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About FreeDharma: Frequently Asked Questions

What?

FreeDharma collects as many Sutras and Dharma teachings as possible to one searchable location, and makes them freely-available for non-commercial use, along with usable Dublin Core meta data.

FreeDharma is a non-sectarian, unaffiliated website, linked to no organisation, with no agenda other than the disemination of the Dharma of the Buddha, the Patriachs and historic teachers of all Buddhist traditions.

Each has been found in the public domain or donated by its owner, and each comes with its own credits and licence.

We aim to provide as many alternative translations as possible.

Currently, every document is available as well-formed semantic XHTML, easily accessible to the partially sighted and blind.

Ready for release, but awaiting server-space (donations welcome) are PDF, RTF and UTF8 text file version of all documents. If you require a document in these version, please mail text@freedharma.com.

Why?

One day, I could not provide a questioner with an exact reference to a passage of a Sutra. Centrally hosting texts makes it very easy to search them. Never again will such a reference escape me! Making the resource public gives others the same opportunity.

Web 3.0: The Semantic Web

It would be great if we could easily cross-reference any term in any language — certainly as useful as the provision of multiple translations for comparison of semantics. Such is the semantic web project.

We currently tag all FreeDharma documents using RDF Dublin Core metadata), making easily and programmatically available the location of the requested document, related documents, alternative translations, credits, and licences.

In the near future we hope to make it possible for anyone to link words on this site to definitions, either provided by themselves or others. Links to these definitions will be made available by clicking or hovering-over a word in the text. It will be possible to vote on the suitability of each definition (in the style of YouTube thumbs-up/thumbs-down voting), so each definition will have a user-generated rating.

How?

The site is produced using free, Open Source software, from fragments of XHTML and Dublin Core/RDF files.

These are cleaned by HTML Tidy, parsed in Perl using HTML::TokeParser, and placed into MySQL. Template::Toolkit is then employed to create a static rendering of the data, as XHTML. Further formats — RTF, PDF, and RDF — come courtesy of Apache FOP and XSLT. The static documents are uploaded to the webserver.

An inverted-frequency weighted search index is extracted from the data model by Apache Lucy, a Perl-port of the superb Lucene search engine, which is accessed by Backbone.js to facilitate user searches.

Experiments are being made into indexing the site using Kohonen self-organising networks — results are promising but currently reflect too little of the volumes availble to be of much use. They are pretty, though.

Help Welcome

More texts are needed, as is server space, to host the PDF, XML, RTF, TXT and other formats of the documents. Perl or mod_perl hosting would be nice, but I am happy to rewrite the engine in any language you care to provide — it is the least I can do for your generosity towards the Dharma. Currently, I programme to Master of Science level in Perl, Java, C, PROLOG, POP-11, with JS, HTML5, XML, XSLT, have experience of C#, C++, Scheme, Fortran, Forth, TK, TCL ... and Vic-20 BASIC.