The Earliest Printed Book Still in Existence - the Buddhist Diamond Sutra

by fulltimestudent 6 Replies latest jw friends

  • fulltimestudent

    The British Library has a copy of this important historical work (dated to May 868 CE), and has been working to conserve its copy. This film made by the International Dunhuang Project (formed to conserve relics from the Silk Road (The East-West Trading Network) backgrounds the Sutra's story:

  • fulltimestudent

    The cover illustration of this ancient printed book has many allusions to Buddhist thought, In this next video, Conrad Walters discusses the symbolism:

  • longgone

    Fascinating, thank you.

  • Nathan Natas
    Nathan Natas

    "Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:

    A star at dawn,

    A bubble floating in a stream,

    A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,

    A flickering lamp,

    A phantom,

    and a dream."

    More TRUTH here than The Watchtower ever dreamed of.

  • WingCommander

    Wow! Just watched that documentary on the Diamond Sutra; very interesting history and restoration process! I loved seeing the end result of it being stored in that nice custom wood box to be preserved for future generations. Very nice!

  • fulltimestudent
    Nathan Natas: More TRUTH here than The Watchtower ever dreamed of.

    Smile, Nathan. Umm! Not sure if any religion has 'truth.' And, for us English speakers, prevented by our ignorance of the original language (in which some text may have been written) and its nuances, from fully understanding what the original writer was trying to say, we should always acknowledge the possibility that we've got it wrong.

    For anyone interested - here's a modern translation of this Sutra.

    The fifth chapter reads:

    Diamond Sutra: Chapter 05buddha_sit_small“Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Buddha be recognized by means of his bodily form?”
    “No, Most Honored One, the Buddha cannot be recognized by means of his bodily form. Why? Because when the Buddha speaks of bodily form, it is not a real form, but only an illusion.”
    The Buddha then spoke to Subhuti: “All that has a form is illusive and unreal. When you see that all forms are illusive and unreal, then you will begin to perceive your true Buddha nature.”

    If you google this question: 'In Buddhism why are forms illusionary and unreal?' you will get over 700,000 pages in response. But, for us, in our world, only things that we can discern, test, measure etc. are real.

    Conceptual thought may discern something that can be described as true. For example. in the Axial age (8th to 3rd centuries BCE) , thinkers like Leucippis and Democritus of Abdera first thought up the idea that everything we can see and know consists of atoms and void. They, and their successors, could not 'prove' their theory as they lacked any technology that would enable them to see 'atoms.' But they managed to get it right. However, these early 'Atomists' got the concept of 'soul' wrong, simply because they accepted the idea that humans had a soul.

    I'll stop there, my mind is starting to get knotted again (grin).

  • fulltimestudent

    Nathan's comment sidetracked me earlier today, so this post is what I intended to post earlier.

    It's an audio recording of Dr Susan Whitfield, Director of the Dunhuang Project, speaking at the University of Minnesota. Her topic is the Diamond Sutra.

    One point she makes is that,

    Quote: "The Diamond Sutra is a fantastic artefact. It's a Chinese Buddhist document dating from 868 AD; it was when China was the centre of the world."

    Buddhism, like early Christianity, was adapted by believers (who came from various other cultures) to conform to some of their local ideas.

    So in reading that particular document, we can remember two things, 1. The document could be printed, because the Chinese had already developed a technology to print documents, and 2. Some of the thoughts expressed may be different to the original "Indian" (as in the ancient world) thoughts of the philosophy's founder.

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