Let’s see. If we were to create a nice booklet for SC, the aim of which would be for people in their local city or region to print and distribute at Buddhist centers, etc.
32 pages A5
let’s stick with English + something else for now
A nice cover
cost, roughly USD $400 for 200 copies
What should we include? Give me your suggestions, we’ll winnow it down and see what we end up with. What can we find that is short, beautiful, and meaningful. We should aim to surprise and delight, not just state basic Buddhist doctrines. This is not the Word of the Buddha, it’s a sample not a textbook. An amuse-bouche if you will!
We could even call it that, An Appetizer of the Buddha’s Words.
So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in the Eastern Monastery, the stilt longhouse of Migāra’s mother. Then in the late afternoon, the Buddha came out of retreat and sat warming his back in the last rays of the sun.
Then Venerable Ānanda went up to the Buddha, bowed, and while massaging the Buddha’s limbs he said: “It’s incredible, sir, it’s amazing, how the complexion of your skin is no longer pure and bright. Your limbs are flaccid and wrinkled, and your body is stooped. And it’s apparent that there has been a deterioration in your faculties of eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body.”
“That’s how it is, Ānanda. When young you’re liable to grow old; when healthy you’re liable to get sick; and when alive you’re liable to die. The complexion of the skin is no longer pure and bright. The limbs are flaccid and wrinkled, and the body is stooped. And it’s apparent that there has been a deterioration in the faculties of eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body.”
That is what the Buddha said. Then the Holy One, the Teacher, went on to say:
“Curse this wretched old age,
which makes you so ugly.
That’s how much this delightful puppet
is ground down by old age.
Even if you live for a hundred years,
you’ll still end up dying.
Death spares no-one,
but crushes all underfoot.”
I like it because it has this intimate scene between the Buddha and Ananda, and yet it has a deep message; as trivial as it may sound. I like this tension between the trivial and the profound: There isn’t anything more trivial than sitting at the physiotherapist’s, being massaged, and talking about one’s illnesses … and yet it’s such a special situation.
“Mendicants, these three people are very helpful to another. What three?
The person who has enabled you to go for refuge to the Buddha, the teaching, and the Saṅgha. This person is very helpful to another.
Furthermore, the person who has enabled you to truly understand: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the origin of suffering’ … ‘This is the cessation of suffering’ … ‘This is the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering’. This person is very helpful to another.
Furthermore, the person who has enabled you to realize the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life, and live having realized it with your own insight due to the ending of defilements. This person is very helpful to another.
These are the three people who are very helpful to another person.
And I say that there is no-one more helpful to another than these three people.
And I also say that it’s not easy to repay these three people by bowing down to them, rising up for them, greeting them with joined palms, and observing proper etiquette for them; or by providing them with robes, almsfood, lodgings, and medicines and supplies for the sick.”
This Sutta always fills me with great gratitude, especially when thinking at the real people who brought me to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha.
Yet another: Bhaddā of the Curly Hair’s Therigatha, Thig 5.9.
If we want something humorous and perhaps a bit spooky we could turn to SN 10.12; but that’s perhaps a bit long.
Or else the one with Shaggy and Spiky, Snp 2.5 / SN 10.3.
Or else Ud 4.4, but that’s also a bit long perhaps.
The fascinating thing with these spirits is that they first appear very frightening and challenging, but then ask very sensible and often quite profound questions (except the one who hits Sariputta on the head).
I once translated an Agama into German, but that’s not the shortest of Suttas. It’s SA 1249, the parallel to MN 33. So the two parallels would have to be shown together, and that would make the booklet already full!
I also once had the idea to make a booklet of verses of nuns, be it from the Thig and/or from SN 5, then nuns’ Saṁyutta, showing Pali and Chinese parallels together. My thought was to do it in German in cooperation with Ven. @vimalanyani who is making English translations of the Chinese texts. (We never talked about that, though, and I am not sure how far her translations have advanced.) For that purpose someone would still have to translate the English versions of the Chinese texts into German …
I never raised the topic so far because I felt my own translations still need to be a bit more stable.
Perhaps though for the purpose of an “appetizer” they are good enough at this point, and we could include at least one?
I think a little bit of nuns’ stuff should be included anyway.
Why not just publish your excellent introductions to the nikāyas? Or is that getting too text booky?
Personally I’d love to have those in hard copy and I think I would return to them over and over again but I’m not sure I would return to randomly collected suttas as readily.
The essays also contain many little delicious mouthfuls of Dhamma ready to go and are given important context for both beginners and experienced readers alike. Maybe it’s more of an entrée than an amuse-bouche but people are hungry for Dhamma!
I’ve always loved the simile of the mountains moving in, sn 3.25. While well known in EBT circles, I think it would be new not just to people new to Buddhism, but to people coming from other Buddhist traditions. For me, that Sutta is just such a powerful call to practice. And it was probably the first sutta that truly came alive for me.
That’s all rather a lot, and more than I was thinking. When I started looking at it in more detail, I realized that if the aim is “a taste of Dhamma”, we already have a book that does this better than anything else, namely the Dhammapada. This is also good because it’s widely translated.
On reflection, A5 is too big: it’s an actual book, and you need a bag to put it in. I’d rather go with A6, which is the size of a passport and you can slip it in a pocket.
Also, on reflection I think bilingual is not the best idea. Make it small and simple, and print it in different languages.
So I have selected a few Dhammapada verses, 27 to be precise, selected because they struck me as relatable or evocative. We’re going to print these up for distribution at our SC event in December with Ven Brahmali. I’ll wait until we get them back from the printer before sharing, just to make sure it’s all tickety-boo.
Once that’s done, I’d like to invite people of different language backgrounds to offer translated verses that can be made into similar PDFs for printing.
As a reminder, if you’d prefer to do something else, go nuts! There’s nothing stopping anyone from taking any of our texts and printing them in any way they like. But for myself, there will have to be a limit in what I can personally support, so keeping it simple is the essence.
I won’t give any detailed recommendations on what to include, as I’ve known for a long time what interests me is very different from what interests other people, so its unlikely anything I recommend would be suitable for distribution at “Buddhist centres”. For example, my original interest in Buddhism was in the Abhidhamma, but I now realise that it may not actually represent what the Buddha may have taught, although in some respects I still find it very useful.
Similarly, I don’t like the Dhammapada, I don’t like the Jataka stories, and I don’t like verse, or anything poetic. I prefer the teachings to be as factual and concise as possible.
What I will recommend is that it’s probably worthwhile explaining what Suttacentral is, and why it might be valuable. When I first discovered Suttacentral, I liked that it presented the complete Tipitaka in the original as well as various translations that I could read and compare against. I liked the user interface, and I liked that it allowed me to read whatever I wanted to in whatever order or sequence that I would care, and I can either choose to read it all in the language of my choosing, or compare a translation with the original. It inspired me to want to learn Pali.
It was not judgemental, or condescending, or try to force me down a path I did not care for. It also did not focus on Buddhism as a religion but simply presented the teachings and the philosophy and allowed me to digest those in any way I cared about.
Unlike perhaps other people, I don’t care much about the practice of Buddhism or the norms or customs associated with Buddhism. I don’t make it a point to visit “Buddhist centres”, except as a “tourist” and I am unlikely to pick up any brochures that contain just samples of his teachings, but something that explained what Suttacentral is and how beneficial it could be would be of enormous interest to me.
Absolutely. In such case, I am now considering making a simple post card with SuttaCentral logo, title, subtitle, url(+language) and a verse or two from The Holy Offering of the Teaching, in each of the 3 Swiss national languages (+ English). Then people could simply keep the card for themselves to remember to check the site out, or post it to someone as an invitation to visit. I understand from reviewing SuttaCentral Licensing that this use of the logo and content of the site is permitted, or am I mistaken?
Sometimes I am in a mood to do such little things, just as a little interruption of my translation work. They are probably not spectacular, but they can be just nice little gifts, or nice things to send.
But so far I never did it with the SuttaCentral logo.