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Like many other religions, Buddhism began as an oral tradition, continuing without written texts for centuries after the death of the Buddha.

The Buddha wrote nothing, although his words were preserved orally by monks, and committed to writing in the 1st century BCE in Sri Lanka, where there was fear that war might bring about the death of the monks who recited the Buddha's teachings.

New texts, which were claimed to be the words of the Buddha, began to be circulated about four centuries after his death, and the first Buddhist writings with named authors appeared around the 2nd century CE.

Some of the early Buddhist texts were inscribed on palm leaves or birch bark, and later on paper, painted on scrolls, on the walls of Buddhist temples, and carved on wooden blocks, in relief and backward, that would be inked and pages printed.

In 1871, King Mindon of Burma convened a council of monks to determine the final canon of Buddhist scriptures, which were then carved on 729 marble tablets, each four-feet tall, and placed in a temple in Mandalay.

However, most Buddhists around the world considered these tablets to be a fraction of the entirety of Buddhist scripture.

Generally recognized as the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama himself claimed to be only the latest of several buddhas, with more to come in the future.

Central to the written resources of Buddhism is Dharma, which includes all of the teachings of Buddhism, including the words of the Buddha himself, and those that were spoken with his sanction. Used in Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism as well, there is no single-word translation of dharma in any of the Western languages. In Buddhism, Dharma applies to the teachings of the Buddha but also refers to cosmic law and order. It includes the discourses o the fundamental principles of Buddhism, such as the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, and also to the later traditions of interpretation and additions developed by the various schools of Buddhism.

There is no consensus among various Buddhist traditions as to what constitutes the canon of Buddhist scripture, and the collection is too large for any individual to review.

Every decade, someone produces a new collection of Buddhist works in the English language, attempting to encompass the Dharma within the covers of a book written in English.

From the beginning, Buddhism has suffered from an excess of teachings. Even before the teachings of the Buddha were committed to writing, no one monk was expected to memorize everything. Instead the community of monks and nuns organized the task of preserving the teachings of the Buddha by assigning different texts (sutras) to various groups to remember and recite.

In time, groups of monks, nuns, and laypeople were devoted to a single scripture, revering that text as the most perfect record of the message of the Buddha, dismissing all other sutras as superfluous.

As these records were recorded in writing, they came into contact with one another, and sometimes conflicted. One remedy to this problem was in the form of anthologies. The purpose of each anthology could be determined by considering the texts that were chosen to be included, as well as the arrangement of the text. Thus, Buddhist anthologies have become a resource.

In 1895, a German immigrant in America published the Gospel of Buddha According to Old Records, which was arranged like the Christian Bible, with numbered chapters and verses, and a table at the end that listed parallel passages from the New Testament, which was intended to point out the agreements between Buddhism and Christianity.

Later, other works were published, including Buddhism in Translation, A Buddhist Bible, Buddhist Texts Through the Ages, Buddhist Scriptures. Whether organized by chronology or the country of origin, most anthologies of Buddhist texts are dominated by works that came from India and from the Pali language, with an emphasis on doctrine and philosophy.

These and any other Buddhist scripture or resources are appropriate topics for this category, as well as sites offering insight and interpretation on Buddhist teachings, particularly those intended to provide resources for adherents of Buddhism.

Those intended to introduce Buddhism to non-Buddhists should be submitted to an Introduction to Buddhism category, if such exists, while those that are specific to one sect or denomination of Buddhism should be submitted to the category representing that denomination.

 

 

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