The Buddhist scriptures are full of wisdom and insight. If you wish to use them in your own work, ensure they are correctly cited so credit is given where credit is due.
Buddhist scripture citations can be a little confusing sometimes. This blog post will provide a brief overview of the most common citation styles used by Buddhist scholars, as well as how to cite specific scriptures from a variety of traditions. I wrote this especially for people who want to cite 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.
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.
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:
- “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
The Buddhist scriptures are not the work of a single author and they were composed in different languages over many centuries. Hence, The entire corpus of texts does not follow a standard citation format. Accordingly, scholars typically rely on individual texts that have been given proper publication in a language for which they know bibliographic conventions.
What is important to remember is that there are many different translations of Buddhist scripture out there and not all sources will be accurate for every situation. It’s always best to double check any information before using it as part of your argument for a discussion topic or supporting evidence for an academic paper!