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Русская версия


Bibliotheca Buddhica
is a St. Petersburg Publication

Scholars from many countries took part in the publications of
the Buddhist texts.



Sergei Oldenburg
Sergei Oldenburg
      Russian academician Sergei Oldenburg devoted dozens of years to the studies of Buddhist teaching. He lived in St. Petersburg, where colleagues in Buddhist studies from various countries sent him their scientific works. Those works often struck him with their lighthearted attempt to make broad generalizations without any sufficient grounds.

      What was the best way to incorporate Buddhist texts into contemporary science? How could little studied and hardly known Buddhist literature become common property? Those were the questions that concerned Oldenburg. His idea was to set up a large-scale campaign for systematizing and publishing northern Buddhist literature. Oldenburg appealed to the Russian Academy of Sciences. He suggested setting up the Bibliotheca Buddhica, the first Collection of Buddhist Texts in the Original and in Translation.

      Sergei Oldenburg's idea was universally approved by Russian scholars. In 1897, the Bibliotheca Buddhica was established.

      Oldenburg invited prominent scholars from Russia, France, England, Belgium, Japan and Germany to take part in publishing the Buddhist texts. Scholars from many countries sent letters to St. Petersburg with greetings to the Russian scholar and offers of assistance in his undertaking.

      Oldenburg decided to commence the Bibliotheca Buddhica with the publication of Cikshasamuccaya, a monument of Buddhist literature. He asked Cecil Bendal, an English scholar, to prepare it for publication. "I wish to express my gratitude to the outstanding Academy which has done so much for the studies of the Orient, for the honour of being appointed editor of the first volume," wrote Bendal to his Russian colleague.

      This weighty volume was published in St. Petersburg at the Academy of Sciences Printing-house, which had long been printing literature in many Asian languages. It opened with a preface by Cecil Bendal in which he expressed his gratitude to the founder of the Bibliotheca Buddhica. He emphasized that Sergei Oldenburg had assisted him from beginning to end with his helpful advice and unobtrusive support, which was especially valuable when it came during periods of serious personal problems.

      Not only did Cecil Bendal benefit from Oldenburg's unselfish assistance. For instance, Oldenburg also supported German scholar A. Grunvedel in his descriptions of a large collection of Buddhist pictures and objects of the Lamaist religion (Tibetan Buddhism), which belonged to the Russian poet, traveller and Buddhist explorer Hasper Ukhtomsky.

      Oldenburg himself prepared a few volumes of the Bibliotheca Buddhica for publication. In Russian-scholar Paul Schilling's collection in particular, he found an album on Buddhist iconography, which reproduced a Tibetan xylograph of the 18th century. Having supplemented it with the Tibetan alphabetic index, Oldenburg published the album, which became a reference book for specialists in the identification of the collections of Buddhist pictures kept in the museums of Europe.

Feodor Scherbatsky
Feodor Scherbatsky
      The Bibliotheca Buddhica became one of the largest Buddhist series in the world. Oldenburg's associate, academician Feodor Scherbatsky made a significant contribution to the publication. He was a Russian Indologist who was granted the scientific title of tarka-bhusana (award of logic) in Calcutta in 1910 and whose first study on Buddhist philosophy - a two-volume book The Theory of Knowledge and Logic in the Studies of the Later Buddhists - became well known in Europe. He was the first explorer who drew a distinction between Buddhism as a religion and Buddhism as a philosophical system. He made an attempt to find the roots of Buddhist philosophy in the systems of Indian philosophy and to reconstruct the gradual transformation of its ideas in the process of its dissemination outside India. These ideas found their reflection in the volumes of the Bibliotheca Buddhica which were prepared with Scherbatsky's assistance.

      Scherbatsky had many questions when he was interpreting the texts. In order to find the right answers, he communicated with Indian and Tibetan scholars, he took part in discussions on religious and philosophical subjects and talked to the Tibetan lamas during his visits to India in 1910 and 1911. The letters written by Indian historians and philosophers to the Russian academician, which are now kept at the Archives of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, testify to the aforementioned facts. Those letters often mentioned the following volumes of the monument of Buddhist literature which were made ready for publication in Russia.

      The Bibliotheca Buddhica founded in St. Petersburg provided scholars with invaluable materials on the history of the Buddhist philosophy and religion. For the first time it introduced to the world dozens of hitherto unknown works.


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