In just a few years, Pariyatti Book Service has become North America’s leading source of books for students of the Theravadan tradition.
Located in a small house at the north end of Seattle, Washington, Pariyatti carries an inventory of nine hundred Theravadan titles, most of which its staff keeps in stock at all times. About 95 percent of the bookstore’s sales are made through its website and catalog, with only a small percentage coming from local walk-in customers, says Pariyatti’s founder, Rick Crutcher.
The bookstore’s growing stature is a constant surprise for Crutcher, who envisioned nothing of the kind when he opened the bookstore in his garage in 1994. Crutcher started Pariyatti to meet what was to him an obvious need. As a longtime student of Vipassana teacher S. N. Goenka, Crutcher had been disappointed by the sparse offerings of Theravadan texts on the shelves of most stores.
“It was really easy to go into a bookstore and find books on Zen or Mahayana, but almost impossible to find books from the Theravada,” he said. “The whole intent in starting this up was to pull these together and make them available in North America.”
In May 2002, the company attained nonprofit status to insure a sustainable future for the organization. Crutcher hopes this will encourage donors to support and stabilize Pariyatti’s work.
The bookstore’s name is a Pali word referring to the intellectual study of the dhamma, in contrast to patipatti, the practice side, Crutcher says. Pariyatti’s goal is to help people “read, study, and understand the dhamma in the Theravada tradition,” Crutcher continues. “I think the primary contribution we’re making is bringing a collection of literature out of an old and venerable tradition to a Western audience, and making it much more readily available.”
One of the organization’s most significant steps in recent years was to become, in 2000, the sole North American distributor for the 350 titles of the Pali Text Society in Oxford, England. The prestigious British organization has long been one of the world’s premier publishers of original Pali Theravadan texts, some of them translated into English.
“One of the things we’ve been working on is to position our company as the source for Theravadan texts,” said Julie Schaeffer, marketing director. “The PTS books give us a lot more credibility in that area because they are so well known and respected.”
Among the gems in the Pali Text Society collection is the most complete English translation of the Tipitaka, or “three baskets” of texts that form the basis of most Buddhist teachings. The PTS set of the Tipitaka includes a thirty-three-volume set of the Suttas (the teachings of the Buddha),an eight-volume set of the Abhidhamma (the systematized Buddhist psychology) and a three-volume set of the Vinaya (the rules for monastics).
Pariyatti also has published about thirty titles of its own, some of them reprints of Theravadan classics forrmerly available only from the Buddhist Publication Society of Sri Lanka and Vipassana Research publications of India. It also has been releasing some original books and audio and videotapes, under the Pariyatti label. Crutcher plans to expand publishing this fall under the new nonprofit status, with some reprints of classic texts directly sponsored by donors.
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