This is Volume 2 of Dharma Audiobooks’ ground-breaking overview of Principal Texts of the Khuddaka Nikāya, the fifth section of the Sutta Pitaka in the Theravāda Pāli Canon. Far less known than the first four (Dīgha Nikāyā, Majjhima Nikāya, Saṁyutta Nikāya, Aṅguttara Nikāya) perhaps because of its character as an anthology rather than a self-contained work, it nevertheless contains gems which are only too easily overlooked or even underappreciated! Continue Reading →
Author Archive | Iain
Dr Elizabeth English was appointed as Cambridge University’s first ever Mindfulness Practitioner. Her courses are the subject of research published in The Lancet showing significant benefit to students. Elizabeth draws on four decades of personal meditation practice and her ordination within a Western Buddhist tradition, as well as her doctoral research at Oxford, where she studied Buddhist meditation texts. She is also a certified teacher of Focusing, Somatic Experiencing and Nonviolent Communication. She lives in Cambridge with her cocker spaniel, Cherub.
The Khuddaka Nikāya is different in character from the other four Nikāyas of the Sutta Pitaka in the Theravada Pāli Canon in that rather than being a single work it is, as its customary translation ‘Minor Anthologies’ suggests, a collection of independent works. A true anthology! Continue Reading →
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 Numbered Discourses (Aṅguttara Nikāya) is the last and longest of the four primary divisions of the Sutta Piṭaka, (Baskets of Discourses) that make up the main original teachings of the Buddha . The word aṅguttara literally means “up by one factor”, i.e. “incremental”. It refers to the fact that the discourses are arranged by numbered sets, with the numbers increasing by one. It is divided into 11 Books (nipāta), each arranged in varying number of Chapters (vaggas ) which themselves contain numerous suttas (often grouped in thematic clusters). Continue Reading →
This is a delightful short biography of an eccentric Hungarian scholar who became one of the fathers of Western studies of the Tibetan language and culture. Educated at an austere Calvinist school until aged 31 where he demonstrated exceptional skills as a linguist, Csoma de Kőrös (1784-1842) finally set out alone on a pilgrimage to the East. Continue Reading →
Peaks and Lamas is one of the classic early 20th century accounts of travelling in the Himalayas on the borders of Tibet. It is, in its way, on a par with the more famous Mystery and Imagination in Tibet by Alexandra David-Néel (also available on Dharma Audiobooks). It describes two journeys in the 1930s, one physically active and one more of spiritual investigation. It starts as the title suggests, as a mountaineering adventure, when a group of English climbers set out to climb unconquered peaks in the Himalayas. Continue Reading →
The Long Discourses of the Buddha (Dīgha Nikāya) is the first of the five Nikāyas (Collections) in the Sutta Pitaka and has its own particular character. Unlike the others, which contain thousands of shorter discourses (suttas), it comprises just 34, but of much longer length – as the name indicates! This makes it, in some ways, a more focused collection of teachings of the Buddha and especially accessible on audiobook. Continue Reading →
Sister Vajira and Francis Story
Born Hannelore Wolf in 1928 in Germany, she became a Buddhist nun in 1955 in Sri Lanka. Suffering from ill-health, she became a translator of Pali texts. She disrobed in 1962, returned to Germany and died in 1991, aged 63. Francis Story (1910-1972) (Anagarika Sugatananda) was born in England in 1910 and became acquainted with Buddhist teachings early in life. For 25 years he lived in Asian countries — India, Burma, and Sri Lanka — where he deeply studied the Buddhist philosophy of life. With that background and endowed with a keen analytical mind, he produced a considerable body of writings, collected and published in three volumes by the Buddhist Publication Society.
F. L Woodward
Frank Lee Woodward (1871-1952) was an unusual English figure who made a significant contribution to the wider understanding of Buddhism in the West. A classical scholar who became interested in Eastern religions, he learned Pali and after a period as headmaster in the UK, took up a similar post in Galle, Sri Lanka in 1903. By 1919 he was looking for peace and seclusion in which to continue his translations of the Buddhist scriptures for the Pali Text Society. Woodward settled near Launceston, Tasmania, and about 1927 bought a house in a neglected orchard in the Rowella district on the western bank of the Tamar River. A vegetarian, a mystic and a man of whimsy, he practised yoga, wore a turban and lived alone, surrounded by Buddhist scriptures on thousands of palm-leaves. Maintaining an extensive correspondence, he recorded the scores in every match played by the Bluecoat School’s Old Blues Rugby XV.
Among scholars, Woodward is revered for translating eighteen of the forty-two volumes of the Pali texts into English and for compiling the vast concordance of the Pali canon which occupied the last fifteen years of his life. At the popular level, his volume, Some Sayings of the Buddha (Oxford, 1925, 1939), has contributed to a wider understanding of Buddhism. Reduced to near poverty, Woodward died on 27 May 1952 at Beaconsfield Hospital, West Tamar, and was buried in Carr Villa cemetery, Launceston.