RS14.01 Anavatapta-gāthā

Scroll 14 (RS14) of the Robert Senior collection preserves a Gāndhārī extract from the Anavatapta-gāthā (“Songs of Lake Anavatapta”), a compendium of karmic autobiographies spoken by the Buddha’s prominent disciples. Each autobiography presents a complex tapestry of karma, the results of its ripening (Skt. karmavipāka, P kammavipāka) through the speaker’s previous existences, and (in most cases) a crucial event leading the speaker to becoming a disciple of the Buddha Śākyamuni in his present life. The popularity of the Anavatapta-gāthā is indicated by the numerous versions available in Pali, Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanskrit, including Central Asian fragments from Gilgit and Turfanas well as the two Gāndhārī manuscripts held in the Robert Senior and British Library collections. This Senior scroll records the recitation of Mahākāśyapa together with a prologue to the Anavatapta-gāthā. This journal article presents the first digital publication of Senior scroll 14 and includes a diplomatic edition, reconstruction, hybrid edition, translation, Sanskrit chāyā, a glossary, palaeographic report and images. A detailed study of Senior scroll 14 with annotated text edition and parallels was published in Salomon 2008, Gandhāran Buddhist Texts vol. 5.

Item Robert Senior Scroll 14 | Text 1 | Surface r. 1-25, right-hand portion | Material Birch Bark | Size H: 28cm; W: 10cm | Findspot uncertain (presumably Haḍḍa, Afghanistan) | Date approx. 140 CE | Current Location University of Washington, Seattle

Content Summary

The Buddha Śākyamuni flies with his five hundred disciples to Lake Anavatapta and there asks each of them to explain their own karmic histories. Mahākāśyapa then tells how in a past life he gave a handful of millet to a pratyekabuddha and expressed a wish to be associated with such beings in the future. As a result, he was born in the paradisical land of the Kurus a thousand times, and then another thousand times among the thirty-three gods. Finally, he was reborn as a wealthy brahman but rejected the world and met Śākyamuni. Śākyamuni accepted him as a disciple and instructed him for only seven days, after which he attained enlightenment. (Extract from Salomon 2008: 355.)


disciple, karma, previous existences


  • P.  Nettippakaraṇa 1-6 (PTS ed. 141.12-142.5)
  • Skt.  Kaṭhināvadāna § 19a (see Degener 1990: 23-24, 29)
  • Skt.  Gilgit Bhaiṣajya-vastu of the MūSā Vin folios 199-209, 211-213, 218-219 (see Wille 1990: 70-71, 76-79)
  • Ch.  Independent translation T 199 at T IV 190a1-202a15 [Dharmarakṣa]
  • Ch.  Bhaiṣajya-vastu of the MūSā Vin T 1448 at T XXIV 76b29-97a11 [Yijing]
  • Tib.  Bhaiṣajya-vastu of the MūSā Vin (see Hofinger 1982 [1954]: 34, 46-48)

Companion Publications

  • Salomon, Richard. 2008. Two Gāndhārī Manuscripts of the Songs of Lake Anavatapta (Anavatapta-gāthā). British Library Kharoṣṭhī Fragment 1 and Senior Scroll 14. With contributions by Andrew Glass. Gandhāran Buddhist Texts 5. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • Salomon, Richard. 2018. The Buddhist Literature of Ancient Gandhāra. Part II, translation 5A, pp. 213-15, 219-220. Somerville: Wisdom Publications.


The research underlying this project was financially supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (USA) and the University of Washington’s College of Arts and Sciences. Facilities and general assistance were provided by Department of Asian Languages and Literature, University of Washington. Access to the manuscripts was granted by the British Library and Robert Senior.

Digital publishing by Stephanie Majcher

Cite this article as: Richard Salomon and Stephanie Majcher, “Anavatapta-gāthā” Journal of Gandhāran Buddhist Texts, July 20, 2022,