In one of my current online classes called “Understanding Japanese Religions,” I made the following suggestion in the forum where students post their views:

Please pick a short passage from a Buddhist scripture that you would like to introduce to others. Buddhist “scriptures” indicate texts included in one of the Buddhist Canons, preserved in the Pāli language, in Sanskrit, or in its Chinese or Tibetan translations. Obviously, it may easier for your readers if you introduce a text translated into English from one of these languages. Here are the four elements that would be helpful if you could include them: 1) A short description of the scripture, its title, either only the translated title, or the title in the original language followed by a translation. 2) What we know about that text in terms of when it was composed or translated, by whom. 3) An excerpt of the text, maybe no more than a paragraph long. 4) Why you selected that piece. This is an open-ended assignment that should encourage you to be curious, and to deal with original sources.

Diamond Sutra

Copy of the Diamond Sutra dated 868. Frontispiece, Diamond Sutra from Cave 17, Dunhuang, ink on paper. This sutra was printed in the 9th year of Xiantong Era of the Tang Dynasty (868 CE). Currently located in the British Library, London. According to the British Library, it is “the earliest complete survival of a dated printed book.”

See the British Library’s detailed website on the Buddhist Canon:


Now, how would you respond to this prompt?

I will regularly post some of my responses to the remarkable array of texts selected by my amazing students from the Fall 2020 “Understanding Japanese Religions” (REL 204) class. This will remain a memorable semester, conducted entirely remotely because of the pandemic.