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

Epigraphy: South Asia

(6,012 words)

Author(s): Richard Salomon
Inscriptions are an indispensable source for the study of Indian Buddhism. Buddhist inscriptions number in many thousands from all parts of South Asia, from the 3rd century bce until the early centuries of the 2nd millennium ce. The main languages are Prakrit, Sanskrit, Gandhari, and Sinhala; Pali inscriptions are virtually nonexistent in South Asia, though common in Thailand. There are few, if any, Buddhist inscriptions in Tamil. The scripts are Brahmi and its many varieties and derivatives, and Kharoshthi in the northwest. Buddh…

Epigraphy: Southeast Asia

(16,821 words)

Author(s): Arlo Griffiths | D. Christian Lammerts
Most Buddhist inscriptions in Southeast Asia may be assigned to one of three general analytical categories. They may be classified as citation inscriptions, caption inscriptions, or donative inscriptions; however, there are also less common types of epigraphy (see p. 994 on siddhayātra inscriptions) that elude this tripartite schematization.Epigraphs of the first type are so-called because they inscribe text for which parallels can often be traced in Buddhist scripture. The paradigmatic example is the inscription of the ye dhammā (Pal.) / ye dharmāḥ (Skt.) stanza, an encapsu…

Epigraphy: Tibet and Central Asia

(4,871 words)

Author(s): Kurt Tropper
This article deals with Tibetan inscriptions found in the Tibetan parts of the People’s Republic of China as well as in Nepal, northern India, northern Pakistan, and Mongolia. The non-Tibetan epigraphs in these areas are partly covered elsewhere in this volume and partly still waiting to be studied.Research HistoryS. Csoma de Kőrös, widely considered the founder of Tibetan studies in general, also provided the first study of a Tibetan inscription (Csoma de Kőrös, 1838). The fragmentary short text is found on the lower right part of the so-cal…

Epistolary Literature

(6,060 words)

Author(s): Siglinde Dietz
According to our present knowledge, it was only in the 3rd century bce, during Aśokaʼs reign, that writing began in India. Therefore, letters could not have been written earlier (von Hinüber, 2010, 266). Whereas no original Indian letter of Aśokaʼs time is extant, the scarce indications of official letters written by the Maurya administration were collected by O. von Hinüber, who refers to “covering letters” in connection with Aśoka’s Rock and Pillar Edicts and written messages that were conveyed by dūtas (emissaries), following the example of Hellenistic kings (von Hinüber…