Feedback on the content of Sujato's Sutta notes: not a thread on the UI

Looking at DN1, what strikes me is that it is being treated like the first sutta in a printed book. In this case, notes on ‘evaṃ me suttaṃ’, and ‘mendicants’ are appropriate, but online people are just as likely to start at the Satipatthana sutta or The Simile of the Saw or anywhere. Keeping the context in mind (and how crowded the beginning of DN1 is), maybe this sort of note is an overkill.


So if the intended audience is the general reader,
Bhante, do you wish the notes to be more technical/ verbose/ than the text? I’m trying to understand the content, but took me a second read to figure it out.

The beauty of your translations is the simplicity of the language and I’m not sure if notes like the ones above would benefit all readers equally.

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I feel your pain, but I don’t think that regular users (even the sophisticated users here on D&D) can easily make a distinction. I humbly suggest just ignoring feedback that you are not interested in.

I was happy to find this note:


However, I’m left wondering how we know that. The commentary (reading Bhante Bodhi’s translation) seems to give multiple possible meanings.

Of course not all notes need to be backed up with a source. But I wonder if for something like this writing “can/could mean” makes sense. Unless it really is unambiguous.


It’s a good point. I try to be concise and simple, but in cases like the one you gave, the meaning of the basic term is embedded in a complex of assumptions and beliefs, and it’s not easy to convey that.

Happy to look at any other examples and to consider suggestions. The notes as-is are a first draft, and over time I will try to simplify them.

I think the nature of notes is that they will not be useful to everyone.

In this case it seems solid enough to me that I had previously translated it as “in this life and the next”.


Bhante, whereas in general the ‘other world’ refers simply to the next life, especially a non-human rebirth, I feel that the reference to the ‘other shore’ here is significant. As Bausch discussed in her thesis on Kosalan philosophy, the metaphor of the snake shedding its skin and going to the other shore meant attaining immortality with brahman.

I feel that there is a good case to be made that the Uraga verses are playing with this imagery in several parallel, but complex, ways. So here ‘far shore’ could be specifically playing with particular concepts of salvation, rebirth, and immortality rather than simply “the next life” in a general sense.

Suffice to say, to my mind it is not certain. I agree it almost certainly doesn’t refer to the Buddhist far shore (nibbāna). But I do think the word ‘shore’ is intentional: its the mystical Brahmanical far shore that’s being transcended, and all aspirations for such metaphysical eternal states of existence. Either that or it just means ‘the next life.’ But the point is it seems ambiguous.



I love your notes. I imagine reading DN 1 with these notes when I first came to the Suttas, with lots of time as a Buddhist, but zero exposure to the Suttas.

Right away I’m learning the tradition of starting Suttas with “thus have I heard,” and its connection to the oral tradition.

I find out Suttas don’t specify chronology - something I am expecting if I’m coming from exposure to the Tanakh or Bible.

I find out the Triple Gem - which I knew about - existed in the Suttas, but not under that name yet.

I find out the first thing the Buddha said was to ask what others were saying.

It is hard to express how much richer an experience that would have been than my first attempts to read the Suttas, which often seemed opaque. Everything I highlighted above is second nature to the people on this forum. But to a new Sutta reader it brings it alive.

And as a new reader the technical notes would have been like glimmers of things I’d someday understand if I kept going.

I think, for someone new to the Suttas, these notes are very effective.


I’m glad you changed it back! :slight_smile:

I guess I’m still left with my original issue. If it’s ambiguous enough that it needs a note (which I agree it is if translated the way you have) but the clarification in the note is not some universally (or near universally) agreed upon meaning, then the note ought to say who’s opinion it is.

For example, if this phrase “the near shore and the far shore” apeared somewhere else with it’s standard meaning of “not enlightened and enlightened” then the note could simply give the standard meaning. It’s not anyone’s opinion or interpretation. The meaning is explicit, just not apparent to the new reader at that spot in the text.

However in Snp1.1 there are a variety of interpretations/opinions. So I’d say that the translator should either stand by the meaning and just translate it that way as you did previously (because it is obvious that the entire translation is the translator’s best judgement) or they should indicate clearly in the note that the definition they are giving in the note is their opinion/best judgement. Or even something like “Here the ‘near shore and the far’ is best understood to mean ‘this life and the next’” that leaves open the possibility that there may be other understandings that are sub-optimal.


In this specific case, I was using that verse in the Daily Emails. I wanted to put a note in the email explaining the meaning, so I looked at Bhante Bodhi’s translation of the Commy. Oy! So complicated. But when I looked at the note on SC, it was clear and sensible, but if someone asked me why that was the meaning I wouldn’t have had any grounds to answer.

So perhaps what I really needed in the note was your explanation why you thought that was the best interpretation of that phrase in that context.



Unless a metaphor is such a common idiom that the image is lost on the native speaker (“Heads up that…”; “I’ve been going through a rough patch”; etc) I feel that metaphors should not be interpreted by a translator. While a translation should be clear, it also isn’t an exegesis.

@Snowbird - If you’d be fine with the translation just saying the meaning, assuming that it’s the translator’s best guess, why don’t you apply the same standard to the note? (A note is the translator’s opinion unless otherwise stated.)

I guess I don’t believe that to be true. I would say that notes should be non-opinionated unless otherwise stated. I thought that was Bhante’s philosophy of notes, although I could be wrong.

Yes, I do agree with you. And my preferred option in this situation is that the note should say what authority is being used if it’s not a common knowledge kind of thing.

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It’s a very reasonable point!

Lovely to hear, thanks! And that’s exactly what I was aiming for.

So this thread made me go back and revisit this once more. And I find that now, what I thought was a solid read is … less than. Oh well!

I’ve expanded my thoughts in the introductory essay.

The Pali here is orapāraṁ, which would normally refer to the mundane world of suffering and the transcendental realization of Nibbāna. Such imagery abounds in the Suttanipāta, especially in the Pārāyanavagga, where it is the dominating metaphor that guides the whole chapter. But here, since the mendicant is urged to “let go” or “shed” both the near shore and the far equally, the “far shore” cannot refer to Nibbāna. This is not the only time we find this metaphor used in this way, as the brahmin of dhp385 likewise rejects both the near shore and the far. These passages are illuminated by sn35.241, where the Buddha gives the simile of a tree trunk floating downstream, which avoids the “near shore” of the six internal senses and the “far shore” of the six external senses. Thus while in most cases one is envisaged as standing on the near shore and crossing to the far, here one is already floating downstream and must avoid both shores equally. This resonates with some of the imagery in the Uragasutta, which speaks of a swift-flowing stream or a bridge swept away by a flood. I am therefore inclined to interpret the phrase in line with SN 35.241, although it should be noted that the commentary offers a range of different interpretations. In a poetic context like this, metaphor can serve to stimulate multiple meanings.

And for the note:

In sn35.241, the “near shore” is the six interior senses and the “far shore” is the six exterior senses.

Thanks for helping make my notes better!


Maybe it is possible to keep the type of student in mind? On the Suttaplexcard it says for which student the sutta is recommended (ie. with the icon of tree). So more advanced suttas more advanced notes?


Well that would tend to happen intrinsically, but “simple content matter” does not always mean “unproblematic source text”. Verses, for example, often have straightforward messages, but express them with weird verbs and unique vocabulary.

At the moment, the only filtering we do with notes is by author. I’m been giving some thought to this, and perhaps we could introduce a not taxonomy, basically a set of tags that might include:

basic, advanced, linguistic, historical, interpretive, for translators, for print, for web, author

Etc., then we can filter as we wish. Not hard to implement but whether assembling the data and applying it is worth it is dubious. Maybe at some point!


I believe it was with the AN that Bhante Bodhi tried to divide his notes into just two categores (linguistic and general?) and he said it was unworkable. Not that it can’t be done. But if Bhante Bodhi tried and wasn’t able, that does give one pause.

That said, if it were possible, it would be great.

Interesting, I didn’t know that. But this is why I thought of “tags” rather than “categories”: tags aren’t exclusive or definitive. If you’re targeting a print version you have to do one or the other, but we can be more flexible.

The other thing is, I am looking to a future where our notes system becomes much more sophisticated. What if, for example, there are multiple authors who contribute notes? Personally I would love, for example, notes that detailed the similarities/differences from the parallels; basically distilling Analayo’s work. I made the decision to do mine mostly Pali-centric, else I simply won’t get it done, but I’d love for someone else to do it!

Someone else might like to make a set of, say, meditative notes. Create pauses in the text, suggest contemplations.

Or else notes for a study group: suggest questions and set exercises. Or detailed linguistic analysis, breaking down the grammar and syntax of each line. Or translating/summarizing the commentaries. Or …

With Bilara we can easily do this, it just depends on the people for the job. As we know, even with just my notes the UI is overloaded, and clearly this would become untenable quickly unless there is a means to filter the notes.


:man_facepalming:t2: Of course. I wasn’t paying close attention to the issue you brought up. You are absolutely correct.

I know you don’t want interface errors in this thread, but I thought I would slip in a vote for eventually separating the notes from the variations in the options so that you could choose either one or both.


Hi Notists, FYI I have just published notes all the way to DN 17. No surprise, DN 16 took a while!


Is this a joke?


Ha ha I wish!

I’ve just pushed notes for DN 18, they’ll appear after the next update.


Ah pity, I thought it was a good one!