maeda.
Vajra-dhatu-mukh'akhyana-deguri-vidhih IV by Mitsutoshi Moriguchi.
Index to the Hetuvidya Text of the Yogacarabhumi by Hideomi Yaita/ Masahiro
Dvadasanga-pratityasamutpadah by Takayasu Kimura.

VI.Early Buddhist Manuscripts Project-UK/USA

Project history: The British Library / University of Washington Early Buddhist

Manuscripts Project was founded in September 1996 in order to promote the study,
editing, and publication of a unique collection of fifty‐seven fragments of Buddhist
manuscripts on birch bark scrolls, written in the Kharoṣṭhī script and the Gāndhārī
(Prakrit) language that were acquired by the British Library in 1994.

The manuscripts date from, most likely, the first century A.D., and as such are the oldest
surviving Buddhist texts, which promise to provide unprecedented insights into the early
history of Buddhism in north India and in central and east Asia. Research findings and
translations are being presented in publications of the University of Washington Press.

VII. People's Republic of China



The Research Institute of Sanskrit Manuscripts and Buddhist Literature were established
under the Department of Oriental Languages of the School of Foreign Languages and are
currently under the direction of Professor Dr. Duan Qing. Missions of the Research
Institute include:

- Compilation, cataloguing and research on the palm leaves manuscripts preserved

in the National Archive of Ethnic Cultures in Beijing.

- Extensive investigation, compilation and research on palm leaves manuscripts

found across China .

- Project of the compilation of a Sanskrit-Chinese dictionary.

- Establishment of a trilingual lexicon database (Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese)

based on comparative research on manuscripts and Buddhist scriptural texts.

- Training of Tibetan scholars who intend to specialize in palm leaves


As an effort to promote studies of Buddhist texts around the world, the Research Institute
will publish periodically in the internet facsimiles of Sanskrit palm leaves, together with
transliteration and trilingual comparative texts (Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese). Such
valuable Sanskrit textual resources will thus be made readily available to Indologists and
Buddhist scholars worldwide.

Since the discovery of the Dunhuang Manuscript Cave in 1990, a new academic
discipline - "Dunhuang Studies" sprang up, attracting international attention. As
so much attention has been focused on Dunhuang, let us not forget that there is
yet another Manuscript Cave, that is, a substantial collection of Sanskrit
Manuscripts preserved in Tibetan and other parts of China. As they are now
made available to us, these manuscripts deserve our serious attention. Our
endeavor to compile and conduct research on them is an on-going and long-
termed project, demanding supports in various ways, financially and technically
from interested parties worldwide.

3. Importance of Restoration of Sanskrit Buddhist texts

It is believed that there had been a separate Sanskrit Buddhist canon in older
period but it does not exist now. Because due to the destruction of Nalanda and
Vikramashila monasteries and its libraries a great deal of Sanskrit texts had been

Most of the agama literature, Mahayana Sutras, and Shastras are not extant now
and is available only in fragments.

In this context the works of individual scholars are praise worthy. There are
galaxies of scholar authors in India who are worthy to mention and are
commendable for their outstanding restoration works.

In this aspect Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, has done a

commendable job in restoring a number of Sanskrit texts from Tibetan sources.
A bulk of shastra literature of the Buddhists has already been restored into
Sanskrit and some of them are waiting for publication. Their next venture is the
restoration of lost Mahayana sutra literature from Tibetan or Chinese.

In this act of restoration works, scholars from Vishva-bharati Shanti niketan,

Adyar Library, Delhi University, K.P.Jayaswal Research Institute and others are
worthy of mention.

4. Digitization of Sanskrit Buddhist canon:

The Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods (NIEM) is a non-profit, educational
foundation. Our goal is to promote research into the vast Sanskrit Buddhist Canon.
The scriptures and treatises, which make up this canon, encompass over a hundred
thousand pages.

The Sanskrit Buddhist Canon CD-ROM Project will make all these texts available at
low cost and in computer readable form.

Over the past 12 years, NIEM has established a solid basis in scholarship and
organization. We are accelerating our work by broadening our support and applying
the latest in computer technology. We need the financial and moral support of all
those who recognize the importance of Buddhism for today's world. Through this
support, we hope to complete the Sanskrit Buddhist Canon CD-ROM project in 5
years. It is the nature of this project than the more support we receive; the faster it can
be completed.

Significance of the Project

• Electronic access to Sanskrit Buddhist texts, with all its profound implications for
enhancing the power, scope and subtlety of research, has been a desideratum of
the field for quite some time. Clearly, the conversion of the Buddhist canons into
machine-readable format is an idea whose time has come. We will begin with the
published editions of the Sanskrit Buddhist texts published from the beginning of
this century. About 200 Sanskrit Buddhist texts are available to day in printed
• The availability of all the Sanskrit language texts on CD-ROM will be an
important milestone in Buddhist scholarship, and the inclusion of the English
preface will make this CD-ROM immensely useful to educators and non-
specialists. We are trying to publish and disseminate these texts in electronic
First Phase Plan of work
In year 2003, University of the West, Los Angeles under the generous sponsorship of
Most Venerable Master Hsing Yun and under the active initiatives of Prof. Lewis
Lancaster Sanskrit Buddhist Canon Project (SBCP) began with the initial grants for
the input of 50 Mahayana sutras to be completed in the year 2005.
Our second phase (2006)
It will be the input of about 100 Shastra titles. The input of Shastra titles such as
works of Acarya Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Asanga, Vasubandhu has already commenced
and will be completed at the end of year 2007.

For the list of completed titles

See and subsequent updates.

I appeal to outstanding Sanskrit Buddhist scholars and academics to put a concerted
effort in restoring these texts which are available only in Chinese and Tibetan

The scholars around the world especially Sanskrit scholars from Indian subcontinent
who were the up keepers of Sanskrit heritage are requested to help and support this
venture by providing the texts and expertise. Your support definitely will make this
venture a successful one.

Manuscripts Collections of Rahul Sankrityayana
Preserved in Bihar Research Society-Patna
S.No Description of Negative films Negative film No. F/P/V
1 Bhutadamara tantra 22
2 Chag lo bbarm 6
3 Kalacakratika 11
4 Kalacakratika 10
5 Kriyasamuccaya 16
6 Hetubindutika 30
7a Ashvaghosa 2
7b Hevajrasadhana 57
8 Title unknown 8
9 Suddhachar 10
10 Vinayasutra 16
11 Vinayasutratika 5
12 Abhidharmasamuccaya 4
13 Nyayabindu anutika 24
14 Abhidharmasamuccayatika 11
15a Abhidharmapradipa 16
15b Tarkarahasya 10
16 do 2
17 Arthaviniscaya 17
18 do 1
19 Subhasitaratnam 6
20 Pancakramadi 43
21 Cakrasamvara 1
22 Darshan evam cakrasamvara 3
23 Darshan 2
24 Pratimoksa 4
25 Jnanasiddhi Madhyanta vibhaga 3
26 do 1
27 Sastikala Madhyanta Nyayasiddhi 1
28 do 1
29 Vartikalamkara 82
30 Simhala 6
31 Herukasadhan 5
32 Herukasadhan 1
33 Dhammapada 4

34 Jnanasrimitranibandhavali 52
35 Bodhisattvabhumi 30
36 Je Sutra 9
37 Vimsikavritti 6
38 Nyayasiddhi 3
39 Hetubindu anutika 8
40 Nir 4
41 Upasampadajnapti 4
42 Hevajratippani 4
43 Hevajratika 6
44 Amarkosh 4
45 Amarkoshtika 4
46 do 4
47 Vajrasuchi 4
48 Picture and Manuscript 57
49 Shamanerakarikatika 19
50 Mahayanottaratantra 5
51 Mahayanottaratantratika 8
52 Pramanavartikatika 58
53 Pramanavartikatika 3
54 Pramanavartika prajnalamkara 2
55 Prajnalamkara sarvajnasiddhi 1
56 Sarvajnasiddhi 2
57 Sarvajnasiddhi sahopalambha 2
58 Chandoratnam 3
59 Pratimoksasutra tika 10
60 Mahakalatantra evam tika 16
61 Mahakalacakra 15
62 Vinayasutravritti 10
63 Vinayakarika 4
64 Kalacakra 24
65 Saratama 42
66 Yogacarabhumi 44
67 Shravakabhumi 31
68 Hevajratika 51
69 Bhiksuprakirnaka 71
70 do 11
71 Ratnakirti Nibandhavali 22
72 Arthavidhi 28
73 Vadarahasya 26
74 do 10

75 Abhidharmakoshbhasya 63
76 Tamil 11
77 Tamil 27
78 Tamil 25
79 Simhala 13
80 Simhala 24
81 Chandravyakaranatika 50