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Lions Roar : March 2019
that radically contradicted or fundamen- tally changed Buddhism as we know it? I answered in the negative; the doctrines presented in the manuscripts I had stud- ied to that point were more or less in line with those of traditional Buddhism, specifically as understood within the Theravada sect. Imagine my surprise, then, when some years later I found in one of the British Library manuscripts the following mind- blowing statement: “A fifth noble truth exists.” Even more shocking were the assertions in the surrounding passage: “The self exists; a sixth aggregate (skan- dha) exists; a thirteenth sense-sphere (ayatana) exists; a nineteenth element (dhatu) exists; a fifth noble truth exists.” MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS have passed since twenty-eight fragile birch bark scrolls, now known to be the old- est surviving Buddhist manuscripts in the world, came to light. Dating back to as early as the first century BCE, the scrolls—originating in the ancient kingdom of Gandhara, which once straddled the border between present- day Pakistan and Afghanistan—predate the earliest Pali manuscripts by several centuries. Since that initial discovery, hundreds of similar manuscripts and fragments have been recovered, all from the same region. Buddhist academics in several coun- tries in North America, Europe, and Asia have engaged in arduous study of the Gandharan manuscripts, the contents of which have been the subject of eight books and innumerable articles. But what does the discovery of these relics mean for Buddhist practitioners? Are they merely a matter of academic inter- est, or do they have the potential to shift our understanding of the original mes- sage of the Buddha in some fundamental way? Will they compel us to abandon or modify long-cherished Buddhist ideas and practice or present us with previ- ously unimagined revelations about the Buddha’s message? The short answer to such questions is no—but also yes. Once, during a question-and-answer session following a lecture I had given on the scrolls at the British Library in London, a member of the audience asked whether I had found in them “a fifth noble truth.” That is, was there anything INSIDE BUDDHADHARMA Was There a Fifth Noble Truth? RICHARD SALOMON offers a taste of the Gandharan Manuscripts. Do these recovered texts upend what we know about the dharma? BRITISHLIBRARY This selection is from the Spring, 2019 issue of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, published by Lion’s Roar. For more in-depth teachings, commentary, and reviews from Buddhadharma and to subscribe, go to lionsroar.com/buddhadharma. Trainings & Retreats in Santa Fe, New Mexico ENTIRE CALENDAR, TEACHINGS, AND MORE AT UPAYA.ORG SANTA FE, NM 505-986-8518 ext. 112 REGISTRAR@UPAYA.ORG april2-27 Spring Pr actice Period: Stories From the Lotus Sutra Sensei J yrnes Sensei Genzan Quennell may16-19 Varela Symposium: The Science of Connection, Complexity, and Emptiness R oan Halifax, P d Davidson, P Sensei Al Kaszniak, P J dam Frank, P A Varela; Perla Kaliman, P july12-14 Poetry of the Legendary Hermit Hanshan Sensei Kaz T Sensei Peter Levitt july19-21 Calligraphy: Heart of the Brush Sensei Kaz T P y Fabio Rodrigues Sensei Kaz T LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2019 25 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE