Encyclopedia of Buddhism Online

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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


(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…