Peter Skilling, "Prakrit Prajnāpāramitās: Northwest, South, and Center: Gleanings from Avalokitavrata and Haribhadra"



Over the past twenty years, the study of ancient Buddhist manuscripts from Gandhāra has radically changed the configuration of Buddhist studies. Our understanding of the development of Buddhism and of Buddhist literature has opened up in directions that we could scarcely have imagined at the close of the twentieth century. One of the most recent and most astounding discoveries is a manuscript that takes us back to an early stage in the development of the “Perfection of Wisdom.” This is a version of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāparamitā written on birch bark in Gāndhārī Prakrit and dating to approximately the first century C.E. The paper discusses the significance of this manuscript in the context of Avalokitavrata’s seventh–eighth century report of a Prakrit Prajñāpāramitā of the Mahāsāṃghika school, and the eighth-century scholar Haribhadra’s remarks about the language of the Ratnaguṇasaṃcayagāthā.