Gleb Sharygin's s project for the Gonda Fellowship is directly related to and represents a continuation of his recently completed PhD dissertation at LMU Munich, titled, “Māyājāla-sūtra – a Unique Text of the Gilgit Dīrghāgama. A Critical Edition, Translation and Study”. This text was found in the Sanskrit Dīrgha-āgama manuscript, which was acquired on the rare books market in London in 1990’s. The discovery of this manuscript was one of the biggest events in the recent early-Buddhism scholarship, as it contained a considerable, relatively intact part of the Sanskrit Dīrgha collection, which had been considered lost prior to that. By radiocarbon dating and on paleographical grounds, the manuscript is dated to the period 676–776 CE.
The Māyājāla-sūtra (“the Sūtra on the Net of Magic/Illusion”) is unique among other “canonical” sūtras in that it has only survived in the Tibetan translation of the so-called Mahāsūtras (and now in the newly found Sanskrit original of the Tibetan translation).
But more than that, the sūtra is unique in its incorporation of what is generally assumed to be Mahāyāna material and its unusual doctrinal claims: it states that the training in higher wisdom (adhiprajñā-śikṣā) promotes the fulfilment/perfection of the other two trainings, which means it privileges prajñā (insight/wisdom); and it seems to say that the objects of perception lack reality and are akin to an illusion. These features of the sūtra make it difficult to understand the text’s exact place in the history of the development of Buddhism. This is why Gleb’s project aims to further analyse the unique features of this text and, especially, try to understand how the text was understood by Ancient Buddhists in Ancient India.
To this end, Gleb Sharygin will focus on the few surviving citations and quotations of the sūtra in Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese, identified partly by P. Skilling and partly by Gleb himself. What his preliminary analysis of them has revealed is that most of them are attributed (or are attributable) in the sources to Sautrāntika/Dārṣṭāntika/Yogācāra. Moreover, the Māyājāla-sūtra is mostly brought up by Sautrāntika-s/Dārṣṭāntika-s in the discussion of the problem of a possibility of seeing a non-existent object, which is closely connected to the main doctrinal claim of Sarvāstivāda “sarvāstivāda” or “sarvāstitva” (existence of dharmas in “all” three times).
The primary goal of Gleb’s Gonda Fellowship, therefore, will be to translate and study all the known quotations and citations of the Māyājāla-sūtra, along with their contexts in their relation to the problem of seeing a non-existent object and Sautrāntika/Yogācāra doctrines.