Workshop on the Vajrāmṛtatantra by Prof. Francesco Sferra

Manuscript Or.158, colophon with the date Nepāla saṃvat 282 / 1162 CE.

Prof. Francesco Sferra (Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples), will hold a two-hour workshop on the Vajrāmṛtatantra, a Buddhist Tantric work transmitted in a very old Nepalese manuscript kept in the Cambridge University Library (Or.158, dated 116 CE). Only one other manuscript of this text is known to have survived and is presently kept in a library in China. The reading and interpretation of selected passages will be integrated with the examination of images of the manuscript, thus providing both an introduction to manuscript analysis as well as to philological methodologies.

The workshop will take place on Monday January 20th, from 10.30am to 1pm in room at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge.


Lecture By Prof. Jürgen Hanneder

Ms Or. 2262, particular of folio 94v1. A multi-text, composite manuscript from Kashmir, containing twelve different texts. In this image,the first stanza of the Bhusuṇḍopakhyāna (Samādhivarṇana, chapter 25 from the Nirvāṇaprakaraṇa of the Mokṣopāya)

Prof. Dr Jürgen Hanneder (Philipps-Universität Marburg) will give a talk with the title “To Edit or not to Edit. Observations Based on Recent Editions of Kashmirian Sanskrit Texts”, on Thursday 17th October, 5.00 pm, room 7, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Buddhist Manuscript Culture: Textuality and Materiality

Programme (online version)

Programme (print version)

The two-day workshop held at the Faculty of Asian Middle Eastern Studies of the University of Cambridge was an attempt to analyze and look at Buddhist manuscript culture combining a more traditional philological approach with a broader perspective encompassing codicology and history of the book. The first day has been dedicated to papers dealing with the aspects of manuscript production and circulation, while the textual aspect has been the focus of the second day.

The discussions following each paper and the round table at the end of the two days were dominated by one key word: database. The urgent need for easily accessible and well structured data was felt as a priority above all for palaeographical and codicological studies—as it has been clearly pointed out in the papers by M. Delhey and C. Formigatti, as well as in the joint paper by H. Diemberger and M. Clemente.

Thanks to the contributions by H. Isaacson, F. Sferra, P. Szántó and G. Hidas, another aspect that emerged from the workshop is the importance of the Buddhist Sanskrit Manuscripts collections of the Cambridge University Library for the study of Tantric Buddhism.

Two papers were devoted to lexicography, both traditional and modern (by L. Deokar and M. Cone). The two speakers stressed the necessity of the application of a rigorous philological methodology in the examination of the data resulting by the analysis of manuscripts.

Last but by no means least, the influence of the material aspects of manuscripts (writing material, layout etc.) in shaping the text has been highlighted in three papers (by C. Scherrer-Schaub, A. Griffiths and V. Tournier), and it has been the focus of a lively debate during the round table.

Works in Progress

The Sanskrit Manuscripts Team has started the work on the critical edition of a number of important texts preserved in the South Asian manuscripts holdings of the Cambridge University Library:

  • Add. 1409, a palm-leaf autograph of the Rāmāṅkanāṭikā, a drama written in Nepal by the Buddhist author Dharmagupta and dated Nepāla Saṃvat 480 (1360 CE). The identity of author and scribe is clearly stated in the colophon on folio 140v:
    śrīdharmaguptaḥ kṛtī | pitrā putrakṛpāpareṇa nipuṇaṃ śāstrānvayaṃ śikṣita etām bhāvarasojjvalāṃ sa kṛtavān rāmāṅkitān nāṭikāṃ | śreyo’ stu | samvat 480 śuklaikadaśamyāṃ ravi vāso | tenaiva dharmaguptena śrimatā rāmadāsinā | bālavāgīśvareṇeyaṃ likhitā rāmāṅkanāṭikā || śubham astu sarvadā ||
    Two more manuscripts of this work have been catalogued by the NGMCP (reel no. C 6-9/inventory no.57047 and reel no. A 351-13/inventory no. 57048). One of them (C 6-9) is dated Nepāla Saṃvat 496 (1376 CE), i.e. only 16 years after the Cambridge manuscript. The short time-span between the two witnesses is a fortunate opportunity that will allow the editors to study the earliest phases of transmission of the text and, hopefully, enable them to find traces of author’s variants.
  • Add.1649, probably a codex unicus (of an extremely early date, 1412 CE) of the Siddhisāra, a work on astrology and divination. According to the colophon, the author is the Nepalese king Jayajyotirmalla (1408–1428 CE).
  • Or. 727, a palm-leaf manuscript of the Tantrākhyāna, dated Nepāla Saṃvat 604 (1484 CE). Most probably, this is the codex unicus of the complete Sanskrit version of the Nepalese recension of the Pañcatantra. Despite an early article by C. Bendall with an analysis of the content of the manuscript and a sample edition and translation of some tales, this Nepalese recension has been always studied on the basis of manuscripts of the Newari version, in which only the subhāṣitas at the beginning of each tale are in Sanskrit.

Wish us luck!