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A New Version of the Gāndhārī Dharmapada and a Collection of Previous-Birth Stories: British Library Kharoṣṭhī Fragments 16 + 25 by Timothy LenzContributions by Andrew Glass and Bhikshu Dharmamitra. Gandhāran Buddhist Texts Series, vol. 3. (University of Washington Press) Illustrations.  ISBN 0295983086; Reviewed for H-Buddhism by Andy Rotman, Religion Department, Smith College.

This volume by Timothy Lenz is the third installment in the Gandhāran Buddhist Texts series, whose project it is to present "text editions and studies of the birch bark scrolls in the British Library's Kharoṣṭhī manuscript collection, dating from about the first century A.D" (p. ii). This is a collection of immense importance. It contains some of the earliest Buddhist manuscripts from India--or from anywhere else, for that matter--and it offers great insight into the early history of Buddhism in north India. Lenz's contribution to the series is an excellent model of textual reconstruction, critical philology, engaging translation, and historical sleuthing. His volume also includes some fantastic material for those interested in the development of Buddhist narrative traditions in India, and in the transition in India from oral to written modes of textual production.

In the present volume, Lenz considers fragments of the Gāndhārī London Dharmapada (Dhp-GL), which is similar in many ways to the Khotan Dharmapada (Dhp-GK) previously edited by John Brough (1962), as well as fragments from a series of stories that concern the previous lives of the Buddha and some of his disciples. In each case, Lenz explains the paleography, orthography, phonology, and morphology of the materials, and then offers the reconstructed text with a translation and commentary. Lenz's skills in these endeavors are extremely impressive, and he writes in a clear and direct manner, transforming linguistic and philological discussions into compelling reading. In addition, Lenz offers a wide range of instructive glosses, comparing words and phrases in the manuscript remains with parallels from Buddhist texts across a variety of languages.

Lenz also uses the manuscript fragments to address important sociological questions about the practice of Buddhism in India in the first centuries of the Common Era. In his analysis of the Gāndhārī London Dharmapada, for example, he tries to answer a particularly vexing question: "Why do the Dhp-GL and the Dhp-GK, which are apparently versions of essentially the same text, differ so widely in their presentation of individual verses" (p. 23)? Lenz concludes that the differences in verse order in the two Gāndhārī Dharmapadas suggest "less-than-meticulous practices of oral transmission" (p. 18). Thus prompted to consider practices of textual memorization and the use of mnemonic devices in ancient Gandhāra, Lenz concludes that the numerical mnemonics in Gāndhārī texts "may have been developed to ensure that written and oral traditions were mutually consistent, and therefore, they could provide important evidence concerning the transition in Indian Buddhism from a fundamentally oral tradition to a fundamentally written one" (p. 19). While this is a valuable insight, I was left wanting more.

Lenz likewise considers the possibility that Dhp-GL is "an independent translation of the Dharmapada in Gāndhārī" (p. 23), signaling perhaps that the two Gāndhārī Dharmapadas "might originally have been written in different parts of the Gāndhārī-speaking region, although not necessarily in the ones in which they were found (Hadda and Khotan respectively)" (p. 24). Earlier, however, Lenz had suggested that the existence of a second Gāndhārī Dharmapada "opens up the possibility of reconsidering Brough's hypothesis that different Dharmapada-type texts represent collections that were independently compiled and preserved by different sectarian orders from a common fund of Buddhist verse" (p. 14). But does an independent translation necessarily indicate a separate sectarian affiliation? What kind of evidence would be needed to make this determination? Once again I was left wanting more, though I recognize that these questions are outside of the purview of Lenz's work.

Perhaps even more intriguing is Lenz's analysis of a series of pūrvayogas. Unlike Gandhāran avadānas, which focus on a story of the present, Gandhāran pūrvayogas focus on a story of the past, recounting the actions performed by a person in a previous life. The manuscript contains approximately eleven such stories, though only the first six are preserved well enough for analysis. These stories, however, are more like summaries than narratives. For example, pūrvayoga no. 2 offers a hyper-abbreviated version of the well-known Vessantara story. Lenz (who helpfully provides texts and translations of a number of Sanskrit and Chinese parallels in the appendices) translates the pūrvayoga as follows:

"[23] Sudaṣa. This should be done by [way of] example. Since the prince was a giver of all, [24] the great royal elephant was given to a Brahman. The (*carriage) was abandoned by the prince, and the children were [25] forsaken. Indra, king of the gods, arrived (*by way of the sky) and spoke in verse: [26] 'Certainly this evil man (*eats) vile food.' Expansion. All should be done.[27] (*Story number) 2."

While one might conclude from the schematic nature of these pūrvayogas that they were used as memory aids or mnemonic devices for storytellers, Lenz poses a more compelling alternative. Noting the lack of organization, the marginalia, and the cryptic abbreviation formulae (which could only be expanded with extensive knowledge of Buddhist story literature), Lenz concludes that the "scribes are probably the authors of the texts rather than the copyists of previously written documents" (p. 102), and that they "were apparently no ordinary authors, but rather specialists in this literature" (p. 104). Lenz then suggests the possibility that these story scribes were "scavengers" (p. 108), making use of the empty portions of scrolls that remained after a primary text had been transcribed, and that these texts may represent some sort of pedagogical exercise. As Lenz notes, "The author may have written the pūrvayoga text, either at the behest of a teacher or by his own volition, as an exercise to test or reinforce his memory and training" (p. 110).

But what would have been tested by such an exercise? One need not know the Vessantara story well to recount it in this form. Would it not have been better to test would-be "specialists in this literature" by having them write out stories in full, in the way they would be told? Despite such questions, Lenz's conjecture suggests intriguing lines of inquiry concerning story specialists and their training, and concerning the connection between the written and oral creation and transmission of literature. This also offers an intriguing context for the first story in the series. It is, as Lenz notes, "problematic and may be an abandoned story from an unsuccessful attempt at writing a series of pūrvayoga or avadānas" (p. 145). But where did the writer go wrong? What makes it unsuccessful? A failed story by a story specialist in training offers unique insight into the logic and practice of Buddhist lore. These are materials that other scholars will no doubt want to revisit.

As a work of textual reconstruction, analysis, and translation, Lenz's work is certainly a success, and will interest a wide variety of linguists, Indologists, and Buddhologists. Yet Lenz's work is also successful as a whodunit. Much of his investigation of these manuscript fragments reads like a kind of Buddhist Sherlock Holmes. The technical expertise involved in his reconstruction of these texts, such as using digital photography to create images that are then flipped and realigned (pp. 4-5), necessitates a blending of forensics and Buddhist linguistics. I was particularly impressed in this regard with Lenz's analysis of verse 3 of Dhp-GL (pp. 54-55), which is completely missing from the manuscript. If only the television networks were willing, one could imagine the piecing together of these fragments and the stories they can tell as a kind of Gandhāra CSI. While I wouldn't count on television careers for the members of the British Library/University of Washington Early Buddhist Manuscript Project, I do anxiously await their next publication.

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A Gandhari Version of the Rhinoceros Sutra: British Library Kharosthi Fragment 5B by Richard Solomon with Andrew Glass (Gandharan Buddhist Texts, 1: University of Washington Press) As the Dead Sea scrolls have changed our understanding of Judaism and early Christianity, so a set of twenty-nine scrolls recently acquired by the British Library promise to provide a window into a crucial phase of the history of Buddhism in India. The fragmentary birch bark scrolls, which were found inside one of a set of inscribed clay pots, are written in the Gandhari Prakrit language and in Kharosthi script. Dating from around the beginning of the Christian era, the scrolls are probably the oldest Buddhist manuscripts ever discovered. This volume introduces a project to decipher and interpret the Gandharan texts. It provides a detailed description of the manuscripts and a survey of their contents, along with a preliminary evaluation of their significance. Also included are representative samples of texts and translations. Ancient Buddhist Scrolls from Gandhara will appeal to a broad audience with interests in Buddhism, comparative religion, and Asian languages.

Prominent in several Buddhist traditions, the Rhinoceros Sutra espouses the virtues of solitude, explaining the dangers of attachments, prescribing a solitary spiritual life, and discussing the nature of friends and friendship. British Library Fragment 5B is the remnant of a scroll that originally contained a complete text of the Rhinoceros Sutra.

A Gandhari Version of the Rhinoceros Sutra examines in detail the literary and textual background of the sutra, describes the condition of the scroll and its reconstruction, analyzes the text, comparing it with other extant versions, and presents a literal English translation.

Although the original provenance of the British Library's Kharosthi scrolls is uncertain, there are strong indications that they came from Hadda in the Jalalabad Plain of eastern Afghanistan, just west of the Khyber Pass. The scrolls were most likely written during the reign of the Saka rulers, in the early first century A.D., making them in all probability the oldest Buddhist texts ever found, as well as the earliest surviving manuscripts in any Indic language. The discovery of the British Library scrolls has brought to light a previously unknown realm of Buddhist literature and scholarship, and revealed that Gandhari was one of the major literary languages of Indian Buddhism.


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