Before continuing to make notes about some of the interesting papers at the IATS conference this past August, I wanted to sneak in a little note about one of my teacher’s work. Dr. Phil Stanley has been working on analyzing the Tibetan canons for more than sixteen years. His work includes detailed statistical analysis of at least six Kangyur and four Tengyur, including analysis of the location of repeated texts, texts missing in some versions, as well as analysis of provenance figures given in colophons.

Phil Stanley’s recent dissertation analyzes the concept of canonicity and scripture in different traditions and presents the thesis that “Canonicity in Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhism in general differs from the Christian concept commonly presumed in religious studies in consisting of an inclusive canonical continuum not restricted to just the scriptures attributed to the Buddha.” The Christian concept of the ‘canon’ is rigidly associated with their concept of ‘scripture’ and has influenced the study of the Buddhist tradition in Academia such that the Buddhist understanding of ‘canonicity’ has been confused and the research has been one-sided in favor of Kangyur study, until recently. Phil proposes three types of canons: 1) “Formal Canons of doctrinally diverse scriptures and treatises, 2) Practical Canons of select texts inside and outside the Formal Canons that formed the basis of specific traditions, and 3) Inclusive Canons of all texts accepted by specific traditions.”

Phil’s dissertation is available from UMI and can be found through the ProQuest database: The threefold Formal, Practical, and Inclusive Canons of Tibetan Buddhism in the context of a pan-Asian paradigm: Utilizing a new methodology for analyzing canonical collections
by Stanley, David Phillip, Ph.D., University of Virginia, 2009, 738 pages; AAT 3400969

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