Encyclopedia of Buddhism Online

Get access Subject: Asian Studies
Help us improve our service

Brill’s Encyclopedia of Buddhism is the first comprehensive academic reference work devoted to the plurality of Buddhist traditions across Asia, offering readers a balanced and detailed treatment of this complex phenomenon in six thematically arranged volumes: literature and languages (I, publ. 2015), lives (II, publ. 2019), thought (III, forthcoming 2022), history (IV, forthcoming 2023), life and practice (V, forthcoming 2025), index and remaining issues (VI, forthcoming 2026).

Each volume contains substantial original essays by many of the world’s foremost scholars, essays which not only cover basic information and well-known issues but which also venture into areas as yet untouched by modern scholarship. An essential tool for anyone interested in Buddhism.
An online resource will provide easy access to the encyclopedia’s ever-growing corpus of information.

The online edition of volume 2 (Lives, publ. 2019) will be added in (mid-)2021, with further volumes following after their original publication in print.
Brill’s Encyclopedia of Buddhism is under the general editorial control of Jonathan Silk (Leiden University, editor-in-chief), Richard Bowring (University of Cambridge) and Vincent Eltschinger (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris). In addition, each volume has a dedicated board of specialist editors.

More information: Brill.com


(8,835 words)

Author(s): Ye Shaoyong
Nāgārjuna (Tib. Klu sgrub; Chn. Longshu [龍樹]), defined as the Madhyamaka philosopher with his magnum opus the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, is generally believed to have flourished in South India early in the 1st millennium of the Common Era. Nāgārjuna is the earliest figure whose name has been handed down as a Mahāyānist (though his Mahāyānist identity is questioned by Warder, 1973; Kalupahana, 1986, 5ff.; for criticisms see e.g. Seyfort Ruegg, 1981, 6; Lindtner, 1982, 21; Saitō, 2012, 11); some scholars conjecture his relationship with …

Nāgārjuna in China

(5,588 words)

Author(s): Young, Stuart H.
The seminal Indian Buddhist philosopher Nāgārjuna has captured the imaginations of East Asian authors and audiences for more than 1,500 years. First introduced into China by the famous Kuchean translator Kumārajīva (Jiumoluoshe [鳩 摩羅什 ], 344–413 or 350–409) in early 5th-century Chang’an (長安), Nāgārjuna was initially presented in East Asia as a brilliant thinker and prolific author who revived the Dharma at a time when it was dying out. Over the following centuries, Nāgārjuna was placed in master…

Narratives and Long Poetry: Aśvaghoṣa

(5,652 words)

Author(s): Richard Salomon
Aśvaghoṣa (c. 2nd cent. ce) was a prominent author of Buddhist poems and dramas in Sanskrit. His most influential and popular works were two epic poems, classics of refined poetic style ( mahākāvya), the Buddhacarita (Life of the Buddha) and Saundarananda (Handsome Nanda or Sundarī and Nanda), which are acknowledged masterpieces both of Sanskrit poetry and of Buddhist didactic literature. He was also the author of a Buddhist drama, the Śāriputraprakaraṇa (The Drama of Śāriputra), preserved only in fragmentary form. According to the generally accepted chronology o…

Narratives: South Asia

(13,763 words)

Author(s): Martin Straube
Narratives form an important part of the Buddhist tradition for as long as the scriptural heritage can be traced back. They can be found in almost all genres of literature, except in purely technical texts, and in virtually all languages in which Buddhist literature has been handed down. The Indian tradition recognized two partly overlapping narrative genres, jātaka and avadāna, which pertain to the biography of the Buddha and his disciples and illustrate the doctrine of the moral causality of actions and that of rebirth in different ways. These two gen…

Narratives: Tibet

(7,142 words)

Author(s): Ulrike Roesler
Tibetan Buddhist narratives comprise indigenous Tibetan themes and stories as well as stories and legends received from the surrounding Buddhist countries, most notably India, but also Central Asia and China. No clear-cut distinction between Buddhist and non-Buddhist narrative is possible, however, since Buddhist legends and narrative cycles have often incorporated elements from Tibetan folk stories, and Tibetan tales have become Buddhicized by adding Indic features and a religious moral. A surv…


(3,874 words)

Author(s): Ester Bianchi
Nenghai (能海; 1886–1967) was a Chinese monk with a Chan (禪) background and an interest in Tantrism. During the 1930s he went to Kham and Lhasa to study Tibetan Buddhism, and later devoted himself to spreading Dge lugs pa teachings in China proper, acquiring hundreds of followers among monastics and laypeople (Fig. 1). Nenghai founded seven monasteries, where he combined Tibetan practices and Chinese models of monastic behavior. He held to the teachings of Mañjuśrī and took his monk staff to the Clear and Cold [Wutai] mountains. He spread sūtras and tantras and far he went to obey the d…