Encyclopedia of Buddhism Online

Get access Subject: Asian Studies
Help us improve our service

Since publication of the first volume, in 2015, Brill's steadily growing Encyclopedia of Buddhism has been widely acclaimed as the long-awaited authoritative, reliable, and up-to-date reference work.

Illustrated with maps and photographs, and supplemented with extensive online resources, the print version of the thematic encyclopedia presents the latest research on the main aspects of the Buddhist traditions in original essays, all written by the world’s foremost scholars. 

Ultimately consisting of six volumes, the Encyclopedia presents a balanced and even-handed view of the Buddhist traditions across Asia, offering the most reliable up-to-date accounts of well-known issues. At the same time it fills many gaps in heretofore-neglected areas. Contributions emphasize time and again that Buddhism is simultaneously constituted by a plurality of regional traditions, as well as a far-reaching phenomenon spanning almost all of Asia, and, more recently, far beyond.

The 1000-page first volume (Literature and Languages, publ. 2015)  is available online now.

The online edition of volume 2 (Lives, publ. 2019) will be added in 2021, with further volumes following after their original publication in print.

More information: Brill.com


(3,678 words)

Author(s): Ross Bender
The kami Hachiman (八幡神) is one of the most popular Shinto deities in Japan today, with estimates that a third of the nation’s shrines are dedicated to his cult. Yet, in his incarnation as Great Bodhisattva (Hachiman Daibosatsu [八幡大菩薩 ]), the god has historically been a Shintō/Buddhist deity par excellence. His cult has had an enormous capacity for incorporating and harmonizing a multiplicity of sometimes conflicting aspects: at various different times Hachiman can function as a god of war, a deity that brings peace to the nation by protecting the emperor’s rule, an oracular kami given to…


(3,019 words)

Author(s): Bowring, Richard
Disliked by every one of a thousand buddhas, Despised by every one of a myriad demons, I crush those who practice silent illumination today, I slaughter those blind monks who still refuse to see the truth. This ugly, evil, aged, balding monk, Adding yet another layer of ugliness to ugliness (Meiwa 4, 1767). So wrote the Japanese Zen monk Hakuin Ekaku (白隠慧鶴; 1686–1769), two years before his death. It was brushed in a rough hand along the top of a witty self-portrait, one of about ten such portraits that he produced after reaching his 70s. He was a …

Hanshan Deqing

(3,282 words)

Author(s): Eichman, Jennifer
A charismatic and ambitious monk, Hanshan Deqing (憨山德清; 1546–1623) was educated at the imperially sponsored Bao’en si (報恩寺) in Nanjing. However, his early rise to prominence was cut short by court infighting and ended, despite patronage from the Cisheng (慈聖) Empress Dowager Li (李; 1545–1614), with his 1595 exile to the military garrison in Leizhou (雷州) at the southern tip of Guangdong province where, having been officially stripped of his membership in the saṅgha, he was required to grow out his…


(3,355 words)

Author(s): Harter, Pierre–Julien
Haribhadra (Tib. Seng ge bzang po; Chn. Shizixian [師子賢] is late, although the form itself is attested for another, earlier individual [Helibatuo (呵梨跋陀)], T. 2154 [LV] 526a27) is one of the most important Indian commentators and specialists of the Prajñāpāramitā literature, in particular of its scholastic offspring, the Abhisamayālaṃkāra. His authority grew during the last centuries of Buddhist presence in India to become almost uncontested in Tibet. While he was not the first commentator of the Prajñāpāramitā literature, he amplified its exe…


(1,325 words)

Author(s): Steiner, Roland
Haribhaṭṭa is an Indian Buddhist poet who, in succession of Āryaśūra, has written a further Jātakamālā (Garland of narratives related to former births of the Buddha); up to now, no other works under his name are known to be extant in Sanskrit, Tibetan or Chinese. Since he praises the “teacher Śūra” ( ācāryaśūra) as a composer of jātakas in the second introductory stanza of his Jātakamālā (ed. & trans. Hahn, 2011, 3–5), he must have lived contemporary with or later than this author. Haribhaṭṭa’s upper limit is established by the fact that a series of six stanzas from the opening story ( Prabhāsaj…


(1,340 words)

Author(s): Katsura Shōryū
Life There is no record of the author Harivarman in Indian sources. The only information we have comes from a brief biography ( Helibamo zhuan [訶梨跋摩傳]) written by Xuanchang (玄暢; 416–484) preserved in the Chu sanzang ji ji (出三藏記集; T. 2145 [LV] 78b28–79b25) of Sengyou (僧祐; 445–518). According to Xuanchang, Harivarman was born 900 years after the Buddha’s parinirvāṇa in a Brahmin family of Central India; in his childhood he studied the Veda and other Brahmanical texts, but later he was converted to Buddhism. He became a disciple of Kumāralāta of the Sarvāstivāda school and learned the Jñānapra…


(2,395 words)

Author(s): Franceschini, Marco
Harṣa (also known as Harṣavardhana, Harṣadeva, Śrīharṣa, Śīlāditya; c. 590–647 CE) is credited with the authorship of three major Sanskrit plays – the Nāgānanda, the Ratnāvalī, and the Priyadarśikā – as well as a few minor works. He is also celebrated as an outstanding personality in the political history of India, the mighty king who ruled over the greater part of northern India for most of the first half of the 7th century. Compared with those of most early Indian  kings, Harṣa’s reign is relatively well documented. The main sources for our knowledge of the period are: the Harṣacarita (The…


(5,363 words)

Author(s): Lomi, Benedetta
Origins of Hayagrīva in South Asia It is generally agreed that the word Hayagrīva means “Horse-headed” or “Horse-necked,” deriving from the Sanskrit haya (horse), and grīva (head, neck). In the Indian context, it refers to both an asura and a deva featured in myth surrounding the revelation and transmission of ritual knowledge. The Śānti Parva (the 12th book of the Mahābhārata), presents Hayagrīva as a form of Viṣṇu who retrieves the Vedas, stolen and hidden underneath the ocean by the two demons Madhu and Kaitabha (Dutt, 1903, 572–576; Mbh. (cr. edn.) X…


(4,770 words)

Author(s): Péter-Dániel Szántó
The Hevajratantra is the most important scripture of the yoginītantra class. Shortly after its appearance around 900 ce in East India (Davidson, 2004, 41), it engendered – or promoted in a codified form – a widespread and influential cult of its eponymous deity and his retinue; its teachings became of such authority that there were hardly any esoteric Buddhist authors who could afford to ignore them. While the text continued the antinomian tradition set out in the Guhyasamājatantra and the Sarvabuddhasamāyogaḍākinījālaśaṃvara, it also introduced a number of innovations – mo…