Abridgements/cuts in suttas

Hello everyone,

First of all, thank you everyone working on preservation and spreading of the Buddhasasana.

I have a question (or maybe a proposition, whether anyone finds it reasonable).
Currently, in many digital sutta editions, here on SC too, it is common to cut out parts of suttas that are found elsewhere with a link to that other ones. For instance in MN95:

The brahmin householders of Opasāda heard: “The recluse Gotama…as Sutta 91, §3…Now it is good see such arahants.”

While it may seem as a valid approach, this kind of disrupts the sutta flow and forces a reader either to skip this part, or diverge his/her attention to find that another sutta and find the missing part.

Are these abridgements/abbreviations really necessary? Maybe, it would be “healthier” for the text preservation to not cut out the repeats? After all, this is how the suttas were transmitted, with the repeats. One other solution would be to show the omitted text on mouseover in a tooltip or similar…

What do you think?

This passage comes from the Ñāṇamoli translation revised by Bodhi, as published by Wisdom. Part of their mission was to fit a three volume work into one volume. And such abridgements made this possible - in this case a block of text that was repeated twice is lost - that saved a page. I can see why SC would republish it rather than retranslate. With Bodhi’s translations widely available no one needs to retranslate the Pāli suttas, but it can be an interesting exercise to do so.

I agree that abridgements break the flow, but the Wisdom edition would have been three times longer and cost three times as much if unabridged. So that’s the tradeoff. And on the whole if you don’t want to skip back, you aren’t missing much. In this case it is the Buddha described in cliched terms that add nothing to the narrative. When you read widely, you get to know these cliches and not having to repeatedly read them starts to seem like maṅgalaṃ

You could always get hold of the PTS translation, which is three volumes. I haven’t looked at it for many years, but as I recall it does not abbreviate like this. OTOH, the translation is rather dated now and less reliable that Bodhi. A century of research has made a big difference.

Note that the BDK Madhyamāgama is also three volumes. And about USD 80 per volume.


Thank you for the reply,

For the printed works, yes, I see why this is so.
But I was mostly talking about the web-edition like here. I mean, if the passage cut out of a certain place is anyway present and translated in another - why not just put it where it belongs, or get it from the original place and pass into a tooltip to the abbreviated place? Few kilobytes of text here and there would not make a difference a believe, even accumulated across the whole Canon. It would require some time to compile though, yes. But just in principle?

Having the repetitions in might give lay benefit of that flowing focus, which monastics get through recitation. To get it through our thick conditioning, to me it seems a plus.

It might make devotional practices easier.

Having both versions easily available could be pleasing to East and West Buddhists… Which could be good for Sangha.

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Also, some of the abridgments here do not even have that indication of where to find the full formula. It’s very unfortunate.

Here’s an earlier discussion of the same point.


Perhaps one of the SC editors will reply. One imagines that it is a matter of prioritising time and resources. Perhaps you could offer to do the necessary editing?

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Actually, as the translations stand, less skilled volunteers might be able to do the grunt work, but I would suggest double or triple review by those who know the suttas by memory, to make sure expansions are done correctly… and of course no publishing until approved… does that sound workable or inspire a better idea?

Might there be bhikkhunis interested in this sort of immersion in Dhamma? Or bhikkhunis and 8-10 precept nuns?

I’ve already spoken more than enough today, but … maybe there are opportunities here?

I guess I might. I don’t have lots of free time, but since it’s not an urgent task I could do that at a slow pace.

Why only bhikkhunis and nuns, might I ask? :slight_smile:

:slight_smile: Thank you for asking. NOT just them, but it would be a lovely way to support them if they were interested, had time and skills, and also would offer them some excellent mutual learning opportunities.