The project proposes the first in-depth study of the Maitreyaparipṛcchā, the “Inquiry of Maitreya” (abbr. MP), a Buddhist scripture preserved in the Mahāratnakūṭa collection of the Chinese and Tibetan canons. The goal is to produce critical editions and English translations of its four historical Chinese and Tibetan translations. This will enable the sūtra to be understood more clearly within the contexts both of Buddhist doctrinal development and of Buddhist translation history. The content of the MP as a composite of diverse modules, on the one hand, represents a possible model for the textual formation of the Mahāyāna sūtras in general, and, on the other hand, functions as a key source for the various doctrinal stances in the development of the cult of Maitreya, the future Buddha. Additionally, establishing the MP’s transmission history will contribute to a more complete picture of Indo-Sino-Tibetan cultural interactions between the 8th and 11th centuries, especially in relation to their impact on scriptural transmission and translation practices.
A historical apparatus of the MP that closely tracks the text’s different versions in multilingual environments will be developed throughout the editing process. The range of textual variation in the MP’s multivalent tradition will also be recorded, and each translation will be treated as a text in its own right. By establishing reliable editions of the text in question, hypotheses about certain historical structures of the Maitreya cult can be presented on significantly stronger grounds.
This project will lead to novel philological and historical insights on a presently unstudied scripture unique in the development of the Maitreya cult. It draws attention to Sino-Tibetan interactions as a core factor in the production of scriptural translations, offering a hypothesis of the “hybrid translation” model and challenging some records found in traditional colophons. Further, it will shed much-needed light on the multi-faceted cultural interactions of the Buddhist translation projects in the imperial period of Tibet, which were misrepresented in subsequent Tibetan history and remain to this day a gap in current research.