[Buddha-l] Capitalisation of Buddhist Terms

Erik Hoogcarspel jehms at xs4all.nl
Thu Dec 9 05:42:33 MST 2010

Sorry Dan, but I fail to see any clarity in the current American customs 
of capitalisation. In the Dutch language we only have one rule: 
capitalize only proper names. So'the Buddha' would be wrong because the 
word 'the' indicates there are more buddhas, and this time a specific 
one is intended. 'Buddha' is ok if the writer thinks this is the guy's 
name. The capitalisation of 'I' is BTW curious to say the least.
It seems to me that the capitalisation in religious texts is more a sign 
of respect. I wouldn't be surprised if the 'shift' key of keyboards of 
religious people is wearing out sooner than those of atheïsts.


Op 09-12-10 03:29, Dan Lusthaus schreef:
> I have to slightly disagree with my old friend richard hayes. 'ö-Dzin (why
> not capitalize the "ö"?) asked about conventions. There are a few
> conventions that some of us have adopted, for the sake of clarity.
> For instance, while Indic scripts lack any form of capitalization, we can
> take advantage of capitals to distinguish distinctly different senses of
> certain terms. For instance, dharma is used in several quite distinct ways
> (aside from differing interpretations even amongst the different meanings),
> two basic usages being (1) the teachings of the Buddha, the fundamental
> tenets of Buddhism -- a sort of Buddhist counterpart to the Hindu Dharma as
> underlying structure and ruling patterns of the (moral) cosmos; and (2)
> basic factors of experience, such as the 75 dharmas or 100 hundred dharmas
> in the Sarvastivadin and Yogacara abhidharma lists. Some of us capitalize
> the first, the Dharma, and leave the second in lower case, dharma, to help
> clarify which is being used. Less annoying than, for instance, using
> dharma-superscript1 vs dharma-superscript2.
> It seems to me that the impulse to avoid capitals at all costs is a silly
> reaction against German, which capitalizes nouns regardless of their
> importance or lack thereof. The British hate the Germans, ergo... Since we
> in the States are not Brits nor part of the Commonwealth, we can capitalize
> or lowercase as we see fit. Unless one is e.e. cummings, I would recommend a
> middle path. Capitalize whatever you wish, and let your editors and
> publishers try to talk you out of it. Much more fun.
> There are no buddhist rules of Capitalization. American capitalization rules
> are basically: do what you wish, but Be Consistent.
> Dan/dan

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