Dhamma Study Database

After work now while waiting for the savings to accrue and the date for my departure to Myanmar, I read and transcribe the essential suttas or portions of suttas that have inspired me so far and seem to be rich in meaning. It is hard to say this bit is more valuable than that bit. It is a personal choice. I am not trying to do this for anyone but myself. Though there are some pieces that I like to share so I post these texts on this blog.

I’ve been using Zotero as the database to store my notes. I type the discourses or portions of discourses into Zotero and tag them with locations, disciple names, deva names, layperson names and themes, similes etc. In this way, I can come back and find things or look for similar themes in the various collections – nikaaya.

I looked around for a database application and found they would be difficult (for me) to code. I don’t currently own Microsoft Access though I’m familiar with how it works and have developed databases with it for my public service jobs in the past. I would prefer an open source – non proprietary database. I tried OpenOffice Base but it is a bit limited and I’m not skilled enough to use it well. Although I said I prefer open source I looked at QSR NVivo as a possibility. It has excellent text analysis and tagging tools. I trained in NVivo 2 while studying at the ANU and analysed fieldwork interviews using it. Unfortunately for me it is very expensive. NVivo would be excellent but probably not good for sharing the analysis. I suppose in the back of my mind is the thought: ‘I should be sharing this’. So much for just doing it for myself.

I wondered about going simple and not doing any of this on computers. One extreme to another. I thought I should just learn Paali and then commit to memory those sutta that are most relevant to me and those recommended by excellent teachers who I have confidence in. This is essentially what committed early Buddhists would have done in the pre-literate days. Now I am nearly 50 years old and my memory muscles are underdeveloped compared with the pre-literate early Buddhists. Maybe I need to rely on some books, some use of weak memory and some use of electronic devices such as a laptop.


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