Reconstructing Ananda’s Grief in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra

With Charles Li, Postdoctoral Fellow (Sanskrit) in the Dept. of Asian Studies

We are pleased to have Dr. Li with us at the Dept. of Asian Studies as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow working with the UBC Sanskrit Program in developing a comprehensive tool for digitally editing, analyzing, and presenting Sanskrit manuscripts.

In this presentation, he will offer insights into his scholarly research in Buddhist Studies as well as a more informal demonstration/workshop on current developments and issues in digital approaches to premodern textualities.

Faculty and especially students from all disciplines and areas of focus are invited to attend as Dr. Li’s work engages with multilingual and multidisciplinary materials.

This event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.


The Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, which tells the story of the Buddha’s death, is attested in at least four languages: Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese. Although all four versions agree on the general features of the story, there are a number of details in which they differ, most notably with respect to the Buddha’s closest disciple, Ananda. In one particularly moving scene, when the Buddha announces that he is about to die, Ananda runs away to cry alone, leaning on a “kapisisa”. The meaning of this Pali word is obscure, and to define it, the Critical Pali Dictionary (2010) posits an original text that underlies all the versions, and then attempts to reconstruct how, originally, this scene might have played out. But how useful is this effort in understanding the story, and how much does it reflect, rather, the assumptions and aspirations of contemporary dictionary writers?


Charles Li (Ph.D. 2018, Cambridge University) is a specialist in Sanskrit grammar and literature, Indian Philosophy, Buddhist Studies, and South Asian Digital Humanities.

This event is first in a 2 part series of talks with Charles Li. Click here to view the second event, What Use is a Digital Edition?, on March 16th.