Celebrating SuttaCentral in Sri Lanka

This is the feedback from a friend who visit the event

I happened to go because I was in the area on that day by happenstance. The place was packed with monks, school kids and “daham pasal” kids. It was quite clear that the majority had no idea about SuttaCentral and that it didn’t actually have a new Sinhala translation of the Pali Canon, but they kept repeating how it had the Tipitaka in 40 languages (the Sinhala talks seemed to have the wrong impression that it had some new Sinhala translation as well). It felt like an event organized in quick time to cater to an internationally known monk - not because of any genuine interest or understanding of what SuttaCentral was about.

Hopefully this kind of event will inspire some local monks to re-translate the Canon in modern-day Sinhala. Those who are fluent in English got a good introduction in what SuttaCentral had to offer which was helpful.

I didn’t wait to ask for feedback from anyone - honestly I think anyone who already has any interest in the suttas already knows about SuttaCentral, and those who don’t are probably not interested anyway. I do think however that it might have been eye-opening to some kids - how foreigners were taking sutta study seriously.

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What are “daham pasal” kids?

Well I think it is positive that the new generation in Sri Lanka is getting a taste of suttas- they often have to rely in others even to get access to locked Tripitaka books in temple libraries that are simply places for storing books of this sort.

I have handed out the suttacentral site name to the Buddhist sunday school children (daham pasal- dhamma school) that I teach in UK. The EBTs need to be liberated!

with metta

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Daham is the sinhala word for Dhamma, Pasala is School, kids are kids… so it is dhamma school kids

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Thank you for dropping by,:grinning:

The place was packed with monks, school kids and “daham pasal” kids. - Yes the place was packed, there were about 2000 people including the guests sitting behind the stage and outside. We made it a point to invite about 200 high school students from Colombo schools, most students were from international schools where they study in English medium, the curriculum is based on the UK system and they do not have the opportuunity to learn ANY religion as a subject at school.

It was quite clear that the majority had no idea about SuttaCentral, Yes you are correct and that was one reason to organise this event, to introduce SuttaCentral to the Sri Lanakan people who do not use it yet.

…that it didn’t actually have a new Sinhala translation of the Pali Canon, - There was no mention of a NEW Sinhala translation except that the Zoysa translation is conveniently accessible on SC.

but they kept repeating how it had the Tipitaka in 40 languages (the Sinhala talks seemed to have the wrong impression that it had some new Sinhala translation as well). - **Yes, you are right, the non-English speaking Sri Lankan Buddhists were excited, they were over joyed that they can now conveniently access the words spoken by the Buddha. I am not sure about the wrong impression, they were simply happy to know the existance of the site.

It felt like an event organized in quick time to cater to an internationally known monk -
**Yes, this event was organised within 3 weeks, it made a big positive impact on Sri Lankan people, not just Buddhists.
Yes we wanted the “common variety, non English speaking people” in Sri Lanka also to get close this “internationally known monk”. Generally it is considered a previlage.

…not because of any genuine interest or understanding of what SuttaCentral was about.
is point is a defenite NO… SuttaCentral is about breaking any boundaries between people and the words spoken by the Buddha. In that sense this event was a stepping stone and was perfectly aligned with the principles.
**** sorry but I am not sure why the writer think this event had no genuine interest or understanding of what SC is about.
**

Hopefully this kind of event will inspire some local monks to re-translate the Canon in modern-day Sinhala. - There are other tanslations in Sinhala, yes it is good if this event inspire others.

Those who are fluent in English got a good introduction in what SuttaCentral had to offer which was helpful. - Of course, the English speaking lot are privileged you know. But the others also now know they can access suttas easily and they will also be benefited to a certain level.

I didn’t wait to ask for feedback from anyone - Thats okay, it was very busy anyway, but we got loads of good, honest feedback, people rang even two days after the event with best wishes, thanked for organising this event, some poor people travelled the day befoe to get to Colombo, people were sincerely happy that they were able to witness this event, be in the same room with so many Sangha, chant, hear the voice of Bhante Sujato, @sujato get to know the existence of SC, a place to go to for the words spoken by the Buddha.

honestly I think anyone who already has any interest in the suttas already knows about SuttaCentral, - Yes this is good to know. Thanks.

and those who don’t are probably not interested anyway. - I dont know what to say here except this is not a Buddhist way to think, pleawse re think this line…

I do think however that it might have been eye-opening to some kids - It was an eye opener for lots of people not just kids.

how foreigners were taking sutta study seriously. - Most people in Sri Lanka know the English speaking word is reading Suttas. They are happy about it. We did not want the non English speaking common people in Sri Lanka to feel left out, hence our effort to introduce SC to Sri Lanka.

BTW… it would have been nice if the writer gave the feedback in person rather than via @SarathW1 Anyhow thanks for sharing it. :grinning::grinning:

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The Zoysa translations appear to cover almost all of the Nikayas, apart from some of the more obscure parts of the KN, so that’s very impressive.

I’m pleased to have this clarified, since it’s something I can tell my Sri Lankan friends.

I see the translations would be from the mid-20th C. Are they considered difficult to read, or archaic [In the sense that the old PTS English translations sound archaic to modern English speakers]?


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It was a fairly modern translation at the time, but now quite dated. It’s still probably the best Sinhala translation available though - there are newer translations by Mahamevnawa and the Buddhist Cultural Center but they are somewhat oversimplified/summaries. Neither of them are freely available online which is disappointing.

This is one of the glaring issues in Sri Lankan Buddhism in my opinion - lay people who are not fluent in English tend to rely on monks to learn their suttas instead of studying on their own, which leads to a lot of confusion because it is hard to know which monks are reliable.

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The translations of suttas from Mahamevnawa are intended to be simple enough for non-specialists to understand them, especially the earliest translations of the MN. But they definitely are not summaries. The idea is that after reading them you should be able to make sense of the widely available BJT (which is much more literal) and make sense of it.

And there is currently an effort to put them all up free on-line. I’ll be sure to make a post when they are.

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I should have worded that sentence better. I meant the Mahamevnawa translation was simplified and the BCC one was a summary.

Also should mention that the Buddha Jayanti translation (which is the standard version used by monks generally) is also not freely available online and was also archaic even at the time. Bhante G (Abbot of Bhavana Society) was part of the translation panel back in the 1950s (because of his skill in the Burmese language) as a young 20-something monk and when he asked one of the senior monks why the translations were so hard to read he was told “this is to protect our heritage”.

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What this really means?
To me it sound like “keep in the dark and feed in bull shit”

Will there be mention made of the political situation in Sri Lanka, about creating peace between religious and ethnic groups?

The Buddhist Cultural Centre version is known as the Buddha Jayanti edition, which was compiled in 1956 to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of the Parinibbana of the Buddha. It was also a time of great national and religious awakening as Sri Lanka was moving towards independence again after five centuries of colonisation (1505-1602 Portugese, 1602-1796 Dutch, 1796-1948 British).
Allow me to digress to give a bit of background. By the mid-20th century the Buddhist revival movement in Sri Lanka had gathered momentum. Immediately after the independence of 1948, people such as Prof G.Malalasekara, LH Mettananada, Ven Balangoda Ananda, Ven Abangoda Siddhartha and others had proposed a national commission regarding the grave injustices experienced by Buddhists and Buddhism in Sri Lanka during the colonisation. However, this movement was quashed, with claims it would be in violation of the Solbury agreement, which was signed before the British left.
With few options left, Sinhalese Buddhists decided to form an independent group to at least remedy the systematic attack on Buddhism through the missionary education system, which was a remnant of colonial powers.
The Buddha Jayanthi translation was protected by copyright, as one of many initiatives taken by this movement.
I hope this sheds some light on the context and why “protecting our heritage” was so important. @viriya @SarathW1
Around 2013, when we were reviewing which Sinhala translations were most appropriate for SuttaCentral the Buddha Jayanthi version was considered. At that time we opted for the Zoysa version, which is on SC now.

Last month when we were in Sri Lanka with Bhante Sujato @sujato a Buddhist group approched us to add the Buddha Jayanthi version and work is now underway to include the same on SC.

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Politics is a sensitive subject, less is best.

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Actually, it is available, in a way…
https://www.pali-text-images.net/bjt/index.htm

So, it’s good to know that Sinhala, like many Asian languages, is a diglossia.

The BJT is translated into the sahitya, or literary, form. It’s not accurate to say it is archaic (as I understand it). But it is in a form that most Sinhala find difficult and has unpleasant associations with school time.

One additional factor is that difficult to translate Pali words were often turned into Sanskrit forms. While this seems very strange, it is a strategy to solve the problem of difficult words. By not translating, you force the reader to consult the Pali (which is on the opposite page) and possible the commentary. It is done with an abundance of caution. Clearly it doesn’t make it easy for people who are not experienced. But that really wasn’t the goal of the translation (as I understand it) In this context, the “protect our heritage” comment is not nearly so nefarious. The strategy is also not quite so odd when you know that most Buddhist loan words in Sinhala are Sanskrit forms, not Pali.

Is that really true? They sell it, but they didn’t translate it. They weren’t started till 1992. I have heard that they are attempting to do a full translation, though. They have already published a full translation of the commentary.

Maybe politics isn’t the best word. In general, the Buddha might have something to say about the situation in Sri Lanka if he were there today.

There should be some effort made toward peace between Buddhists and other groups. In his own life, the Buddha stopped a tribal battle that was about to take place over water usage.

Buddhist Cultural Centre is a non-government entity. In the 1990s they raised funds to print the BJ version and many other Buddhist books which were out of print. @viriya I don’t understand what you mean by they did not translate. Around 1956 a panel of Bhikkus translated from Pali to scholarly Sinhala which is not commonly used these days. We met the head of BCC in Nadimale last month and he did not say anything about a new translation.

Yes, it is absolutely true that the BCC raised funds to do a printing in 1990’s. This was a huge act of merit because believe it or not, before that is was almost impossible to buy a print version. Most of the ones that were printed didn’t even have covers bound to them. Just signatures stitched together. If you go to an older monastery you may even be able to see some in their library. It was quite sad.

I just wanted to point out that it is not accurate to say that “the BCC version” = BJT. The BCC just reprinted. I don’t think they even typeset it.

At one point the the Taiwanese group CBBEF also did a free reprint.

I can’t remember who told me that the BCC was doing a new translation. I spoke with the director several years ago but I can’t remember if he is the one who told me.

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Yes, and where is the Tamil tripitaka? Its almost as if the monks in SL haven’t still arrived to the print age, much less the IT age. Most temples hardly use their print copies… Maybe they rely on memories?

I understand Buddhism thrived in Tamil nadu, at the time of Ven.Buddhagosha and he stopped there before coming to Sri Lanka.

with metta

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Check your to-do list. It may be hiding there. :slight_smile:

Seriously, better to do than to criticize.

And there is this…

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Tamil Dhammapada
http://www.tripitakatamil.com/The%20Dhammapada%20(Tamil).pdf

I see SC already has a Tamil Dhammapada and a few suttas in the MN.

14th most used language with 68 million people using Tamil.

I wonder if anyone knows if there are further translations being done in Tamil?

with metta

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