Oldest sutra

Good morning
I'm looking for information where is available oldest written sutra which was never discovered?
Is it any museums or photo in internet at least ?
Best wishes

Gregory Hamilton Schmidt's picture

Gandharan Texts

I recently ran across an article in Tricycle which discuses the discovery of Gandharan (Sarvastivadin) texts that are among the oldest Buddhist manuscripts known, dating from the 1st to the 3rd century CE.

If you're a subscriber to Tricycle, you'll find the article here.

If not, I have transcribed and posted it here.

(as this is copyrighted material, please do not distribute)

Of note among these birch bark scrolls are the inclusion of "never-before-seen Abhidharma treatises and commentaries.... the earloest known Prajnaparamita texts and the the earliest textual references to the Mahayana school."

While the article makes many interesting points, what I find most compelling - as it is directly relevant to the question of Why Study the Mahayana asked in 6102 - is the conclusion drawn from a comparative study of the Pali, Sanskrit and Gandharan versions of the Rhinoceros Stura found within this collection.
That is, because the Pali and Sanskrit versions are related to the Gandharan version in different ways, the texts are parallel - not sequential. (Please see the article for a more detailed description).

There is also a 51 minute talk by Dr. Richard G. Salomon, who is mentioned in the article, discussing his work in comparing these texts to arrive at this conclusion in greater detail available here.

Thus the impact is the suggestion that if there is a common basis for all traditions, its lost in the oral history that immediately followed the Buddha's parinirvana and what we have now is not a linear evolution of tradition but a history of multiple concurrent traditions that evolved over time.

One scholar is quoted in the article making the final and logical claim that "nobody holds the view of an original cannon anymore."

You can find an image of some of these scrolls here in the British Library's ancient texts collection, along with an image of the Diamond Sutra printed in China in 868 CE.