Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Michigan State University

Buddhism: Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

This guide provides basic reference sources, periodical indexes, sacred texts, and suggested popular works about Buddhism.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Use these encyclopedias and dictionaries to find quick facts, to get ideas for paper topics, to get ideas for broadening or narrowing a paper topic, or to find further reading references on a topic.

Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism

Over 5,000 entries up to a page long cover figures, works, and terminology across a range of traditions and languages, including the canonical languages (Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, Korean) and some Southeast Asian languages.  Entries for English translations of Buddhist terms provide cross-references to the original term.  Also includes maps, a list of Asian historical periods, and a time line of Buddhism  in various countries. 

Encyclopedia of Buddhism Reference 1 Center BQ 128 .E53 2007

Aims to be a one volume desk reference that is complete, accurate, and up to date.  It documents the history (in Asian cultures), schools of thought, doctrines (canons texts, other literature), significant persons, rituals and customs, sacred places, basic ideas and concepts, and globalization of Buddhism. Signed entries.  Bibliography at end, also a short article on Buddhist scriptures.

Encyclopedia of Buddhism Main BQ 128 .E62 2004 v. 1-2

Over 400 signed articles, with bibliographies, cover history, doctrines, texts, persons, schools, and practices.  Addresses contemporary Buddhism in the West a little.  Buddhist art is covered.  Black and white illustrations and some maps.  Timelines of Buddhist history in India, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Korea, Tibet, Himalayas.  Be sure to use the index in v. 2 as coverage of many individuals and topics will be found within larger articles.

Dictionary of Buddhism Main BQ 130 .K46 2003

The most comprehensive single-volume dictionary on the subject, written for students and general readers.  Brief entries on concepts, practices, contemporary ethical issues, persons, history, places, schools, and texts.  Appendices include maps, pronunciation guide, outline of the texts in the Pali, Tibetan, and Chinese canons, and a chronology.  No further reading references.  Available in both paper and online versions. Primarily written by Damien Keown, senior lecturer in Indian religions at University of London.  Over 2,000 entries on both historical and contemporary issues.  Includes all the major Buddhist sects and cultures.  Treats abortion, marriage, and role of women.  Deals with modern Buddhist thought without prejudice, giving a fairly even distribution of explanations on all major sects.

Historical Dictionary of Buddhism Main BQ 130 .P74 2009

Covers key historical figures, scholars, events, places, and concepts.  Very brief introductory essay and chronology (560-483 BCE to 2003 CE) provide basic overview and historical framework.  Extensive bibliography at end.  Here the Pali, Tibetan, and Chinese canons’contents are described.  Provides further reading references on: introductory and historical surveys by geographic regions; translated texts from various strains of Buddhism; works on Buddhist thought and doctrine; works on rituals and popular beliefs; works on salvation, meditation, and goals; works on hagiography, significant leaders, and mythological dimensions; works on sacred places; social and economic aspects of Buddhist life; art and iconography around the world; Buddhism, the West, and the modern world. Author is a professor of religious studies at Allegheny College.

Historical Dictionary of Chan Buddhism

Key Words in Buddhism Main BQ 130 .G43 2006

A selective A to Z list of people, places, and terms, with focus on Sanskrit and Pali terms.  Theravadin Buddhism is thus emphasized and coverage of Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism is modest.  Many cross-references.  Definitions are clear and concise. No further reading references.

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Zen Buddhism Main BQ 9259 .B37 2002

Aimed at general readers and students, this work focuses on Japanese Zen Buddhism. The introduction provides a brief history and overview. Concise entries cover art and iconography, Buddhas and boddhisatvas, people, places, concepts, monastic life, cosmology, ritual, and sects and schools. Some entries have short bibliographies; a general bibliography follows the main text. Black-and-white illustrations accompany many entries. Numerous cross-references and a general index facilitate use.

Digital Dictionary of Buddhism

Formerly called the Dictionary of East Asian Buddhist Terms, this dictionary covers Buddhist terms from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Pali, Sanskrit, and Tibetan.  Definitions are in English.  Also has indexes, which cover radicals, total strokes, East Asian Romanized readings, terms, texts, persons, temples, schools, places, and names (of gods, demons, boddhisattvas, etc).  The site includes many links to external lexical, textual, and bibliographical resources for the study of Buddhism.

A to Z of Buddhism Main BQ 130 .P73 2001

Short entries, alphabetically arranged, of people (both historic and contemporary), places, works, schools, events, concepts, etc.  Guide to pronunciation.  Chapter on the Buddhist scriptures: Pali, Chinese, and Japanese canons.  Chronology. No further reading references.  Author a professor of religious studies at Pennsylvania State University.

Encyclopaedia of Buddhist Deities, Demigods, Godlings, Saints, and Demons with Special Focus on Iconographic Attributes Main BQ 130 .B88 1994 v. 1-2

Authored by a professor of art at Indiana University, Fredrick W. Bunce, whose specialty is Buddhist art.  The text is a visual analysis of the images from a number of other works.  Includes the major deities of the various Buddhist pantheons.  Volume one contains short, alphabetically arranged biographical entries for the deities and a brief bibliography; there are some black and white illustrations.  Volume two contains “deity identification tables” (white, calm deities; yellow wrathful deities; natural skin-color deities, etc.), a large section of color plates, glossaries, and appendices.  The appendices provide the Tibetan alphabet; classes, groups, and hierarchies; orders/schools.  List of deities at the end.

Complete Guide to Buddhist America Main BQ 724 .C65 1998

Comprehensive introduction to Buddhism in America--with dozens of articles by leading Buddhist teachers, scholars, and students, and detailed listings to over a thousand Buddhist meditation centers in the U.S. and Canada.

Religions of the World: a Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices

"Provides comprehensive, global coverage of religion, emphasizing larger religious communities without neglecting the world's smaller religious outposts."  The editor is long noted for authoring and overseeing the preparation of religion reference works.  6 volumes.  Articles on Buddhism are in v. 1.  Try the Table of Contents for volume 1.  Click on the gray arrow next to the Brahma-Byakko link at the bottom of the page which opens access to the entries between these two topics alphabetically.  Or, use the Book Index link for specialized topics.

Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices

Provides information on current religious practices around the world with an emphasis on how religions impact the daily lives of their followers.  After entering the encyclopedia, click on Table of Contents and choose Buddhism.

Religion in Southeast Asia, an Encyclopedia of Faiths and Cultures.  Main BL 2050 .R43 2015

Entries on particular faiths, topics, people, places, organizations ranging in length from 2-6 pages.  All entries have further reading references.  Authors of the entries are academics in Asian countries and the West teaching philosophy, religion, anthropology, history, area studies, etc. or professionals with religious organizations.

Michigan State University