Thursday, January 22, 2009

Old Books Free Books

Our society, the Buddha Dhamma Mandala Society, prints a wide range of Dhamma books for free distribution. The money for printing these books comes from people who wish to honor or remember their deceased loved-ones, usually their parents, and they ask this fact to be mentioned somewhere in the book. This is a very ancient and a particularly Buddhist practice. The oldest dated book in existence is a copy of the Vajracchedika Sutra printed on 11th May 868 in western China. On the colophon at the end of the book are these words. 'Devotedly made for free distribution by Wang Jie in memory of his parents on the 13th day of the 4th moon in the 9th year of Siantong.' The book is made of several sheets of paper glued together, 16 feel long and with an illustration of the Buddha surrounded by his disciples at the end. It was found at Dunhuang in 1907 by Aural Stein and is now displayed at the British Library. Last time I was in London I went to have a look at it. It's yellowed and worn but still in pretty good condition and the print is clearly readable. I got a real thrill to see it and to think that we Buddhists continue to follow the custom of generously sharing the Dhamma with others. May it continue long. Related to this, printing seems to have been invented in China around the end of the 6th century CE and probably to mass-produce Buddhist literature. The Confucianists disdained printing, believing that calligraphy was more noble. The oldest book printed with movable type, also a Buddhist book from China, is dated 1377.

From the 2nd of February I am going to share with you some of my thoughts on the now well-known claim that Jesus spent his 'lost years' learning Buddhism in India.

8 comments:

Grant Bishop said...
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Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Grant,
Thanks for the appreciation and for pointing out the error - the little devils keep slipping past me.

學僧 said...
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學僧 said...

Yes, this is a wonderful tradition! Here in Germany we have just recently discovered this aspect of Buddhist practice and now Dhamma-Dana projects are being initiated all throughout the country, for example here in Munich by the Buddhistische Gesellschaft Muenchen. The group in Munich are spreading the spirit of Dhamma-Dana through their noble example and assist other local groups with setting up their own free books projects. For example they helped our only very recently founded Buddhist community here in Freising with a kind donation in order to give life to another local Free Books distribution unit. Compared to the Chinese world, we still have a long way to go. Yet it seems to me that the young toddler has already braved the first few steps towards the right direction.

yamizi said...

I thought in an earlier entry

http://sdhammika.blogspot.com/2009/01/prayer-wheels.html

You mentioned that such copying of sutra is a result of "misapprehend and misunderstand"?

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Yamizi, simply coping out WITHOUT READING AND TRYING TO UNDERSTAND…

yamizi said...

So now out of memory for a deceased and print the dhamma books, it is in nowhere indicate that it is meant to be read and understood as well.

Hmm.

And I thought one would have at least read what he copies? While copying, you would have sort of recite this in the mind or something as you follow.

I don't know but it sounds like on the earlier entry, you're quick to dismiss or even make a mockery out of a Mahayana method of transmission and now you're in it. Why the sudden change of camp?

Need sponsors for your new books?

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Yamizi,
Donors for new books always welcome - but only on condition that they read the book - and don’t move camp.