Anyone want to help preserve the Middle Length Sayings?

I just had occasion to check the original text of I.B. Horner’s English translation of the Majjhima Nikaya, The Middle Length Sayings. It’s available under a Creative Commons licence, and has been digitized and made available by our friends over at Obo.

However, it doesn’t seem to be available on any of the main long-term repositories of books. I’m thinking of such places as:

  • Internet Archive
  • Gutenberg
  • Google books
  • Scribd

It’d been a pleasant couple of hour’s work to upload the PDF file to a bunch of such services. That would help people find it, and ensure that it remained available: any one website is unreliable, so having it in a bunch of places helps.

I was kind of surprised at how quickly this work has been erased. It hardly gets any hits, despite being a major translation by one of the foremost scholars in the field. It has, it seems, been utterly eclipsed by the Bodhi/Nyanamoli translation, and while this is understandable, it is still a bit of a shame to see this work vanish.

I’m sure there are other books in a similar situation, too. One of the duties of Buddhists is to help preserve the Dhamma, so maybe someone out there would like to make some merit! :pray:


I have a hardcopy of BB’s Majjhima-Nikaya, but I can hardly call myself as a Buddhist. I am uploading this to It seems to be taking a long time to do background conversion to various formats, but it should be available here when it’s done:


Not really sure where I could find the PDFs of the entire book, so I just downloaded the first volume from the Internet archive thanks to @Sujith . Could you please provide the links to the PDF files?

So far, I have uploaded the first volume on Scribd, Google Play Books (it turns out ‘one can’t simply upload books on Google Books’), Google Drive (anyone with a Google Account can freely copy the file to their Google Drive), twirpx.

Scribd (Vol. 1)

Google Drive (Vol. 1)

Google Play Books (Vol. 1)

twirpx (Vol. 1) (Vol. 1)

If someone could explain how I can upload books on Gutenberg or give a links to their how-to, inlcuding how I can confirm that the work is available under the Creative Common License, I would be very obliged.

I am also planning to post the book on the Russian Buddhist groups on I will send the links to two Ven. Pannaavudho and Ven. Pannanatta and some mods of a couple of Theravada and Buddhist Universalist communities on the site so that they hopefully share it with others. However, I would prefer to do it when I have the entire book, I don’t want to be tiresome :slight_smile:

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Three volumes are here:


Scribd (Vol. 1)
Scribd (Vol. 2)
Scribd (Vol. 3)

Google Drive

Google Play Books (Vol. 1)
Google Play Books (Vol. 2)
Google Play Books (Vol. 3)

twirpx (Vol. 1)
twirpx (Vol. 2)
twirpx (Vol. 3) (Vol. 1) (Vol. 2) (Vol. 3)

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Volume 2:

Volume 3:

Vinaya pitaka translations are here: . But they don’t have seem to have a free license stamped on them.

All these ancient volumes take me back to the time when I bought the Vedanta Sutras from the Sacred books of the East collection and waded through the mind-numbing, twisty arguments conjured by Sankara about the individual Self and the cosmic Self and snakes and ropes and whatnot. But, his self-spun maze became too didactic at one point when he dismissed the Buddha as an enemy of mankind.


The Book of Discipline is available here.

A question to Ven. @sujato: Will Horner’s Majjhima Nikaya be added to the SC downloads?

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Wow, thanks so much, this is just great.

They are released under the same licence as the Majjhima translation. Unfortunately the PTS website does not use proper URLs, but anyway, here is the copyright announcement:

10 May 2013

Following the generous donation of a long-standing member of the Society, the Pali Text Society is pleased to announce that the following works, whose copyright is owned by the Pali Text Society, are now issued under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 licence (CC BY-NC 3.0)

The Pali Text Society retains all commercial rights, but permission is granted to reproduce, reformat, transmit and distribute these works for non-commercial use without further need to contact the Society.

  • Pali-English Dictionary, T.W. Rhys Davids and William Stede
  • The Book of the Discipline (6 vols), tr. I.B. Horner
  • Middle Length Sayings (3 vols), tr. I.B. Horner
  • Kindred Sayings (5 vols), tr. Mrs C.A.F. Rhys Davids and F.L. Woodward
  • Gradual Sayings (5 vols), tr. F.L. Woodward and E.M. Hare
  • Buddhist Manual of Psychological Ethics, tr. Mrs C.A.F. Rhys Davids
  • The Book of Analysis, tr. Ven. U Thittila
  • Discourse on Elements, tr. Ven. U Narada
  • Designation of Human Types, tr. B.C. Law
  • Points of Controversy, tr. S.Z. Aung and Mrs C.A.F. Rhys Davids
  • Conditional Relations (2 vols), tr. Ven. U Narada

We don’t have any plans to do so. We only added the Vinaya because we made a complete digitized text, which was a lot of work. Now that the scanned text of the Majjhima is widely available, as well as the digitized HTML files at Obo, which we will probably eventually have here as well, there seems little need.


I.B. Horner was my first Buddhist teacher. I can’t say the experience was wholly pleasant. She had a nasty habit of snapping at her students, and this lost her more than one of them.

Looking at her translation, I can see why it’s no longer popular. I picked at random a few paragraphs from toward the end of MN 74.

Evaṃ passaṃ, aggivessana, sutavā ariyasāvako sukhāyapi vedanāya nibbindati, dukkhāyapi vedanāya nibbindati, aduk­kha­ma­su­khā­yapi vedanāya nibbindati; nibbindaṃ virajjati, virāgā vimuccati. Vimuttasmiṃ, vimuttamiti ñāṇaṃ hoti. ‘Khīṇā jāti, vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, kataṃ karaṇīyaṃ, nāparaṃ itthattāyā’ti pajānāti. Evaṃ vimuttacitto kho, aggivessana, bhikkhu na kenaci saṃvadati, na kenaci vivadati, yañca loke vuttaṃ tena voharati, aparāmasan”ti.

Tena kho pana samayena āyasmā sāriputto bhagavato piṭṭhito ṭhito hoti bhagavantaṃ bījayamāno. Atha kho āyasmato sāriputtassa etadahosi: “tesaṃ tesaṃ kira no bhagavā dhammānaṃ abhiññā pahānamāha, tesaṃ tesaṃ kira no sugato dhammānaṃ abhiññā paṭi­nissag­ga­māhā”ti. Iti hidaṃ āyasmato sāriputtassa paṭi­sañcik­khato anupādāya āsavehi cittaṃ vimucci.

For ariyasāvako, Bhikkhu Bodhi has “noble disciple,” which I would say is pretty much the standard that we’re used to today. Thanissaro has “disciple of the noble ones,” which, okay, you could make a case for. But Horner just has “disciple of the ariyans.” That’s making the reader do a bit of work.

For abhiññā, BB has “direct knowledge,” Thanissaro also has “direct knowledge,” but Horner has “super-knowledge,” which sounds a bit esoteric.

For sugato, which I admit is difficult to render into idiomatic English, BB has “the Sublime One,” Thanissaro has “the One Well-gone” (which is literally correct, but not good English), and Horner has “the Well-farer,” which isn’t particularly helpful. I would suggest “the Accomplished One.”

Where BB has “through not clinging,” Thanissaro has “through not-clinging” (who would use “not-clinging” as an English noun?), but Horner just has “without clinging,” without the causal sense.

Finally, for āsavehi, BB has “taints,” Thanissaro has “fermentations” (!), and Horner has “cankers,” which is decidedly old-fashioned. (And when was the last time you heard anyone complain about their “fermentations”?) My preference there would be to leave āsava untranslated, since it is such a technical term, and to explain it in a note somewhere in the book.

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Huh, fascinating.

There’s no doubt Ven Bodhi’s translations are a great improvement!

You’re the one who should be doing the hard work, not your reader.

Anyway, who said anything about books?

You probably know she was also a great-aunt of Ajahn Amaro.

Whether we are talking books or ebooks or webpages, and whether we are talking Pāli or English, āsava is going to need some explanation!

Indeed, yes.

The job of a translator is to translate, not to explain. If you want to explain it, write an essay.

You think asava is a specially difficult term that requires explanation. That’s fine, I’m sure you have your reasons. But I don’t think that. I translate it as “defilement” and I think that works fine. I’ve never felt a particular need to give special explanation for that term, as opposed to the thousands of other words that I deal with. I’m not trying to say that one of us is right or wrong, simply that such matters are personal, and are far from self-evident.

If your translation depends on notes for comprehension, you have decided that it can only be consumed in certain forms, and you impose a burden on every single person who subsequently wants to work with your text.

HTML doesn’t have a tag for notes. So as soon as you put a note in HTML, it’s a hack. You can’t just put notes in a website, you have to recode your website to explicitly support a specific markup which you implement so as to make notes possible.

Then you have choices to make. If it’s in a book, you can explain asava in an introduction or whatever, and give a note when it occurs the first time, or in a prominent context. Of course, you’ll have to do the same thing for every word you choose not to translate; and in my opinion, such choices are almost completely arbitrary.

But on the web, you cannot expect that anyone will read an introduction, nor that they will read texts in sequence. Nor should they: the sequence is mostly arbitrary anyway. So you either insert a note in every single occurrence or accept the fact that your readers will constantly encounter a meaningless word in an ancient language and blip right over it. Of course, on the web, you can simply write a program that automatically recognizes the term and supplies a popup for that meaning. Ha ha, only kidding, no-one has time to do that.

Furthermore, you end up writing all kinds of explanations that mostly end up wrong. Nothing personal, I have no idea of your Dhamma knowledge! But I have read thousands of notes in many, many editions, and with depressingly few exceptions, few are really accurate and essential. We have deleted tens of thousands of notes from the editions found on SuttaCentral, and frankly, it is a blessing to present the Buddha’s words, not the opinions of modern scholars.

Translation is hard. But that’s the job.