Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Buddhist Audio Project

Here's an idea that's been bouncing around in my head for the past several weeks: in order to make Buddhist sutras more accessible, why not record someone reading them aloud? People can then download them and listen to them in the car, the train, or the bus.

I don't think that sutra study is very popular in the West; many Zen Buddhists prefer Zen literature to classical sutras, both Pali and Mahayana. However, sutra study is a vital component of Buddhist practice. I personally would not feel comfortable studying with a teacher unless s/he were well-versed in traditional scripture.

Since the downloads would be free, the recordings don't have to be professional productions, just as long as the audio is clear and the speaker's voice isn't terrible. (Sorry, but I don't know any other way to put it.) Especially since this is a DIY, grassroots kind of project. The purpose is to spread the Dharma, not aesthetics.

One thing that is really cool is that Buddhism began as an oral tradition, and in a way, this would be bringing that facet of the Dharma back to life.

This could be a way to encourage Buddhists to explore the core Buddhist teachings firsthand.  I know there are websites that offer some audio versions of Pali and a few popular Mahayana sutras, but to my knowledge there aren't any that systematically run through the entire canon.

Logistically it doesn't sound too difficult: people could volunteer to read the texts, record them chapter by chapter (for longer sutras), then upload them to a website.

Please share your thoughts and opinions, as well as whether a project like this already exists. Also, if you can come up with a catchier name, let me know.

Photo borrowed from Creative Commons flickr user: Rusty Sheriff.


  1. Thanks for the great post- this is a wonderful idea! I think it would be a great resource for those who would like to listen to and learn the Sutras. I have looked and I don't see anything like what you describe here as an actual community-based sutra recording project. The closest I could find was this:
    Perhaps others know more about what has already been done.

    I would be very interested in participating in this project (that is, if my voice isn't 'terrible' :) As for a name, how about Project Audio Sutra?

  2. Like this?


  3. Kind of. I've seen a couple of sites with Pali Suttas--like Renata listed (e-sangha)--which tend to be shorter than Mahayana ones. I was interested more in the latter, like the Lankavatara, Vimilakirti, Diamond, Awakening of Faith, Nirvana, Buddha Nature, and Avatamsaka Sutras (imagine the last one!).

  4. As long as you don't read translations under copyright and have the translator's publisher come after you.

  5. Good point, but the way I was thinking is that no owns the Dharma. I mean, how lame would it be for a publisher to get litigious? Talk about bad press. Or maybe that's wishful thinking. :)

    But I suppose we could try to get permission from publishers.