The British Library/University of Washington Early Buddhist Manuscripts Project “was founded in September 1996 in order to promote the study, editing, and publication of a unique collection of fifty-seven fragments of Buddhist manuscripts on birch bark scrolls, written in the Kharosthi script and the Gandhari (Prakrit) language that were acquired by the British Library in 1994. The manuscripts date from, most likely, the first century A.D., and as such are the oldest surviving Buddhist texts, which promise to provide unprecedented insights into the early history of Buddhism in north India and in central and east Asia.” I discovered this project through an article posted by John Hardy in his wonderful and endlessly varied blog Laputan Logic, which takes forever to load (any of you blog mavens out there want to give him helpful tips?) but is well worth it; recent posts have included fugu, the Jehoash Inscription, Udaipur photos, perpetual motion, and the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, and in the past he’s discussed non-round protons, the planet Quaoar, and, well, go see for yourself. Just hit Stop when you get tired of waiting for the damn thing to finish loading.
Addendum. I have shamed John into fixing his own blog, and it now loads in a jiffy!
From the sample texts page:
bhayea mitra padibhanavamta
bahosuda dhammadhara urada
(*anae dhammam vi)yigitsa prahae
ek(*o care khargavisanagapo’)
One should cultivate a friend who is intelligent,
learned, a master of the dharma, noble.
(*Having understood the dharma)
[and] abandoned doubt, (*one should wander) alone (*like the rhinoceros.)
Verses 24-26 of the Gandhari “Rhinoceros Sutra” (*Khargavisana-sutra); from R. Salomon, A Gandhari Version of the Rhinoceros Sutra (Gandharan Buddhist Texts 1; Seattle, University of Washington, 2000).
I doubt I’ll ever be able to abandon doubt, so I’ll probably never get to wander alone like the rhinoceros. Just as well.