Buddhist literature

Buddhist literature.

During his lifetime the Buddha taught not in Vedic Sanskrit, which had become unintelligible to the people, but in his own NE Indian dialect; he also encouraged his monks to propagate his teachings in the vernacular. After his death, the Buddhist canon was formulated and transmitted by oral tradition, and it was written down in several versions in the 2d and 1st cent. B.C. Its main divisions, called pitakas [baskets], are the Vinaya or monastic rules, the Sutra (Pali Sutta) or discourses of the Buddha, and the AbhidharmaAbhidharma
[Skt.,=higher dharma, or doctrine], schools of Buddhist philosophy. Early Buddhism analyzed experience into 5 skandhas or aggregates, and alternatively into 18 dhatus or elements.
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 (Pali Abhidhamma) or scholastic metaphysics. Also included are the Jataka, stories about the previous births of the Buddha, many of which are non-Buddhist in origin. The only complete Indian version of the canon now extant is that of the Sri Lankan Theravada school, in the Pali language, written 29–17 B.C. (see PaliPali
, language belonging to the Indic group of the Indo-Iranian subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. Some scholars classify it as a Prakrit, or vernacular dialect of classical Sanskrit.
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). North Indian Buddhist texts were written in a type of Sanskrit influenced by the vernaculars. Mahayana Buddhism produced its own class of sutras, and all schools of Buddhism generated a considerable body of commentary and philosophy. The entire corpus of Buddhist writings was translated into Chinese over a period of a thousand years, beginning in the 1st cent. A.D. This was a collaborative effort of foreign and Chinese monks. Its most recent edition, the Taisho Daizokyo (1922–33), is in 45 volumes of some 1,000 pages of Chinese characters each. Translation of Buddhist texts into Tibetan was begun in the 7th cent. The final redaction of the canon was by the Buddhist historian Bu-ston (1290–1364) and is in two sections, the Kanjur (translation of the Buddha's word) and the Tanjur (translation of treatises), consisting altogether of about 320 volumes of Tibetan script. The Tibetan translation is extremely literal, following the Sanskrit almost word for word and based on standardized Sanskrit-Tibetan equivalences for Buddhist terms; thus it is particularly useful for scholars.


See M. Cummings, Lives of the Buddha in the Art and Literature of Asia (1982).

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References in periodicals archive ?
It seems that Tibet had no written language until the 7th century, when King Songsten Gampo, newly converted to Buddhism, dispatched his chief minister, Thonmi Sambhota and 16 students to Kashmir to study Sanskrit and Buddhist literature. On his return to Tibet, on the basis of what he had learnt in Kashmir, Thonmi devised a Tibetan alphabet consisting of 30 consonants, 4 vowels (though there are now 5) plus vowel markers, numerals and 6 extra letters for the writing of Sanskrit.
An invaluable and welcome addition to the growing body of Buddhist literature available for an American readership, "Treasures of Buddhism: A New Translation with Selected Letters" is unequivocally and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library Buddhist Philosophy collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
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Finot greatly supported the dissemination of this modernist Buddhist literature through the Royal Library, established in 1925 in Phnom Penh, and the Buddhist Institute, founded in 1930 in the same city.
Scholarly discussions explain non-conceptual wisdom and Buddhist literature and make for a fine collection of three translated commentaries and an in-depth discussion of the two topics and their meaning in Buddhist scriptures.

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