Sunday, August 31, 2008

Digital Dictionary of Buddhism

Digital Dictionary of Buddhism
(password access)
(Update Notes to the 3/26/02 Release)

Compilation started in September, 1986. First placed on the Internet on July 15, 1995. Updated daily based on user contributions.

What is it? (Skip down for limited free access information)

This dictionary is a compilation of Buddhist terms, texts, temple, schools, persons, and so on found in Buddhist canonical sources. Its compilation was initiated in 1986 during my first semester of graduate school, upon my realization of the near-nonexistence of comprehensive English language reference works for Buddhist technical terminology. Since my basic area of interest concerned the Chinese Buddhist canon, the orientation of the dictionary has been toward East Asian sources, and therefore the dictionary was known during its first 15 years of existence, as the Dictionary of East Asian Buddhist Terms (DEABT). Realizing, however, that a large portion of the content was actually concerned with Indian and other cultural manifestations of Buddhism, and not wanting to discourage potential collaborators with other orientations, we renamed it, in 2001, to the present Digital Dictionary of Buddhism (DDB). Thus, while there is a basic layer of East Asian terminology, since much of what East Asian Buddhists have written about is the Buddhism of India, Central Asia, and Tibet, the content of this database / dictionary / encyclopedia / translation glossary is intended to be pan-Buddhist in character.

I originally began the compilation of the DDB simply as a personal glossary to aid in translation work. But as time passed, seeing the need for the availability of a broad range of information on Buddhist concepts, persons, places, practices, schools, and so forth, I gradually began to add essay-length materials derived from my own research. While the initial target audience of this compilation was for the most part specialists like myself who were working directly with Buddhist textual sources, and while the information contained his is, for the most part aimed at professional researchers, as the project grows in scope and in technical sophistication, the information contained here gradually becomes as useful to beginners and casual browsers as it is to professional scholars.

I began the project at a time (1986) before anyone had conceived of the World Wide Web as we know it today. In 1995, however, I found my way onto the web, and after learning the basics of creating an HTML document, I immediately saw the value of placing these materials on the web. This made them available more freely, more quickly, and more cheaply, to a wider range of people than one could have ever imagined with a print reference work. It also allowed for easy and continuous correction, enhancement, expansion, and refinement of the information contained within. And of course, it enabled the kind of collaboration not heretofore conceivable. Within a year after my placing of this compilation on the web in a simple and rough HTML format, it was discovered by Christian Wittern (presently employed at the Humanities Institutes at Kyoto University), a scholar of Chinese Chan Buddhism, who also happened to be (and still is) one of the most advanced users of digital technology in the Humanities fields. Christian quickly converted the data to SGML format, and I was over time, able to learn from this and study enough about SGML to figure out the basics, and the underlying format continued to develop from there. After this time, a few of the earliest contributors, including Gene Reeves, Jamie Hubbard, Charles Patton, and Iain Sinclair contacted me to offer their own digitized research data. More >>

Charles Muller
Toyo Gakuen University


We have established a password/quota system in order to: (a) encourage regular users to feel a sense of responsibility to make their own contributions to this shared resource, and (b) block access by abusers of the dictionaries who send in search robots to download all of the data (which, in the process, obstruct access by honest users). This system operates at two levels:

  • FREE Limited Use (no user $ contribution): Any user may access the dictionary by entering "guest" as the username with no password. This will allow a total of 10 searches in each of the DDB and CJKV-E dictionaries in a 24-hour period.
  • PAID Unlimited Use:
    User Data or Technical Contributions - While our most basic aim in putting these dictionaries on the web is to make this material readily available to everyone, the larger purpose of this project is to bring about a collaborative effort that will lead to the eventual development of a comprehensive body of data. In order to accomplish this, we need contributions toward content development from users. Thus, you may obtain an unlimited-use password by becoming a contributor to the DDB. For details, see here.

  • Paid Subscriptions - Those who are unable to make a contribution, but need unlimited access may pay for a two-year subscription to the CJKV-E and DDB dictionaries, at the rate of U.S. $110 for individuals and U.S. $500 for institutions. Please write to acmuller[a] for application information. [Subscribing Libraries]


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