DHARMA AUDIOBOOKS is a new audiobook label with a clear brief: to present Buddhist recordings of all kinds – biographies, histories, talks, suttas and sutras from all traditions, commentaries and classic literature by Western Buddhists – in informed and professional productions. The recordings draw on all the main traditions – Theravada, Mahayana, Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese – as well as the rapidly increasing Western Buddhist tradition and feature some of the leading teachers and writers.
The titles include popular introductions such as Buddhism Plain and Simple and What The Buddha Taught and classic talks such as The Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddha to recordings from the Pali Canon, biographies such as Cave In The Snow and The Life of Milarepa. All titles can be downloaded from Audible.
THE NUMBERED DISCOURSES OF THE BUDDHA – A NEW UNABRIDGED RECORDING
By Nicolas Soames
With the first three volumes of the Nikāyas released, it was ordained that Dharma Audiobooks and Taradasa would undertake the fourth – The Numbered Discourses of the Buddha (Aṅguttara Nikāya). And, like The Long Discourses, we have used the contemporary and very accessible translation by the Australian-born monk, Bhikkhu Sujato. Though, of course, his motivation to undertake the task comes from years of committed and formal practice, he has diverged from traditional paths of Pāli translation having made certain particular choices. Most immediately apparent are individual terms. For example, though samādhi has often been left untranslated, or termed ‘concentration’ Sujato uses ‘immersion’. Similarly, for nibbāna he offers ‘extinguishment’. Both are certainly justifiable. But perhaps most reflective of the tone of his translation is his choice for bhikkhu or monk – he chooses mendicant. This may have been because it presents, in English, a vivid image of those figures who appear in the Pāli Canon, the wanderer committed to the spiritual life who lives on alms. But I suspect Sujato also chose it because it has a neutral gender. Of course, it is true that the Nikāyas are dominated by bhikkhus, and bhikkhunis make fewer observable appearances. And the bhikkhuni tradition died out, so it is not surprising that female practitioners with any kind of full-time role in the Theravadin tradition are far fewer in numbers. But times are changing. Sujato’s teacher Aajan Brahm has been expelled from the Thai Forest Lineage of Aajan Chah for taking the bold step of re-instituting the bhikkhuni tradition. This brought the old school more in line with Mahayana practice, and also reflected the increasingly active and fully committed presence of women in full-time dharma life. It was a significant step, and one which is reflected in Bhikkhu Sujato’s translations.
In The Numbered Discourses, the use of the gender neutral ‘they’, even in singular terms, is common place. Initially, to traditionalists, this may come as a bit of a jolt, though it is increasingly in everyday usage. But it does make these big edifices of the Nikāyas more approachable to those who read it for personal practice and elucidation. It also redresses, somewhat, the shock of encountering, in bald terms the restrictions the Buddha put upon bhikkhunis. It was a different time! So, Bhikkhu Sujato can be applauded in offering a translation for our time. I, too, have a continuing admiration and love for the words and cadence of the King James Bible and I can’t quite get the same feel from modern versions. But then I approach that work more as a literary document, not a training text. When Taradasa and I were in our little studio in Cambridge recording The Numbered Discourses, we did have Bhikkhu Bodhi’s exceptional and scholarly text by our side and referred to it from time to time. After all, Bhikkhu Sujato, in his introduction to The Numbered Discourses, salutes Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation and exemplary, fulsome explanatory notes (published in a handsome and MASSIVE volume by Wisdom). Furthermore, very unusually (and generously) Sujato makes his translations free for all use; and he even declares that any individual using his translations can make changes without consultation. There’s confidence for you! In fact, the only real changes we made during the weeks of recording were when it was necessary to adapt the text to make the immense amount of repetition (endemic to the form!) work for audio. Thank you, Bhikkhu Sujato!
In the end, Dharma Audiobooks is extremely pleased to make available these four great monuments to the Buddha – in the modern AND ancient medium of the spoken word.
I would not like this final update to Dharma Audiobooks recordings of 2021 to go without mentioning the little gem of The Hungarian Who Walked To Heaven. This has the subtitle of The Remarkable Story of Csoma de Kőrös. But who was he? In Hungary, everyone knows him, even though he died, alone, in Darjeeling. Elsewhere, few do. Csoma (1784-1842) was an exceptional linguist who endured trials and overcame harsh obstacles. In an ascetic life spent on the road from Hungary to the Himalayas, often on foot, his endeavours culminated in the production of the first Tibetan-English dictionary. It can be said that he was the father of Western Tibetan Studies. Though not a Buddhist, he put his outstanding talents at the service of work, despite great hardship. The English writer Edward Fox has written the first English account of this singular man. Even set against the many fascinating biographies of Westerners who travelled East, the story of Csoma de Kőrös is extraordinary.
The Long Discourses – the Dīgha Nikāya translated by Bhikkhu Sujato
Dharma Audiobooks continues its recording of the Nikāyas, with what is regarded as the first in the central collection of suttas from the Pāli tradition. In spite of its name, the Dīgha Nikāya is actually the shortest of the four main Nikāyas, the ‘long’ referring to the length of the suttas themselves. Here are 34 suttas, some of which are among the most important and studied texts in Buddhism. These include The Longer Discourse on Mindfulness Meditation ( Mahāsatipatthāna Sutta) and The Great Discourse on the Buddha’s Extinguishment (Mahāparanibbāna Sutta). The translation of The Long Discourses is by the Australian-born monk Bhikkhu Sujato who has striven to present a modern, highly accessible version, dispensing often with standard Pāli terms to make the text more relevant to contemporary understanding. Nibbāna becomes ‘Extinguishment’, Tathāgata becomes ‘The Realized One’, Samādhi becomes ‘immersion’ and Jhana becomes ‘absorption.’ This bold and helpful enterprise, based not just on scholarly expertise but years of personal practice makes this new translation idea for audiobook.
It is read, as with The Middle Length Discourses and The Connected Discourses, by Taradasa in his customary engaged manner.
SHŌBŌGENZŌ – THE IMPORTANT SŌTŌ ZEN CLASSIC – RECEIVES ITS WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING ON DHARMA AUDIOBOOKS
Dharma Audiobooks continues with its intention to record the principal Buddhist texts from across the world with the release of Shōbōgenzō, the seminal Sōtō Zen Japanese collection of teachings by the founder of the tradition, Eihei Dōgen. Having spent a considerable time recently on the Pāli Canon, including the Middle Length Discourses (Majjhima Nikāya) and the Connected Discourses Samyutta Nikāya), it should not be so surprising that, 1500 years and more onwards, the Shōbōgenzō feels remarkably different!
Though remaining central Dharma in so many ways, it displays the wonderful versatility of the Buddha’s teachings in the way it has adapted to later times and a very different cultural environment from ancient India!
The Shōbōgenzō, subtitled ‘The Treasure House of the Eye of the True Teaching’, is a collection of 96 Discourses delivered by Dōgen (1200-1253) to his disciples over an extended period of 22 year. They were recorded by his amanuensis, the Second Japanese Sōtō Zen Ancestor, Kōun Ejō. The Discourses cover a wide range of topics including ethics and meditation practice.
Perhaps unexpectedly, considering the apparent formality of Japanese style, the Discourses carry a strong flavour of the conversational and the personal, as the teachings are presented with colourful Chinese and Zen phrases and stories, as well as with medieval Chinese and Japanese colloquialisms.
This recording of the Shōbōgenzō features the fine translation by the Rev. Nearman of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives of the Sōtō Zen tradition, who, based at Shasta Abbey in Northern California, was responsible for a number of key Japanese Zen texts. Rev. Nearman provides not only useful, concise introductions to each of the Discourses, but also copious footnotes clarifying the text, which have been incorporated into the main narrative. This classic Zen text receives an engaged reading from the Los Angeles-based reader Brian Nishii, whose presentation is deepened by his fluency in Japanese and Mandarin. An accompanying PDF is included with the download from Audible, providing a comprehensive glossary of Buddhist terms used in this Dharma Audiobooks recording.
Nicolas Soames co-founded and ran the award-winning spoken word label Naxos AudioBooks. Over a period of 20 years he built a list of 800 recordings of classics of world literature – from Homer and Dante to Austen, Dickens, James Joyce and Proust.
Dharma Audiobooks was started in 2015, recording Buddhist texts from all traditions and all ages, both ancient and modern. In 2016 he launched Ukemi Audiobooks with the purpose of recording neglected classics mainly from Western traditions – both fiction and non-fiction, ranging from Greek and Latin texts to philosophy (Nietzsche and Schopenhauer), psychology and psychoanalysis (Freud and Jung); and 20th century classics, including Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks and the early novels of Samuel Beckett.