J. A. B. van Buitenen

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Johannes Adrianus Bernardus van Buitenen (21 May 1928 – 21 September 1979) was an Indologist at the University of Chicago where he was the George V. Bobrinskoy Professor of Sanskrit in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations. His interests ranged widely over literature, philosophy and philology but toward the end of his career he focused primarily on the Mahābhārata.


Van Buitenen studied with Jan Gonda at the Rijksuniversiteit, Utrecht (since 1990 Universiteit Utrecht). He received his doctorate, cum laude, on 23 October 1953 and immediately departed for India where he stayed until 1956.[1] From 1959 to 1961 he was Reader in Indian philosophy at Utrecht but found he had little interest in the position or in staying in the Netherlands.[2] As a consequence he happily accepted an invitation to take a position at the University of Chicago and remained there until his death in 1979 at the age of fifty-one. van Buitenen contributed to the training of several able scholars in the USA, among them James L. Fitzgerald (Brown University), Walter O. Kaelber, Michael D. Willis, Bruce M. Sullivan (Northern Arizona University) and Bruce Lincoln (University of Chicago).[3]



  • Tales of Ancient India Translated by J. A. B. van Buitenen. Chicago, 1959
  • The Maitrāyaṇīya Upaniṣad: A Critical Essay, with Text, Translation and Commentary. The Hague, 1962
  • Two Plays of Ancient India: The Little Clay Cart and the Minister's Seal New York, 1968
  • Rāmānuja on the Bhagavadgītā: a condensed rendering of his Gītābhāṣya with copious notes and an introduction Delhi, 1968. (Previously published in 1953 as the author's proefschrift, Utrecht Rijksuniversiteit)
  • Yāmuna’s Āgamaprāmāṇya: or, Treatise on the Validity of Pañcarātra Madras, 1971
  • The Mahabharata, Volume 1, Book 1: The Book of the Beginning Translated by J. A. B. van Buitenen. Chicago, 1973
  • The Mahabharata, Volume 2, Book 2: The Book of Assembly; Book 3: The Book of the Forest Translated by J. A. B. van Buitenen. Chicago, 1975
  • The Mahabharata, Volume 3, Book 4: The Book of the Virata; Book 5: The Book of the Effort Translated by J. A. B. van Buitenen. Chicago, 1978
  • The Bhagavadgita in the Mahabharata Translated by J. A. B. van Buitenen, edited by James L. Fitzgerald. Chicago, 1981

Selected Articles

  • ‘Studies in Sāṃkhya (I)’. JAOS 76, 1956. pp. 153–57.
  • ‘Studies in Sāṃkhya (II)’. JAOS 77. 1957. pp. 15–25.
  • ‘Studies in Sāṃkhya (III)’. JAOS 77, 1957. pp. 88–107.
  • ‘The Name “Pañcarātra”’. History of Religions 1, 1962. pp. 291–99.


  1. Jan Gonda, 'Obituary' in Studies in Indian Literature and Philosophy: Collected Articles of J. A. B. van Buitenen, edited by Ludo Rocher (Delhi, 1988), p. xiii.
  2. Gonda, 'Obituary' in Studies in Indian Literature and Philosophy, p. xv.
  3. Richard H. Davis, South Asia at Chicago: a history, foreword by Milton Singer (Chicago: Committee on Southern Asian Studies, University of Chicago, 1985).

External links