Papañcasūdanī translation by U Ñāṇika

In an old Dhammawheel thread, Venerable Dhammanando said,

There is also an unpublished translation of the entire Papañcasūdanī (Buddhaghosa’s MN commentary), but I don’t know whether it’s possible to obtain a copy. It was done for the PTS by the late Sayādaw U Ñāṇika, with some help from Maurice Walshe and Lance Cousins. But U Ñāṇika’s English was rather poor and as his translation didn’t meet the PTS’s standards it was rejected.

So, i’ve done some preliminary googling, but nothing on this out there. So it is obscure and not available online.

Theoretically, how would one go about trying to track this down. Just email PTS? What would be the chances they would have a scanned PDF lying around on their servers? Or just, you know, a physical copy (hell, I’ll scan it!).

edit: For whatever it’s worth I just emailed them.

Just wondering if anyone knows anything about this.


I think it’s highly unlikely. My description of the sayādaw’s English as “rather poor” was actually a bit of an understatement. His English was terrible and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to hold on to anything written or translated by him.

Still, if you want to proceed with your Sherlock Holmes mission…

As we’re talking about the early 1980s I would guess that the translation would most likely have been rejected by the then PTS president, K.R. Norman. So you could try asking him if he’s still got a copy. But Norman’s in his mid-90s now and I don’t know how accessible he is or what sort of condition he’s in. Perhaps it would be best to find out from his younger colleague, William Pruitt.

Another possibility is the late Lance Cousins, or rather his library. I would guess he probably donated it either to the Samatha Trust or the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. You could probably find out from one of the Samatha Trust teachers (Rupert Gethin, Charles Shaw, Sarah Shaw, Peter Harvey, etc.) and then contact the appropriate librarian.

A third possibility is Dr. Patrick Pranke, Buddhist scholar and Burma specialist at the University of Louisville. As a temporary monk he had Ñāṇika as his preceptor.

And finally you could try Yann Lovelock, an English lay Buddhist who was one of the most active supporters of the Birmingham Vihara in the 1980’s. As a professional writer he would often help the resident monks, Sayādaws Ñāṇika and Rewata Dhamma, with tidying up the English in their publications. He, if anyone, would be most likely to know what became of Ñāṇika’s own MS after his death.


Thank you Bhante!

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The PTS office admin forwarded my email to Rupert Gethin and he asked Sarah Shaw as well, but neither of them have heard of this.

Still on the hunt though!


Did this go anywhere? Even a terrible translation can sereve as a baseline guidepost for a new and improved translation. So I am curious! Like I myself have definitely just thrown Chinese Agama sutras into Google translate for a general gist. I don’t think this is a worthless hunt!

My hunt was stalled when I tried reaching Yann Lovelock (who worked with U Nanika in the 80s). I emailed Oxford and they forwarded my email to him, but I never heard back.

PTS offices have no record of the document.

Alas. Kudos for trying! Thanks for the update.

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