New text: The Basket’s Display

It’s always exciting when a text that I have edited is finally released for public enjoyment. I work on projects intensely for weeks and weeks and then send them off for other kinds of treatments: proofreading, cover design, markup for online publication. That process takes months, so when a text finally appears, shiny and polished and out there for anyone to see, I feel a little glimmer of surprise—it’s really real!

Making its debut today is The Basket’s Display (translated by Peter Alan Roberts), a sūtra that is the origin of the famous mantra oṃ maṇipadme hūṃ. It is published by 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, a non-profit organization whose mission is to translate and publish the entire Kangyur (translations of the word of the Buddha) and Tengyur (translations of treatises) so they can be read in modern languages, for free, by anyone in the world.

One of the unique features of 84000 publications is that they contain interactive glossaries. Readers can click on a word and the definition will appear alongside the equivalent Sanskrit and Tibetan terms. The definitions are also linked to each other, and eventually they will be compiled into a universal glossary that will be a resource for scholars to see every instance where a term or deity appears.

From the back end, this means a lot of incredibly detailed technical work in an Excel spreadsheet. All the diacritics (those nifty marks that go under and over letters in English to tell you how to correctly pronounce transliterated words, like in the mantra above) have to be perfect; the definitions have to be checked for internal references; all variants (capitalized or plural forms, etc.) must be accounted for; and so forth. This text had a particularly complicated glossary—so complicated that I ended up working on it twice, first in August and then again in January. That also makes it particularly satisfying to see the text live today.

Check it out (it may take a moment to load):!ReadingRoom/UT22084-051-004/0.



One Comment

  • Wanflock Dundertribe on May 24, 2013 Reply

    Nice write up Janna. Sounds like a wonderful bit of work and a worthwhile project.

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