Reorganize Tibetan texts

@blake, @Jhanarato, @Vimala

We have discussed with Rod and John K and want to go ahead with changing the Tibetan text structure.

Details are on the wiki:

Relevant Tibetan text divisions are currently here:

First to clarify what Tibetan texts we have to deal with. We have basically three sets of sutta parallels in Tibetan:

  1. The Upāyika, an Abhidhamma text that quotes extensivley from several hundred Agama suttas. Even though the Upayika is formally just another text in the Derge canon, due to the number and importance of parallels it seems sensible to allocate a separate division.
  2. The Vinaya, which contains many sutta parallels, only a few of which are currently listed on SC.
  3. Various independent suttas; 10 of these are loosely grouped as the Mahasutras.

The Upayika and the Vinaya are subject to ongoing scholarly work, and due to the complexity they won’t be ready any time soon. So what we can do fairly easily is the independent suttas.

The basic thing is to combine the current “Derge/Peking” (dq) and “Tibetan Critical Editions” (tc) into a new division, simply Derge (d). In a couple of cases this will involve merging texts that are double listed. This will create a much simpler and more meaningful structure for the Tibetan texts. They will be numbered after the actual canonical numbers used in the Derge edition.

The tricky part will be to make sure that the information that is currently found as either the “Q” number (in the case of the Derge/Peking texts) or the Publication details (in the case of the Tibetan Critical Editions), is included in the Vol/Page section of the new entries. We shouldn’t lose any of this detail. Due to the small number of entries, it’s no great job to edit the data by hand.

Here are the data files that I have made the relevant changes to: (150.3 KB)

I haven’t worked much with the data structures, so I cannot be sure these are all the changes needed, but it is a start. We should deploy the new version to staging and test it first.

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What’s the status on this? I just went to Sutta central’s Upāyika and counted 29 separate entries in its “table of contents,” but you say “several hundred” agama sutras.

What aspect is complicated, re: adding it? Searching for parallels? Wouldn’t it help scholarly work, especially that of independent scholars aspiring to work on it, to have it fully accessible on here, even if the understanding of the text is incomplete?

One thing I learned as an independent scholar/scholar hobbyist is how difficult it is to have access to texts (both primary and secondary) without institutional support. At one point last year I went to the Bibliothèque National de France, and while I could get a library card, without an academic credential (being a student or professor), I was not allowed access to the academic section of the library (I am literally talking published academic books, not historically sensitive and delicate primary source materials like Dunhuang texts)! I find it pretty upsetting that library access isn’t democratized… but anyway, it just reinforced my awareness of JUST HOW IMPORTANT sites like this is! I definitely have a lot of gratitude for all the team’s hard work, and I trust you when you say that it’s not ready to be up. I was just curious as to the behind-the-scenes issues with the text.


:grinning: Just noticed this OP is from 2015! In any case, we have many of the Tibetan files in a similar format to Bilara json on BuddhaNexus.

I will update these soon as there have been a few changes. We will also publish the Sanskrit <–> Tibetan multilingual matches/parallels soon.


Ooops, I missed that, lol. It’s what I get for hunting the forum with the search tool…

I hope the site, or this SuttaCentral, could one day include also the following Tibetan text (Peking edition (Ōtani), no. 5540) together with its English translation and Chinese version (T no. 1579, pp. 772b-868b):

Yogācārabhūmau vastusaṁgrahaṇī རྣལ་འབྱོར་སྤྱོད་པའི་ས་ལས་གཞི་བསྡུ་ (i.e. the Vastusaṅgrahaṇī of the Yogācārabhūmi)

This is because the text is entirely on the sūtra-mātṛkā (sūtra matrix, 契經, 摩呾理迦 or 本母), essentially a commentary on a portion of the Saṃyukta-āgama (i.e. the so-called sūtra-aṅga portion).
See pp. 898-899 in Choong Mun-keat’s “Ācāriya Buddhaghosa and Master Yinshun 印順 on the Three-aṅga Structure of Early Buddhist Texts”.

Choong Mun-keat translates only a few sentences of the Tibetan text together with its Chinese version (see pp. 899-900, note 21). Possibly this is only English translation published so far, though just a few sentences.

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Personally I would love to see the commentaries included, as well as texts like the abhidharmakośa, and Visudhimagga.

Why? Because we should treat these scholars as our intellectual peers on the study of the EBTs. Whether we agree or disagree with them (or rather agree or disagree with their various points of interpretation) is besides the point. But a part of removing ethnocentrism and the vestiges of colonial interpretations from academia is engaging the ideas of scholars from other times and places as our intellectual peers whose ideas we weigh and debate. Maybe the theravadin orthodoxy got some things right, maybe the sarvastivadin did? Or even Nagarjuna and Asanga as Madhyamakins and Yogacharins respectively. But my philosophy is that if they engaged the EBTs in any serious and systematic manner, we should take seriously their analysis of the EBTs in our own scholarship.

I think people hankering after translations of those complex Tibtean texts will have to wait for this project to get round to them: Since many of those texts are so central to the various Tibetan traditions, they will prioritize translating them. It would take a very special kind of Theravada monastic to devote years of his/her life to learn classical Tibetan and then spend many more years translating those kinds of texts. Same goes for the Chinese versions.

They are prioritizing sutras first. It may take decades for them to get around to them. If it will at all happen within our lifetimes. I think we are mostly just advocating for a commentarial section that includes texts in their original languages. For Tibetan Buddhist independent scholars like myself, who has a more ecumenical approach and a vested interest in the EBTs and Chinese texts, for the benefit of all Buddhist traditions, it is nice to have access. The parallels/EBT citations can be added as they are found via scholarship over the years/decades/centuries.

Remember, translations of various Buddhist canons took centuries. Heck, even profound understanding of the canons took centuries. We are not there yet. Our knowledge and access to texts is always evolving (in this I believe we should be humble about our work). But compiling and updating in order to provide access helps facilitate that work and is a good thing.

That said, there are still a lot of things to add here that are more strictly EBT. I understand if it is not a priority. But I do think it should be on the medium/long term goals to eventually include these.

You can find the whole Tibetan canon (and more than one version of it) online for free. But they are scans of the traditional Tibetan books. I can’t remember which website is hosting them right now, though. Anyway, if someone wants to get those, type up the relative sections in Tibetan, and provide them to SuttaCentral, I’m sure they would be accepted. But then you’re still stuck waiting for someone to translate them.

What I am mostly fantasizing is being able to go to an EBT and be linked to the texts where that passage is cited by commentators.

With that information, then I can engage in scholarship that looks like this: according to Vasubhandu, this passage means x, but Buddhaghosa disagrees and says y. Comparing it to the parallels we see z. But Vasubhandu was correct in point this out, in this case, and I believe Buddhaghosa was wrong because of x and z. (Or flip that around).

That’s totally fair. And that’s why I said “I understand if it is not a priority.”

For what I am talking about, you don’t need to sit there and translate the whole text. If you have classical Tibetan or Classical Chinese or Pali, you can just translate the passages relative to your study. But what a powerful tool for scholarship this would be. Plus the parts you can’t translate, you could easily crowdsource a translation of the relative passage here on Suttacentral or on another forum where scholars of Buddhist texts hangout. What a lovely age we live in for that.

That is exactly what we are doing at All the Tibetan texts are there and there you can find each section and it’s matches in the commentaries or other texts. Some unofficial videos on how it works you can find here: launched!
The new version also has Wylie <–> Tibetan transliteration but that is not live yet.


Oh my GOD! This is sooooo cool!!! So it is kind of like a suttacentral but for all of the texts texts across traditions! Holy cow! Thank you!!!

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The link isn’t working for me.

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No wonder. It’s, not


Oops … Sooorrrrryyyy! :upside_down_face:
Thanks @sabbamitta!


If you are interested in an explanation by a TIbetan monk (in Tibetan): :smiley_cat:

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If I spoke modern Tibetan, this would be cool! :joy: I had a year of modern Tibetan at UVa. And believe it not, I think it’s grammatically harder than classical Tibetan. I am actually not good at learning to speak and understand languages in classroom settings… I need full on immersion.