In the Buddha’s Words


appreciate the kind words, that’s really no effort, it’s fun

it’s still being updated from time to time, so i think you may want to use its latest version to date accessible via any of the TOC links in this post (unfold the citation block)

I agree, the root of the problem is a blanket law that far outreaches any potential benefit.

One thing that I think makes a difference is the degree of investment. If, say, a film company must invest millions in a film, guaranteeing the incomes of hundreds of people, it’s reasonable to expect that they’ll want a degree of security as to their returns. Whether or not copyright actually achieves this is dubious, since the list of most pirated films is usually pretty much the same as the list of most profitable movies. If people are interested in a movie, whether or not they go to see it in a theater depends on all kinds of things—free time, whether there’s anything better to do, disposable income, whether it’s actually showing nearby, not being agoraphobic—and being able to download it is only one factor.

But anyway, in the case of most academic and certainly Buddhist work, the publisher makes little investment, yet claims absolute ownership. There are, it is true, certain cases where a publisher will sponsor a translation, but this is very much the minority. Almost all academic work and translation in the field of Buddhism is contributed freely by scholars, and hardly any of them receive any financial compensation for their work. Yet it remains under copyright. Meanwhile, the academic publishers make profit margins that far exceed those of oil companies.

This is why the results of one of the largest studies (cited in my long essay) concluded that if the purpose of copyright is to guarantee an income for creators of original content, it is a manifest failure.

For the record, I think a better approach to copyright would be to make it more like patent law. If you want copyright protection, you have to apply to an authority. It’s opt-in, which is how it was originally conceived and implemented. You pay a small fee, and convince them you have an original creation. The copyright should last no more than twenty years from the original publication, with extensions of that period reviewed on a case by case basis. And copyright always resides with the original creator, who may grant a limited licence to a production company or publisher if they wish.


This is true, but I remember reading an anecdote from a software developer, who wrote that when he saw his software being shared he felt sick in his stomach; he felt like he was being stolen from.

And even if in the long run we don’t know the economic consequences breaking copyright has for the owner, doesn’t the principle of harmlessness mean that we should go a long way to avoid actions that might induce such feelings?

Even a rich academic publicist, couldn’t she feel fear and trepidation due to a (maybe totally inaccurate) perception that her livelihood is being threatened by breach of copyright?

In the case of the Dhamma though, there is the fact that “There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are wasting through not hearing the Dhamma. (MN 26)” which complicates things; you could even argue that there is a responsibility to spread the Dhamma far and wide.

I guess my point here is that whether the holders of copyright feel they’re being stolen from or not should be a factor in whether breaching copyright is stealing (in the moral sense), because harmlessness underlies the precepts. But alas, it’s complicated :slight_smile:

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without disputing the general tenor of your post i should like to mention that in my opinion with respect to emotional well being the principle of harmlessness must be applied judiciously, because feelings of being hurt, offended, violated may stem from delusions fostered by defilements and ignorance, as in the case of mockery of religious beliefs, or be feigned to stifle other people’s freedoms, in extreme cases this may deteriorate to blackmail where a person would use care for their emotional stability and happiness as a means of coercion into performance of certain actions which may even run counter the precepts

a more dependable principle to be used here in my opinion would be that of treating others as you yourself would like to be treated

I agree. The fact that someone has a bad reaction doesn’t automatically mean you are breaking the principle of harmlessness.

For example, several times I have gotten a bad reaction because I don’t want to participate in fishing trips where fish are harmed or killed. But for me, this is holding to the principle of harmlessness, not breaking it.

Thanks a lot bhanthe ! Thanks a lot @improvateur! :slight_smile: I wasn’t aware of it.

Dear all,

Please forgive me for the inconvenience that I have created. :disappointed: I didn’t mean to violate the copyright but I just uploaded it for the sake of dhamma dana. Btw I have to thank bhanthe sujato and @improvateur for taking the necessary actions.

With metta.:slight_smile:


@sandundhanushka what gracious words!
But, please do not take things personally here…
(Forget not, annata, eh?)

Long-winded rant follows:

I appreciate the way we wrestle with how to hold that which is so very precious.

I see my own inner turmoil over sharing/not sharing, and offending/not offending (as though these were really binary choices!?).

I see (in the root of my unhappiness) a deep fear that somehow these teachings might be lost if ‘skillful’ actions are not taken. In my heart, there seems to be an underlying urgency around the suttas.

Indeed, now that I look at it, this is probably part of my recent motivation to throw up yet another website filled with ‘Buddhaphilic’ links of one sort or another.

. . .

Curiously, the motivation to post these thoughts just now came from a recollection of the first of Shakyamuni Buddha’s followers to become enlightened. The first to ‘get it,’ so to speak. … Kondanya.

And what did Kondanya get?


SN 56.11 - Dhammacakkasutta (Translation attempt)

And while this discourse was being spoken, the stainless and spotless insight into the teaching arose in venerable Kondanya. He knew that whatever is to originate, is all bound to cease.

And anatta and dukkha are not far behind either…

By suggesting a wonderful resource be removed, look at how many ways that intentional action caused stress.

  • Bhante became upset because of the perceived doublebind of having been motivated to take an action that (in his heartmind) was possibly inappropriate and undoubtedly painful – i.e., to remove something of true value from this website.

  • sandundhanushka probably felt awkward and somewhat embarrassed for having posted something that was deemed sufficiently ‘inappropriate’ to have been removed.

Anyway, I’m sure you get the picture.


When I look closely, I see how my ego is reinforced by having effected a change based on the precept of ‘not taking… (etc.)’ Look at that little fellow – momentarily feeling quite powerful and righteous!

Having pretended this ‘self,’ then having extended it, now I sense efforts within to defend it.

  • I was the ‘self’ that caught the copyright violation.

  • I was the one who brought it to SuttaCentral’s attention.

  • I was the one who got it removed

… I, I, I.

Where is this self that did all of that. I hardly feel as I did when I posted it.


Instead, now it’s the ‘self’ that is intent on expounding Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha…

There is no inherent ‘self’ in anyofthis… In the long view it will all pass:

  • All of my many and varied ‘selves’ (reacting to causes and conditions beyond control or understanding).

  • All of the posts on SuttaCentral (some of which do seem to take on a ‘life of their own’).

  • And finally, one day, so will all of our precious Suttas.

I am like the fellow who, being swept along in the river, is clutching at branches and roots extending from the riverbank to try and halt the flow. Make stuff solid and permanent and, yes, reliable. And what do I see before me… a flow of things that come and go regardless.

I suspect that Kondanya saw that as well.


Thanks to everyone for all these interesting perspectives! May I also add for @sandundhanushka that there is no problem here, it was an honest mistake, and I simply had to remove it or risk legal action against us.

Regarding hurt feelings, it is a complex matter. Obviously we don’t want to create suffering or distress for anyone, and as @improvateur has so clearly shown, the situation as it is, like it or not, has already given rise to suffering.

But what about my feelings? I am one of the traditional custodians of the texts, part of an order who created and maintained them for 2,500 years. Do not my feelings matter? I feel outraged that my sacred scriptures have been placed under corporate ownership. I feel sad that I will be treated as a criminal by other Buddhists for performing my sacred duty to share the texts freely for all humanity. I feel terribly disappointed that other Buddhists, including monastics, have in fact been treated in this way, even when they used the texts in line with the copyright restrictions. I feel loss for the whole world that we cannot, as we enter 2017, share a high quality modern translation of our scriptures freely. I feel that the corporate ownership of Buddhist texts is an act of cultural appropriation, and I am disappointed that the Buddhist community has not protested against this. In fact, I feel so strongly about all this that I am dedicating several years of my life to changing the situation.


Bhante, I think ( and I know others feel this way) that the outrage and inspiration that has fueled so many “game changers” through the years in literature, art and music, politics, social work, and culture, is the same energy that fuels you in the creation and development of Sutta Central. I think that many people that have taken laborious and courageous action, as you are doing, agonized over the wrongful status quo, and they converted that suffering into action. By doing so, so many people, now and in the future, benefit immeasurably.


Thanks so much, I really appreciate it. :anjal:

I know that people are just trying to do their best, so I don’t want to be too hard on them. I decided the best thing to do was to not whinge, but do the hard yards and make the change. But, well, sometimes I can’t help myself from having a whinge, just occasionally!


Well. it’s a massive undertaking that you’ve assumed, but to be honest, it’s such important work and I can’t think of anyone on the planet that is better suited to bring this major development in the carrying forth of the BuddhaDhamma to fruition. The Buddha feared that his true Dhamma would dissipate and then disappear. You are the living proof that that will not and cannot happen.

I think of you on that tiny island doing this major work, and trust that all of us out here that appreciate and benefit from this work really do encourage, and in every way we can, support what you’re doing, on behalf of the Buddha and his worldwide sangha.


Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu!

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a share request for the suttas list from your Gmail account popped up in my mailbox, not sure whether that was automatic or deliberate, but since i don’t share it for editing, its public version should be accessible at

if you still run into problems, please let me know

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Thanks @LXNDR, that did the trick! Wonderful resource to study.


As an absolute beginner to the study of the EBT, I thank you with all my heart for sharing this study guide with us, Bhante. I felt kind of lost and overwhelmed just trying to look for a good way to approach the suttas in a structured manner. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s introduction and this list of contents have given me a good guide to follow.

I strongly believe in the values of Open Source and in sharing the knowledge we have with others. Translations of Buddhist works are not easy to come by here in my country. I can’ t thank you and the SuttaCentral team enough for making these resources available here on the Internet. I hope this site and the community behind it–as well as the ideas that have inspired them–remain alive and online for many years to come.


Hi andfuv,

Note that there is a long series of lectures by Bhikkhu Bodhi that elaborate on his exposition in the book here:
[You have to scroll down to get to In the Buddha’s Words].
and that there are links in the OP to Bhikkhu Bodhi’s Introduction to each chapter.


Can you please share your thoughts on copyleft ? This is used in quite a few licenses in the Free Software world, including Linux, which uses GPL. The method of copyleft ensures that recipients of any work are free to modify and redistribute it. It uses copyright but with specific distribution terms that work together to keep the actual work (software, document etc.) free.

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It’s an interesting idea, and I have thought seriously about applying it. My main problem with it is that it still creates a legal issue, so that anyone who violates is potentially a criminal. I would rather remove the whole thing from the legal sphere, even if that creates some risk of appropriation.

Thanks @mikenz66 ,

I’d already started going over Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s introduction to the whole book and to the first chapter. I will also listen to the talks. Thanks for sharing.