The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism


Just published, the new Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism promises to be a worthy reference tool for students of the Buddhadharma. “At more than one million words, this is the largest dictionary of Buddhism ever produced in the English Language.”

What really drew me to this particular dictionary is the compilers willingness to include a more all-inclusive base [other than exclusively professional scholars] as sources for their entries, as they state:

There are now many more scholars of Buddhism, there is a much higher level of specialization, and there is a larger body of important scholarship on each of the many Buddhist cultures of Asia. In addition, the number of adherents of Buddhism in the West has grown significantly, with many developing an extensive knowledge of a particular Buddhist tradition, whether or not they hold the academic credentials of a professional Buddhologist. It has been our good fortune to be able to draw upon this expanding body of scholarship in preparing The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. (Emphasis Mine) [Buswell  Jr., Robert E.; Donald S., Jr. Lopez (2013-11-24). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Kindle Locations 85-89). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.]

This leads me to believe that Buswell and Lopez are open to acknowledge the validity of present-day Buddhist Schools of thought that are more experientially + scholarly based.

Am also impressed with the depth of their entries; for instance, take a word like the Buddhist “song-bird”, “Kalavinka”:

In Sanskrit, “kalaviṅka (cuckoo) bird”; a mythical bird from the HIMĀLAYA mountains with a call said to be far more beautiful than that of all other birds and so compelling that it could be heard even before the bird had hatched. The bird and its call are used as a simile for the BODHISATTVAs and their aspiration for enlightenment (BODHICITTA), which are so compelling and persuasive that, even before they have achieved complete, perfect enlightenment (ANUTTARASAMYAKSAṂBODHI), they are still far superior to all other spiritual adepts. (emphasis mine) As the AVATAṂSAKASŪTRA says, “It is like the kalaviṅka bird, which, even before it has hatched, has such great dynamism that other birds cannot challenge it. BODHISATTVA-MAHĀSATTVAS are just the same: even before they have hatched from inside the egg of birth-and-death, the dynamism deriving from the merit associated with generating the aspiration for enlightenment is so compelling that ŚRĀVAKAs and PRATYEKABUDDHAs cannot challenge them.” The DAZHIDU LUN explains, “It is like the kalaviṅka bird, which even before it has hatched, has a call that is far more subtle and sublime than that of other birds. Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas are also just the same: although they may not have yet hatched from the egg of ignorance, the sound of their preaching and discoursing is far superior to that of the śrāvakas, pratyekabuddhas, and non-Buddhists.” (emphasis mine)[Buswell  Jr., Robert E.; Donald S., Jr. Lopez (2013-11-24). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Kindle Locations 28036-28039). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.]

I purchased the Kindle Edition, which I can utilize on my regular Desk-Top-Version. I notice there’s already a review up for this kindle edition, and it’s not a very happy one since the reviewer is not at all pleased with the interface provided. So far, though, I’ve found it amiable—it even has “cross-referenced” words in highlights that you can click on which leads you directly to that particular entry.

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4 Responses to The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism

  1. Sheridan says:

    Thank you for this review; quite helpful. I’m very interested in the Kindle version, as I heavily use my Kindle books on my Mac (and iPad) for reference, etc. I was put off by the reviews on the Amazon page, but your comments brought some hope back. Do you find the Kindle version on Mac easy to navigate, easy to find entries? Any strong complaints? Is it worth the money, in other words? Thanks for the help…

    • Vajragoni says:


      I have the Kindle Version for PC Desktop–it works fantastic!

      So far I’ve been able to find what I need with this Kindle version of the dictionary with little difficulty. The cross-references are always readily at hand when you bring up an entry and are just a click away. Also, I’ve been a student of the Buddhadharma for many years now, so am quite familiar with the terminology–so can find what I need without any trouble. You need to be familiar with any accentuation marks that appear on a given word, for instance like NĀGĀRJUNA, otherwise when you type the word in the search box it won’t appear; I’m quite comfortable in this area so its been quite easy to use.

      Also, by now I have a small “library” of books in my home and another “bulky-book” of this size is not something that I need. The Kindle Version is quite appropriate and I love it.

      Hope this helps…

  2. Sheridan says:

    Thank you very much for the helpful reply. Looks like it will be suitable both for my purposes and abilities in studying Buddhdharma. Wishing you well…

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