Let me know if you come across any interesting academic work

Glancing through the list of scholars on the new Wiki page, I saw one or two articles of interest and read them, and found a point where my translation needed amendment. Only a minor point, but still.

I’m reminded of the fact that I don’t keep up with all the work that is done, and can’t keep track of everything. I’m focused on actually doing the translation. But many of you do find the time to read some of this work, and I’d like to invite you to let me know here if you find anything interesting.

I’m specifically thinking of things that might affect the translation, rather than questions of interpretation and so on (although it goes without saying those things are welcome too).

I raise various issues of interest here from time to time, but I just wanted to encourage you to contact me if you see something interesting, not to assume that I know it already.

Oh, and where possible I’d really appreciate specifics, not just “so and so talked about it”; I don’t have the resources to get hold of the papers myself.


Bhante, could you give us an example? Is it rather about the discussion and following translation of single doctrinal terms like your example with the khandhas? Or also the source and translation of stock passages, or the light that a Chinese/Gandhari parallel shines on otherwise obscure Pali passages?

Would just like to avoid sending totally uninteresting suggestions…

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Well, it’s hard to say, I’m afraid. But I’m mainly thinking of anything that might affect a translation. Try me and see!

Something like this dovetails with your posts about Myth, I suspect:

Historical consciousness and traditional Buddhist narratives, by Rita M Gross.

In this paper, I intend to explore some of the issues that come up when I tried to teach academically grounded, accurate, non-sectarian history of Buddhism at Buddhist dharma centers.

First among these issues is that Western Buddhists can be quite fundamentalist in their approach to Buddhism and take many narratives literally. Chief among these, especially for Mahāyāna Buddhists, is the Heart Sūtra, which they believe was actually given by the historical Buddha during his lifetime because of the setting in which this narrative is placed.

To explain why Mahāyāna teachings did not take hold for about four hundred years, they add the belief that the historical Buddha realized that people were not ready for those teachings, so he had them concealed among the nāgas, from where Nāgārjuna retrieved them. Historians obviously do not take this story seriously as history and seek for historical causes and conditions that led to the development of Mahāyāna ideas some four hundred years after the death of the Buddha.

I will argue, first, that key Buddhist teachings, especially teachings on all-pervasive impermanence and on interdependent origination, can be used to verify historical accounts of the origins of Mahāyāna Buddhism. In other words, to accept the more sensible and reasonable account given by modern historians is not to abandon traditional Buddhist beliefs and teachings. It is rather to appeal to traditional Buddhist teachings that provide more adequate explanations of the origins of Mahāyāna Buddhism that the traditional mythic narrative.

Second, I will discuss how the mythic account can be interpreted symbolically and will argue that symbols should not be considered as less important or real than facts. Only those who buy completely into the model of scientific materialism provided by the European enlightenment would not understand that in religions, symbols are as meaningful as facts.


Thanks so much, this is well worth a read. I met Rita Gross at Dharma drum several years ago and we discussed many of the issues she raises in her paper. She’s great, one of the true pioneers of feminist studies in Buddhism. I love this quote from one of her Uni students:

The Greeks had very illogical stories that they obviously made up, such as that a mare could become pregnant by turning her hindquarters to the wind. Everyone knows that’s impossible. Christians, by contrast, have sensible sacred stories which we didn’t make up, such as the Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and had no human father.

Truth, it’s a funny old thing.


good old sati, these are positions that you are probably well aware of, it might slightly alter the choice of English terms…

Kuan in his ‘saññā and sati’ (2005) writes “I have found that my [former] argument that a liberated person has no saññā was wrong.” He concludes the article with

He expands on that in his book ‘Mindfulness in Early Buddhism’ (2008), p.139

Where Kuan leaves open the possibility for sati to also mean a ‘simple awareness’, Shulman in his paper ‘Mindful Wisdom: The Sati-paṭṭhāna-sutta on Mindfulness, Memory, and Liberation’ (2010) convincingly argues against sati as ‘naked awareness’ rather combining the memory- and mindfulness-function of sati:

Coming from a Tibetian perspective Anne Klein in the introduction to her book ‘Knowledge and Liberation’ (1998) holds a similar position implying but not explicitly referring to sati/smrti :


Following my hard (hence refutable) theory that the MN is an assembly of AN and SN I investigated some MN suttas, and here I’d like to present (what I think is) an interesting result for MN 5.

This sutta doesn’t have a direct source in AN or SN, but I think to have found a very interesting psychology at work. MN 5 is basically about right and wrong behavior of monks and ends with Moggallana complimenting Satiputta for a successful exposition.

Compare AN 5.167: Here Sariputta admonishes monks, and then complains to the Buddha “When I speak to them in such a way, they do not respectfully accept what I say.” The Buddha replies “Sāriputta, leave alone those people who are devoid of faith” - a touching realistic account to my ears.

Following my idea that the MN is a best-of-collection, the topic can enter only in form of a perfected Sariputta. He gets backup by Moggalana, who in SN 51.14 shocks blameworthy monks with his magical powers (see also SN 2.25 and SN 9.13 where devas admonish monks) - and voila! we have an MN 5 where an improved Sariputta admonishes, the monks are apparently overjoyed, and Mogallana uses an image of the highest humility, really as if to rectify the disrespect in AN 5.167. He uses the passage of the garland of flowers with which in AN 8.51 Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī accepts the difficult conditions to establish the nuns order.

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@sujato Bhante have you read Drewes’ “Oral Texts in Indian Mahāyāna” (2015)?

He has an old debate with Schopen going on about “ud√grah, √dhṛ, and pariava√āp” It’s about Mahayana, but Drewes argues with pali suttas on the first 8 pages and collects many many quotes. I don’t fully follow his conclusions, but he makes an interesting case and to me at least his understandings are new.

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Nice, thanks so much. That Mahayana originated from writing was one of Schopen’s most influential theses, and it seems it is now dead. I’m no expert in middle-period Buddhism, but it should come as little surprise that his ideas are subject to the same kinds of flaws as his writings on early Buddhism. Specifically, to argue that √dhṛ first meant preserving written texts and later memorizations is absurd; it clearly refers to memory in all early texts.

I also agree with Drewe’s remarks on the attitudes of western scholars—to which we might add, western students of Indic philosophies generally—towards the oral tradition. Much of it is based on nothing more than sheer incredulity. We simply can’t believe that such massive, complex texts were created and passed down in oral tradition. I still struggle to imagine how Panini is possible.

Unlike most scholars and translators, I have been a part of the oral tradition for most of my adult life. I’ve memorized not only the basic chants and suttas, as well as the patimokkha, but dozens of other suttas, long and short, and several hundreds of gathas. Obviously, this is far short of what even a moderate student in the old days would have learned, but it does give me a reasonable understanding of how it is all possible, and what the process involves.

In my translation so far, I have generally been rendering these terms so as to more explicitly evoke the oral tradition. I agree with Drewe that ud√grah probably primarily refers to “memorizing”, while √dhṛ refers to “remembering”, i.e maintaining and already-memorized text. pari-ava√āp (actually pari-√āp in Pali) is similar; probably these are all near synonyms. But I’ll recheck my renderings.

It is also worth noting that these words can also be used in very similar ways for both meditation and textual studies: these things were not nearly so distant then as they are today.

AN 9.7

Kacci metaṃ, bhante, bhagavato sussutaṃ suggahitaṃ sumanasikataṃ sūpadhāritan”ti?
I hope I properly heard, memorized, focussed on, and remembered that from the Buddha?”

AN 5.28

bhikkhuno paccavekkhaṇānimittaṃ suggahitaṃ hoti sumanasikataṃ sūpadhāritaṃ suppaṭividdhaṃ paññāya
the meditation that is a basis for reviewing is properly memorized, focussed on, remembered, and penetrated with wisdom by a mendicant


This is a simple note.

I read a topic # How is “Vipassanavada” defined?
wondering about (modern) vipassanavada and vipassanāyānika…

I found a book as Gabriel mentioned above is free downloadable.

Mindfulness in Early Buddhism
New approaches throughpsychology and textual analysis of Pali, Chinese and Sanskrit sources
Tse-fu Kuan
Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism

(PDF) Mindfulness in Early Buddhism: New Approaches through Psychology and Textual Analysis of Pali, Chinese and Sanskrit Sources | Tse-fu Kuan 關則富 -

This is certainly a very useful academic work on mindfulness based on various EBTs.

Buddhism cannot be practised sufficiently without mindfulness, but mindfulness can be practised effectively for mental health without Buddhism.