How to Cite Buddhist Scripture

How to Cite Buddhist Scriptures?

Citing Buddhist scripture can be somewhat confusing at times. This blog post aims to provide a clear and concise guide to the most commonly used citation styles by Buddhist scholars.
I hope this information will be especially useful for those who wish to use Buddhist scripture in their research or writing.

The scriptures of Buddhism are the texts that provide the foundation of Buddhist philosophy.

These texts include all the core teachings, including those on ethics, karma, and meditation. As part of the Buddhist tradition, scriptures are both revered and studied extensively.

Citation is a way to attribute information presented in another writer’s work. You should cite both where you found the information (usually noted in your Works Cited list) and on which page you found it. Paraphrases and summaries should also have citations.

How to Cite Buddhist Scriptures?

For accurate citations of Buddhist sources, it is important to have a general understanding of a few key elements. There are three schools of Buddhism (Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana). Here, every school has its own tradition. 

Each Buddhist school has a certain number of books, manuscripts, and formulas. Theravada formulas and written rituals are derived from the Pāli Canon. The Mahāyāna school is based on Chinese Buddhist tradition. 

The Vajrayana branch, on the other hand, is mainly associated with Tibetan Buddhism. The Tibetan rituals are distinct and unchanged from those of other cultures. 

In this light, we can see that the three branches of modern Buddhism are in direct line with the three traditions/disciplines of Pali, Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism.

Theravada is mostly practiced in Southeast Asian countries. Eastern Asia is the home of Buddhists who practice the Mahayana branch. 

Tibetan rituals are practiced by followers of the Buddha in Central Asia. Tibetan rituals are primarily part of the Mahayana but are considered unique.

Video: Discovering Sacred Texts: Buddhism

As I have already mentioned, for Theravda Buddhism, the Pāli canon serves as the foundation. Mahāyāna traditions follow iterations of the Chinese canon. And finally, the Tibetan canon is at the core of Tibetan Buddhism.

As the Pāli canon is considered to be the original version of the Tripitaka, we will first discuss how to quote from it.
Pāli canon suttas/sutras are usually divided into multiple chapters that can be quoted from.

Buddhist Scriptures: General Citation Format

In order to cite a scripture in an academic paper, you should include the name of the text followed by volume (V) and page number(s). The citation may also contain a date.

Quotes from the Pali Canon should follow a general rule. Digha or Majjhima Nikayas should be quoted with DN or MN added in front of the sutta and accompanied by a number. 

You should also reference the section from which the sutta is quoted if it is taken from Saṃyutta Nikāya or Aṅguttara Nikāya.

When it’s in the fifth Samyutta, for example, put SN in front, then 5 followed by a period, and then the specific number of the Sutta in that section. The same is true for Aṅguttara Nikāya. Simply replace SN with AN.

Nowadays, many people refer to these numbers as “verse numbers,” so they would say “Anguttara Nikaya verse 15.” 

Likewise, in the case of Khuddaka Nikaya, to quote a sutra, the name of the text is quoted, followed by the number under which the sutra appears in that collection. 

In the examples below, we will see different ways and styles in which Nikayas are cited: 

  • “D.1,4”
  • “DN 1”
  • “DN 1, Brahmajala Sutta
  • “Digha Nikaya Sutta 1, Brahmajala Sutta: The Prime Net/The Perfect Net/The Supreme Net”

There are some collections that have sub-branches. Dharmapada (Dhammapada), for example, should be referenced by the chapter, then the sutta.

Mahayana Sutras should be cited only by their names. Generally, these suttas have multiple chapters that can be cited. Chinese canon suttas might be referenced with the Taisho number as well.

Additionally, it’s important to know whether it was originally written in Pali, Chinese, Sanskrit, Tibetan or another language so that you can find a corresponding English translation.

To cite these teachings in a blog post or paper requires citing sources where you found these teachings in order to show your readers how they can verify what you have shared with them.

Video: Buddhist Scriptures for Beginners

Read Next:Words to Describe Buddhism (The Fundamentals)

Parting Words

The Buddhist scriptures contain a wealth of wisdom and insight, and if you wish to use them in your own work, it is important to ensure that they are properly cited in order to give credit where it is due.

The Buddhist scriptures are a diverse collection of texts that were composed over many centuries in various languages, and as a result, they do not adhere to a single standard citation format.

Scholars often rely on individual texts that have been properly published in a language that follows established bibliographic conventions.

It is important to keep in mind that there are many different translations of Buddhist scripture available, and not all of them may be accurate in every context.

It is always advisable to double-check any information before using it as part of an argument or as supporting evidence in an academic paper.

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