Kirill Alekseev presents his latest research on the Mongolian Kanjur and its ramifications in Tibetan Studies
The Mongolian Kanjur is a voluminous collection of sacred Buddhist texts structured in a specific way. It owes its name, origin, and to a great extent, its arrangement and contents to a similar Tibetan set of Buddhist scriptures. At times in academic literature, it is characterised as a mere translation of the Tibetan Kanjur. In fact, it is a vast body of texts that underwent a long-term process of modifications, rather than a fixed collection of holy scriptures that appeared fully formed, never to be altered.
In my talk, I will present recent findings on Buddhist canonical literature in the Mongolian language. They highlight that the manuscript version of the Mongolian Kanjur is not as homogeneous as was commonly believed. Its copies reveal structural variations and enclose different, at times asynchronous, translations of the same texts.
The Mongolian manuscript Kanjur contains (1) translations of some rare versions of Tibetan texts; (2) a significant number of bstan bcos texts, some of which do not occur in the various Tibetan Kanjurs that we have at our disposal and (3) textual elements (such as the dkar chags, numbering of sections and ślokas) which are found only in Tibetan local collections or proto-Kanjurs. It also includes an early Tibetan text from Dunhuang called The History of the Cycle of Birth and Death (skye shi 'khor lo'i lo rgyus) absent in any of the extant Tibetan Kanjur collections.
These facts suggest that the Mongolian Kanjur was modelled after a somewhat archaic Tibetan collection that has not survived to the present day.