“The texts in the manuscript appeared to rejoice, shine and smile. They were not simply texts. They were life.”
– Daisaku Ikeda
In the hundreds of years after the Buddha’s passing, it was a tradition for monks to orally transmit his teachings by reciting the sutra verses from memory. They finally got down to writing sutras on manuscripts around 6th century CE as a more effective way to preserve and spread the teachings.
Beginning with the Sanskrit manuscripts in India, the Lotus Sutra was eventually translated into more than 20 vernacular languages such as Uighur, Xixia and Pali, so that the common people could also learn about the Lotus Sutra. Copious amount of manuscripts have been found, thanks to the meticulous work of avid followers.
The Lotus Sutra Exhibition will feature a facsimile collection of manuscripts ranging from xylographs, palm leaf and birch bark to paper as materials and form of manuscripts evolved along the years. These manuscripts, surviving through a dramatic passage of time are priceless jewels of Oriental history and culture.
Awakened from a thousand year old sleep
The oldest Lotus Sutra manuscripts were discovered in Gilgit, Kashmir back in 1931. A young shepherd had passed by a hill near the small town of Gilgit where ruins of Buddhist structures lay. He took a look inside and saw manuscripts piled up inside a room. Upon excavation and further research, it turned out that these manuscripts are more than 1,400 years old and written on birch bark.
Surviving Nazi bombardment
During World War II, the armies of Nazi Germany carried out a 900-day siege in present-day St. Petersburg where the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences was located, cutting off supplies of food and fuel. During those 900 days, a man and woman working at the Institute mustered all the strength they had to guard the manuscripts. Today, the two heroes are survived by the manuscripts.
Saddharmapundarika – the only two in the world
The Lotus Sutra Exhibition will feature the rare copy of the Sanskrit Saddharmapundarika, a gift from Dr. Lokesh Chandra, the son of Professor Raghu Vira, founder of the International Academy of Indian Culture. The only other copy of this Sutra had been presented to Mohandas Gandhi, the father of Indian Independence.