Thursday, 3 May 2012

Centuries-old Buddhist manuscript released in India

A 2500-year-old Buddhist manuscript has been released in India in book form.

The ‘Gilgit Lotus Sutra’ was found by cattle grazers in 1931 in Gilgit, a part of Kashmir now under Pakistani control.

Experts say the manuscript is one of the most revered in Mahayana Buddhism and represents one of the last discourses delivered by the Buddha before his death.

A facsimile of the sutra was released in New Delhi on Thursday.

The manuscript had been housed at the National Archives in the capital.

Gilgit Lotus Sutra Manuscripts was found in a wooden box inside a Buddhist stupa in Gilgit in 1931.
The manuscripts had managed to survive for centuries due the near-zero temperatures of the region and the fact that they had been written on the bark of the Birch tree, which doesn’t decay.

The sutra was originally written in the Buddhist form of Sanskrit in the Sharada script and known by its Sanskrit title, Saddharma Pundarika Sutra or Sutra of the White Lotus of the Sublime Dharma.
It is popularly referred to as the Lotus Sutra and was first translated from Sanskrit to Chinese by scholar Zhu Fahu (Dharmaraksha) in 286 CE.

The facsimile edition releasing on Thursday is the result of a joint project between the National Archives of India, Institute of Oriental Philosophy and Soka Gakkai, the UN-recognized NGO working for the spread of the Lotus Sutra.

- UKAsian Staff

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