Indian University Propels Buddhist Studies with Comprehensive Multilingual Dictionary

In a significant contribution to the world of academia, the Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) based in Pune, India, has proudly introduced the Dictionary of Buddhist Terms. This ground-breaking multilingual lexicon employs Pali as the source language for its entries and provides equivalents in English, Sanskrit, and Tibetan. Each term is rendered in Roman script, further supplemented by textual references, serving as an indispensable tool for scholars engrossed in comparative Buddhist studies.

With the third segment of the dictionary released on 9th March, the media unveiled plans for this ambitious dictionary to ultimately compile a massive 50-part collection. The inception of the first two parts of this lexicographic masterpiece took place last year. Future plans also include Chinese interpretations, setting the stage for this dictionary to be hailed as a singular multilingual dictionary in its domain.

Mahesh Deokar, the distinguished professor leading the Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies, mentioned forthcoming plans of incorporating the Chinese language. “We are currently looking for a competent scholar to join our endeavor,” Deokar stated, further hinting at possibilities of presenting the dictionary in Devanagari and Tibetan scripts.

The team behind this monumental project consists of Prof. Deokar, Dr. Lata Deokar, Snehal Kondhalkar, and Prof. Maheshwar Singh Negi. They initiated this venture two years ago with an intention to eventually cover the full spectrum of the Pali alphabet in their dictionary.

As of now, each part of the dictionary covers 100 words, amounting to 300 words starting with the letter “A” in the first three parts. The upcoming segment promises the inclusion of at least 300 additional words.

The goal of this publication, as stated by SPPU, is to trace the evolving semantics of Buddhist terms over time and place, shedding light on both the shared and distinct vocabularies within Pali and Sanskrit Buddhist traditions.

In essence, the Dictionary of Buddhist Terms is envisaged to be an academic beacon, guiding scholars engaged in comparative investigations of diverse Buddhist customs, primarily using Pali, Sanskrit, and Tibetan.

Prof. Nitin Karmalkar, SPPU’s Vice-Chancellor, who has an extensive history of work in Ladakh and interactions with Buddhist monks, believes the dictionary can unravel Tibetan literary treasures currently secluded within numerous Ladakh monasteries.

Prof. Prasad Joshi, Vice-Chancellor of Deccan College and a Sanskrit scholar, praised the project’s substantial contribution to lexicography. He has also been laboring on a Sanskrit dictionary for several years. He emphasized the necessity of training more lexicographers to prevent the art from fading into oblivion and announced a digital edition for global accessibility to researchers.

The inception of this multilingual dictionary project took place in June 2020 under the aegis of Deshana, an Institute of Buddhist and Allied Studies, and the Khyentse Foundation.

The Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies, previously known as the Department of Pali, was established in July 2006. Prior to that, courses in Pali and Buddhist Studies were delivered in the Department of Sanskrit and Prakrit Languages. Currently, the Department is the sole facility under SPPU’s purview where students can study Buddhist literature in Pali, Sanskrit, and Tibetan at various levels.

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