Buddhist Studies Review, Vol 35, No 1-2 (2018)

The Formation of Canons in the Early Indian Nikāyas or Schools in the Light of the New Gāndhārī Manuscript Finds

Mark Allon
Issued Date: 8 Jan 2019

Abstract


The new Gāndhārī manuscript finds from Afghanistan and Pakistan, which date from approximately the first century BCE to the third or fourth century CE, are the earliest manuscript witnesses to the literature of the Indian Buddhist nikāyas or schools. They preserve texts whose parallels are found in the various Tripiṭakas, or what remains of them, preserved in other languages and belonging to various nikāyas, including sections of āgamas such as the Ekottarikāgama and Vana-saṃyutta of the Saṃyutta-nikāya/Saṃyuktāgama and anthologies of such sūtras, besides many texts that are not generally classed as "canonical", such as commentaries. These very early collections of texts raise questions concerning canon-formation, such as whether the Gandhāran communities that produced these manuscripts had fixed āgama collections and closed canons or whether this material witnesses a stage in which collections and canons were still relatively fluid and open, and whether these manuscripts, which span several centuries, witness a shift towards fixity. This paper addresses these issues and re-examines our understanding of the formation of the canons of the early Indian nikāyas in light of the new Gāndhārī manuscript finds.

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DOI: 10.1558/bsrv.36761

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