Introduction to the Early Buddhist Texts
in Sanskritised Prākt

The first six chapters from a book on Sanskrit literature covering the early texts in the tradition.

Literary History of Sanskrit Buddhism, Ch 1-6
J.K. Nariman




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Chapter 1: Two Schools of Buddhism

Chapter 2: Sanskrit Buddhist Canon

Chapter 3: Mahāvastu

Chapter 4: Lalitavistara

Chapter 5: Aśvaghoṣa and his School

Chapter 6: Avadāna



What follows is drawn from the first six chapters of J.K. Nariman's Book Literary History of Sanskrit Buddhism (Bombay 1919). For the chapters we are reproducing here Nariman was relying mainly on Maurice Winternitz' History of Indian Literature, Vol II, pp. 217-282. These chapters concentrate on the early texts which have survived from the Early Buddhist Tradition, whereas the following chapters in both Winternitz' and Nariman's book proceed to the Mahāyāna texts proper.

The work is now quite dated in terms of its scholarly references, and these have been relegated to the footnotes. No attempt has been made to provide more up-to-date references, which would by now require an encyclopedic essay in itself. Despite these deficiencies the work provides a just overview of many of the main works that have survived from the earliest times, and still serves as an good introduction to these works.

The original publication of Nariman's text was in plain text and did not try to distinguish the original sounds, except for ‘sh’ which was used to represent both ‘ś’ and ‘ṣ’. Here I have inserted the diacritics for the Indian languages, but have omitted the diacritics used for European languages and have been unable to correct the transliteration (minor though it is) of the Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan characters.

One problem I faced is that I do not have access to all the articles and books quoted by Nariman and therefore I have sometimes been unsure whether diacritics were used by the authors in the original titles. I have preferred to use them but it may be found that they were omitted in the source work.

The formatting in other respects was also deficient and some attempt to impose consistency on the presentation of the text has been attempted here, so that most foreign words are italicised, as are book and journal titles. I have written out references in full, so that there is no need for a list of abbreviations.

I have also occasionally inserted words that are needed to perfect the sense (they are placed in square brackets in the text that follows), or corrected words that have been misspelt (this has been done silently); and I have occasionally divided up long paragraphs to make them easier to read. I hope that the presentation of this work will serve to introduce readers to the riches that are available outside of the Pāḷi texts.

I am very grateful to Ven. Gavesako and Upasikā Lim Sze Wei for help in preparing this text for publication.

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu
September 2009