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Mahaparaḍaha Sutra (Great Conflagration Discourse)

image of digital edition of article
Marino, Joseph. 2021. “Mahaparaḍaha Sutra (Great Conflagration Discourse).” Journal of Gandharan Buddhist Texts, Vol 1 (

This is an interactive, digital, online publication published by the University of Sydney. It contains an edition of a Gandhāran Buddhist manuscript that includes a transcription, translation, Sanskrit translation, full glossary, and text critical annotations. It was produced using READ software and READ Workbench. The image of the manuscript is linked to the text such that interacting with the text will highlight the corresponding parts of the manuscript, in effect allowing it to be “read” by non-specialists. This open source publishing format serves a pedagogical function as well as a documentary function.

To access the publication, follow the link in the citation.This is the second text on scroll 20 of the Robert Senior collection.

It is a Buddhist sūtra, or discourse attributed to the Buddha. I have reconstructed the Gāndhārī title *Mahaparaḍaha Sutra ("Great Conflagration Discourse") based on the name of the hell discussed in the text and the title given in the Burmese Pali parallel. In addition to Pali, parallels to this text can also be found in Sanskrit and Chinese Saṃyuktāgama collections. This discussion of a hell where bodies burn like hot iron balls is one of the earliest extant descriptions of hell in a Buddhist manuscript and serves as the jumping off point for my broader investigation of hell as a metaphor in early Buddhist literature.

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