Introduction: Rethinking Buddhist manuscript cultures

Stephen C. Berkwitz, Juliane Schober, Claudia Brown

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


The great reverence among Buddhists everywhere for the Buddha and his oral teaching called the Dharma gave rise to equally great efforts to record, transmit, and preserve the Buddha's Word (buddhavacana) in written form. It is widely recognized that people from within the Buddhist tradition, which is really a large family of traditions that once spanned nearly the entire Asian continent, first began to write Buddhist texts beginning around the first century BCE. As time went on, Buddhist writers composed, copied, and translated huge numbers of texts, many of which were believed to have originated with the direct teaching of the Buddha namedGotama or S'ākyamuni. As themonastic community split into different sects following the Buddha's death sometime around the fourth century BCE, some of these sects developed their own canons or collections of scriptures. Some of these canons survive intact; others have an existence that is only attested to in other sources and fragments of extant texts. Regardless, there was an early proliferation of canonical literature that eventually came under the designation of Tripit.aka, or "Three Baskets," which comprises the collection of vinaya texts connected with monastic disciplinary codes, sūtra texts that convey doctrinal teachings in narrative form, and abhidharma texts concerning abstract philosophical speculation about the nature of psychophysical existence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBuddhist Manuscript Cultures
Subtitle of host publicationKnowledge, ritual, and art
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781134002429
ISBN (Print)9780415776165
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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