One of the items that appear to be part of a cache of items being referred to as Buddha’s  to-do lists (images courtesy Bon Chance Godfrey)

Archaeologists searching for evidence of the lifestyle of the Buddha believed that they may have found a daily itinerary belonging to the revered philosopher, spiritual guide, and religious leader. This simply organized “to-do” list which is written in Brahmi script on a parchment skin seems to outline a tally of tasks that the Buddha (born Siddhārtha Gautama or “Sidd” to his friends) had set himself to do. The parchment is believed to have belonged to Gautama because it was found in a buried stupa a stone’s throw from a site that once contained what are believed to be his remains. This site was first excavated more than a hundred years ago, and had been thought thoroughly investigated so it was of great surprise to the international archaeological team that a treasure trove of details concerning the Buddha’s life could have been overlooked by previous researchers and scholars.

The research team leader Bon Chance Godfrey told Hyperallergic that they were stunned by the discovery:

Really, we were looking for the keys to one of our vehicles. One of our team members Gunter Höhlenforscher had brought his dog who has a habit of taking things and burying them where we have a devil of a time finding them. Anyway, we were digging with our bare hands in the dirt (which we admittedly should not been doing) and came upon a stone coffer containing what may be parts of a diary and this to-do list. It’s really a remarkable find that gives us insight into the most quotidian aspects of this towering figure’s life.

Among the items on the list (which has only been partially deciphered) are reminders to: pick up quail eggs from a market stall, purchase something that loosely translates as “catnip,” visit the sandal repairer, write his mother, repay the debt owed to one “Vipassi,” purchase more parchment skin (the “softer kind”), and find fermented goat’s milk. (Apparently the Buddha didn’t mind hitting the sauce before he became perfectly self-awakened.) The find has yet to be fully translated from Brahmi script, but once it is and then independently authenticated, the secrets of the life of one of humanity’s most respected and esteemed teachers will be only be more fully understood.

Seph Rodney, PhD, is a former senior critic and Opinion Editor for Hyperallergic, and is now a regular contributor to it and the New York Times. In 2020, he won the Rabkin Arts Journalism prize and in...