There are several threads here on D&D about the issues surrounding Mathew Weingast’s book of original poems posing as a translation of the Therigatha. Much of the organizing work to try to fix the situation has been going on in Personal Message, so I thought I would collect some actions that individuals can take if they would like to help the situation.
tl;dr: In Feb 2020 Shambhala Publications published a book of mostly original poetry by Mather Weingast and marketed it as a translation of the Therigatha.
It’s quite natural to have strong feeling about people misrepresenting the Dhamma, especially the voices of Noble Disciples. However, when we act out of hatred and ill will, the Buddha taught that only bad can come to us. Please remember that everyone involved in the situation loves the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, even if they express it differently than we do. Remember, equanimity is helpful!
If you haven’t read the Therigatha in a while, now’s the time. There is the translation on SuttaCentral.net by Bhante Sujato and Jessica Walton. You can download it as an epub from SuttaCentral. Now there is also a version for downloading that includes the Pali and is available as pdf, epub, and Kindle. If you want a simpler translation, check out the one on SuttaFriends.org. Do you like footnotes? Then download the free ebook of the translation by Ven. Mahendra at Pariyatti.org. Missing your highschool days of reading Shakespeare? Then try Carolyn R Davids translation into Early Modern English. And if you want a print book, lots of people love the translation by Charles Hallisey, published by Harvard University Press.
And for the newest translation on the scene, checkout Therigatha.org
Take a look at Mr. Weingast’s poems set next to actual translations of the Therigatha on the comparison site firstfreewomen.org. There are about 10 of his poems available to the public, to see the rest, just ask for the password.
You can explore his poems by their charactarists to really see how he has taken away the authentic voices of enlightened beings and replaced them with his own. 50% fabrication (2); 90% Fabrication (18); Added Weeping (4); Adding Rebirth (1); Anachronism (2); BCBS Article (9); Broken Imagery (1); Complete Fabrication (38); Free Translation (3); Huge Omission (2); IMSB Interview (5); Many Paths Fallacy (2); Novel Meaning (5); Path Personification (1); Removal of Asubha (2); Removal of Buddha (19); Removal of Enlightenment (35); Removal of Hell (2); Removal of Meaning (30); Removal of Māra (8); Removal of Rebirth (5); Removal of Sense Pleasure Danger (1); Removal of Teacher Nun (2); Sexualized (4); Similar Narrative (14); Somewhat un-Buddhist (3); Translation (1);
Many people have been deceived by Shambhala Publications unethical marketing. If you look at the customer reviews on Amazon, you will see that until recently most people are under the impression that this is just a loose, poetic translation. Many groups are featuring TFFW in Dhamma programmes giving people the impression that these are the real voices of enlightened nuns.
If you are on social media, share some of the links above with your friends. If you are on Twitter, use the hashtag #firstfreewomen Tell them about real translations. Maybe even give them a copy as a gift!
The #1 place people go to investigate a book before buying is Amazon. After you read at least some of Weingast’s poems, leave an honest review on your country’s Amazon site. Mark as “helpful” those reviews that present an honest account of the book. When you leave a review, be sure to point people to actual translations.
Another popular site for reviews is GoodReads.com. You can easily sign up for an account and leave a review, as well as like other user’s reviews. Take some time and rate other books of sutta translations so people can find out about real Dhamma. You can especially mention real Therigatha translations.
Shambhala Publications needs to know that people are paying attention when they use false claims to market a book for sale. Take a look at this list of actions Shambhala has an ethical responsibility to take. Remember, be mindful of Right Speech. You may also want to look at the stock letter they have been sending in response to complaints. Remind them that it is not enough to change the “positioning” of the book. At the very least they need to change the title of the book so people don’t think they are reading the voices of Arahants. As well, they need to remove the Pali names of the nuns on his poems because they are no longer the voices of the nuns.
Phone: +1 303-222-9598
Customer email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mail: 4720 Walnut St., Ste. 106, Boulder, CO 80301