The British Library launched a new open access site at the end of September called Discovering Sacred Texts, which allows the general public to access the digitization of more than 250 sacred works from the collections of the famous British library. These documents cover the six most practiced religions in the UK: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism – as well as a number of other religions, including the Baha Faith 'i, Jainism and Zoroastrianism. The texts range from the best known and finest manuscripts of these various religions to an extensive collection of printed editions, ancient and modern, including selections from over 100 texts newly digitized and available online for the first time.
Buddhism just a click away
This site is a pioneer, because it makes discover a whole range of educational resources relating to the sacred texts developed especially for a young audience, because, as Hamish Todd, curator of the East Asia department, reminds us: "It is the one of the public service missions of the British Library to make its collections available with reliable and impartial information, particularly for the attention of the youngest of our visitors and their teachers".
In addition, its particularly well thought-out ergonomics gives access to the richness and diversity of the texts of the major denominations of the world. Specially researched and curated content includes original articles written by scholars, library curators and religious leaders that cover topics such as pilgrimage, the sacred, religious iconography, Hindu deities, illumination of Jewish biblical texts and the common origins of Abrahamic beliefs.
As far as Buddhism is concerned, the articles address the “Development of the Buddhist canon”, as well as “Buddhist meditation or chanting” or even “The place of women in Theravada Buddhism”. The digitized documents are exceptional since they offer a temporal and geographical overview of the presence of Buddhism: manuscripts from Gandhara dating from the Ier century of our era to the magnificent Japanese example of the Lotus Sutra dating from the seventeenthe century, passing through manuals of Tibetan tantric rituals from the IXe-Xe centuries, Burmese, Thai, Korean, Chinese manuscripts, etc., it is all the diversity and the richness of the Buddhist landscape which is thus put within reach of computer clicks.
In our time of rising obscurantism of all kinds and intolerance, this is an initiative that deserves to be welcomed and that other public institutions could take as an example.