SK6216/ME6216 - Readings in Buddhist Sanskrit Texts (Introductory)

This course is based on the reasonable assumption that the most interesting and rewarding way to learn Classical Sanskrit as a beginner is to actually read some simple Sanskrit texts that interests him, under the guidance of a teacher. Classical Buddhist Sanskrit texts have their own styles, idiomatic expressions and technical terminologies with which the student must first be familiarized. As the student reads, he is being gradually introduced to both Buddhist textual material on the one hand, and elementary grammar on the other.

In this course, the student will first be introduced to short passages selected on the basis of (i) simplicity in terms of grammatical structure and doctrinal meaning, and (ii) the existence of corresponding Chinese versions (particularly those translated by Xuan Zang and Kumarajiva). Hybrid Sanskrit passages will be excluded. As he reads the graded passages, all the grammars involved will be analyzed and doctrines explained to him. After a gradual build up, long passages from the Vajracchedikā-prajñāpāramitā-sūtra deemed appropriate for the student’s level will be taken up for analysis. Advantage will be taken from the fact that most students here can understand basic Classical Chinese, and some can even memorize most of the passages from Kumarajiva’s version of the Vajracchedikā-prajñāpāramitā-sūtra. It will also be an advantage if the student already has some familiarity with the elementary Sanskrit grammar. However, neither familiarity with Buddhist scriptures and Classical Chinese nor knowledge of Sanskrit is an absolute prerequisite of this course.