SOAS University of London

Centre of Buddhist Studies

Sanskritisation and the diction of early Buddhist texts

Mark Allon (University of Sydney)

Date: 23 November 2017Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 23 November 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B111

Type of Event: Lecture


A comparison of Pali versions of early Buddhist texts with their Sanskrit parallels, which in their language and diction, at least, certainly stem from a later period, shows that the wording of the latter is commonly more elaborate. For example, in the Sanskrit version or versions sequences of parallel word elements, such as adjectives, nouns, and verbs, are commonly longer; descriptions of concepts, actions, and events are commonly more detailed; and generally more information is given.

In this paper I will discuss some of the differences encountered when parallel versions of canonical discourses and verse texts preserved in Pali, Prakrit and Sanskrit are compared and attempt to identify those changes that are likely to have happened as a result of or in conjunction with Sanskritisation and those that took place when the texts were still being transmitted in Prakrit, particularly in the light of recent Gāndhārī and Sanskrit manuscript finds from Afghanistan and Pakistan.


Mark Allon is Chair of the Department of Indian Subcontinental Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia, and Senior Lecturer in South Asian Buddhist Studies. He completed a Diploma of Arts at the City Art Institute, Sydney, and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at the Australian National University studying with Prof. J.W. de Jong. He received his PhD from the University of Cambridge under Prof. K.R. Norman.

His primary research interests are the composition and transmission of early Buddhist texts, the ways in which texts have been used by Buddhist communities, and the Indic languages of early Buddhist texts (Pali, Gāndhārī, Sanskrit). He is involved in two major research projects. The first concerns the study and publication of the recently discovered Gāndhārī Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The second involves the conservation, photographing, and study of the Kuthodaw Pagoda marble stelae recension of the Pali canon in Mandalay, Myanmar.

He is the author of Style and Function: A Study of Dominant Stylistic Features of the Prose Portions of Pāli Canonical Sutta Texts and Their Mnemonic Function (Tokyo, 1997), Three Gāndhārī Ekottarikāgama-Type Sūtras: British Library Kharoṣṭhī Fragments 12 and 14 (Seattle, 2001), and is currently completing Ancient Buddhist Scrolls from Gandhāra II: The Senior Kharoṣṭhī Fragments, a study and catalogue of the Senior collection of Kharoṣṭhī manuscripts. He is also author of numerous articles on early Buddhist literature.

Organiser: SOAS Centre of Buddhist Studies

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