Lotus sutra in brahmi script from south Turkestan

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Aemilius
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Lotus sutra in brahmi script from south Turkestan

Post by Aemilius »

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A Sanskrit manuscript of Lotus Sutra in South Turkestan Brahmi script

According to german language sources the Lotus Sutra has been handed down in Central Asia in Sanskrit and Central Asian languages; Xixia (Tangut), Sogdian, Khotansak and Old Uyghur.

The following non-Chinese texts are known: 1) Complete: in Nepali, after the 8th century, 2) Fragments of Central Asian texts (5th to 7th centuries): a) From Kashgar (= "Petrofsky's" text), b) Fragments from Khotan, c) The Khadalik text; 3) The Gilgit text from Kashmir contains about 3/4 of the complete work.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotos-Sutra

Lotus sutra manuscripts in International Dunhuang Project http://idp.bl.uk/database/search_result ... 1112;bst=1
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Re: Lotus sutra in brahmi script from south Turkestan

Post by Zhen Li »

The German article is not so well-cited, so be careful with that one. I got suspicious after you mentioned "in Nepali," a language which didn't exist at the time in question. Probably what is meant is a manuscript from Nepal, in Sanskrit but written in Pala script.
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Re: Lotus sutra in brahmi script from south Turkestan

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It certainly keeps with the spirit of Buddhism and the teachings of Shakyamuni, that Mahayana sutras were translated into the language that was spoken and understood by normal people living in Nepal. It also shows that it was a living Dharma, a living religion. It was a Dharma belonging to all social classes.


Encyclopedia Britannica says:

"Patterns of phonological change suggest that Nepali is related to the languages of northwestern India, and particularly to Sindhi, Lahnda, and Punjabi. Comparative reconstructions of vocabulary have supported this appraisal, relating Nepali to proto-Dardic, Pahari, Sindhi, Lahnda, and Punjabi."

"Investigations of archaeology and history indicate that modern Nepali is a descendant of the language spoken by the ancient Khasha people. The word Khasha appears in Sanskrit legal, historical, and literary texts such as the Manu-smriti (c. 100 ce), Kalhana’s Rajatarangini (1148 ce), and the Puranas (350–1500 ce). The Khashas ruled over a vast territory comprising what are now western Nepal, parts of Garhwal and Kumaon (India), and parts of southwestern Tibet. Ashoka Challa (1255–78 ce) called himself khasha-rajadhiraja (“emperor of the Khashas”) in a copperplate inscription found in Bodh Gaya. His descendants used old Nepali to inscribe numerous copperplates during the 14th century."
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
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Re: Lotus sutra in brahmi script from south Turkestan

Post by Zhen Li »

Aemilius wrote: Wed Jun 15, 2022 8:52 am It certainly keeps with the spirit of Buddhism and the teachings of Shakyamuni, that Mahayana sutras were translated into the language that was spoken and understood by normal people living in Nepal. It also shows that it was a living Dharma, a living religion. It was a Dharma belonging to all social classes.


Encyclopedia Britannica says:

"Patterns of phonological change suggest that Nepali is related to the languages of northwestern India, and particularly to Sindhi, Lahnda, and Punjabi. Comparative reconstructions of vocabulary have supported this appraisal, relating Nepali to proto-Dardic, Pahari, Sindhi, Lahnda, and Punjabi."

"Investigations of archaeology and history indicate that modern Nepali is a descendant of the language spoken by the ancient Khasha people. The word Khasha appears in Sanskrit legal, historical, and literary texts such as the Manu-smriti (c. 100 ce), Kalhana’s Rajatarangini (1148 ce), and the Puranas (350–1500 ce). The Khashas ruled over a vast territory comprising what are now western Nepal, parts of Garhwal and Kumaon (India), and parts of southwestern Tibet. Ashoka Challa (1255–78 ce) called himself khasha-rajadhiraja (“emperor of the Khashas”) in a copperplate inscription found in Bodh Gaya. His descendants used old Nepali to inscribe numerous copperplates during the 14th century."
The term Nepali only comes about in the late 19th century. In any case, we cannot say that the Lotus Sutra was translated into Nepal "after" the 8th century, implying that it was shortly thereafter.

It doesn't have a citation so can't be verified, but I think there are some well known manuscripts from the 11th century. They are in Sanskrit of course. There are no sutra translations into Nepali until the 20th century. I do own quite a few copies of these since I read Nepali.
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Re: Lotus sutra in brahmi script from south Turkestan

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Anyway, several peoples have been living in what is today called "Nepal", for many thousands of years. They have spoken several languages, most of which are other than 'pure' sanskrit. And they have known and practiced Buddhism for a long time. Buddha encouraged the teaching of Dharma in the language spoken by normal people.

For example Licchavis, that are mentioned in the Vimalakirti sutra : "Licchavi (also Lichchhavi, Lichavi) was a kingdom which existed in the Kathmandu Valley in modern-day Nepal from approximately 400 to 750 CE. The Licchavi clan originated from Vaishali ancient India and conquered Kathmandu Valley." (wikipedia)

Buddha was born in Lumbini in the Shakya Kingdom. Lumbini is considered to lie in present-day Rupandehi District, Lumbini zone of Nepal.

Buddhism during the Licchavi period (400-750 CE)

"The Licchavi period saw the flourishing of both Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal. Excellent examples of Buddhist art of the period are the half-sunken Buddha in Pashupatinath, the sleeping Vishnu in Budhanilakantha, and the statue of Buddha and the various representations of Vishnu in Changu Narayan.

Another Buddhist text, the Mañjuśrī-mūla-kalpa, mentioned Manadeva as the King of Nepal Mandala. Researchers believe the Mulasarvastivadavinaya was written in the 2nd century CE, and that the Manjushrimulakalpa was written during Manadeva's reign. The Swayambhu Purana, the ancient Buddhist Purana text, and a Licchavi inscription all mentioned Nepal Mandala.

Buddhist inscriptions and chronicles and Tibetan sources also record a few tantric Buddhist deities, namely Akshobhya, Amitabha, Vajrayogini, Vajrabhairava, Usnisavijaya and Samantabhadra. Strong influence from Animism resulted in belief in Buddhist deities such as the Pancaraksas.

Religious tolerance and syncretism were stressed during the Licchavi period. King Manadeva paid homage at both Hindu and Buddhist sites. His family subsequently found expression for their beliefs in various religions.

The worship of the Caitya and the Rath Jatra cart festival of Avalokitesvara were introduced around this period
Many ancient sites in the Kathmandu Valley were identified with major Buddhist Caityas, such as Swayambhu, Boudhanath, Kathmandu and the four "Ashoka" stupas of Patan, and another two hundred stone Caityas dating from the Licchavi Period, were testified to the widespread antiquity of [Cetiya|Caitya] worship.

It is possible that this practice, in its earliest incarnation, was related to the worship of stones, which may have originated in the early, rival Kirata inhabitants of the Valley, prior to the Licchavis. According to one of the earliest Licchavi inscriptions, Caitya worship ordinarily consisted of ritual circumambulation of the caitya and offering standard items such as incense, colored powder, oil lamps and ablutions. At times, the inscriptions indicate, it could even involve resurfacing an existing Caitya and covering the new surface with many elaborate paintings.

Caitya worship was an important factor in bringing more of the proto-Newar tribal inhabitants into the Buddhist fold, as it was a devotional practice designed for the general public. Thus, the masses probably began practicing the cart festival of Avalokitesvara/Matsyendranath (Jana Baha Dyah Jatra and Bunga Dyah Jatra) during the latter half of the seventh century AD.

This festival was celebrated by hundreds or even thousands of people, who helped to construct and transport a huge, wheeled cart that bore the image of Avalokitesvara for several days or weeks along a specific route. The introduction of this festival must have been an instant success among the majority of the Kathmandu Valley population. This strengthened Buddhism's standing in relation to the other Hindu and Animist faiths of the Valley at the time.

Forty stone inscriptions made some mention of Buddhism throughout the Licchavi period. Most of the references are concerned with monasticism. However, almost nothing is known about the day-to-day life in the Vihara monasteries or how they functioned administratively.

The names of the fifteen Buddhist monasteries are known, and it is clear from the context in which some of these are named that they are among the most important religious sites of that time. It is not known for certain what schools of Buddhism were most prominent at the time. But the strongest early influences (aside from an even earlier probable substratum of Pali Buddhism) probably came from the Mahasanghika, Sammitiya and the Sarvastivada schools. The Madhyamaka and Yogacara schools were thought to be more influential in the later period with the emergence and growth of the Vajrayana school.

Inscriptional evidence also proves that there was a string of traditional methods of making religious gifts. These offerings were used for earning blessing and making merit, and the women of the Buddhist seem to have taken the lead in offering these gifts.
Strikingly, parallel points within the Buddhist cave contain inscriptions of Maharashtra, which predated the Licchavi Nepal. The references in the Licchavi inscriptions to the Mahayana and Vajrayana are mentioned in connection with Buddhist art and notable Buddhist figures of the Licchavi period."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_in_Nepal
Last edited by Aemilius on Fri Jun 17, 2022 11:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
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Re: Lotus sutra in brahmi script from south Turkestan

Post by Zhen Li »

In any case, I don't want to derail your original post which isn't about the Nepali language. I think it is better for the source article to write "Nepal script" or "Nepal Lipi." The script at that time was probably closer to Pala script, but an ancestor of contemporary Nepal Lipi.
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Re: Lotus sutra in brahmi script from south Turkestan

Post by nyonchung »

Aemilius wrote: Fri Jun 17, 2022 11:39 am Anyway, several peoples have been living in what is today called "Nepal", for many thousands of years. They have spoken several languages, most of which are other than 'pure' sanskrit. And they have known and practiced Buddhism for a long time. Buddha encouraged the teaching of Dharma in the language spoken by normal people.

For example Licchavis, that are mentioned in the Vimalakirti sutra : "Licchavi (also Lichchhavi, Lichavi) was a kingdom which existed in the Kathmandu Valley in modern-day Nepal from approximately 400 to 750 CE. The Licchavi clan originated from Vaishali ancient India and conquered Kathmandu Valley." (wikipedia)

Buddha was born in Lumbini in the Shakya Kingdom. Lumbini is considered to lie in present-day Rupandehi District, Lumbini zone of Nepal.

Buddhism during the Licchavi period (400-750 CE)

"The Licchavi period ...

Another Buddhist text, the Mañjuśrī-mūla-kalpa, mentioned Manadeva as the King of Nepal Mandala...


...bringing more of the proto-Newar tribal inhabitants into the Buddhist fold, as it was a devotional practice designed for the general public. Thus, the masses probably began practicing the cart festival of Avalokitesvara/Matsyendranath (Jana Baha Dyah Jatra and Bunga Dyah Jatra) during the latter half of the seventh century AD.

...

Forty stone inscriptions made some mention of Buddhism throughout the Licchavi period. Most of the references are concerned with monasticism. However, almost nothing is known about the day-to-day life in the Vihara monasteries or how they functioned administratively.

The names of the fifteen Buddhist monasteries are known, ...

Strikingly, parallel points within the Buddhist cave contain inscriptions of Maharashtra, which predated the Licchavi Nepal. The references in the Licchavi inscriptions to the Mahayana and Vajrayana are mentioned in connection with Buddhist art and notable Buddhist figures of the Licchavi period."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_in_Nepal
What a source! No! Nepali never been a popular or classical Dharma language! one post before was stating the obvious. Nepali 's original name is Khas kura (also a precursor of Kumaoni, Doteli etc.) - this being the spoken language of the Khasa kingdom (in present day Western Nepal and part of Kumaon)
For religious purpose, both Hindu and Buddhist, Khas people used sanskrit (well document by stone inscriptions, tamrapatras.
BTW the Khas kingdoms had close interactions with Western Tibet.
later when Gorkha started to expand (from 17th century) it became know as Gorkha and got written down.

For your full information, when one talks about "Nepal" it explicitly refers to the Kathmandu valley, not to Terai where Lumbini is located nor Western Nepal.
The native language in Kathmandu (and a written one) is Newari (nepaḥ bhāsa) belonging to the Tibeto-Burmese family, but the religious oral and written tradition (since Licchavi times) ,for both Hindu and Buddhists, is a Sanskrit one.
A great number of Tibetan scholars learned sanskrit there.

So the religious language of "Nepal" is certainly sanskrit, like it or not.
To be complete, Buddhist missionaries from Srilanka and Thailand started to translate some texts in Nepali and Newari in the 1960s and some Tibetan classics are made available in Nepali since the late 1980s

As for the Buddha, he probably taught in magadhi - a lost language, the closest we have are jaïna texts (Mahavira wasborn in Burdwan, WB, taught in ardha-magadhi "half-magadhi", possibly a proto-Bengali)
There is a present-day Magadhi but linguists are not sure of a direct connection
To be even more complete there is also Maithili, with a strong charya connection, but written in its present Tirhuti form since the 13th century or so (written by Brahmins and Kayashthas) and well-known in Kathmandu during the Malla times as a litterary language (many Maithili Brahmins escaped to the valley, fleeing Muslim invaders in 1326).

As for Manadeva mentioned in Mañjuśrī-mūla-kalpa - not that obvious (there another thread about such propheties), this wiki thing is of a poor quality.

Oh, I have a degree in Nepali, and spent part of my life there ...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nepali_language
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newar_language
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magahi_language
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maithili_language
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Re: Lotus sutra in brahmi script from south Turkestan

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Anyway, it must been like us here, that we discuss Dharma in a language that we all know, like english. We do not discuss dharma in sanskrit, pali or classical chinese. Similarly nepalese buddhists through the ages have discussed the Dharma in their own languages.
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"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
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Re: Lotus sutra in brahmi script from south Turkestan

Post by Zhen Li »

Aemilius wrote: Wed Jun 22, 2022 8:37 am Anyway, it must been like us here, that we discuss Dharma in a language that we all know, like english. We do not discuss dharma in sanskrit, pali or classical chinese. Similarly nepalese buddhists through the ages have discussed the Dharma in their own languages.
Well, there is some evidence for vernacular usage of Sanskrit. The fact that Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit even exists, shows that vernacular grammar and lexicography had some influence upon what was considered "Sanskrit." Newars continued to write in Sanskrit and composed Buddhist Sanskrit texts into the 15th century and some even a bit later, but some of the grammar tends to drop away—even in original compositions, not just copies. Newar glosses of Sanskrit texts start to occur around the time that Sanskrit stopped being used, the 15th to 16th centuries. Glossing gave way to full-on translation in the early 20th century, with the first sutra translations in Newar being from around 1911. As for Nepali (Gorkhali/Khas), because they have been predominantly Hindu, it isn't until the 1980s, as Nyonchung mentioned, that we see Nepali translations of sutras.

As for how discussion took place, and in what language, this is really not something we can know to any clear extent. It seems like Sanskrit was used to a certain degree for quite some time. This might have resulted in a Brahmin/Kṣatrīya bias in Buddhist literature, but again, we see the influence of vernaculars even in early Buddhist texts.

So, I think that for the most part, it would have been a mixture of vernacular and Sanskrit. If you learn Newar or even Nepali, you will see how many Sanskrit terms are actually used, so, this is not so clear-cut one or the other. But it is clear that whenever it's a sacred text, it's in Sanskrit. Even today, Newars recite the sutras in Sanskrit, not Newar. So, the ritual use of Sanskrit is still ongoing, even when people don't use it for communication.
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