‘“As it is said in a Sutra”: Freedom and Variation in Quotations from the Buddhist Scriptures in Early Bka’-gdams-pa literature

Journal of Indian Philosophy 43 (4-5):493-510 (2015)
The phyi dar or ‛later dissemination’ of Buddhism in Tibet is known to be a crucial formative period of Tibetan Buddhism; yet, many questions still wait to be answered: How did Tibetan Buddhist teachers of this time approach the Buddhist scriptures? Did they quote from books or from memory? Did they study Buddhism through original Sūtras or exegetical literature? To what degree was the text of the scriptures fixed and standardised before the Bka’ ’gyur and the Bstan ’gyur were compiled? In search for some answers to questions such as these, the present article focuses on the gzhung pa or ‛scriptural tradition” of the Bka’-gdams-pa school of Tibetan Buddhism. Their works contain quotations from the Indian Buddhist scriptures that sometimes differ markedly from the mainstream editions of the Bka’ ’gyur and Bstan ’gyur. There are several possible explanations for such discrepancies: The Tibetan authors might be quoting a different Tibetan translation that was later discarded by the redactors of the Tibetan canon; they might be quoting from a secondary source such as a commentary or Buddhist anthology; or they might be quoting from memory, changing the text either deliberately or by accident. Giving examples from works of the early Bka’-gdams-pa masters this article discusses how textual deviations from the canonical versions can be explained. It will thereby provide insights into the way the Indian Buddhist scriptures were studied and transmitted in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition around the 11th–13th centuries
Keywords Tibetan Buddhism  Buddhist canonical scriptures  Tibetan translation  Bka’ gdams pa  Textual reuse
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DOI 10.1007/s10781-014-9245-4
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