Indian Buddhist Monastic Law (Vinaya) Texts in the Gilgit Manuscripts: High-Resolution, Colour Images with Scholarly Appendices

This is the first volume in a new series of books providing unparalleled access to the Buddhist Gilgit manuscripts in their correct order with detailed concordances and bibliographical surveys. The high-resolution, colour images of the Vinaya manuscripts allow for a systematic and accurate study of the Sanskrit disciplinary teachings of the Buddhist tradition.

McMaster Researcher


Clarke S., Vinaya Texts. Gilgit Manuscripts in the National Archives of India: Facsimile Edition (Oskar von Hinüber, Seishi Karashima, and Noriyuki Kudo, general editors). Volume I. (2014).

What is this research about?

The Buddhist Gilgit manuscripts were discovered in the village of Naupur (modern-day Pakistan) in 1931, with subsequent excavations in 1938 and 1998. Over the years, a number of facsimile editions of the Gilgit manuscripts have been published. However, these previous editions published the manuscripts as low-quality, often almost illegible images, with folios arranged in an incorrect order.  Today, a significant section of the Gilgit Vinaya manuscript is preserved at the National Archives of India in New Delhi. The purpose of this work is to provide access to the Vinaya texts in the Gilgit manuscripts in their correct order and in high-resolution, colour images. Twenty-two folios or folio fragments in forty-four images are published here for the first time.

What did the researchers do?

In February of 2011, one of the series editors, a researcher from the International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology, Soka University, Japan, visited the National Archives of India in New Delhi to arrange and provide the protocol for the photographing of the Gilgit manuscripts. A professional photographer from New Delhi photographed the manuscripts in February and September of that year. In October of 2011, the National Archives of India and the International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology at Soka University signed an agreement to allow publication of the new high-resolution, colour images of the Gilgit manuscripts. The photographs were mailed to the primary researcher from McMaster University in January of 2012. Then, the primary researcher arranged the manuscripts in their correct order. In order to facilitate future research on these texts, the researcher compiled data on where each side of every folio or fragment of the manuscripts appears in previous facsimiles, textual editions, and scholarly translations. A reference system was developed to help readers identify the location of canonical parallels to each of the some 500 folio or fragment sides in three editions of the ninth-century Tibetan translation preserved in the Tibetan Buddhist canon and the eighth-century Chinese translation. In order to ensure accuracy, the Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese concordance data were checked by two other international researchers, Drs. Fumi Yao and Masanori Shōno.

What did the researchers find?

The primary researcher was able to provide primary source documents for the study of Indian Buddhism to a much wider audience than ever before. These manuscripts—some 570 folio sides/fragments—were made available in unprecedented resolution with detailed concordances, enabling scholarly navigation through this still largely unedited and untranslated body of Indian Buddhist monastic literature. In addition, a number of previously unpublished folios and fragments of the words attributed to the historical Buddha were made public in facsimiles for the first time. 

How can you use this research?

This research is useful to anyone interested in the philological study of Indian Buddhist monastic discipline, Sanskrit manuscripts, or Chinese and Tibetan translations of Indian Buddhist texts. It provides access to the Gilgit Vinaya manuscripts in their correct order and in a quality that allows us to learn, not just about the texts, but also about the language conventions used, scribal practices, and the birch-bark material on which the texts were written and preserved.  This research also facilitates the creation of better diplomatic editions and translations of the Sanskrit Vinaya texts in the Gilgit manuscripts from Sanskrit, and for comparative studies of Tibetan and Chinese translations of Indian Buddhist texts. 

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