The Transmission of Sanskrit Manuscripts from India to Tibet

From Buddha-Nature

The Transmission of Sanskrit Manuscripts from India to Tibet
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Citation: Kano, Kazuo. "The Transmission of Sanskrit Manuscripts from India to Tibet: The Case of a Manuscript Collection in the Possession of Atiśa Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna (980–1054)." In Transfer of Buddhism Across Central Asian Networks (7th to 13th Centuries), edited by Carmen Meinert, 82–117. Leiden: Brill, 2015.

Article Summary

Hardly any Sanskrit manuscripts of Buddhist scriptures remain in India today, even though such manuscripts have been discovered in surrounding regions. Tibet in particular is one of the richest treasuries of precious Sanskrit manuscripts from as early as the 8th century. These became widely known to the scholarly world in the 1930s thanks to discoveries by Rāhula Sāńkṛtyāyana (1893–1963) in monasteries of Tsang (Tib. gTsang) province, in the Western part of Central Tibet. He had little success, however, in accessing Sanskrit manuscripts in monasteries of Ü (Tib. dBus) province, in the Eastern part of the Central Tibet among which Retreng (Tib. Rwa sgreng) monastery[1] was especially famous for its rare manuscript collection. Retreng, the former centre of the Kadam tradition located about 120 km to the Northwest of Lhasa, was founded by Dromton Gyalwe jungne (Tib. ’Brom ston rGyal ba’i ’byung gnas, 1008-1064) in 1056. The aim of the present paper is to trace the Sanskrit manuscript collection once preserved at Retreng monastery by focusing on the transmission of individual manuscripts, and in the process to shed light on one historical aspect of Indo-Tibetan cross-cultural exchanges.
      In the following, I shall (1) sketch the challenges faced by explorers trying to access the manuscript collection of Retreng monastery in the early 20th century, and then try to (2) trace the origin of the collection in Tibetan historical sources, (3) collect references to the manuscripts belonging to the collection, (4) draw up a title list of scriptural texts contained in it, (5) trace and identify its current location, and finally (6) evaluate the historicity of Atiśa’s ownership of the manuscripts. (Kano, introductory remarks, 82–83)
  1. For historical sources on Retreng, see Kano, "Rāhula,” 123, n. 1