Sunday, October 27, 2013

Blavatsky and Buddhism

Princeton University Press announces “the most comprehensive and authoritative dictionary of Buddhism ever produced in English.” With more than 5,000 entries totaling over a million words, it claims to be “the first to cover terms from all of the canonical Buddhist languages and traditions: Sanskrit, Pāli, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Unlike reference works that focus on a single Buddhist language or school, The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism bridges the major Buddhist traditions to provide encyclopedic coverage of the most important terms, concepts, texts, authors, deities, schools, monasteries, and geographical sites from across the history of Buddhism.”

The entry on Blavatsky is neutral, mentioning that “Two of her most important works are The Secret Doctrine (1888) and The Voice of the Silence (1889); these provide an account of, and commentary on, the theory of spiritual evolution that she is said to have discovered in the ancient Book of Dzyan, written in the secret language of Senzar. Although this text has not been found, nor the Senzar language identified, The Voice of the Silence has been considered to be a Buddhist text by some prominent figures within the modern Buddhist tradition.”

Blavatsky is also mentioned in entries on Olcott, Dharmapala, Gunananda, W.Y. Evans-Wentz, the Roerichs, and terms such as dewachen, a phonetic rendering of the Tibetan bde be chan (the Tibetan translation of Sukhavati), popularized by Blavatsky for the after-death state, and dhyanibuddha.

The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism is the project of Robert E. Buswell Jr. and Donald S. Lopez Jr. and the hardcover book runs 1304 pages and is priced at $65.00 / £44.95. It updates and expands the Oxford University Press 2003 A Dictionary of Buddhism, which had 2,000 entries. An attempt has been made to reconstruct the Tibetan sources in Blavatsky’s writings and the results can be seen at the site Prajnaquest.

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