[Margaret Cone’s Original Introduction]

Part I: Text

The Manuscript

In the Journal of the Bihar and Orissa Research Society 21(1935) pp 21ff., Rāhula Saṅktyāyana described his second visit to Tibet in a search for Indian manuscripts in the summer of 1934. He lists among the MSS he saw at Ngor monastery a Dharmapada (34.1.159). It is not clear when he photographed this MS, but it was presumably during his next visit to Tibet, in 1936 (Journal of the Bihar and Orissa Research Society 23 (1937) pp 1ff.). Since the photographs were taken to Patna, where they are held by the K P Jayaswal Research Institute, I will refer to this MS as Patna. Editions of this MS have been made by N S Shukla (The Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dharmapada, Patna 1979), and G Roth (The Patna Dhammapada, in The Language of the Earliest Buddhist Tradition, Gottingen 1980, pp 93-135). My transcription is based on a photograph of the original photographs, made available to me through the kindness of Prof. Dr H Bechert, der Direktor des Seminars für Indologie und Buddhismuskunde der Universität Göttingen.

The script of Patna can be classed among those called by Bühler (Indian Palaeography, English edition, Bombay 1904, p 48) Proto-Bengali. He gives among his examples the Deopāra Inscription of Vijayasena (Table V, column XVIII; El 1 (1882) p 308), dated by Kielhorn in El 1 to the end of the eleventh century AD; and the Cambridge MSS Add.1699, 1-2 (Table VI, column X) dated 1198-9 AD. To these can be added the Gayā Inscription mentioning Govindapāla (El 35 (1963-4) p 238) dated 1175-6 AD. All three texts are in Sanskrit, and so contain for the most part different conjunct consonants from Patna.

A comparison of Patna with the Gayā Inscription shows a very close similarity between all the single akṣaras found in both texts, with the exception of visarga. (No examples of initial i- and u-, single cha, jha, ta and ḍha occur in the Gayā Inscription.) The few conjuncts they have in common, eg sta, ṣṭa, ṣṭha and ndra, are also very similar, but ku is different, Gayā retaining the basic shape of ka, while Patna does not. The inscription also begins with the same symbol (for siddhaṁ) as is found in Patna.

The Deopāra Inscription, although recognisably the same script, is not so closely related to Patna, but does confirm the signs for initial i- and u-, jha, ṭa and ḍha, and exhibits clearly such conjuncts as ñca and ñja. It agrees, however, with the Gayā Inscription against Patna in its signs for ku and visarga.

The Cambridge MSS Add.1699, 1-2 are in a more flamboyant hand, but basically the signs are very similar to Patna. In this case the similarity includes ku and visarga, but initial i- differs somewhat. The symbols used to number the leaves of Patna resemble closely those used in Cambridge MS Add.1699, 2.

The same type of script is used in the MS of the Bhikṣuṇī Vinaya (Bhī Vin) of the Mahasaṅghikalokottaravādins, also photographed in Tibet by Saṅktyāyana, and edited by G Roth (Patna 1970). Roth describes the MS and script in his introduction (pp XVIII-XXVII), and reproduces six leaves of the MS (facing p XXVI). A comparison of Patna with this photograph reveals a very close resemblance (the Bhī Vin MS is better and more clearly written). Again, as in the other examples of the script, the language of the Bhī Vin is basically Sanskrit, and so uses different conjunct consonants. The two scripts are not absolutely identical: Bhī Vin always uses for medial -i- sign above the akṣara very similar to nāgarī -e, whereas Patna uses sometimes a vertical to the left arching over the akṣara, and sometimes a simple arch. Bhī Vin’s initial i- has not the right vertical found in Patna (and in the Deopāra Inscription). Bhī Vin’s la and śa have a double arch (this is true of almost all the other examples discussed), while Patna śa is closer to ga, and la to nāgarī ta (in this Cambridge Add.1699, 1 agrees). The forms of ttha differ, Patna resembling the nāgarī form. None of these examples has -ā written as a hook above the akṣara as Patna has occasionally (cf eg the final syllable of vijāneyā, 3 A vi), but this practice can be seen in the Cambridge MS Add.1643 (1015 AD).

These comparisons suggest that Patna can be dated in the second half of the twelfth century AD.

The photograph of the MS is not easy to read. Some of the leaves are overlapped by others; drawing-pins obscure some lines; and some of the leaves are blurred. In addition, the script itself can be ambiguous: s and m are indistinguishable, as are v and h, t and bh, and tt and tu; p, y and d can also look very alike, as can ś and g. Subscript r in tr is particularly hard to be sure of, and it will be seen that I accept its presence much more rarely than Roth or Shukla.

It is clear that disagreements over readings are very probable, especially when we have no exact parallel in another text. I have recorded all occasions where Roth and/or Shukla differ from my reading, even where their readings are obviously printing errors. Unless I comment otherwise, I am convinced of my reading, either because I believe the MS testimony is clear, or because a parallel supports one possible alternative rather than another.

I have transcribed what the MS has, as far as I can, without any editorial work of correcting, or making consistent, and supplying missing words or syllables (in square brackets) only if we can be certain of what they must have been. On a few occasions I have placed in round brackets possible alternative readings, or have added hyphens to make clear how I understand the text. I have also bracketed with <> obvious mistakes. Otherwise I say with the last Patna scribe: yathā drṣṭaṁ tathā likhitam iti panhāro 'yam asmadīyaḥ.