Second Search of Sanskrit Palm-Leaf Mss. in Tibet

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Second Search of Sanskrit Palm-Leaf Mss. in Tibet
Citation: Sāṅkṛtyāyana, Rāhula. "Second Search of Sanskrit Palm-Leaf Mss. in Tibet." Journal of the Bihar and Orissa Research Society 23 (1937): 1–57.


When on the 16th February, 1936, I left for Tibet, I was still very weak after having suffered from a severe attack of typhoid and my friends' advice was against undertaking such an arduous journey. But on the last occasion I was not able to copy the last chapter of the Pramāṇa-vārttika-Bhāṣya by Prajñākaragupta which had the original Kārikās. The Pramāṇa-vārttika-text was already in the press. Though the missing portions of the other three chapters I had restored from Tibetan into Sanskrit, the missing part of the fourth chapter I did not like to restore as the original was available. I reached Nepal on the 18th February. There was ample time to recoup my health since generally the Tibetan passes are open by the end of April.
      I left Katmandu on the 15th April. My pecuniary resources were very meagre consisting of a hundred rupees in all, plus 4 dozen film packs, two cameras, and some provisions. But I had resolved to copy as much as I could. I took my old traversed road to Nenam, the seat of the frontier Tibetan Magistrate, which I reached on the 23rd April. One of the two magistrates recently had been to Nepal where he saw me. There is a strict order to officials on the frontiers not to allow any Indian to pass in, but in my case the two magistrates had to make special concessions, as they knew my object and that I am known to many big officials and noblemen in Lhasa, having twice visited that sacred city.
      I departed from Nenam on the 27th and after crossing Thong-la and other passes, reached Sa-skya on the 6th May. Early in the morning, streams were still frozen when I entered that sacred seat of the famous Buddhist teachers who, in the past, did splendid work for Buddhistic studies, translations of scriptures and even for the spread of Buddhism in the far-off Mongolia. Like other parts of Tibet, this locality is also devoid of vegetation. A few poplars and willows in palace gardens have had just a few buds on their branches and there was yet no green foliage to be seen. My former host Kusho Do-ni-chhen-po greeted me with a broad smile when he saw me.
      Now the first task before me was to copy the last chapter of the Pramāṇa-Vārttika-Bhāṣya. At that time I thought I would have to stay for a fortnight. l had least suspicion that Sa-skya will take about three months to finish my work there. The same day I visited the Phun-chhog and Dol-ma palaces, the heads of which ascend the throne of Sa-skya hierarchy alternately. I was sorry to find that the Lama of Dol-ma Palace who was the last hierarch and had greatly helped me when last time I visited Sa-skya, was no more. His two sons and their kind-hearted mother welcomed me with open hearts and showed great sympathy for my work like the late Lama. The childlike simplicity of the head of Phun-chhog Palace who is to succeed to the throne, is unforgettable. Since last time whenever I visited him he tried his best to make me quite at home. He has a very inquisitive mind. He asked so many questions about my last journey to Japan, and Buddhism, and then ships, railways, aeroplanes, radios, and what not. The Sa-skya hierarchy is not only the head of one of the four most important Buddhist sects, but they have got a big state in which they enjoy the right to rule.
      On the 8th, the MS. was brought and I began to copy it. It took 11 days to finish the chapter containing more than 5000 ślokas. In five days more I compared the portion of the third chapter which was published in the JBORS. vol. XXI, Pt. II and also the new copy. On the 25th, I went to the two palaces to bid good-bye to them. The hierarch-designate told me in so many words that there must be more Sanskrit palm-leaf MSS. in Sa-skya. But the Sa-skya monastery is not a small temple. There can reside more than 4000 monks in its dormitories and chapels. There are many big cathedrals. Many of them have got several thousand volumes of Kan-jur, Tan-jur and other MSS. In such a jungle of books even for dozens of men, it is difficult to hunt for any particular book in a few days.

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