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The many meanings of auspicious

An EU study examined the historical spread and impact of a key Buddhist text from Thailand. Outcomes include the creation of a Romanised-Pali digital edition, intended as a foundation for future comparisons with vernacular editions in Asian languages.
The many meanings of auspicious
In 1524, a Thai monk named Sirimangala wrote a canonical Buddhist teaching reflecting 38 subtly different meanings of the concept auspicious. Called the Mangalatthadipani (Mg-d), the substantial text was written in the Pali language, and while influential in southeast Asia, western scholars have neglected the work.

The EU-funded MGD ("The commentary on auspicious things". A Pali text from northern Thailand) project publicised the text, using an interdisciplinary approach. The study drew upon philology (the history and evolution of languages) and also history and anthropology.

From several field trips, researchers established the geographic spread of the Mg-d in mainland Asia and Sri Lanka. The extent was greater than previously believed; besides Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, the range also included Myanmar. Using vernacular versions from southeast Asia from the 17th to 20th centuries, project scholars also examined the nature of the spread and its variation.

The team transcribed the Thai script into a working edition, consisting of about 400 pages of database-searchable Roman letters. The new version represents a baseline for any future critical edition incorporating Khmer and Burmese versions.

Researchers compared passages from the working edition with existing digital versions of the Pali canon. The work allowed addition of references to canonical and post-canonical documents in the form of footnotes. Thus, it was possible to determine the state of Theravada Buddhism in Thailand during the 16th century.

Other aspects of the research explored the religious, historical and social context of Sirimangala's labours. Work yielded a new bibliography of relevant sources, especially Thai language works, including some specifically about the author.

The MGD project produced a new appreciation for what has long been an important Buddhist text, plus its historical context. The digital working edition facilitates further scholarship.

Related information


Auspicious, Buddhist, Thailand, Pali, Sirimangala, Mangalatthadipani
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