Ichimura’s translation of the Dīrgha-āgama, a review by Analayo

Venerable Analayo asked me if I’d post this here. It’s his review of Ichimura’s translation of the Dīrgha-āgama from the Chinese, published by Numata.

Ichimura.pdf (638.7 KB)

The Numata series is an ambitious project to translate the entire Chinese canon into English. Analayo himself, together with Rod Bucknell and others, have translated the Madhyama-āgama as part of the same series.

The Dīrgha-āgama was the first full translation of a Chinese Āgama into English, and hopes were high that it would signal a new stage in understanding of these important texts. Unfortunately, the translation was of disappointing quality, and in this review Analayo shows exactly why that is so.

For 2,500 years we Buddhists have been caring for and looking after our texts. This includes translations, which are believed to be the “words of the Buddha” in the same sense as the original. It is a sacred duty and a grave responsibility. Without a clear and informed perspective on when and why translations can go right or wrong, we cannot ensure the continued viability of the Dhamma.


Though Mr. Ichimura may have not been very successful in his translation. But still we have to appreciate him for his pioneer work, just as Mr. Rhys Davis with his first translation of the Pāli Tripitaka. (We all appreciate him for having excellently translated the term sati). Of course there must be a lot of mistakes, but I believe those are honest ones, and that some of the difficult passages of the Dirgha Agama, must have also been resolved or elegantly translated by him too, let us not forget this. I personally wish Mr. Ichimura all the best. 善哉! :pray:t3:


I read that Bhante Analayo was progressing the new translation of Dirgha Agama, but it has been postponed since the passing away of Prof. Karashima:

update 25.10.2019: with the unexpected passing of Prof. Karashima on July 23rd, 2019, this project has been put on hold for the foreseeable future

Source: A new English translation of the Dīrgha-āgama (Taishō 1) | Āgama Research Group

Is this indicated Bhante Analayo will continue his translation?

Indeed. It is a difficult field, and we can learn from mistakes as well as successes.

I’m not sure.

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I remember there was a great translator who said: “Our job was not to make a new translation, but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one.”


It’s unfortunate that this made its way to publication. It shouldn’t have been published in its current form. But even substantial cleanup wouldn’t be enough.

As with another book recently discussed, the publisher should have had a more mature process in place for ensuring quality. Hopefully the Numata Center can bring any future agama materials up to the level commonly seen in some of their other translations. Many of their other translations are quite good.

If I remember correctly, the Dirgha Agama was translated from Gandhari. But I can (kind of) understand why someone would refer to the original language as Sanskrit. It’s probably from old terminology like 梵文 and 梵字.


Indeed, it’s very much a stepwise process, and any translator knows better than anyone else the debt they owe to their predecessors.


Was it KR Norman that said, “There is much left to be done, and everything that has been done needs to be redone.”? (Something like that…)