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Buddhism: Sacred Texts

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

Sacred Texts

Memories of the sayings of the Buddha carried down through oral tradition after he died, ca 483 B.C.E., and were compiled into collections called suttas (Pali) or sutras (Sanskrit).  These collections, plus the Vinaya Pitaka (monastic rules) and Abidhamma/Aabidharma (philosophical texts) compose the Buddhist Canon.  

Buddhism has two major traditions, Theraveda (school of elders) Buddhism, older and more conservative, practiced by monks in India claiming exclusive understanding of the ideas of it, and Mahayana Buddhism, a later development, practiced by lay persons.  The Theraveda canon has been completely translated into English and is the focus of most scholarship in the West.  There is a good summary of it in the History of Buddhist Thought, Main BL 1420 .T5 1951. Mahayana Buddhism is more popular and has the most adherents throughout the world.

Sacred Books of the Buddhists Main BQ 1138 .S23 v. 2,8,10-11,13-16,18-23,25-49 (1899-2001)

A set of books put out by the Pali Text Society in the United Kingdom.  We have some of the volumes,  listed below in the Theraveda Texts sub-section. 

BDK English Tripitaka Project

In 1986, the late Rev. Dr. Yehan Numata, the founder of BDK, established the BDK English Tripitaka Project with the goal of translating Chinese and Japanese Buddhist texts from the Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō, the 100 volume set that is widely recognized a definitive collection of Buddhist texts.  This monumental task is ongoing, and to date BDK has published nearly 60 volumes in what comprises a growing English Buddhist Canon.  Literally meaning “three baskets,” tripiṭaka is a Sanskrit word indicating the Buddhist canon.   The translations are available for purchase as beautifully bound books, or as free PDF downloads from our website.   We have paper copies of Forest of Pearls from the Dharma Garden  Main BQ 4000 .D3613 2019 v. 2-3

 General Anthologies

Buddhist Scriptures Main BQ 1012 .B836 2004

Experience of Buddhism, Sources and Interpretations Main BQ 122 .S87 2009

Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, an  Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya Main BQ 1342 .E5 T572 1999

Norton Anthology of World Religions, v. 1 Main BL 74 .N67 2014 v. 1  See pp. 725-1463



Theraveda texts

Long Discourses of the Buddha Main BQ 1292 .E53 W35 2012
Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha Main BQ 1312 .E5 N36 2009

Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, an  Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya Main BQ 1342 .E5 T572 1999

In the Buddha's Words, an Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon  Main BQ 1192 .E53 B63 2012

Connected Discourses of the Buddha, a New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya  Main BQ 1332 .B63 E5 2000b

Contain representative translations from the main collections of the Sutta Pitaka


Dhammapada, trans. and ed. by Valerie Roebuck Main BQ 1372 .E5 R64 2010

Dhammapada, the Sayings of the Buddha,, trans. and ed. by Carter and Palihawadana  Main BQ 1372 .E5 C36 2008



The Pali Text Society in England publishes the Canon, called the Pali Tipitaka.  Below are their  volumes composing the Canon, with call numbers for the volumes M.S.U. Libraries' owns.  Included also are volumes of commentaries on particular works.  Researchers are advised to search the online catalog by call number for BQ 1138 .S23 where the set can be viewed volume by volume, because the Pali Text Society seems to have issued more volumes than those listed here.  The list presented here is from their web site.

Pāli                              Title English Translation        

Vinaya-piṭaka              The Book of the Discipline Main BQ 1138 .S23 v. 10,11,13-15,20-21,25



   Dīgha-nikāya            Dialogues of the Buddha  Main BQ 1138 .S223 v. 2 (lack v. 1,3)               

   Majjhima-nikāya      Middle Length Sayings Main BL 1411 .M33 E5 v. 1,3;  Main BQ 1312 .E5 H67 2013 v. 1-3

   Saṃyutta-nikāya      Connected Discourses of the Buddha; The Book of Kindred Sayings Main BL 1411 .S28 E5 v. 1-3,5 (lack v. 4) and BQ 1332 .B63 E5 2000b

   Aṅguttara-nikāya     The Book of Gradual Sayings 5v. on order



    Khuddakapāṭha      The Minor Readings Main BQ 1138 .S23 v. 26?

    Dhammapada          Word of the Doctrine, Minor Anthologies I Main BQ 1138 .S23 v. 8

    Udāna                        Verses of Uplift; The Udāna  Main BQ 1138 .S23 v. 8,42-43,45                 

    Itivuttaka                    Itivuttaka (translation); As It Was Said Main BQ 1138 .S23 v. 8,48; PK 4591 .I8 1908, 1948

    Suttanipāta              Group of Discourses, 2nd ed.; The Rhinoceros Horn (paperback) Main BQ 1138 .S23 v. 15

    Vimānavatthu         Stories of the Mansions Main BQ 1138 .S23 v. 31,35

    Petavatthu               Stories of the Departed Main BQ 1138 .S23 v. 31,34

    Theragāthā              Elders' Verses Vol. I; Psalms of the Brethren; Poems of Early Buddhist Monks (paperback)

    Therīgāthā               Elders' Verses Vol. II; Psalms of the Sisters; Poems of Early Buddhist Nuns (paperback) Main BQ 1138 .S23 v. 47

    Jātaka                      Stories of the Buddha's Former Birth Main BQ 1462 .E5 c6 1995 v. 1-6 and Index, 26, 38-39 (also online)

    Niddesa                   No PTS translation yet available

    Paṭisambhidāmagga The Path of Discrimination No PTS Translation yet available

    Apadāna                  No PTS translation yet available

    Buddhavaṃsa         The Chronicle of the Buddhas Main BQ 1138 .S23 v. 33

    Cariyāpiṭaka            The Basket of Conduct Main BQ 1138 .S23 v. 31



   Dhammasaṅgaṇī       Buddhist Psychological Ethics  Main BQ 2502 .E5 1975 (also online)

   Vibhaṅga                  The Book of Analysis Main BQ 1172 .E5 T45 2010

   Dhātukathā              Discourse on Elements Main BQ 2522 .E5 N37 2012

   Puggalapaññatti      Designation of Human Types Main BQ 2532 .E5 L38 2011

   Kathāvatthu             Points of Controversy on order

   Yamaka                    No PTS translation yet available

   Tikapaṭṭhāna            Conditional Relations  Main BQ 1172 .E5 N37 2010 v. 1-2; v. 3 still on order?

   Dukapaṭṭhāna           No PTS translation yet available



Mahayana Texts


Mahayana literature is extensive and exists in several languages.  Here are some English language works, organized by common genres, themes, and traditions of Buddhism.

Mahayana Buddhism, the Doctrinal Foundations, 2nd ed. Main BQ 7405 .W55 2009


***Perfection of Wisdom (a major, central idea of Buddhism)***

Perfection of Wisdom, the Short Prajnaparamita Texts Main BQ 1882 .E5 C66 2002

Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita [The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Slokas] Man BQ 1912 .E5 C66 1970

Buddhist Wisdom Books, Containing the Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra Main BL 1411 .V3 E53

Large  Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, with the Divisions of the Abhisamayalankara Main BQ 1952 .E5 C66

Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines and its Verse Summary Main BL 1410 .P4

Prajnaparamita Literature Remote Storage B BL 1411 .P7 C6

Short Prajnaparamita Texts Main BQ 1882 .E5 C66 1973

Diamond Sutra, Transforming the Way We Perceive the World Main BQ 1997 .M8 2000

Flower Ornament Scripture, a Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra, Volume 1  Main BQ 1622 .E5 T74 1985 v. 1


***Forest Vocation (concerns seculsion in the forest to achieve enlightenment)***

Bodhisattvas of the Forest and the Formation of the Mahayana: a Study and Translation of the Rastrapalapariprccha-sutra

Few Good Men: the Bodhisattva Path According to the Inquiry of Ugra Main BQ 2240 .U473 N37 2003


***Change of Sex (a young woman arguing with a male bodhisattva changes sex to make her points)***

Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: a Mahayana Scripture Main BQ 2212 .E5 T47


***Pure Land, Lotus, Tibetan and Zen Buddhism (popular in Japan)***

Land of Bliss, the Paradise of the Buddha of Measureless Light  Main BQ 2012 .E5 G66 1996

Studies in the Literature of the Great Vehicle: Three Mahayana Buddhist Texts Main BQ 1617 .S78 1989

Lotus Sutra (Oxford University Press)

Lotus Sutra: a Contemporary Translation of a Buddhist Classic  (Wisdom Publications)

Lotus Sutra (Columbia University Press) Main and SPC BQ 2052 .E5 W38 1993

Lotus Sutra: the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma Main BQ 2052 .E5 K85 2012

Record of Transmitting the Light, Zen Master Keizan's Denkoroku Main BQ 9415 .K4513 2003

Original  Face: an Anthology of Rinzai Zen Main BQ 9366 .O74

Dream Conversations on Buddhism and Zen Main BQ 9268 .M8513 1996

Life and Teaching of Naropa Main BL 1373 .N3 G813

Supreme Source, the Fundamental Tantra of the Dzogchen Semde Main BQ 2180 .S257 N36 1999

Life and Teachings of Tsong-khapa Main BQ 7950 .T753 E5 1982

Tibetan Book of the Dead, as Popularly known in the West 

Tsong Khapa's Speech of Gold in the Essence of True Eloquence Main BQ 7950 .T754 L4313 1984

Clear Differentiation of the Three Codes : Essential Distinctions Among the Individual Liberation, Great Vehicle, and Tantric Systems Main BQ 6135 .S22513 2002

Ordinary Wisdom : Sakya Pandita's Treasury of Good Advice Main PL 3748 .S2 S813 2000

Ethics for the New Millenium (by The Dalai Lama) Main BJ 1012 .B74 1999

Treasury of the True Dharma Eye Zen Master Dogen's Shobo Genzo  Main BQ 9449 .D654 .S53223 2012

This section has relied heavily upon an article in RUSQ, v. 52#1  by Kelly Myer Polacek and Wayne Bivens-Tatum titled “Sacred Books in English Translation.”


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