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Professor Harrison specializes in Buddhist literature and history, especially that of the Mahayana, and the study of Buddhist manuscripts in Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan. His research interests also include the history of the Tibetan canon, as well as revelation and authority in the Buddhist tradition. He is chair of the Religious Studies department as well as Co-Director of the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford.

Harrison is the author of The Samadhi of Direct Encounter with the Buddhas of the Present and of numerous journal articles on Buddhist sacred texts and their interpretation. He is currently working on editions and translations of a number of Mahayana and mainstream Buddhist sutras, including the Vajracchedika (Diamond Sutra), while also pursuing the study of issues of authority, textual transmission, and innovation in Mahayana Buddhism.

He contributes to various projects to reconstruct, edit, and translate manuscripts recently discovered in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including those held in the Schøyen Collection in Norway. He is also one of the editors of the series Buddhist Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection.

Professor Harrison taught at the University of Canterbury for 22 years before joining the Stanford faculty in 2007.

Key works

Tabo Studies III: A Catalogue of the Manuscript Collection of Tabo Monastery by Cristina Scherrer-Schaub and Paul Harrison, Volume 1 (by Paul Harrison): Sūtra Texts (Sér phyin, Phal chen, dKon brtsegs, mDo sde, Myan 'das)(Serie Orientale Roma Clll. 1) (Rome: Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente, 2009)

Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection: Buddhist Manuscripts series, Vols II & III Ed., with Jens Braarvig, Jens-Uwe Hartmann, Kazunobo Matsuda and Lore Sander. Oslo: Hermes Pub., 2002, 2007

Several articles in Buddhism: critical concepts in religious studies, Ed. Paul Williams. New York: Routledge, 2005

"Mediums and Messages: Reflections on the Production of Mahāyāna Sūtras," Eastern Buddhist 35.1 (2003): 115-151

The Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra, translated by Lokak ṣema; translated from the Chinese by Paul Harrison. Berkeley, CA : Numata Center, 1998

Sūryacandrāya : essays in honour of Akira Yuyama on the occasion of his 65th birthday. Ed. with Gregory Schopen. Swisttal-Odendorf : Indica et Tibetica Verlag, 1998

Druma-kinnara-rāja-paripṛcchā-sūtra : a critical edition of the Tibetan text (recension A) based on eight editions of the Kanjur and the Dunhuang manuscript fragment. Studia Philologica Buddhica monograph series, 7. Tokyo: International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 1992

The Samādhi of direct encounter with the Buddhas of the present: an annotated English translation of the Tibetan version of the Pratyutpanna-Buddha-saṃmukhāvasthita-samādhi-sūtra with several appendices relating to the history of the text. Studia Philologica Buddhica monograph series, 5. Tokyo: International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 1990

Prof. Harrison in the News

December 2, 2008
Stanford Multidisciplinary TeachinStanford's archaeologists and scholars who study art or...
April 22, 2008, April 22, 2008
Newsweek, August 20-27, 2007
Horizons (Center for East Asian Studies at Stanford Newsletter), Fall 2007
University of Canterbury News, February 19, 2003

Audio and Video

Council on Foreign Relations podcast, April 9, 2008


  • South Asian and Tibetan Buddhism
  • Mahayana Buddhism
  • Buddhist literature and history
  • Buddhist manuscripts
  • Tabo monastery manuscripts
  • Schøyen Collection
  • Tibetan canon history
  • Sanskrit


Master of Arts in Chinese, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, 1976
Ph.D., Australian National University, 1980