Buddhist thought and practice

Buddhism begins with the life, experience, and teachings of Gautama Buddha, who lived some 2,500 years ago. At its heart, Buddhism is concerned with the transformation of human existence and experience, emphasizing liberating insight and all-inclusive compassion, ultimately resulting in nirvana and Awakening.

After the Buddha’s death, and the continuation and spread of Buddhism across the globe, a multitude of Buddhist teachers have inspired others with their own reinvigorating teachings and practices. Such teachers re-map the essence of Buddhism for new generations while maintaining the spirit of the teachings of its founder through key central concepts and traditions. Through practices of ethics, meditative cultivation, philosophical analysis, psychological investigation, rituals, narratives, the arts, and more, Buddhists seek to follow in the footsteps of the Buddha. Through exploration of doctrine informed by practice (akin to other religions’ theologies), practitioners seek to realise the liberating truth as the Buddha did.

Buddhist thought and practice in the Encyclopaedia

Buddhism is not a religion confined to manuscripts and monuments, or limited to literature and archaeology, but is alive in the hearts and minds of Buddhists. The Buddhism section of the Encyclopaedia is a testament to both the Buddha and Buddhist teachers that have come after him. Its focus is on perspectives of believers, disciples, devotees, and practitioners, and it will explore the nature of human life and its ultimate possibilities from such vantages. We seek to generate a way of presenting Buddhism that more fully incorporates the views and understanding of those who practise it. The world of the disciple is – and has been historically – richer and more colourful than modern scholarship often acknowledges. Many entries will include exploration of how Buddhist understandings and practices can address modern problems or be informed by modern disciplines. Others may treat a concept or practice of widespread importance in Buddhism, or explore the contributions of individual teachers.


We seek academically rigorous articles from scholars who support our objectives. Encyclopaedia entries are by nature broad. To complement this breadth, we will also present the voices of (non-academic) practitioners and disciples as linked entries. Our objective in doing this is twofold: to hear from practitioners as an integral part of the scholarly enterprise, and to engender dialogue and discussion between scholars and practitioners.

For more information, please contact Prof. Alice Collett (ajc50@st-andrews.ac.uk) or encyclopaedia@st-andrews.ac.uk.