When I come across some interesting texts in the suttas, I copy and paste to my own Dhammawiki in Evernote. In this way I build up a quick way of finding references. Now I would like to suggest a wiki on SuttaCentral which would be open to editing for all members. What do you think about this? :slight_smile:

Sujato here! Absolutely. I think that would be a great idea. To do a simple wiki, we can use Discourse itself. There’s a setting to make a post wiki-able, and then anyone can edit it. In fact I’ve done that with this thread, just to show that it’s possible.

I believe this ability is limited to staff and users of “trust level 4”. I haven’t paid attention to the different user levels on Discourse, but basically I think that means you’d have to apply to be a wiki editor and we, the admins, could grant that.

This would enable us to develop articles and notes on various aspects of Dhamma. As a simple example, suppose you want to explain a particular topic. Let’s take the khandhas, as that’s currently under discussion. Hopefully someone with a reasonable background can get something out of such discussions. But for a newcomer, it will all be a bit meaningless.

So we decide to do a wiki post on the topic of the khandhas. We use a dedicated “wiki” category. We can do an overview, provide historical context, opinions of scholars, references, and the like.

This has a number of advantages:

  1. There’s a ready-built platform and community.
  2. Each discussion can be networked as many times as we like to the main texts simply by including relevant sutta IDs.
  3. We can use Discourse’s nice markdown, image handling, and so on.
  4. No additional work for us!

But it also has disadvantages.

  1. There’s no hierarchical structure of pages. Discourse only allows categories and sub-categories, so if everything is under the “wiki” category, that means we have only one level left.
  2. There’s none of the complex wiki backend, recording of who made what edits, ability to roll back edits, and so on. (Although the comments could be pressed into service for this).
  3. No auto-generated Table of Contents (although it has been discussed and may be implemented).
  4. No trivial way of linking between topics by title.
  5. No footnotes.

Some of these things might be hackable or make it into upcoming Discourse releases.

We’re not in a position currently to be building a whole new platform. Our devas are currently running the main site—home grown from 100% organic code—the elasticsearch search engine for that, the Discourse platform, and the Pootle translation engine.

So if a “proper” wiki was to be built, someone would need to volunteer to do that. It’s a lot of work!

One approach might be to simply start here, do some articles, and see how it goes. We should get a sense of what works or doesn’t work.

1 Like

Some more thoughts on a wiki. In the Buddhist entries on Wikipedia, there tends to be two kinds of problems.

  1. When it comes to religion, few people really understand what it means to be objective.
  2. It relies on references, customarily to “traditional” sources of intellectual authority, i.e. Buddhist scholars. But Buddhist scholarship is thin, to say the least, and many opinions of scholars are not well founded.

These are issues we would have to consider.

As far as references go, in many ways we are pioneering a new field. Traditional Theravadin scholarship has depended so heavily on the commentaries that it is almost impossible to see beyond them. And with a very few exceptions there has been little work of value done in early Buddhism in modern academia.

The upshot of this is that it will be pretty much impossible to rely on modern sources, whether it be the authority of teachers or monastics, or the opinions of scholars.

While Wikipedia discourages original research and reliance on primary sources, we should do the opposite, and see modern opinions as purely advisory. Basically nothing should go in that can’t be directly cited in the EBTs.

We have already seen many good examples of this in our discussions. A wiki could serve as a clearing house, to summarize such discussions in a concise form.

We could go the way that Ven Bodhi uses in his notes, and say, “the commentary says this …” But after looking at hundreds of these notes, it seems to me that nine times out of ten what the commentary says is overcomplicated, unnecessary, misleading, uninteresting, or just plain wrong. It seems to me that the voice of the commentaries has dominated the Theravadin world for 1500 years, and we have no particular obligation to continue to repeat what they say. That’s what traditional Theravada is for. I’d prefer to actively exclude the commentarial opinion, unless it actually sheds light on the topic.


Thank you venerable for a great answer. I really think that we should set up a proper wiki, but it’s not a bad idea, as you say, to start here and see how it goes. When the wiki is built we could transfer the existing material.

I agree with your opinion that we should leave out Buddhist scholars and the commentaries. I think that the point with an Early Buddhism Wiki would be to have fast and easy access to references to early buddhist texts concerning particular subjects, much like the index of subject at our beloved Access To Insight, now disused and not being further developed.

I’m sorry that I’m not able to volunteer. I will contribute to the wiki but I don’t have the required skills to build a new platform.


I’ve never really used that page very much, but looking at it now, it is a nicely done reference. I think a wiki should be more descriptive, though. Include the references, but with text to clarify the context and so on. I wonder if there’s a good source of articles that could serve as a basis for this?

The articles on AtI are generally too reflective and individual for a wiki, and often quite involved. There’s Dhamma Wiki, but the writing is not very good. Then there’s Wikipedia. The Buddhism articles there are generally quite poor, but perhaps they might serve as a basis. On the other hand, maybe it’s just best to just start from scratch.

How about this: I’ll start with a simple article, and we can see if we can establish the basic features of a wiki article, and take it from there. Here’s my first attempt: Pīti. Edit away!

1 Like

There are still many features missing from a good wiki-style environment, notably the handling of citations, footnotes, and tables. This may improve in the future, as Discourse is moving to adopt commonmark, which will make more rigorous markdown possible, and provide a basis for more feature-rich implementations.

I just came across a blog that advocates the development of Scholarly Markdown, which has many of the features we want, and aims to build on commonmark. An alpha version exists. This will take time, but it may be that in coming years we will be able to use Discourse as a first-class publishing platform for scholarly work.