A Korean-English Dictionary of Buddhist Terms
A. Charles Muller | Professor, University of Tokyo
While attending a conference in Korea in 2004, I had the good fortune to make acquaintance with Mr. Chun Ock-bae, who was at that time pursuing graduate studies at Dongguk University, a challenge he had taken up after having passed through a long career in the world of banking. On that occasion, Mr. Chun congratulated me and thanked me for my work on the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism [DDB; http://www.buddhismdict. net/ddb], which by then had already become fairly well established as one of the basic reference works for research in East Asian Buddhism. He complained, however, of the stress of needing to be connected to the internet and face a computer screen every time he needed to look up a term. Along with this, he pointed out the fact that at that point in time, there was still not a single dictionary available in English focusing on Korean Buddhist terminology that was in any way comprehensive, and compiled in a scholarly manner.
An important aspect of the perceived need for such a dictionary was the heightened interest on the part of the Jogye Order, as well as the Korean Ministry of Culture, to begin to make available Korean literary classics, including Buddhist texts, in English. Several translation projects had already been initiated, but still there was no proper dictionary to be used by translators. With these facts in mind, Mr. Chun strongly urged me to consider publishing at least a portion of the DDB in paper format, selecting several thousand standard Buddhist terms, along with terms that would be of special interest to Korean Buddhist readers.
History of the DDB
The compilation of the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism began in 1986, a month or so into my first Buddhist texts readings class in graduate school at the University of Virginia, upon my realization of the dearth of adequate lexicographic and other reference works in the English language for the textual scholar of East Asian Buddhism – as well as for the student of the broader field of East Asian philosophy and religion. I decided, at that time, to save every term I looked up, and have continued that practice down to the present, through the course of studying scores of classical texts. Since I also had a strong interest in Confucianism and Daoism, I also included terms from the broader spectrum of East Asian thought in this work, but would eventually break this into two separate compilations.
In 1986 none except the most forward-thinking of computer scientists had even dreamed of such a thing as the World Wide Web, so at the outset I was simply envisioning the eventual publication of the usual printed lexicon. In 1994, the Web made its appearance, and it soon occurred to me that publication of my compiled material as a web resource might provide the dual advantage of (1) allowing me to make these materials available far sooner than if I waited until I had fully developed a proper print compilation (which could conceivably take decades), and (2) it might enable me to garner collaborators to hasten the compilation, broaden the scope of the coverage, and improve the accuracy of the material (this kind of process is now wellknown, having received the label “crowd-sourcing,” but in 1994, no one had tried such a thing yet). So in the middle of 1995, I converted my Word Perfect 6.0 word-processor files to HTML, and placed the dictionary on the web. It did not take long for my hopes to receive their first confirmation, as Christian Wittern (at the time a PhD student working at Hanazono University) discovered the DDB and promptly applied a basic SGML structure, which is the ancestor of the XML markup system used today. In addition to Christian’s aid with the technical foundations of the work, other scholars slowly began to appear who offered data content contributions, and many of my colleagues in the field of Buddhist Studies began to use the DDB as a reference work in their university courses.
During its first five years on the web, the DDB was maintained on the web in a simple, hard-linked HTML format. A major turning point in the history of the project came in January 2001, when I had the great fortune to encounter Dr. Michael Beddow through the Mulberry XSL discussion list. Michael, a scholar of German Studies with a long career in humanities computing, who was extremely knowledgeable regarding the application of XML/XSLT technology with textual corpora, offered to program the DDB data such that XSLT and XLinking functionality could be produced in the latest versions of the standard browsers, and wrote a search engine in Perl to call up dictionary entries based on user queries. At that time, building a search engine that could deal with mixed Western/CJK text in UTF-8 encoding was not at all a straightforward matter, so Michael’s search engine was a bit of a novel creation – and it is still serving its purpose quite well today, thirteen years later.
In addition to the basic data contained in the DDB, over the years a variety of groups, institutions, and individual scholars dealing with East Asian Buddhism (including myself and my collaborators and assistants) have been developing a comprehensive, composite index drawn from the indexes of dozens of major East Asian Buddhist reference works, which now includes almost 300,000 entries. With this valuable resource in mind, Michael built the search engine so that if a given item was not found in the DDB proper, it could be searched for in this comprehensive index. If found, its location in relevant reference works could be provided, a great benefit to users of the dictionary.
My first public presentation of the DDB at an academic conference was at the meeting of the Electronic Buddhist Text Initiative (EBTI), held at the Foguang Shan temple in Taipei in 1996. At that time, the DDB contained approximately 3,200 entries. At the time of the present writing (May 2014), that number has reached to over 62,000 and continues to grow rapidly. This rapid growth is due to a number of factors, one of the most important of which is the steady growth in size and efficiency of related digital tools and resources. The availability of the above-mentioned comprehensive index, which allows for the rapid location of all entries, has been of critical importance, along with the fact that reference works such as the Foguang Dictionary, Ding Fubao, and Iwanami bukkyo- jiten are available in (legal) digital format, while a number of other dictionaries have been digitized and circulated privately.
The third major reason for the ability of the DDB to grow rapidly is that of the digitization of the Chinese Buddhist canons, a project first undertaken by the Research Institute of Tripit.aka Koreana (RITK, which digitized the Korean Buddhist canon), and followed upon the SAT Taisho- Database (which digitized the Japanese Taisho- canon) and by CBETA (which has digitized the Japanese Taisho- as well as the Zokuzo-kyo-). The availability of these canonical source texts in digital format has allowed us to develop local applications that can quickly extract terms from these texts and match them with entries in these reference works to include new entries “on the fly.” Finally, the overall effect of its availability on the Web and the steady growth of the acceptance of the DDB as a standard reference tool has naturally brought about an increase in the number of contributors, of whom there are now more than seventy (see http://www.buddhismdict. net/credits/credits-ddb.html).
Selecting and Editing the Present Data Set
The initial data set for this dictionary was selected from DDB entries that we confirmed to be contained in at least five other major dictionaries. From this, Ock-bae and I deleted a couple of thousand terms that we did not think appropriate for a dictionary of this sort to be published in Korea. After this, Ock-bae added (as noted above) approximately 1,200 terms, mostly dealing with Korean Buddhism, but also other general Buddhist terms. After narrowing down our basic list, we each made a couple of passes through the entire manuscript, mostly trimming down some of the longer DDB entries to a more compact size. We also removed all of the Tibetan, most of the Pa-li, and much of the Sanskrit terminology attached to these entries, along with citations, and references and links to scriptural and secondary sources. Furthermore, since most of the contributed material from the DDB was severely trimmed and edited, we decided not to attach credit names to each entry, as is done in the DDB. Therefore, readers of this dictionary who would like to obtain more detailed information of any sort indicated above on any entry are strongly recommended to check the DDB online (http://buddhismdict. net/ddb). This is especially relevant, since the online version is continually updated and corrected.
The task of editing some 11,500 entries within the constraints of a publication deadline is an exhausting one, one that I am not looking forward to engaging in again in the near future! Both Ock-bae and I went through this material several times, but with a significant number of errors still remaining, Unju-sa employed the services of Mr. Han Changho, a graduate from the English department of Seoul National University, to do one more round of proofreading. Mr. Han did a superb job, showing both great skill and great enthusiasm for the project, correcting a large number of small errors in English, Chinese, and Hangul. We are deeply appreciative of his work. We hope our readers will enjoy using the first dictionary of its kind to be published in Korea.
A. Charles Muller received his doctorate from the department of Comparative Literature at SUNY Stony Brook in 1993. He is presently Professor in the Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, University of Tokyo. Among his major works are The Su-tra of Perfect Enlightenment: Korean Buddhism’s Guide to Meditation (SUNY Press, 1999) and Wo˘nhyo’s Philosophy of Mind (University of Hawaii Press, 2012). He has initiated many online digital projects including the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism (http://www.buddhismdict. net/ddb), and the CJKV-E Dictionary (http://www.buddhism-dict.net/ddb).