What is the future of Sutta Central?

We have seen many Dhamma discussion groups and websites shut down after some time.
This can be a great loss to the Dhamma community.
Closure of access to insight is a good example. Thankfully the owner was kind enough to leave it as a open source.
What is the future of the Sutta Central?
Will one day we wake up and find that all the hard work of many people disappeared without a trace?

http://www.lionsroar.com/after-ten-year … huts-down/


Thanks for the great question. It is something that occupies me a great deal. For me, it is one of the primary responsibilities of the Sangha, and the Buddhist community generally: that the True Teaching might last a long time.

First of all, may I echo your gratitude for the skillful and careful way that AtI was closed by John Bullitt. May the servers be maintained for a long time!

By contrast, the Mahasangiti Pali text we use was recovered by chance after the relevant website disappeared overnight. It was only due to the fact that Ven Yuttadhammo had scraped the text and archived it that we were able to use it. This gave us all a sobering lesson in the transience of the internet.

Without going into too much detail, here are some thoughts on maintaining SC for the future.

##Over the decades

  1. All our texts and data are on Github. Github is a massive online repository of code. Pretty much all modern open source development happens there, so it’s not going away any time soon. Moreover, it is trivial to replicate the site locally. For any geeks who are on Github, why not pull the SC hub locally, then you too can help back it up! (Github is great for other things, too: eg. you can always trace any changes, so maintaining the integrity of the text is guaranteed.)
  2. Since our text and data are in standard, well understood open formats (HTML and JSON) they are usable by anyone. In addition, these formats, which underlie the internet, will remain usable forever.
  3. We are committed to maintaining our servers and will keep these live indefinitely.
  4. The problem of the transient internet is addressed by the Internet Archive. I have just checked this, and discovered to my disappointment that we are not properly archived over there. @blake, can you please look into this? We should determine what needs to be done to help them archive us. Perhaps we can also approach them directly and convince them of our significance.
  5. A number of innovative approaches are being developed to ensure more reliable digital services. Perhaps the most interesting is IPFS. This uses the blockchain to create distributed, resilient data. It is an emerging technology that I am watching closely.

##Over the centuries

Digital data is by its nature transient, and there is no guarantee that any of the data that exists today will survive the many existential threats we face. This is one of the reasons we are printing books. Books last a long time; many centuries if well preserved. By gradually publishing our texts and distributing them all over the world, we are ensuring a much higher degree of resilience than mere digital data ever can.

##Over the millenia

Books are great, but fire, flood, insects, and neglect will take their toll. Few manuscripts last over a thousand years. To ensure the Dhamma lasts longer than this, we need something tougher. I have some ideas, but I’m not ready to share them just yet.


Memorise them?:slight_smile:
Thank you Bhate you and your staff for the great work.

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Farenheit 451 already predicted this, looking forward to the past.


And that is why I scraped what is left of Santipada (Index of /santipada/wp-content/uploads).

Santipada seems pretty dead as well now. Any plans for reviving her? I’m also happy to add selected contents to SC.

My plan is a timecapsule at the new monastery in a sealed waterproof concrete box with the books inside in vacuum spacebags inside drybags. Old manuscripts never had modern technology to protect them.

And there is also this idea:


Where will the funds come from for https://archive.org/web/ in the future? It doesn’t seem to be a really viable solution.

As technology changes, the problem becomes how to migrate information to the new ‘standard.’ And who will keep a functional museum of obsolete equipment with which to extract data from outdated media that turn up from time to time?

As far as electronic media are concerned, there are folks that worry about this much larger domain of cultural heritage. I have to wonder what their plans (dreams) are for preservation.

Anicca! [yet again] . . . :worried:

I would like to make a static, plain-HTML site someday, no Wordpress or anything.

It’s not certain, but I think it will be around for a while.

This is a serious problem for people like, say, publishers, who use complex proprietary formats (adobe) for their master copies, or for businesses who rely on Word.

But it’s not a problem for us; as mentioned earlier the important data is HTML and JSON. Both of these are extremely widely used and in all likelihood will be supported as long as computers exist. Even if they’re not, they are simple, plain text, human-readable formats, so the content can be recovered trivially. In addition, everything we have is Unicode, which again is likely to last indefinitely.

Indeed, it would be nice to partner with such a group.



nowadays we don’t take account of oral transmission, and i’m still in disbelief about its practicality, yet this is how the Dhamma was exclusively preserved for a few hundred years

But nowadays we have other materials too that might be slightly easier to work with than stone.

Any ideas? I’m thinking marine grade stainless steel. Cheap, durable, portable, easily inscribed with laser.


The whole idea is not new, and neither is the reason for it:

When the British invaded southern Burma in the mid-19th century, Mindon Min was concerned that Buddhist dhamma (teachings) would also be detrimentally affected in the North where he reigned. As well as organizing the Fifth Buddhist council in 1871, he was responsible for the construction in Mandalay of the world’s largest book, consisting of 729 large marble tablets with the Tipitaka Pali canon of Theravada Buddhism inscribed on them in gold. One more was added to record how it all came about, making it 730 stone inscriptions in total.

But we have modern materials to work with which they did not have back then. So yes, marine grade stainless steel would be good. And do please add one that records how it all came about …


is there a more expanded backstory?

this will be the most expensive Tipitaka to date

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If there is a will, there is a way.:slight_smile:

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And do future archeologists out of a job? They just love a mystery!

We contacted him and it turns out he had it archived. It’s one of the options available in the DPR. For the DPR of course it had to be massaged somewhat into the form he uses, so we started again from the original XML files from the original.

Not really, it’s nothing compared to the stone Tipitakas in Myanmar or Thailand, or the wooden plates in Korea. In terms of the relative economics, you might even find that the cost of producing engraved stainless steel today is not that different from producing hand-made manuscripts in days not so long past.


not to speak of paleographers/philologists who literally subsist on mystery


Another way to keep SC around is to keep it a good source for information and discussion.
Sometimes I use another site for suttas: https://epalitipitaka.appspot.com/
The advantage there is you hover over a pali word and it gives you the translation. It’s mostly chinese or burmese, but a lot in english too. Any chance something like that can be implemented (in an automated way) in the SC pali pages?
And thanks everyone for maintaining and kindly feeding this site!


Like this?

Also available in several other languages from the menu in the left sidebar. And if you click on the bold words in the pink box, it will take you to the page with the full dictionary entries.

But that site you gave also has other language dictionaries so it would be good to have this on SC also in the future.


I’m confused, is this a SC screenshot? if it is this feature doesn’t work with my opera or edge browser.
correction: found it! left sidebar - controls - pali-english


Cool! I was just about to write instructions. Great that it works!