2,000 year old Buddhist texts rescued from Taliban-Bangkok Post

October 30, 2010

[FACT comments: You may be asking what this has to do with censorship and, importantly, on FACT’s front page. These earliest known version of the Tripitaka went undiscovered in Bamiyan’s caves for more than 2,000 years, until 1995. After surviving that long, the manuscripts still had to be smuggled out to avoif destruction by religious fanatics. This is a wonderful story about preventing censorship. We only wish we could have prevented the senseless destruction of the Buddhas at Bamiyan.]



Ancient scriptures unveiled

Wassayos Ngamkham

A collection of what are believed to be the world’s oldest Buddhist scriptures will go on display for the first time in Thailand at Phutthamonthon Buddhist park in Nakhon Pathom province next month.

Wat Sa Ket deputy abbot Phra Thammasitthinayok said yesterday the public would have a chance to view the Tripitaka scriptures, which are claimed to be more than 2,000 years old.

The priceless scriptures will be exhibited for 90 days from Nov 8 before being returned to their owner, the Norwegian government.

Some parts of the ancient scriptures have disintegrated. More than 10,000 pieces will be on display at the exhibition.

Phra Thammasitthinayok, Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart and more than 30 Buddhist monks and Thai representatives left for Norway last night to bring the scriptures back for display in honour of the seventh cycle birthday of His Majesty the King next year.

Phra Thammasitthinayok said the scriptures were written with “Prommi” characters that were used during Buddha’s time and serve as evidence that the scriptures were the world’s oldest.

Buddhist history states that Buddha’s teachings were first recorded on palm leaves during the first century BC.

The Tripitaka scriptures were discovered in caves in Afghanistan by Bamyan people who escaped from Taliban attacks and took refuge in caves from 1993 to 1995. The Bamyan people then took the scriptures to Pakistan to save them from destruction by the Taliban.

Norway and Britain then secretly moved the scriptures out of Pakistan from 1997 to 2000. They brought out 5,000 complete scriptures and 8,000 pieces of broken scriptures inscribed on palm leaves, bark, leather and brass plates.

“During my last trip to Norway, people recognised me as a Buddhist monk, so they showed me the scriptures, although they had always kept them as a secret,” Phra Thammasitthinayok said.

“They had as many as 12 paleographers and archaeologists translate the content into English. They recognise that they are the oldest Buddhist scriptures.”

The deputy abbot spent more than a year seeking the scriptures for an exhibition in Thailand. He finally succeeded as a result of a government-to-government deal.


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