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Buddhist Mythology in Wikipedia


#1

Not strictly on the EBTs, but I mentioned some time ago that the Wikipedia article on Buddhist Mythology was inadequate. I’ve described what a better article would be in the talk page.

During my travels, I’ve taken a few moments here and there to flesh this out into a proper article. It is complete in the sense that it covers all the topics, though mostly it is far from adequate. I have neither the time nor the resources to add the necessary references.

Is anyone interested to help out with this? I can share my draft and we can see where it goes.


Thinking and dhyāna / jhāna in Dzogchen tradition of Tantra
#2

I’ve never editted Wikipedia, but I would love to help out just let me know how. Another article I think could use some help is the Buddhist section of Memento Mori:

It’s missing an EBT mention of maaranasati (very directl related to memento mori imo).

From what you wrote in the talk, the breadth of what that all covers is beyond my limited knowledge, so I’m not sure how much I could provide. I would like to help in some way though, I saw elsewhere re-formatting of Piya Tan’s translations is needed?


#3

Thanks for the offer. For the Wikipedia article, what we really need is someone with either Wikipedia skills, or a reasonably good academic knowledge of Buddhist mythology, to chase down references and the like. Is this you?

Sure, and there are many cases like this. Doing the Buddhist Mythology article is complicated, which is why I’m asking for some help. If you’d like to get some experience with Wikipedia, I’d suggest starting with more complete articles like this, and doing some light editing and corrections. That way you can gradually figure out how it’s done. (Disclaimer: I haven’t done much on Wikipedia and am no expert.)

Some people suggested it and I responded (many times!) that it would be not worth the effort.


#4

While traveling around Europe I had a few spare moments to put together a draft article on Buddhist Mythology. I’ve now put that on my user page on Wikipedia. As before, help would be appreciated.


#5

Wow, that’s an overwhelming amount of information. I was able to make some small changes to the Memento Mori page; but even these small changes took me a long time to research and find sources for. I’m still interested in helping, but maybe it would help my focus to start with just one section of this very comprehensive article?


#6

I agree, it feels overwhelming to me, too, that’s why I was looking for help.

By all means, start with one small section. In the associated Talk page i mention the things that require attention, but by far the most important is references. And these are by no means easy to find. Perhaps it would be best to simply start with the introduction. Or else, if there is some section that you know more about, or which is of interest to you, start with that. I’m happy to help where I can.

If you’re not familiar with Wikipedia’s style of giving references, don’t worry about it for now, just put the references in as plain text in the article, we can tidy it up later.


#7

Revisiting this after almost three years, my proposed article has had a few helpful edits and additions, but is still nowhere near publishable.

Meanwhile, the only substantive change is that the article previously on “Buddhist Mythology” has been renamed “Buddhist Deities”. “Buddhist mythology” now redirects to that. That’s good, as it better describes the actual article. But it does mean that Buddhism is now entirely lacking an article on mythology in Wikipedia.

I can’t think of a stronger confirmation of my basic point: Buddhist mythology, though one of the great mythologies of the world, is utterly neglected by modern Buddhists.


#8

Hi Bhante, I’m a regular editor of wikipedia and I’m always up for a new project. My most recent substantial edit was of this page:

See User:Javierfv1212 - Wikipedia
for a list of some contributions

Anyways, I’m happy to take this up. I think one thing I would mention is that wikipedia is not a journal, so I wouldn’t get too worried about it being just perfect for publication. Its best to find good citations, get a decent article written up and just put it out there. It can be improved with time, and other editors will likely jump in to change it as well. Its never going to stay static since wiki articles are never truly “finished”.

Anyways, if you’re happy letting me take this material, I can work on it


#9

Hey Javier, if you’re interested, that would be fantastic.

I have had some bad experiences on Wikipedia, so I have given up trying to do anything. But it is still the most valuable single resource on the web, so if we can improve the Buddhist coverage that would be great.

The underlying reason why I gave up on that idea goes deeper than just Wikipedia, though. Wikipedia done right will accurately represent the reputable published sources in a field. And arguably it does so already. By which I mean, there is little or nothing meaningful published in the field of Buddhist mythology. It effectively doesn’t exist as a subject of study. Yes, there are a few books here and there that touch on it, but very little.

So how are we to cite? And if we don’t cite, and the page gets reverted, how can we complain?

It seems to me that virtually everything done in this field must be original research, and thus does not fit on Wikipedia. I had a look around to see if there are any other similar resources that do not have this limitation, but I could not find any.

Can you think of any way around this dilemma?

Meanwhile, I am most happy for you to work on my essay and try to get it established as an actual article on mythology. Even if it ultimately doesn’t work for Wikipedia we can publish it here or somewhere else.


#10

Well, just because it doesn’t have sources for everything doesn’t mean it would get deleted. There are many articles without sufficient sources, it would just get slapped with [citation needed] notes and banners.

So I’ll just cite what I can find and put it up. I honestly don’t worry too much about making it perfect, that’s my philosophy with wikipedia. I just do what I can and it seems to me like it might be useful. Its a fun hobby for me not a job, so I don’t get too stressed out if it gets edited later or things get removed. Its the nature of wikipedia.

The main thing I see here is that it lacks much information on Mahayana myths so I would kind of look to see if I could find more info on them as well, besides trying to find some more sources and making it into a more readable wiki article.


#11

Okay, great. Perhaps you have had a better experience than I!

Indeed, and I believe I noted this somewhere. More generally, there should be more info on mythologies in the various Buddhist cultures, as well. There is some great stuff in Strong’s The Legend and Cult of Upagupta.

If you haven’t already, I’d suggest also reading a few books on mythology to get a sense of the field. Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces is the most influential book. It is, of course, somwhat dated. But IMHO the study of mythology as a whole suffers to a lesser degree the problems we see in Buddhist mythology. It is simply not so important for us as it was even a hundred years ago: we don’t read the classical myths in Latin and Greek in high school. A wonderful modern literary imagining of Indian myth is in Roberto Calasso’s Ka. I also love the work of Heinrich Zimmer.


#12

Thanks, any further sources which mention Buddhist myth would be appreciated.

Also, it seems like the wiki article on Greek myth is well developed, so it could serve as a good model, since it has reached “featured article”: Greek mythology - Wikipedia


#13

Sure, that would be good.

A quick check on the main Wikipedia article for mythology shows that “Greek” or “Greece” occurs 36 times, “India” once (in a reference). As if the mythology of a tiny corner of the Mediterranean is somehow so much more important than that of an entire subcontinent!

Note that the Hindu page, while not great, at least attempts to address its subject:


#14

Hahaha there’s nothing unique about that, just about any philosophy article has a similar bias.


#15

Some topics neighboring on Buddhist mythology have been well-studied. Oxford Bibliographies gives a useful outline of academic topics in Buddhism. The section Art, Architecture, and Symbolic Motifs in particular seems relevant.

Oxford Bibliographies: Buddhism


#16

Yes, thanks for this. It’s true, art and its symobolism has had some good studies, among them Sydney’s own Adrian Snodgrass:


#17

I am still working on this, but I decided it was time to let it out into the wild. I’m sure there will be some disagreements to what I have done, but this is the nature of wiki.


#18

Okay, WOW. That looks fantastic, I am really impressed. It looks like a genuine article, with pictures and references and everything! I hope that editors will work by building it up instead of just reverting it!