Buddhist scriptures (Sanskrit sūtra) are fundamental sources for understanding the ideas and ideologies that once dominated, and largely continue to dominate, Asian societies. In traditional societies, these texts are simply accepted as they are, much as one might take a Bible from a bookshelf without giving a thought to where the text came from.
Scholars, on the other hand, interested in the history of Buddhism, want to understand the nature and development of these scriptures, their varieties and variations. It is most usual in thinking about the history of any literary work to assume that it goes back to a unitary, authored original, an Ur-text, perhaps thereafter undergoing a linear development from that singular original. This picture, however, misrepresents the nature of the sūtras, and obscures their history. Instead, much like oral literature (and some, though not all, of the sūtras were in fact originally orally composed and transmitted), Buddhist sūtras are authorless and textually fluid, their content often formulaic and modular.
This basic situation is complicated by the huge volume and the linguistic diversity of the presently available versions of Buddhist scriptures, chiefly in Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese.
The Open Philology project is working to create a digital environment within which we can do full justice to the fluidity and diversity of the Buddhist scriptural heritage. Given the enormous size of the extant corpus, we begin with a focus on a collection of 49 sūtras, the Mahāratnakūṭa collection.
A fuller discussion of the aims of the project can be found on the research page.
Details of the technical implementation of our software designs may be found on our software developer's GitHub page: github.com/handyc
All products of the project, including editions, studies, and software, are available in Open Access format.