24 March 2000

A University of Queensland researcher has uncovered a Buddhist manuscript previously thought missing, with a text dating back to the 6th or 7th Century AD.

Dr Primoz Pecenko discovered a palm leaf manuscript hidden in the Universities Central Library in Yangon, Myanmar. The manuscript is a commentary on the Anguttaranikaya, a section of the Buddhist canon written in the Buddhist religious language Pali.

This section of the canon, which is a 19th Century copy of a much earlier work, is written for a lay audience rather than monks and offers instruction to people on how to live according to the Buddhist teaching.

Dr Pecenko has so far published three volumes of Pali commentaries through the Pali Text Society in Oxford and is working on a fourth volume.

"The information collected in a critical edition helps scholars to understand the cultural, social, religious, philosophical, linguistic and material conditions and developments of the Buddhist society from that time," Dr Pecenko said.

"For example, in the 6th or 7th Century text, the lives and religious practices of women disciples of the Buddha are described very briefly whereas in the later commentary composed in the 12th Century the role of the same women disciples is described in far more detail."

Dr Pecenko's fascination with the Pali language and Buddhism was kindled 30 years ago when he spent many months in Sri Lanka including a stay with 17 Buddhist hermits on an island hermitage in a river delta.

Dr Pecenko said the discovery was part due to the generous assistance of the former Universities Chief Librarian U Thaw Kaung and the continuous support of the UQ Department of Studies in Religion.

For more information, contact Dr Primoz Pecenko (telephone 07 3365 2823) or Shirley Glaister in the Communications Office (telephone 07 3365 2339).