BBC News reported recently on the release of a rare fifth-century Buddhist manuscript in book form in India. The document, a collection of writings known as the Lotus Sutra, was discovered in 1931 by cattle grazers in what is now the Gilgit region of Pakistan. The manuscripts most likely survived centuries of exposure “because they were written on the bark of the bhoj (birch) tree which does not decay and were kept in the freezing sub-zero temperatures of the Gilgit region,” according to officials at the National Archives. Essential to the Mahayana Buddhist canon, the Lotus Sutra presents itself as a discourse delivered by the Buddha at the end of his life:

The book – a facsimile edition which is an exact replica of the manuscripts – will be launched by the National Archives jointly with the Institute

of Oriental Philosophy and Soka Gakkai, a Japan-based non-governmental organisation recognised by the UN.

“This will help greatly to preserve the rare

documents for posterity and make them available for future research,” Prof Mushir-ul Hasan, Director General of National Archives of India, said.The manuscripts were discovered in a wooden box in a circular chamber inside a Buddhist stupa by cattle grazers who brought the box to the Wazir of Gilgit.

The Wazir of Gilgit sent it to the Maharaja of Kashmir in Srinagar.

The document was studied by Hungarian-British archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein who announced the important find to the world.

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