My project for the Gonda Fellowship is directly related to and represents a continuation of my recently completed at LMU Munich PhD dissertation "Māyājāla-sūtra – a Unique Text of the Gilgit Dīrghāgama. A Critical Edition, Translation and Study". The text is 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 was considered lost prior to that. By radiocarbon dating and on paleographical grounds it is dated to a 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). 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 exact place of the text in the history of development of Buddhism. That is why the main goal of my project is to further analyse the unique features of the text, and, especially, try to understand how the text was understood by Ancient Buddhist in Ancient India.

To do that I would like to turn to the few surviving citations and quotations of the sūtra in Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese, partly identified by P. Skilling, partly by me. What my preliminary analysis of them 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). That is why the main goal of my Gonda Fellowship 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.