Digital Sanskrit Buddhist Canon

Main Introduction

University of the West is engaged in a ground-breaking project to gather, digitize and distribute the original Sanskrit scriptures of the Buddhist faith. Although Buddhism disappeared from its Indian homeland about eight centuries ago, many of its sacred texts are still preserved in Nepal. Since 2013, with the collaboration of Kathmandu’s Nagarjuna Institute, these texts are again being brought to the world. The Digital Sanskrit Buddhist Canon (DSBC) is an ambitious project to preserve the original intellectual and spiritual heritage of Buddhism through digitization and organization of these texts into a complete and comprehensive Sanskrit Buddhist Canon that may be freely accessed online.

Within Indian Buddhism, there are at least 600 Mahayana Buddhist literary compositions (sutras) that have survived in the languages of Sanskrit, Chinese or Tibetan. A near-complete Mahayana Buddhist Canon has survived in Chinese, but all of these translated texts were originally revealed in a Sanskritic language. This Mahayana Buddhist Canon, recognised as a vaipulyapitaka in South Asia, contains texts that provide invaluable insight into major early Buddhist traditions. Some texts were transmitted in a language classified as Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, while other texts use classical Sanskrit, both of which are no longer spoken. The project’s scope encompasses both languages, preserving this rich cultural and linguistic heritage.

Sanskrit is a very important language with which to comprehend the canon of Buddhism, as several schools of Buddhism derive their authority from Sanskrit texts. Mahayana Buddhist traditions in places such as China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Tibet, Bhutan, India, and Nepal were founded on translations of original Sanskrit texts, and Sanskrit texts are also important in Tantric Buddhist traditions. When there is a question about meaning, interpretation, or authenticity in regards to Buddhist texts in translation, these issues often can be resolved only by consulting the original Sanskrit texts.

The DSBC project has already digitized over 500 texts (about 42056 pages) and these texts are being widely used around the world. An additional 20 texts are scheduled for digitization this year. Currently over 350 scriptures are freely offered on the DSBC project’s website at http://www.dsbcproject.org/. The collection will continue grow as the digitized texts are reviewed and uploaded to the Canon.

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