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Buddhist Manuscripts

Buddhist Manuscript or scripture is an important vehicle for the transmission and development of the Buddhist Teachings. Buddhist Manuscript (PEACH in Tibetan ) holds an extremely important position in tibetan monastic life. These buddhist manuscripts are considered as the secondary body of Buddha.

Giosippe Tucci in his book ' TIBET" wrote in any case as verbal embodiments of the Buddha they would imbuce the place with sancity and ensure the protection of its inhabitants by simply being there. This fact explain the great devotion Tibetan have to have buddhist manuscripts at their home, whether they can read or not. The buddhist manuscript is a divine presence and so must be treated with the utmost respect" .Actually Tibetans have a set of rules about using these buddhist manuscripts. There is rules regarding how to open and shut a book. No sacred buddhist manuscripts should be kept an or allowed to Touch the knees on the table at which one sits. If one is making a gift of a book, the recipient must take it with out stretched on his head to receive its blessings. It is a grievous sin to touch a manuscript with feet or step over it. All this sacred texts on manuscripts are in Tibetan language. Inhabitants of Ladakh, Arunachal pradesh, Sikkim, Bhutan or Sherpas - those who are non-Tibetan speaking communities but who's religious and social life is highly influenced and formed by Tibetan culture also use Tibetan language for those sacred texts, religious prayers and rites.

Tibetans developed a literary language from the 7th century on wards. This language was formed from the culture contacts with neighboring Buddhist countries - namely the small states of the TaklaMakan, Khotan, the kingdoms of ancient north western India - Gilgit, Kashmir, Kullu and Nepal. The script for writing used in those countries was of Indian Origin. Tibetan also adapted Indian Scripts for writing their own language. King Songtsen Gampo commissioned his minister Thonmi-Sambhot to make a phonetic script for Tibet. Thonmi-Sambhot adapted Sanskrit alphabet and devised a script on basis of Brahmi. From 7th Century to 13th century AD. Tibetan translated a huge amount of Buddhist texts from Sanskrit. Tibetan and Indian Scholar worked side by side.

Tibetans created an entirely new vocabulary of philosophical and religious terms. For this work a new tradition of literature produced in this effort-inheriting Indian philosophical tradition and Tibet's own oral tradition of mythology, folklore, annals and chronicles, legendry and liturgical works, medicine, astronomy etc.

The result of this Herculean tusk gave birth of Tibetan Buddhist canons in 13th century. It consisted of two parts 'KANGYUR' and ‘TANGYUR'. Kangyur, first part is ‘‘translated words'' contains 100 volumes texts regarding teaching of Buddha himself. The second part Tangyur, ‘‘Transtlated treatise'' contains 200 volumes work of commentators, annotators, medicine, veterinary science, Palmistry, Sanskrit grammar and prosody of Meghadootam by Kalidasa. It contain 317 volumes of 4,567 works. And from 13th century we found some orthodox Buddhist works of Tibetan origin. Almost every sects or monasteries had printed works and from 13th century we found some orthodox Buddhist works of Tibetan origin. Almost every sects or monasteries had printed works of famous monks or liturgical manuals. Every gompas had ‘‘Karchak'' on ‘‘Neyik''–guide took for pilgrims containing history and praised of the monastery.

Pilgrims or travelers collected a copy of these buddhist manuscripts when visiting the Gompa and after returning home kept it at their own shrine. In Tibetan community even a layman kept sacred texts or manuscript by the images in their shrine in home. If they can not read it in time of religious rite lamas are invited to perform and read those books.

Most possibly in 14th century, from China the craft of printing from incised woodblocks, was introduced from China. From that time all important monasteries had their own press in which number of wood block were kept in order to print sacred buddhist manuscript necessary for the organization an outside demand. In Kham provice some monasteries kept blocks made of copper in which separate pages were carved (in reverse). We never see use of movable type in Tibet though in China it was invented between 1041-1049. In Tibetan system the whole page of a manuscript is curved on a woodblock.

Some monasteries in Tibet had very big printing press as Narthang or Gangchi monastery. The Gangchi monastery even sometime called as printing monastery for this reputation.

This block printed buddhist manuscripts are always of elongated shape, imitating the form of ancient Indian Palm leaf manuscript. The covers are generally red clothbound and the edge of pages colored red or yellow depending upon from which sects or religious organization it is printed from. Older schools as Nyingmapa, Sakyapa on Kadampa sects have red colored manuscripts. Gyelukpa (yellow hat) sects color their manuscript with yellow color. Ancient time we find buddhist manuscript with covers of wood carving, painted or inlayed works. Painted with a technology received from China and in shape and content conceiving Indian palm leaf manuscript tradition, these sacred texts are unique example of Tibet's cultural inheritance from his two great neighboring civilizations, China and India.

: Buddhist scriptures Tibetan Buddhist Manuscript
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