@Jared, yes, I agree with the need. To address the pedagogical need for repetition, I have personally settled on the effective solution of simply listening to suttas again and again. It actually does work quite well.
Voice will let you download audio for any sutta or combination of suttas. You can therefore build your own custom sutta playlist. Over time I developed many one-hour playlists. Walking meditation with those playlists was very fruitful. Now I just listen to DN34 as a mnemonic refresher.
These days, I just listen to DN34, which has a wonderful 10x10 mnemonic structure. I’ve been listening to DN34 several times each week for over a year.
I read the discussions from 2018 and fail to understand where the topic stands. Was an effort to expand elipses abandoned during the planning stage? The link to a sample expanded portion of MN 1 (“Here is the audio file for the expanded section 2”) appears to be broken or out of date. Please clarify; thanks!
I’d been hoping to see elipses expanded because it can be hard to track down the missing text (I’m looking at you Samyuttta Nikaya!), and because the full repetition on Voice would be nice.
Lately, while memorizing some phrases about the aggregates, I became aware that elipses of that text - with only the 1st & 5th (rupa & vinnana) given in full - left me unsure how to fill out the missing text correctly for the other aggregates (in plural or different gender). They differ! I’d like to memorize correctly.
Yes, it is definitely out of date. There is no longer a fully expanded MN 1 available in Voice. We have given up the idea because it was just too unwieldy. Listening to the expanded MN 1 just in one language (English) would be more then 4 hours, or 6—I don’t quite remember. Adding Pali would make it … a program for a week’s retreat? Not easy to download such big audio files.
Also, when looking closer into @karl_lew’s original idea, we realized that getting the correct expansion is anything but obvious. It’s nothing that could be easily automated. If at all doable, it would require heaps of lots of work! Which none of us had the capacity to do.
So yes, considering all this, we gave up the idea. Voice, and all related applications, read what is in the Mahasangiti, plus what a translator produces for a specific language. Sorry that we can’t do more.
My earlier enthusiasm for expanding ellipses has ceased. The problem is so complex it defies automation. Briefly, what works for one sutta will not work for others. And at that point automation simply fails.
MN1 was my inspiration for expanding ellipses. And it was precisely because of memorization that the need arose. Repetition is crucial to memorization and the oral tradition requires repetition. However, in the end, although I listened to MN1 for months, I never memorized MN1 and moved on to other suttas simply because, well, MN1 is not one of the teachings in brief.
Studying the teachings in brief led me to memorize DN34. DN34 has minimal repeptitions and is more or less a comprehensive summary of the teachings. What repetition exists is simply structural (i.e., 1…10), not semantic. I originally started with DN33, but it’s lack of deep structure proved an impediment. DN34, on the other hand, has multiple levels of structural organization that are ideal trellises for growing memory. And after 18 months, I am still slogging away at memorizing DN34 listening to both Pali and English together.
Listening to Pali is critical. Pali has more repetitions than all contemporary translations. Individual translators have often omitted those repetitions. In a written world of meaning, such repetitions tend to obfuscate learning at a glance. So the translations themselves have tended to prioritize learning over memorization. Even so, the cadence of memorization triggers deeper learning. Indeed, I’ve come to understand that if we can’t memorize it, we haven’t truty understood it. The dismissive mind skips over vast tracts of text like that stone skipped over the waters.
I remain a big fan of memorization and repetition. However, I have also come to understand that each translator must face this issue squarely and decide for themselves how much time and effort to invest in translating repetitions. And when I realized that an algorithm to expand Bhante Sujato’s MN1 would never expand Ayya Sabbamitta’s MN1, I simply could not proceed further.
I am sorry the expansion links no longer work. Changes made to introduce other features quite likely destroyed existing functionality. Indeed, Dhammaregen, EBT-Vue and EBT-Sites no longer support expansions. Apparently, even Voice expansions have now sadly expired.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses @sabbamitta & @karl_lew. And thanks @jared for raising this topic that’s been on my mind for a long time.
The most fascinating and helpful thing I’ve learned from this discussion comes from a statement by Bhante Sujato in one of the previous (2018) discussions that @mikenz66 kindly shared (thanks!), in which Bhante mentioned that the practice of text abbreviation comes down to us from ancient times.
In other words, the many ellipses are not a recent loss or recent distortion and aren’t due to blameable modern laziness or excessive frugality. Also, the long-standing nature of abbreviations helps explain why it can be so very confounding to try to track down the full version from a previous sutta or apply the “boiler plate” language to additional cases. Or to try to automate any of it.
I can tell myself that the problem confounded our elders too, now get over it and get on with the practice.
I would love to see some capacity to expand the dot dot dot in cases where it is feasible to do so, not so much for chanting, but for the analysis of the contents of texts, for example in DN vitakkavicārānaṃ vūpasamā ajjhattaṃ sampasādanaṃ cetaso ekodibhāvaṃ avitakkaṃ avicāraṃ samādhijaṃ pītisukhaṃ dutiyaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati occurs at DN 1, 2 and 3, but then not again till 9 and 10, however dutiyaṁ jhānaṁ pe occurs at DN 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 11 and 12… It would be nice to be able to expand the simple formula in the text so as to be able identify the formulas in terms of their frequency and ‘weight’ within texts, even if things like gender, tense and pronoun forms might break.
It may not be possible in every case, but to have the option where it is somthing that can be done “automatically” would be very helpful IMO.
Repetition across suttas is indeed fascinating. They bind suttas together in a clusters of meaning. And this is where suttas like DN34 really shine. We might think of these as “gateway suttas”. Mnemonic in structure, DN34 is also rich with phrases repeated elsewhere in richer detail. Indeed, such global repetitions form the core of Voice examples. My favorite is “root of suffering”. Ayya Sabbamitta and I have been exploring the repetitions using scv-bilara, which analyzes the segmented trnaslations and returns search lists scored by relevance (as you have suggested, by weight). Interestingly, for the most part the examples are fairly consistent in utility across translations from English to German, although it sometimes takes some discussion to arrive at examples that work well in both languages.
Interestingly, the repetitions used for examples are NOT associated with the “pe…” ellipsis of Pali. Those ellipses are reserved for repetitions local to a single sutta. So it would appear that the “pe…” ellipses were mnemonic devices for memorization. Perhaps a group of inspired monks might together agree to simply fill in the chants and spend an entire night reciting the full MN1 for example. Amusingly, I also wonder if in our contemporary languages, we should all chant together “dot. dot. dot.” Would dot be good?
This issue crops up some in Chinese translations, too, but it’s even more speculative because it’s not always marked as an abbreviation, and sometimes it’s not a mechanical operation to fill in the missing material. This is especially true in the Samyukta Agama when the translator makes notes about variant sutras. Sometimes it’s just a matter of inserting a different keyword, but other times there must be some rewriting taking place. It also strains a person’s ability to do in less than a year or two. There’s one samyukta with something like 10,000 variant sutras …