Encyclopedia of Buddhism Online

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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


(3,827 words)

Author(s): Groner, Paul
Saichō (最 澄; 766 or 767–822), also known by the posthumous title bestowed on him by the court, Dengyō Daishi (傳教大師; the Great Teacher who Transmits the Teaching), as well as other less formal titles such as Sange Daishi (山家大師; Great Teacher of the Mountain School) and Konpon Daishi (根本大師; The Fundamental Great Teacher), was the founder of the Japanese Tendai (天台) School. Saichō’s earliest biography, the Eizan Daishi den (叡山大師傳; DDZ, 5 [ furoku]) was composed several years after his death. This biography does not mention certain key events in Saichō’s life, such as his…


(2,939 words)

Author(s): Richard Bowring
The entry for 1142.3.15 in Fujiwara no Yorinaga’s (藤 原頼 長) diary Taiki (台記) gives us a glimpse into the origins of Saigyō (西行; lay name Satō Norikiyo [佐藤 義清]; 1118–1190): The monk Saigyō turned up. “I am dedicating a copy of the ( Lotus Sūtra) and everyone at court including their Retired Majesties (Toba [鳥羽; 1103–1156] and Sutoku [崇徳; 1119–1164]) has agreed to participate,” he said. “The quality of the paper is of no concern but it should be in your own hand.” I agreed to copy out the chapter The Bodhisattva Never Disparaging. “How old are you,” I asked. “Twenty-five,” he replied (he ha…

Śākyamuni: South Asia

(27,095 words)

Author(s): Tournier, Vincent | Strong, John
Śākyamuni (Pal. Sakyamuni; Chn. Shijiamouni [釋 迦牟尼]; Tib. Shākya thub pa), the “sage stemming from the Śākya [family],” is one of the most common ways to refer to the Buddha who is universally recognized in Buddhist Asia as the (re)discoverer of the Dharma, and the founder of the Saṅgha in this period of world history; he is the central element of the “Triple Jewel” (Skt. triratna). He is also known under his clan (Skt. gotra) name Gautama (Pal. Gotama; “kinsman [of the sage] Gotama”), an epithet which is privileged in early discourses, and by his birth name Sarvārtha…


(5,761 words)

Author(s): Andrew Skilton
The Samādhirājasūtra (Discourse on the King of Samādhis) is a mid-length Mahāyāna scripture showing some affinities with the Prajñāpāramitā corpus through its emphasis on śūnyatā (emptiness) and samatā (sameness). It was in existence in the 2nd century ce and shows some concerns, such as the forest vocation and the permitted asceticisms, in common with other early Mahāyāna texts. It was quoted readily by Buddhist commentators. Despite its title it does not expound a specific meditation technique, and the nature of the samādhi to which it refers is disputable. The text is con…


(5,712 words)

Author(s): John Powers
The Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra is a relatively late (4th-cent. ce[?]) Indian Mahāyāna work consisting of ten chapters in which the Buddha explains apparently contradictory statements attributed to him in earlier discourses. It contains a number of doctrines that appear for the first time in Indic literature and that later became influential in India, Tibet, and East Asia. It is particularly influential in the Yogācāra-Vijñānavāda school, for which it is the most important scriptural source.The Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra claims to be a discourse ( sūtra) spoken by the Buddha, but the f…


(4,341 words)

Author(s): Tsunehiko Sugiki
The Samvara, Śamvara, or Cakrasaṃvara scriptural cycle constitutes the latest stage of the Buddhist yoginītantra literature in the early medieval Indian subcontinent. Many tantras belong to this scriptural tradition, such as Abhidhānottaratantra, Cakrasaṃvaratantra, Caturyoginīsampuṭatantra, Jñānodayatantra, Ḍākārṇavatantra, Yoginījālatantra, Yoginīsaṃcāratantra, Vajraḍākatantra, Vārāhīkalpa-tantra, Saṃvarodayatantra, Sampuṭodbhavatantra, and Herukābhyudayatantra. The earliest tantra among them is the Cakrasaṃvaratantra (also called Herukābhidhānat…


(2,355 words)

Author(s): Eltschinger, Vincent
Saṅghabhadra is one of the most prominent figures of the Kāśmīra Sarvāstivāda-Vaibhāṣika school (see Cox, 1995; Willemen, Dessein & Cox, 1998, 240–249; Cox, 1999a, 1999b). Tradition directly links the life of Saṅghabhadra to that of Vasubandhu because of the direct dependence of Saṅghabhadra’s only compositions on Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakośa. Thus, the scholarly controversy surrounding the identity and dates of the early Indian Buddhist master who composed the Abhidharmakośa also inevitably affects our knowledge of Saṅghabhadra. Since there is, as yet, insuff…


(2,388 words)

Author(s): Eltschinger, Vincent
Likely active in Kashmir in the 9th or, more plausibly, the 10th century, Śaṅkaranandana (Tib. Bde byed dga’ ba; wrongly spelt/Sanskritized as Śaṅkarānanda, Śaṅkarānanta, Śaṅkananda; Frauwallner, 1933, 241; Krasser, 2001, 489–490) was known in Tibet if not already in Kashmir as “the second Dharmakīrti” (Chos kyi grags pa gnyis pa), due perhaps to the extreme terseness of his style, and as “the Great Brahmin” (Bram ze chen po). Śaṅkaranandana is the author of at least 17 works on Buddhist logic a…


(649 words)

Author(s): Schneider, Johannes
Śaṃkarasvāmin (also known as *Śaṃkarapati, Tib. Bde byed bdag po) is the author of the Devātiśayastotra (Skt. ed. Hahn, 2000; Schneider, 2014; Tib. ed. Schneider, 2014). The earliest sources containing an account of his life are Prajñāvarman’s Viśeṣastavaṭīkā and Devātiśayastotraṭīkā (Schneider, 1993, 2014). According to these accounts, Śaṃkarasvāmin and his elder brother Udbhaṭasiddhasvāmin were Brahmins and worshippers of Maheśvara (Śiva). On a pilgrimage to Mount Kailāsa, they witnessed Śiva paying honor to Buddhist monks. Accordi…


(5,264 words)

Author(s): Marks, James | Eltschinger, Vincent
Śāntarakṣita (Tib. Zhi ba ’tsho; c. 725–788; Frauwallner, 1961, 141–143), an Indian monk and scholar, developed one of the last major innovations in Indian Buddhist philosophy, and played a pivotal role in the transmission of Buddhism into Tibet. His work is distinguished by vast erudition in both Buddhist and non-Buddhist Indian thought, careful attention to potential audiences, and commitment to rational analysis and argumentation (McClintock, 2010, 47–111; Ratié, 2014, 163–183). He advanced a…


(4,947 words)

Author(s): Saitō Akira
Śāntideva (Tib. Zhi ba’i lha; dated variously c. 690–750/685–763/691–743; Saitō, 1996b, 594; Pezzali, 1982, 38–40; de Jong, 1975, 179–180; Kanakura, 1965, 232–233) was an Indian Buddhist monk and philosopher, and a talented Sanskrit poet who meditated upon the conduct of a Mahāyāna practitioner. He is known as the author of two related works, the poem Bodhi(sattva)caryāvatāra, “Entering the (Bodhisattva’s) Way to Awakening,” and the anthology Śikṣāsamuccaya, “A Compendium of [Buddhist] Teachings.” Tibetan tradition generally places him in the lineage of the *…


(4,870 words)

Author(s): Ludvik, Catherine
The Indian riverine goddess of knowledge, Sarasvatī (Tib. Dbyangs can ma), is worshipped on a pan-Asian scale among Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains alike. Through Chinese translations of Buddhist texts, she was introduced to Japan as the Deity of Eloquence, Benzaiten (辯才天; Chn. Biancaitian), and in medieval Japan she entered into a web of relationships with other deities, resulting in her representation in composite forms, most commonly with the snake deity Ugajin (宇賀神) as Uga-Benzaiten. As River Goddess The goddess Sarasvatī originated in India as a powerful river that use…


(7,899 words)

Author(s): Li, Channa
Śāriputra (Pal. Sāriputta; Tib. Shā ri’i bu; Chn. Shelifu [舍利弗]) was one of two chief disciples of Śākyamuni Buddha, along with Maudgalyāyana. While Maudgalyāyana was renowned as the chief disciple in the mastery of supernatural powers (Skt. ṛddhi), Śāriputra was frequently distinguished by his excellence of wisdom (Skt. prajñā), second only to that of the Buddha. Śāriputra is also listed among one of Śākyamuni Buddha’s ten major disciples (十大弟子), a widespread category in Chinese and Japanese Buddhism. Sources The religious significance of Śāriputra, which is of tremendou…


(4,300 words)

Author(s): Péter-Dániel Szántó | Arlo Griffiths
The Sarvabuddhasamāyogaḍākinījālaśaṃvara (hence-forth Śaṃvara) is a significant transitional scripture between what later came to be viewed as the yogatantra and the yoginītantra (or yoganiruttara) classes (Tanaka, 2010, 340); in modern scholarship, it is sometimes referred to as the “proto- yoginītantra” (Tomabechi, 2007, 904; Sanderson, 2009, 147). Along with the Guhyasamājatantra, it bridges the gap between the type of esoteric Buddhism that by and large still operates within the realm of ritual purity and that of transgressive, antinomian esoteric revelation. The Śaṃvar…


(4,289 words)

Author(s): Kazuo Kano
The Mahāyāna sūtra entitled Sarvatathāgatatattvasaṃgraha (Compendium of the Reality of All Tathāgatas) is said to have taken its primary shape in the second half of the 7th century, slightly after the Vairocanābhisaṃbodhi, in South India (Yoritomi, 2005, 44). Sarvatathāgatatattva (the reality of all tathāgatas) refers to tantric methods to attain a buddha’s awakening (see Horiuchi, 1983, 23). Although the scripture refers to itself as a Mahāyāna sūtra, its contents are typically tantric and teach tantric practices, rituals, and maṇḍalas. Its tantric features are highly sy…

Scholars of Premodern Pali Buddhism

(12,412 words)

Author(s): Gornall, Alastair | Ruiz-Falqués, Aleix
According to the Pali Buddhist tradition, the Buddha taught the Dhamma in 84,000 parts. Over more than two and a half thousand years these diverse teachings have further proliferated in countless languages, texts, and discourses. Yet within this diversity, a number of the monastic lineages that spread throughout Southern Asia – the so-called Theravāda – hold one language, Pali, as the only one in which the Buddha taught, and as the principle sacred language of their tradition (On the problem of defining “Theravāda,” see Skilling et al., 2012; Crosby, 2014, 2–5). As well as being …

Seers (ṛṣi/isi) and Brāhmaṇas in Southeast Asia

(3,993 words)

Author(s): McGovern, Nathan
Brahmans and ṛṣis (Pal. isi) are important literary and cultural characters within Southeast Asian Buddhism, and a fair amount of scholarship on Southeast Asian Buddhism and religion refers to them in an ancillary way. The present discussion begins with the precedents for these figures in the Buddhist context of Pali literature, before turning to the roles played by ṛṣis and Brahmans in Southeast Asian Buddhism. Brahmans and ṛṣis in the Pali Imaginary In modern Religious Studies discourse, Brahmans and ṛṣis are often thought of as characters, whether literary or human, tha…