Scriptural Formation and Authentication

Sat., Aug. 23rd, 09:00-15:30

The Formation of Canons in the Early Indian Nikāyas or Schools in the Light of the New Gāndhārī Manuscript Finds

Allon, Mark (University of Sydney, Sydney, AUS)

The new Gāndhārī manuscript finds from Afghanistan and Pakistan, which date from approximately the 1st century BCE to the 3rd or 4th century CE, are the earliest manuscript witnesses to the literature of the Indian Buddhist nikāyas or schools. This includes texts whose parallels are found in the various Tripiṭakas, or what remains of them, preserved in other languages and belonging to different nikāyas, including sections of āgamas such as the Ekottarikāgama and Vana-saṃyutta of the Saṃyutta-nikāya/Saṃyuktāgama, besides commentaries, story literature, poetical and scholastic works that are not generally classed as “canonical.” These very early text collections raise questions concerning canon-formation, such as whether the Gandhāran communities that produced these texts had fixed āgama collections and closed canons or whether this material witnesses a stage in which collections and canons were still relatively fluid and open, and whether these manuscripts, which span several centuries, witness a shift towards fixity.

This paper will address these issues and re-examine our understanding of the formation of the canons of the early Indian nikāyas, in particular that of the Pāli canon, in the light of the new Gāndhārī manuscript finds. 


Revealed (gTer-ma) Texts in the rNying ma rgyud 'bum and Authentication Strategies as Witnessed in Their Colophons

Almogi, Orna (University of Hamburg, Hamburg, GER)

The Issues of authenticity and authentication of the gTer-ma, or Revealed, literature of the rNying-ma school have been discussed in numerous occasions in the past from both emic and etic perspectives. The present paper seeks to focus on one aspect of authentication strategies to which less attention has been paid so far: It will discuss some of the colophons of such revealed texts found in the rNying ma rgyud ’bum and explore the authentication strategies found therein for which either the gTer-stons themselves or the rNying ma rgyud ’bum compilers and editors were in most cases responsible. The authentication attempts found in the colophons may be considered “silent strategies” as they commonly do not have any apologetic nature and do not resort to any explicit means towards these ends, but they do so implicitly by providing “historical” accounts related to the individual texts and their transmission. In my talk I shall present several such examples and point out to the various strategies found therein


Rethinking Canonicity within Theravāda in the Light of Sarvāstivāda Scriptures

Baba, Norihisa (University of Tokyo, Tokyo, JPN)

Despite several studies by eminent scholars on canonicity within the Mahāvihāra fraternity of the Theravāda school, the exact position that the Pāli canon occupies in the history of Indian Buddhism requires further understanding through comparative research. In this presentation, I shall discuss canonicity within the Mahāvihāra around the fifth century CE by comparing it with the Sarvāstivāda school.

I will first consider all references to the structure of the Pāli Tipiṭaka in the Pāli commentaries. While some of these commentaries give the list of texts of the Tipiṭaka that is almost similar to the canon that came down to us, they also quote source materials describing a structure partly different from it. A similar lack of unified definition of the canon is also found in Sarvāstivādin sources.

I will then focus on the definition of mahāpadesa in commentaries of the Mahāvihāra and Sarvāstivādin materials. While the former gives the authority only to sutta and vinaya, the latter makes a place for dharmatā as well. This point is arguably one of the most important differences between Mahāvihāra and Sarvāstivāda views of canonicity, which might have impacted, for example, the former’s rejection of the Mahāyānasūtras.


“The Canonisation” of the Mahāyāna Scriptures: When did the Mahāyāna Sūtras come to be called as such?

Karashima, Seishi (IRIAB, Soka University, Tokyo, JPN)

Each Mahāyāna scripture must have its own complex background and history. Probably, many of the early ones were originally transmitted in Middle Indic (i.e., Prakrits, colloquial languages) or in a mixed variety of languages, based on Middle Indic, including Sanskrit elements, which were later “translated” gradually into (Buddhist) Sanskrit. This means that when we attempt to understand early Mahāyāna scriptures properly so as to draw nearer to their original features or trace their transmission, if we restrict ourselves only to extant Sanskrit manuscripts, most of which date from the eleventh century onwards, the explanatory value of such studies is rather limited. In addition to Sanskrit texts, we should investigate all other available materials in order to flesh out their history. The Chinese translations, particularly those which were made between the second and the sixth century, thus antedating most of the extant Sanskrit manuscripts, are indispensable sources as, in most cases, the exact periods of their translations are known.

It is interesting that, except for the Achu Foguo jing (Akṣobhyasūtra), all of the oldest Chinese translations of the so-called “Mahāyāna” sūtras, which are generally accepted as being translated by Lokakṣema (fl. c. 168-189 CE), do not start with “Thus I have heard. At one time”, though the Chinese translations by Zhi Qian (fl. 222-252 CE) usually have such opening phrases. Lokakṣema entitled the texts “... jing” (經), the word jing, which was used in later periods exclusively to render the Sanskrit word sūtra, had been used earlier to render the word dharma and, hence, it does not necessarily mean “scripture” but rather “teaching”. Therefore, it is not clear whether Lokakṣema and his contemporaries recognised these texts as being “sūtras” or not.

Further, the texts, which later came to be entitled Mahāyānasūtra, are not called as such in Lokakṣema’s Chinese translations. For example, in his translation of the so-called Kāśyapaparivarta –– though it should rather be called Mahāratnakūṭa(dharmaparyāya) as this name is referred to in the text itself ––, the text is entitled *Vevulla-maṇiratna-dharmaparyāya and *Mahāratnakūṭa vevulla-dharmaparyāya. Vevulla is a vernacular form corresponding to the Sanskritised forms vaitulya and vaipulya. In the second Chinese translation of the same text by an anonymous translator, probably in the Jin Dynasty (265-420 C.E.), it is entitled *Mahāyāna-Ratnakūṭa-dharmaparyāya (or -sūtra). I assume that the earlier composers of the so-called “Mahāyāna” sūtras had named their texts vevulla / vaitulya / vaipulya (cf. Pāli vedalla, vetulla, vetulya, Buddhist Sanskrit vaidalya, Gāndhārī vehula), and only later were these titles changed to mahāyānasūtra. There are also some Mahāyāna sūtras which are never labelled as such, for example various texts of the Prajñāpāramitā. By investigating the earlier Chinese translations as well as the Chinese Buddhist catalogues, we may be able to trace the transition from vevulla to vaitulya, and then to vaipulya and finally to mahāyānasūtra. Also, in this context, I should like to point out that it is natural that the name mahāyāna does not occur in early Indian inscriptions, because the composers and followers of the Mahāyāna sūtras did not call themselves “mahāyānists” in early times.


Chinese Shadows: The Formation of the Taoist Canon in the 5th C. and its Buddhist Models

Palumbo, Antonello (SOAS, University of London, London, GBR)

A Taoist canon takes shape in southern China in the 5th c. AD, first with Lu Xiujing's production of a catalogue of scriptures in the Lingbao tradition (the one closest to Buddhism) in 437, then with the compilation by the same priest of a tripartite collection of Taoist scriptures in 471. It is generally acknowledged that this happened under Buddhist influence, notably Mahāyānist, although the nature and extent of the latter are disputed. On the other hand, the Taoist criteria of scriptural authentication were quite different from their Buddhist counterparts. This talk will revisit the cultural background of the first Taoist canon and the Buddhist models that inspired its formation. It will thus explore both outsiders' and insiders' perceptions of the Buddhist canon in 5th-century China, and reassess in their light some commonly held views on what is and is not ‘mainstream' in the history of Buddhist scriptural corpora.


The Domains of Canonicity in Buddhism

Silk, Jonathan A. (Univ. Leiden, Leiden, NED)

Scholars of Biblical traditions in particular have devoted much attention to the notion of ‘canon.' The multivalencies of conceptions of ‘the canonical', as important as they may be for appreciations of Buddhist traditions, and especially textual traditions, remain, however, little explored or exploited by modern scholars. This presentation aims to introduce some key ideas which will help us structure our considerations of ‘canon,' ‘the canonical' and ‘canonicity' in regard particularly to Buddhist literature in a Pan-Asian context, and both diachronically and synchronically. Eschewing the stipulative and normative, it attempts to provide tools for recognizing, conceptualizing and creatively appreciating implicit and explicit emic categories and schema.


The Expanding Canons of the Mahāsāṃghikas

Tournier, Vincent (SOAS, University of London, London, GBR)

Notwithstanding spectacular discoveries of Gandhāran manuscripts that provide scholars with a glimpse at the early phase of textual production, forerunner of what would be called the Mahāyāna-sūtras, the religious milieux in which these scriptures originated is still largely unknown. While the Mahāsāṃghikas and Dharmaguptakas are often mentioned in scholarship as likely candidates, no wholly compelling evidence has been presented so far, either to favour or reject such nikāya affiliation of early Bodhisattvas and their scriptural production. In fact, the fascination for origins and authorship has tended to hide other historical issues of major importance, such as that of the trajectories of texts promoting the Bodhisattva Path, and the impact they had on canonical formation of the nikāyas, in a period—the “Middle Period”—marked by the crystallisation of Buddhist identities.

The present paper aims at presenting a coherent, if incomplete, scenario for the integration of some of these scriptures within various canons of the Mahāsāṃghikas. Information gathered from a wide variety of sources (manuscript remains, historical accounts, scholastic texts) and the results of a stratigraphic analysis of the preserved portions of the Mahāsāṃghika canons, converge to establish the progressive expansion and re-negotiation of canonical borders between the 4th and 6th century CE. I shall stress, in particular, the diversity of strategies adopted by various branches of the Mahāsāṃghikas to filter and accommodate newer scriptures. This will lead me to consider the discursive devices, used by zealous Bodhisattvas involved in the transmission of their inherited canon, to establish the authenticity of newer scriptures. Finally, we shall see how this dynamic at work within the extended Mahāsāṃghika canons relate to the claims found in polemical literature in favour of the canonicity of Mahāyāna discourses.


The Authenticity Issue of the Vidyādharapiṭaka

Wangchuk, Dorji (Hamburg, GER)

It is unknown when and by whom the term vidyādharapiṭaka (rig pa ’dzin pa’i sde snod or rig sngags ’chang gi sde snod) was employed for the first time in India. The earliest known Indian source seems to be the Tarkajvālā of the sixth-century Madhyamaka exponent Bhavya. The term Vidyādharapiṭaka (“Sorcerer’s Basket”) came to be employed by later Indian and Tibetan scholars as a generic term for the corpus of Buddhist Tantric scriptures, although it meant different things to different people at a given point in time and place.

The superiority of the Vidyādharapiṭaka in the sense of the corpus of Buddhist Tantric scriptures has been recognized by most followers of Vajrayāna in India and Tibet. The claim alone that the Buddhist Tantric scriptures are superior to their non-Tantric counterparts, however, did not seem to have at all functioned as a guarantee against charges of inauthenticity. On the contrary, the higher a scripture or system is claimed to be, the more questionable its authenticity seems to become, and greater is the pressure and the desire on the part of its proponents for establishing its legitimacy. What I mainly wish to attempt in this paper is to look into some of the allegations of inauthenticity made against the Buddhist scriptures associated with Vajrayāna, that is, the Vidyādharapiṭaka, in general, and against some specific Buddhist Tantric scriptures such as the Hevajratantra, Kālacakratantra, and *Guhyagarbhatantra, and examine the various argumentative strategies employed for their authentication.


The Dawn of the Dazangjing: Tracing the Cultural Background of the Chinese Buddhist Canon

Zacchetti, Stefano (University of Oxford, Oxford, GBR)

In the present paper, which is part of a larger research project aimed at exploring the complex cultural and intellectual history of the unique scriptural corpus known as the Chinese Buddhist Canon, I will try to assess the influence exerted on early Chinese Buddhist ideas about canonical scriptures by Chinese indigenous pre-Buddhist bibliographical traditions.

The main focus of my investigation will be the rich body of documents included in scrolls 6-12 of Sengyou’s Chu sanzang ji ji (Collection of documents on the production of the Tripiṭaka), which constitute the most important sources we possess on early Chinese Buddhist conceptions of canonical literature. More specifically, I will discuss the prefaces to translated scriptures, paying particular attention to their formal and structural features, which will be analysed (building on research by Kogachi Ryūichi and Mark E. Lewis) in the light of the work of the Han bibliographers Liu Xiang and Liu Xin.


IABS 2014 | Universitätsring 1  | 1010 Wien