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The Mahāprātihāryasūtra in the Gilgit manuscripts. a critical edition, translation and textual analysis
The Mahāprātihāryasūtra in the Gilgit manuscripts. a critical edition, translation and textual analysis
The Mahāprātihāryasūtra, usually called the Śrāvastī miracle, narrates an important event in the life of the Buddha in which he performs miracles to overcome the pride of a group of rival religious leaders. The story of the Buddha’s Great Miracle at Śrāvastī is one of the Buddha’s principal miracles and has been prominent in narrative mythology and narrative art for over 2000 years across Buddhist Asia. The story was popular, widely transmitted, existed in multiple versions, and were preserved in a variety of classical languages. At present, a direct Sanskrit source of the narrative is available in two fragmentary Sanskrit manuscripts belonging to the so-called Gilgit Finds, an important collection of Buddhist manuscripts found in Pakistan. These two incomplete and unedited manuscripts, listed as serial no. 21 (5 folios) and no. 56h (one folio), and kept at the National Archives in Delhi, are datable to a period from the seventh to eighth centuries CE. The story is related in the Kṣudrakavastu extant in the Tibetan (’dul ba phran tshegs kyi gzhi) and Chinese (根本說一切有部毘奈耶雜事, T 1451) translations of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya. A version that has not yet been used in research is found in quotations from the Mahāprātihāryasūtra that are cited in the Abhidharmakośopāyikāṭīkā, compiled at an uncertain date by the Nepalese monk Śamathadeva and now preserved only in Tibetan translation. Another Sanskrit version, considerably changed and extended, is found in the Prātihāryasūtra of the Divyāvadāna. To assess the relationship between all the extant versions falls well beyond the scope of my dissertation contribution. Rather it is concerned primarily with the philological study of the Mahāprātihāryasūtra, as transmitted by the Mūlasarvāstivādins. The objectives of this thesis are first to prepare a critical edition and provide an annotated translation of the Sanskrit fragments of the Mahāprātihāryasūtra in light of the closely related translations of the Vinayakṣudrakavastu, Śamathadeva’s Abhidharmakośopāyikāṭīkā, and the Prātihāryasūtra, and second to comparatively study the relationship between the narratives of the Mūlasarvāstivāda versions alongside other witnesses in the Chinese translation of the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya and related versions, as well as those in the Pāli and other Chinese translations. The research provides a Sanskrit text of the Mahāprātihāryasūtra of the Mūlasarvāstivādins in the form of a critical edition. It seems that originally the work was an independent sūtra before it was incorporated into the Kṣudrakavastu. The narrative of the Śrāvastī miracle was presumably one of the more popular narratives in Gilgit area, and was copied at least two times in the Gilgit manuscripts. Both the provenance of the two Gilgit manuscripts, alongside a comparison of the related narrative portions in the translations of the Vinayakṣudrakavastu, makes it almost certain that the text from Gilgit was transmitted within the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition. The Gilgit manuscripts are closely related to the Tibetan rather than to the Chinese translation, which are themselves closely connected but by no means identical. Although the nature of the similarities between the Prātihāryasūtra of the Divyāvadāna, the Mahāprātihāryasūtra of the Gilgit manuscripts, and the Vinayakṣudrakavastu suggests there may be some relation between the texts and that they are works of the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition, there are still numerous differences. The Mahāprātihāryasūtra does not depend on the Prātihāryasūtra. It appears that the Prātihāryasūtra from the Divyāvadāna was probably extracted later from the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya and placed within the Divyāvadāna under the name “Prātihāryasūtra”, having undergone certain revisions and elaborations. Alternatively, it could be assumed that there was a common source from which the Gilgit manuscripts, the Tibetan and Chinese translations of the Vinayakṣudrakavastu, and the Prātihāryasūtra developed and arranged their narrative of the Great Miracle. Śamathadeva’s Abhidharmakośopāyikāṭīkā quotes the verse and abbreviated the story from the Mahāprātihāryasūtra which is very close to the corresponding sections of the Vinayakṣudrakavastu, except one part which is similar to the Prātihāryasūtra. Textual sources containing the narratives of the Śrāvastī miracle indicate that this theme gained particular importance in certain tradition not only the Mūlasarvāstivāda but also the Dharmaguptaka, and the Theravādins. In each tradition has its style of story. Some elements of the story are common to all traditions while some are specific. The most important miraculous event that distinguishes the Mūlasarvāstivāda versions from others is the “Great Miracle” which can be performed only by the Buddha. Miraculous displays of superhuman knowledge and power have religious significance to show the supremacy of the Buddha. They generate faith among those who see or hear accounts of them and lead people to achieve freedom from suffering.
The Mahāprātihāryasūtra, the Gilgit Manuscripts, A Critical Edition, Buddhist Narrative
Sirisawad, Natchapol
2019
English
Universitätsbibliothek der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Sirisawad, Natchapol (2019): The Mahāprātihāryasūtra in the Gilgit manuscripts: a critical edition, translation and textual analysis. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Cultural Studies
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Abstract

The Mahāprātihāryasūtra, usually called the Śrāvastī miracle, narrates an important event in the life of the Buddha in which he performs miracles to overcome the pride of a group of rival religious leaders. The story of the Buddha’s Great Miracle at Śrāvastī is one of the Buddha’s principal miracles and has been prominent in narrative mythology and narrative art for over 2000 years across Buddhist Asia. The story was popular, widely transmitted, existed in multiple versions, and were preserved in a variety of classical languages. At present, a direct Sanskrit source of the narrative is available in two fragmentary Sanskrit manuscripts belonging to the so-called Gilgit Finds, an important collection of Buddhist manuscripts found in Pakistan. These two incomplete and unedited manuscripts, listed as serial no. 21 (5 folios) and no. 56h (one folio), and kept at the National Archives in Delhi, are datable to a period from the seventh to eighth centuries CE. The story is related in the Kṣudrakavastu extant in the Tibetan (’dul ba phran tshegs kyi gzhi) and Chinese (根本說一切有部毘奈耶雜事, T 1451) translations of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya. A version that has not yet been used in research is found in quotations from the Mahāprātihāryasūtra that are cited in the Abhidharmakośopāyikāṭīkā, compiled at an uncertain date by the Nepalese monk Śamathadeva and now preserved only in Tibetan translation. Another Sanskrit version, considerably changed and extended, is found in the Prātihāryasūtra of the Divyāvadāna. To assess the relationship between all the extant versions falls well beyond the scope of my dissertation contribution. Rather it is concerned primarily with the philological study of the Mahāprātihāryasūtra, as transmitted by the Mūlasarvāstivādins. The objectives of this thesis are first to prepare a critical edition and provide an annotated translation of the Sanskrit fragments of the Mahāprātihāryasūtra in light of the closely related translations of the Vinayakṣudrakavastu, Śamathadeva’s Abhidharmakośopāyikāṭīkā, and the Prātihāryasūtra, and second to comparatively study the relationship between the narratives of the Mūlasarvāstivāda versions alongside other witnesses in the Chinese translation of the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya and related versions, as well as those in the Pāli and other Chinese translations. The research provides a Sanskrit text of the Mahāprātihāryasūtra of the Mūlasarvāstivādins in the form of a critical edition. It seems that originally the work was an independent sūtra before it was incorporated into the Kṣudrakavastu. The narrative of the Śrāvastī miracle was presumably one of the more popular narratives in Gilgit area, and was copied at least two times in the Gilgit manuscripts. Both the provenance of the two Gilgit manuscripts, alongside a comparison of the related narrative portions in the translations of the Vinayakṣudrakavastu, makes it almost certain that the text from Gilgit was transmitted within the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition. The Gilgit manuscripts are closely related to the Tibetan rather than to the Chinese translation, which are themselves closely connected but by no means identical. Although the nature of the similarities between the Prātihāryasūtra of the Divyāvadāna, the Mahāprātihāryasūtra of the Gilgit manuscripts, and the Vinayakṣudrakavastu suggests there may be some relation between the texts and that they are works of the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition, there are still numerous differences. The Mahāprātihāryasūtra does not depend on the Prātihāryasūtra. It appears that the Prātihāryasūtra from the Divyāvadāna was probably extracted later from the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya and placed within the Divyāvadāna under the name “Prātihāryasūtra”, having undergone certain revisions and elaborations. Alternatively, it could be assumed that there was a common source from which the Gilgit manuscripts, the Tibetan and Chinese translations of the Vinayakṣudrakavastu, and the Prātihāryasūtra developed and arranged their narrative of the Great Miracle. Śamathadeva’s Abhidharmakośopāyikāṭīkā quotes the verse and abbreviated the story from the Mahāprātihāryasūtra which is very close to the corresponding sections of the Vinayakṣudrakavastu, except one part which is similar to the Prātihāryasūtra. Textual sources containing the narratives of the Śrāvastī miracle indicate that this theme gained particular importance in certain tradition not only the Mūlasarvāstivāda but also the Dharmaguptaka, and the Theravādins. In each tradition has its style of story. Some elements of the story are common to all traditions while some are specific. The most important miraculous event that distinguishes the Mūlasarvāstivāda versions from others is the “Great Miracle” which can be performed only by the Buddha. Miraculous displays of superhuman knowledge and power have religious significance to show the supremacy of the Buddha. They generate faith among those who see or hear accounts of them and lead people to achieve freedom from suffering.