Dharma Audiobooks has released a new recording of the complete Theragatha, including Dhammapala’s background biography for each verse. The verse translations that were used are those of Ajahn Sujato. I have been listening to it on my walks he text is read beautifully!
That’s great that they made an audio recording for that, but it’s really disappointing that they charge money for it.
You don’t need to be an acclaimed voice actor to make a usable and highly enjoyable recording of dhamma teachings. Just read it with care and sincerity, use a good quality microphone (80$ to 150$ USD will suffice), and share it with audtip.org , a collection of free sutta readings.
You may be interested to know that I have been in contact with this group. They are interested to record the entire new nikaya translation, to be released free here on SC. This is just a proposal currently, but we will keep you updated.
Of course, I would prefer if all the sutta recordings were free, but as you said, you are most welcome to make your own recording if you wish. But they do take the time and care to do a good job: it is not a simple task.
Also, just to let you know, they did make a sizable donation to SC.
That is good news. I hope it comes to fruition.
Which nikaya(s) Bhante? Or are you only talking about Thera and Theri gatha?
We’re in (preliminary!) talks about doing the whole lot when it is ready.
I’m really enjoying the Theragatha, but for some reason (so far) the Therigatha has moved me more. So many of the women in the Therigatha seem to have bee driven to refuge by a desperate need to relieve their grief or escape bad circumstances. However, I still haven’t gotten to the longer verses at the end of the Theragatha.
Back to the Therigatha, I think these verses (Shi Faxun translation) by the beautiful courtesan Ambapali must be one of the most poignant expressions of impermanence in the canon:
My hair was black, like the colour of bees, with curly ends; because of old age it is like bark fibres of hemp; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Covered with flowers my head was fragrant like a perfumed box; now because of old age it smells like a dog’s fur; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Thick as well-planted grove, made beautiful, having the ends parted by comb and pin; because of old age it is thin here and there; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Possessing fine pins, decorated with gold, adorned with plaits, it looked beautiful; because of old age that head has been made bald; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Formerly my eyebrows looked beautiful, like crescents well-painted by artists; because of old age they drop down with wrinkles; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
My eyes were shining, very brilliant like jewels, very black and long; overwhelmed by old age they do not look beautiful; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
In the bloom of my youth my nose looked beautiful like a delicate peak; because of old age it is like a flower-spike of long pepper; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
My ear-lobes looked beautiful, like well-fashioned and well-finished bracelets; because of old age they droop down with wrinkles; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Formerly my teeth looked beautiful, like the colour of the bud of the plantain; because of old age they are broken indeed and yellow; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Sweet was my warbling, like a cuckoo wandering in the grove in a jungle-thicket; because of old age it has faltered here and there; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Formerly my neck looked beautiful like well-rubbed delicate conch-shell; because of old age it is broken and bowed-down; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Formerly both my arms looked beautiful, like round cross-bars; because of old age they are weak as the Patali tree; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Formerly my hands looked beautiful, with delicate signet rings, decorated with gold; because of old age they are like onions and radishes; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Formerly my breasts looked beautiful, swelling, round, close together, lofty; now they hang down like empty water-bags; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Formerly my body looked beautiful, like a well-polished sheet of gold; now it is covered with very fine wrinkles; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Formerly both my thighs looked beautiful like an elephant’s trunk; because of old age they are like stalks of bamboo; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Formerly my calves looked beautiful, possessing delicate anklets, decorated with gold; because of old age they are like sticks of sesame; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Formerly both my feet looked beautiful, like shoes full of cotton-wool; because of old age they are cracked, and wrinkled; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
Such was this body; now it is decrepit, the abode of many pains; an old house, with its plaster fallen off; not false is the utterance of the speaker of truth.
not to downplay the effort of engaging human narrators, but the recording could also be made with TTS software, i think it’s less prone to be disliked by some listeners due to personal aesthetic idiosyncrasies
Recording with TTS would be the precise reason for me disliking the record due to personaleasthetic idiosyncrasies
Obviously it’s far from perfect, but next-gen TTS based on neural nets shows a major improvement over current systems. While a human speaker will always be better, TTS is a backup for texts that aren’t covered, and for different languages.
i concede that, yet from my perspective what’s there to be (dis)liked about a robot? it’s a mere robot, a piece of wood/metal/code, lets one focus on the words instead of a performance
not without a reason some chanting styles are expressly monotonous
Well, sure, if you can listen to a robot, this is perfectly fine Call this cultural conditoning, but I just can’t do it, even chanting works better for me, but this is just my personal thing.
I think this is also partly because most of the time the chanters nowadays or at least at the time when these chanting styles developed were not exactly aware of what the chanted texts meant. I think this is also the reason why the Suttas are chanted even though chanting is more ‘entertaining’ than merely reading the text out loud: the rhythmic chanting structure facilitated memorizing the text whose meaning you either don’t know or aren’t particularly sure about.
The suttas from the Digha Nikaya are often described as directed at ancient Non-Buddhists, which is why they contain so many entertaining fantastical elements. I don’t think they would have been perceived as very entertaining by people who could more or less understand Pali if they were chanted monotonously. Yet, I think your remark is also correct, the use of these chanting styles can be interpreted as emphasizing the contents.
I am going to pass on the opportunity to give money to Dharma Audiobooks / Triratna / FWBO. Just a personal decision.
I certainly will consider releasing a competing audiobook version and charging the minimum that Amazon.com and their affiliate Audible.com allow (free, if they will allow that) and donating any proceeds to the BSWA. I know some local actors and voice talent and also have a good friend who runs a recording studio.
It will also keep my mind off all the money I’m losing running a record label!
This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing. Since you brought up the Therigatha, one of my favorite verses is that of Vasitthi, of whom Ven. Thanissaro translates as “Vasitthi the Madwoman:”
Overwhelmed with grief for my son —
my hair dishevelled
my mind deranged —
I went about here & there,
living along the side of the road,
in cemeteries & heaps of trash,
for three full years,
afflicted with hunger & thirst.
Then I saw
the One Well-gone,
gone to the city of Mithila:
tamer of those untamed,
with nothing to fear
from anything, anywhere.
Regaining my mind,
paying him homage,
I sat myself down.
He, Gotama, from sympathy
taught me the Dhamma.
Hearing his Dhamma,
I went forth into homelessness.
Applying myself to the Teacher’s words,
I realized the state of auspicious bliss.
All griefs have been cut off,
brought to this end,
for I’ve comprehended
the grounds from which griefs
come into play.