Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Diamond Sutra on display: Text panel 3

The whole text of the earliest dated printed book — the Diamond Sutra — will be on display at the British Library for the first time over a period of eighteen months between March 2014 – August 2015.

Following extensive conservation, the Diamond Sutra scroll currently remains in separate panels giving the unique opportunity to show all the panels in turn (see timetable below). Each panel will be on display for two months in the Treasures Gallery at the British Library, open to all and with free admission.

The third text panel of the Diamond Sutra on display (September-October 2014) contains the second half of section 13 through to the first half of section 15 of the Diamond Sutra.

See the whole of the Diamond Sutra online on the IDP website.

The following English translation of the third text panel (by Lapiz Lazuli Texts) is based on Kumārajīva's Chinese translation of the original Sanskrit:

Subhūti, what do you think? Has the Tathāgata actually spoken any dharma?” Subhūti replied, “Bhagavān, the Tathāgata has not spoken.” “Subhūti, what do you think? Are there very many atoms contained in three thousand great thousand-worlds?” Subhūti replied, “There are extremely many, Bhagavān.” “Subhūti, the atoms spoken of by the Tathāgata are not atoms, and are thus called atoms. The worlds spoken of by the Tathāgata are not worlds, and are thus called worlds. Subhūti, what do you think? Can the Tathāgata be seen by means of the Thirty-two Marks?” “No, Bhagavān, the Tathāgata cannot be seen by means of the Thirty-two Marks. Why? The Thirty-two Marks that the Tathāgata speaks of are not marks, and are thus called the Thirty-two Marks.” “Subhūti, suppose there were a good man or good woman who, in the practice of giving, gave his or her body away as many times as there are sand grains in the Ganges River. If there are people who accept and maintain even a four-line gāthā from within this sūtra, then the merits of this are far greater.”

14. Leaving appearances: Nirvāṇa

At that time, Subhūti, hearing this sūtra being spoken, had a profound understanding of its essential meaning, and burst into tears. He then addressed the Buddha, saying, “How exceptional, Bhagavān, is the Buddha who thus speaks this profound sūtra! Since attaining the Eye of Prajñā, I have never heard such a sūtra! Bhagavān, if there are again people who are able to hear this sūtra thusly, with a mind of clean and clear belief, giving rise to the true appearance, then this is a person with the most extraordinary merits. Bhagavān, the true appearance is not an appearance, and for this reason the Tathāgata speaks of a true appearance.

“Bhagavān, being able to hear this sūtra thusly, I do not find it difficult to believe, understand, accept, and maintain it. However, in the next era, five hundred years from now, if there are sentient beings who are able to hear this sūtra and believe, understand, accept, and maintain it, then they will be most extraordinary. Why? This is because such a person has no notions of a self, notions of a person, notions of a being, or notions of a life. Why? The appearance of a self is not a true appearance; appearances of a person, a being, and a life, are also not true appearances. Those who have departed from all appearances are called buddhas.” The Buddha told Subhūti, “Thusly, thusly! If there are again people who are able to hear this sūtra, and are not startled, terrified, or fearful, know that the existence of such a person is extremely rare. Why? Subhūti, this foremost pāramitā that the Tathāgata speaks of is not a foremost pāramitā, and is thus called the foremost pāramitā.

“Subhūti, the Pāramitā of Forbearance that the Tathāgata speaks of is not a pāramitā of forbearance. Why? Subhūti, this is like in the past when my body was cut apart by the Kalirāja: there were no notions of a self, notions of a person, notions of a being, or notions of a life. In the past, when I was being hacked limb from limb, if there were notions of a self, notions of a person, notions of a being, or notions of a life, then I would have responded with hatred and anger. Remember also that I was the Ṛṣi of Forbearance for five hundred lifetimes in the past. Over so many lifetimes there were no notions of a self, notions of a person, notions of a being, or notions of a life.

“Therefore, Subhūti, bodhisattvas should depart from all appearances in order to develop the mind of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi. They should give rise to a mind which does not dwell in form; they should give rise to a mind which does not dwell in sounds, scents, tastes, sensations, or dharmas; they should give rise to a mind which does not dwell. In anything that dwells in the mind, one should not dwell, and for this reason the Buddha says that the minds of bodhisattvas should not dwell in form when practicing giving. Subhūti, bodhisattvas should give thusly because it benefits all sentient beings. The Tathāgata teaches that all characteristics are not characteristics, and all sentient beings are not sentient beings. Subhūti, the Tathāgata is one who speaks what is true, one who speaks what is real, one who speaks what is thus, and is not a deceiver or one who speaks to the contrary.

“Subhūti, the Dharma attained by the Tathāgata is neither substantial nor void. Subhūti, if the mind of a bodhisattva dwells in dharmas when practicing giving, then this is like a person in darkness who is unable to see anything. However, if the mind of a bodhisattva does not dwell in dharmas when practicing giving, then this is like a person who is able to see, for whom sunlight clearly illuminates the perception of various forms. Subhūti, in the next era, if there are good men or good women capable of accepting, maintaining, studying, and reciting this sūtra, then the Tathāgata by means of his buddha-wisdom is always aware of them and always sees them. These people all obtain immeasurable, limitless merit.

15. The merits of maintaining this sūtra

“Subhūti, suppose there were a good man or a good woman who, in the morning, gave his or her body away as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. In the middle of the day, this person would also give his or her body away as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. Then in the evening, this person would also give his or her body away as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. Suppose this giving continued for incalculable billions of eons. If there are people again who hear this sūtra with a mind of belief, without doubt, then the merits of these people surpass the former merits. How much more so for those who write, accept, maintain, study, recite, and explain it?

“Subhūti, to summarize, this sūtra has inconceivable, immeasurable, limitless merit. The Tathāgata speaks it to send forth those in the Great Vehicle, to send forth those in the Supreme Vehicle. If there are people able to accept, maintain, study, recite,[end of panel] and explain this sūtra to others, then the Tathāgata is always aware of them and always sees them.


‘The Diamond Sutra and Early Printing’

MARCH 2014 – AUGUST 2015
FREE ENTRY

Monday 09.30 - 20.00
Tuesday 09.30 - 20.00
Wednesday 09.30 - 20.00
Thursday 09.30 - 20.00
Friday 09.30 - 18.00
Saturday 09.30 - 17.00
Sunday 11.00 - 17.00
Public holidays 11.00 - 17.00

Sir John Ritblat Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London, NW1 2DB
MAP

September – October 2014

3rd panel printed text

November – December 2014

4th panel printed text

January – February 2015

5th panel printed text

March – April 2015

6th panel printed text, including colophon

May – June 2015

Frontispiece

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Married Monks of Kroraina

The kingdom of Kroraina florished in the middle of the Taklamakan desert in the first centuries of this millennium, and is now known to us through the buildings and artefacts preserved by the desert until their discovery and excavation by explorers and archaeologists. Among the most important of the discoveries from the kingdom were documents providing a detailed (if incomplete) picture of the daily life of Buddhist monks in the region in the 3rd to 4th centuries.

The manuscript Or.8211/1374, containing a letter about the adoption and marriage of a girl into the monastic community.

Over 700 of these documents were excavated by Aurel Stein in the early 20th century and are now in the collections of the British Library and the National Museum of India. Most of them are letters, written in the Gandhārī language and the Kharoṣṭhi script, on wooden tablets. A document was usually made of two wooden tablets placed together, with the content of the letter inside. The two parts were bound with string and sealed with clay, and the cover tabled was inscribed with the name of the addressee

One of these tablets reveals a very interesting aspect of the lives of the monks in Kroraina. It records a dispute that arose out of the adoption of girl as a daughter by one monk, who was then given as a wife to another monk:

The śramamna Budhavam̄a says that the śramamna Śariputra received as an adopted child from Denuǵa Aṃto his daughter called Śirsateyae. The śramamna Śariputra gave this daughter to the śramamna Budhavam̄a as his wife in lawful marriage. The daughter of that woman Śirsateyae, Puṃñavatiyae by name, was given as wife to the śramamna Jivalo Aṭhama. This Aṭhama died...

The practices mentioned here (and in other documents) seem to be regarded as normal, only written about when problems arise leading to disputes, such as the death of a one of the monks. So it seems that the kings of Kroraina accepted that these monks were allowed to be married and have children. Yet this could hardly be simply a case of ignorance: the stricture of celibacy is at the centre of the Buddhist monastic vows.

Photo 392/27(89)Photograph of the excavation of site N.xxvi in Niya, one of the houses in which śramamna lived.

We can only speculate on the nature of the compromises that we made in order to allow for married śramaṃna in the knowledge of the requirements of the vinaya. It might be that the śramaṃnas took the full monastic ordination but ignored the strictures on celibacy. On the other hand, they may have received only the lay vows, but adopted the status of a fully-ordained monk for ritual purposes. Another possibility is that they combined the life of a celibate monk with that of a householder by taking a wife but remaining celibate, with children brought into the family through adoption.

Note

Translations of most of the documents from Niya can be read on the IDP website. All of the British Library documents have been digitized. Transcriptions can be found at www.gandhari.org.

Further Reading

Brough, John. 1965. "Comments on Third-Century Shan-Shan and the History of Buddhism." Bulletin of SOAS 28: 591–93.

Burrow, T. 1940. A Translation of the Kharoṣṭi Documents From Chinese Turkestan. London: The Royal Asiatic Society.

Hansen, Valerie. 2004. "Religious Life in a Silk Road Community: Niya during the Third and Fourth Centuries." In John Lagerwey, ed. Religion and Chinese Society 1: 279–315. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.

Padwa, Mariner. 2007. "An Archaic Fabric: Culture and Landscape in an Early Inner Asian Oasis (3rd–4th Century C.E. Niya)." PhD Dissertation. Harvard University.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Diamond Sutra on display: Text panel 2

The whole text of the earliest dated printed book — the Diamond Sutra — will be on display at the British Library for the first time over a period of eighteen months between March 2014 – August 2015.

Following extensive conservation, the Diamond Sutra scroll currently remains in separate panels giving the unique opportunity to show all the panels in turn (see timetable below). Each panel will be on display for two months in the Treasures Gallery at the British Library, open to all and with free admission.

The second text panel of the Diamond Sutra on display (July-August 2014) contains sections 7-12 and the first half of section 13 of the Diamond Sutra.

See the whole of the Diamond Sutra online on the IDP website.

The following English translation of the second text panel (by Lapiz Lazuli Texts) is based on Kumārajīva's Chinese translation of the original Sanskrit:

7. No obtaining, no expounding

“Subhūti, what do you think? Has the Tathāgata obtained Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi? Is there any dharma the Tathāgata has spoken?” Subhūti replied, “Thus do I explain the true meaning of the Buddha’s teachings: there is no fixed dharma of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi, nor is there a fixed dharma the Tathāgata can speak. Why? The Tathāgata’s exposition of the Dharma can never be grasped or spoken, being neither dharma nor non-dharma. What is it, then? All the noble ones are distinguished by the unconditioned Dharma.”

8. Emerging from the Dharma

“Subhūti, what do you think? If someone filled the three thousand great thousand-worlds with the Seven Precious Jewels in the practice of giving, would such a person obtain many merits?” Subhūti replied, “Very many, Bhagavān! Why? Such merits do not have the nature of merits, and for this reason the Tathāgata speaks of many merits.” “If a person accepts and maintains even as little as a four-line gāthā from within this sūtra, speaking it to others, then his or her merits will be even greater. Why? Subhūti, this is because all buddhas, as well as the dharmas of the Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi of the buddhas, emerge from this sūtra. Subhūti, what is called the Buddha Dharma is not a buddha dharma.

9. The appearance without appearance

“Subhūti, what do you think? Does a srotaāpanna have the thought, ‘I have obtained the fruit of a srotaāpanna?’” Subhūti replied, “No, Bhagavān. Why? ‘Srotaāpanna’ refers to one who has entered the stream, yet there is nothing entered into. There is no entry into forms, sounds, scents, tastes, sensations, or dharmas. Thus is one called a srotaāpanna.” “Subhūti, what do you think? Does a sakṛdāgāmin have the thought, ‘I have obtained the fruit of a sakṛdāgāmin?’” Subhūti replied, “No, Bhagavān. Why? ‘Sakṛdāgāmin’ refers to one who will return once more, yet there is nothing which leaves or returns. Thus is one called a sakṛdāgāmin.” “Subhūti, what do you think? Does an anāgāmin have the thought, ‘I have obtained the fruit of an anāgāmin?’” Subhūti replied, “No, Bhagavān. Why? ‘Anāgāmin’ refers to one who will not return, yet there is nothing non-returning. Thus is one called an anāgāmin.”

“Subhūti, what do you think? Does an arhat have the thought, ‘I have obtained the fruit of an arhat?’” Subhūti replied, “No, Bhagavān. Why? There is truly no dharma which may be called an arhat. Bhagavān, if an arhat has the thought, ‘I have attained the Arhat Path,’ then this is a person attached to a self, a person, a being, and a life. Bhagavān, the Buddha says that among arhats, I am the foremost in my practice of the Samādhi of Non-contention, and am the foremost free of desire. However, Bhagavān, I do not have the thought, ‘I am an arhat free of desire.’ If I were thinking this way, then the Bhagavān would not speak of ‘Subhūti, the one who dwells in peace.’ It is because there is truly nothing dwelled in, that he speaks of ‘Subhūti, the one who dwells in peace.’”

10. The adornment of pure lands

The Buddha addressed Subhūti, saying, “What do you think? In the past when the Tathāgata was with Dīpaṃkara Buddha, was there any dharma obtained?” “No, Bhagavān. When the Tathāgata was with Dīpaṃkara Buddha there was truly no dharma obtained.” “Subhūti, what do you think? Do bodhisattvas adorn buddha-lands?” “No, Bhagavān. Why? The adornments of buddha-lands are not adornments, and are thus called adornments.” “Therefore, Subhūti, bodhisattva-mahāsattvas should thusly give rise to a clear and pure mind—a mind not associated with abiding in form; a mind not associated with abiding in sounds, scents, tastes, sensations, or dharmas; a mind not abiding in life. Subhūti, suppose a person had a body like Mount Sumeru, King of Mountains. Would this body be great?” Subhūti replied, “It would be extremely great, Bhagavān. Why? The Buddha teaches that no body is the Great Body.”

11. Unconditioned merits surpass all

“Subhūti, suppose each sand grain in the Ganges River, contained its own Ganges River. What do you think, would there be many grains of sand of the Ganges River?” Subhūti said, “There would be extremely many, Bhagavān. The number of Ganges Rivers alone would be countless, let alone their grains of sand.” “Subhūti, I will now tell you a truth. If a good man or good woman filled such a number of three thousand great thousand-worlds with the Seven Precious Jewels in the practice of giving, would he or she obtain many merits?” Subhūti said, “Extremely many, Bhagavān.” The Buddha told Subhūti, “Just so, if good men and good women accept and maintain even a four-line gāthā from within this sūtra, speaking it to others, then the merits of this surpass the former merits.

12. Venerating the true teachings

“Moreover, Subhūti, if one speaks even a four-line gāthā from within this sūtra, you should understand that this place is like the shrine of a buddha. In every world, the devas, humans, and asuras should provide offerings to it. How much more so for those capable of accepting and maintaining the entire sūtra? Subhūti, you should know that this is a person with the highest and most exceptional Dharma. Wherever this sūtra dwells is the Buddha or an honored disciple.”

13. Receiving and maintaining the Dharma

Subhūti asked the Buddha, “Bhagavān, by what name should we revere and maintain this sūtra?” The Buddha told Subhūti, “This sūtra is called the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā, and by this name you should revere and maintain it. Why is it called this? Subhūti, this Prajñāpāramitā spoken by the Buddha is not a perfection of prajñā. Subhūti, what do you think?


‘The Diamond Sutra and Early Printing’

MARCH 2014 – AUGUST 2015
FREE ENTRY

Monday 09.30 - 20.00
Tuesday 09.30 - 20.00
Wednesday 09.30 - 20.00
Thursday 09.30 - 20.00
Friday 09.30 - 18.00
Saturday 09.30 - 17.00
Sunday 11.00 - 17.00
Public holidays 11.00 - 17.00

Sir John Ritblat Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London, NW1 2DB
MAP

July – August 2014

2nd panel printed text

September – October 2014

3rd panel printed text

November – December 2014

4th panel printed text

January – February 2015

5th panel printed text

March – April 2015

6th panel printed text

May – June 2015

Colophon

July – August 2015

Frontispiece

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

One of the world's first banknotes

Paper money originated in China and flourished along the Silk Routes. One of the earliest surviving banknotes was found in the lost city of Kharakhoto (Turkic for “the black city”). Kharakhoto was once a stronghold of the Tangut Empire, before it fell to the armies of Genghis Khan in 1227. The banknote is in two separate pieces now held at the British Library, Or.12380/2286 and Or.12380/2287, and it dates to the period of Mongol rule in the 13th century.

Paper money began in the 9th century when merchants began depositing their money with local banks in return for promissory notes. These notes the passed from hand to hand, used as money in themselves. Once this practice became widespread, successive Chinese rulers first tried to ban or regulate this practice, before the Song Dynasty established a monopoly on printing banknotes in the 11th century. The government monopoly continued under the Mongol rulers of the Yuan dynasty, the era in which the banknote from Kharakhoto was printed.

This particular banknote was printed in the early 1260s, at the beginning of Kublai Khan’s reign. We have Marco Polo’s account from around this time recording his impressions of paper money: these pieces of paper are issued with as much solemnity and authority as if they were of pure gold or silver; on every piece a variety of officials have to write their names and put their seals… Anyone forging it would be punished with death. And the Kaan causes every year to be made such a vast quantity of this money which costs his nothing that it must equal in amount all the treasure in the world.

The Kharakhoto banknote is digitized and available on the IDP website, along with two brief articles. The first, by Beth McKillop, discusses the discovery of the banknote and its context in Chinese history. The second, by John Burton, describes how the banknote was preserved by the British Library's Oriental Collections Conservation Studio.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Stein Exhibition of 1914 and the Secret Invitation List

As reported in a previous post, the first exhibition of Stein material opened in the gallery of the new north extension to the British Museum on 7 May 1914. In the second of this series of blog posts on the exhibition, we look at the opening of exhibition though the eyes of Miss Lorimer, Stein's ‘Recording Angel’.

Photo 1280/1(1) Miss F. M. G. Lorimer. Courtesy of Christina Lorimer.

‘This letter has been written over several days, and now it is the 8th and the opening of the New Galleries came off yesterday. The ceremony was very short, and the Mighty stayed in the building only for a short half-hour after, in the course of which they walked through the Gallery & Mr Binyon’s top floor Exhibition, and personally inspected Mr Dodgson, Mr Binyon, and the architect, so that you will see how much time they had to look at the exhibitions themselves. The Private View in the afternoon was most unfortunately affected by the weather; for there was a succession of heavy thunder-showers and it became extremely dark. After a time they put on the lights in the gallery but the lights at the top of the cases themselves were not yet finished, so that one could not see anything at all well; some of the India Office were at the ceremony in the morning, and also Dr van Lecoq who has just been out here for two days, and Prof. Rapson.

Dr van Lecoq has brought back 150 cases from his last expedition, and seems in very good health and spirits. He has been enquiring most heartily for you.

I do not think any of the other foreign scholars invited, M. Foucher, M. Pelliot, etc. were able to come.

I send two copies of the guide separately.’1

Stein had sent a telegram with a list of invitees to the private view but, as Miss Lorimer tells Stein in her next letter, dated 9 July 2014, it arrived too late. As she reports, she was not allowed access to the original invitation list.

‘I was extremely sorry that I did not get your telegram, asking me to draw up a special list of invitees for the Private View, until after the opening. It did not arrive until 10 days later, and I found it when I came back from my holidays at the end of May. I am the more sorry that I did not think of doing it myself, as I cannot now find out completely who were asked and I fear there were some regretable omissions. The invitation list was drawn up by the Director and all invitations sent by his office, although he invited supplementary suggestions from the Keepers, of people professionally interested or Museum benefactors. I saw Mr. Binyon's list, but not Dr. Barnett's, and I am afraid I took too much for granted that the latter was asking all our own collaborators; but I believe their lists were too limited.

…When I got your telegram I thought the simplest thing would be to look through the official list of invitees, and be able to assure you probably thereafter of the invitation of a good number of your personal friends in the country; but when I made the request to the Director (it seems quite innocuous, but even so I made is in as harmless light as possible) I got the decidedly amusing reply that the Director considered the list Trustees' matter and too confidential to be communicated!—list of invitations to a public function which had already taken place a month before! So I cannot now find out, though it would have been so much more satisfactory to know.’2

Sadly Stein's response to this is too faint to read on the microfilm copies that I have access to here — a transcription will await my next visit to Oxford. In the meantime, I am back to the British Museum archives in search of the elusive invitation list.

1 MSS. Stein 94/157, letter from Miss Lorimer to Stein, this section dated 8 May 1914.
2 MSS. Stein 94/167-9, letter from Miss Lorimer to Stein, dated 9 July 1914.

Monday, June 9, 2014

BD02745《無量壽宗要經》

GUEST POST AUTHOR: LIU BO

Liu Bo is Manager of IDP China at the National Library of China, and currently a visiting fellow at Harvard-Yenching Library at Harvard University cataloguing their collections of ancient Chinese local histories.

最近,中國國家圖書館IDP工作室數字化了BD02745《無量壽宗要經》。這件敦煌遺書長達161釐米,由四張紙粘連而成,抄寫114行。《無量壽宗要經》是吐蕃統治敦煌時期(786—848)非常流行的一部佛經,這一個卷子也是吐蕃時期抄寫的,小字密行,具有顯著的吐蕃時期寫經的特點。

這個寫卷的末尾,有一個簽名“呂日興”。這位呂日興的身份,現在已經難以查考了。也許他曾是這卷經書的所有者或者施造者,也許他只是校勘人或讀者。寫卷的背面,署有“金”字。這是敦煌金光明寺的簡稱,它表明這個經卷是金光明寺的財產。金光明寺院在沙州城以西,在吐蕃時期和歸義軍時期,是一所大寺院,後唐同光年間(923—926)有僧人62人,頗為興盛。歸義軍節度使曹元忠曾在該寺做法事。寺內有寺學,索勳的孫子索富通就曾在該寺學習。寺內也有藏經,這個卷子就是其中之一。

這個卷子見證是過敦煌佛教的繁榮興盛,能在藏經洞中留存至今,可謂幸運。感興趣的人士,可以通過IDP網站仔細欣賞這一件千年前的佛經。

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wang Xudong: Digital Caves of Dunhuang

GUEST POST AUTHOR: LIU BO

Liu Bo is Manager of IDP China at the National Library of China, and currently a visiting fellow at Harvard-Yenching Library at Harvard University cataloguing their collection of Chinese local histories.

Dr. Xudong Wang, Associate Director of Dunhuang Academy, delivered a lecture at Sackler Museum, Harvard University on Friday, 11 April 2014. The topic was Digital Caves of Dunhuang: Present and Future, which is just what I am interested in. Dr. Wang introduced the Digital Caves of Dunhuang Project, showed us how they digitize the murals, statues and caves.

It is difficult to digitize murals, because the surface of the wall is not a smooth one, and statues and caves are much more difficult. Their work is very different from IDP. IDP mainly digitizes manuscripts, which are flat or can be flattened with a glass plate if they are not. So Dunhuang Academy uses specially-made equipment to work, and spends more time to manipulate and join the images. Now they can take photographs of twenty caves a year, but can only manipulate four or five of them. As we know, there are 735 caves at Mogao near Dunhuang, and more than 400 of them with murals! It is really a large job. They also face some challenges, such as the metadata schema which is still being studied. Actually, people cannot manage images well without metadata.

Dunhuang Academy will build a large database to show murals and statues in the Mogao Caves. Dr. Wang showed some images and digital caves, all the pictures were wonderful, all details were displayed very, very clearly. I have visited the Mogao Caves two times in the last five years, but I am still astonished by the quality of digital caves, it was a different and nice experience. I thought we could get more information from the digital images than watching murals in the caves with the help of a torch. Fortunately, some scholars have already benefited from digital caves, as Dr. Wang explained.