Ep. 14: Richard Salomon on “In Search of the Words of the Buddha”
In his 2006 Katz Distinguished Lecture, Richard Salomon discusses the efforts of scholars and Buddhist practitioners to isolate the original teachings of the Buddha out of the enormous volume of Buddhist scriptures as they have been preserved in many different Asian languages and countries.
He also discusses the implications of the recent discoveries of the earliest surviving Buddhist manuscripts -- fragile birch-bark scrolls found in clay pots in ancient Gandhara (now northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan) -- which are believed to be the earliest surviving Buddhist texts. Their importance for Buddhist culture is comparable to that of the Dead Sea Scrolls for Judaism and early Christianity, and Salomon discusses the shifts in point of view and the re-framing of the problem that they necessitate.
Richard Salomon is William P. and Ruth Gerberding University Professor Emeritus of Sanskrit in the Department of Asian Languages & Literature at the University of Washington. He is the former president of the International Association of Buddhist Studies and of the American Oriental Society, and since 1996 the director of the Early Buddhist Manuscripts Project, a joint venture of the British Library and the University of Washington, which is charged with the study and publication of the oldest surviving Buddhist manuscripts, dating back to the first century BCE. He has published seven books and over 150 articles in these and other fields.
The 2023-2024 season of Going Public features select Katz Distinguished Lectures from our archive. Learn more about the lecture series and peruse the archive: