A Holiday Stroll Through the Buddhaverse

Here’s a wondrously beautiful view from a micro-moment on this morning’s walk along the shore of Lake Superior as we wrapped up a couple day trip over the holiday.

Lounging around, I strolled some through the new Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism by Robert E. Buswell Jr. and Donald S. Lopez Donald Jr.

I bought the Kindle version for iPad and had great fun browsing entries and then following links, wandering through the Buddhaverse at the finger touch – at least some of the 5,000 entries and small percentage of the one million words in the Dictionary.

One of the take-a ways is how we’re just scratching the surface on what we have translated into English. I almost regret the decision I made about 25 years ago not to shift my focus from training to learning languages so I could be a Buddhist scholar.

Particularly, I was struck by how little I know about the Korean tradition! Except for Buswell’s work, there’s still very little translated into English, as far as I know. For instance, here’s a book that really MUST be translated and a selection of the description in the Dictionary:

Sŏnmun yŏmsong chip. (禪門拈頌集). In Korean, “Collection of Analyses and Verses on of the Sŏn School,” the first and largest indigenous Korean kongan (C. GONG’AN, J. kōan; public case) anthology, compiled in thirty rolls by CHIN’GAK HYESIM (1178–1234) in 1226. The collection covers 1,463 kongan, along with annotations (yŏm), verses (song), and variant explanations, such as responding on behalf of a figure who does not answer during the kongan exchange (tae, lit. on his behalf), responding in a different way from the response given in the kongan exchange (pyŏl, lit. differently), and inquiring about the exchange (ch’ŏng, lit. soliciting, or verifying).

The Korean tradition also was powerfully impacted by the “key-phrase” (wato) koan method of Dahui but seems to have taken it in quite a different direction than the Japanese Rinzai sequential curriculum.

If some Buddhist studies PhD out there just happens to have this translated and sitting around in a box in the basement, well, please dust it off and send it my way. I’d love to give it a read!

  • doshoport

    Like I said, I don’t know much about the Korean tradition! Here’s the Collected Works of Korean Buddhism:

    Download Zip File Containing 13 Full Volume PDF’s

    Volume 7 has a selection from the text I mention above.


    • Sally McAra

      Yes, that’s the kind of question you can get help with on Buddha-L or H-Buddhism, both email lists for scholars of Buddhism. I thought of the collected translation from Korean to English that was announced on H-Buddhism a few months (or years?) ago on H-Buddhism… There may not be much material translated into English, but the amount that has is soooo vast that I can’t hope to even skim read it all in one lifetime!

      • doshoport

        Sally, Thanks! Yes, the Collected works has volumes 7.1 and 7.2 with 100 of the 1463 koans and the workings of each case are quite extensive and wonderful.


  • Doan Roessler

    Hi Dosho – is there a good search function built into the Kindle version of this dictionary? I have the Keown Buddhist dictionary on my Kindle and it relies on the Kindle’s own search function. It’s super clunky and awkward. I hope the new Princeton one works more elegantly…

    • Doan Roessler

      I think I answered my own question looking at the reviews on Amazon. Seems that this one works even less well on the Kindle than the Keown dictionary. Bummer. Guess I’ll be getting the paper version.

      • doshoport

        Hi Doan, I think it works ok. Does take some time to search through a million words! but what’s the rush? The scroll bar to find a single main listing is fine by me. I like the Kindle version, as I mentioned, because it’s so fun to browse from link to link.

        • Doan Roessler

          Interesting – I see what you mean. I’m not sure what the folks in the Amazon reviews are talking about. It’s clear in the small sample that the linked-ness of this dictionary is a pretty fun web to wander. The Keown has no links and is very awkward to find things in. Looking forward to picking this new one up – I’ve been waiting for it!