Sister Uppalavanna

Dear Bhante, I have been wondering if Sutta Central could give more clear credit to the translator referred to as “Sister Uppalavanna” ? She is not listed in Sutta Central’s biography page.

Without having her address or means to reach her, I think I met her in Sri Lanka during my training in 2005. The Uppalavanna I met was brought up from Galle to Kurunegala to give me vinaya instruction in English, as the local bhikkhunis were not very English-fluent. She was quite iconoclastic and did not use the shiny satin sanghati, and bright orange or yellow robes that were the uniform in the Dambulla order. She wore faded robes and used a piece of string as a belt. The local bhikkhunis disparaged her. She had previously been a disciple of Ayya Khema, and [so they said] in her ordination ceremony where the candidate is asked for the name of the preceptor, she answered, in pali, “my teacher is dead.” She was involved in translation projects.

Whether or not the Uppalavanna I met is the same person, the translator Uppalavanna could be reached via, according to this note.

With appreciation, Ayya Sobhana

Uppalavanna from Galle, Sister (??-??) [uppa]
Ven. sister Uppalavanna (from Galle) is a Sinhalese nun, who translated serval books of the Anguttara Nikaya into English. The name “from Galle” has been given to prevent a possible confusion with the German nun Uppalavanna and on the infomation that she uses to maintain her practice mainly in the province Galla in Sri Lanka. An extensive collection of here translations can befound on [Source: personal communication with Bhikkhu Mettavihari, the editor of] [clipped from]


good to know, i believed the translations had been penned by the German Upalavanna, doing a research never occurred to me

does SC have a biography page?

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Thanks for that info, Ayya. I don’t know much about her, so this is all new for me.

What I do know, based on my recollection of a conversation with Ven Mettavihari, is this. When he was setting up, he knew of her translations and asked if he could put them on his site; this was in the late 90s, I think. She was reluctant, as she said the texts were not good enough to publish, being done purely for her own study and practice, as a way of learning the Suttas. He persuaded her, saying that at least we should have some version of the Suttas in English online.

Her reluctance was no false modesty, as the translations as obviously not of publication quality. Still, for a long time they were the only fairly complete translation of the Suttas in English available online, and hence have been picked up from and mirrored on various other sites. Thus, through Ven Mettavihari’s site she, as a lone, iconoclastic, unsupported nun, was able to achieve what all the big monasteries, nikayas, and universities have not: make the Suttas available all over the world in English.

More recently, the PTS translations have been released under CC licence by the PTS, and digitized and made available by our friends over at That’s where I read the older translations these days. They have Sister Uppalavanna’s texts, too. However I don’t think there is much reason to continue to publish them, as I suspect that is not what she would want.

As for credit, I am not sure that we even have any of her translations on the site; we just link to them. Nevertheless, it would be good to add something acknowledging her role in making the suttas available. Let me see to that.


I’m pretty sure I came across another one in one of the other nikayas a while ago, but I can’t remember it.


Ha, shows you what I know!


some modifications were made by Bhikkhu Sujato, 2014.


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I feel much better now. Thank you all.

I know, I know!

I remember now, I did it for our kamma and rebirth course, as there wasn’t a free translation of that sutta available. So I just grabbed Uppalavanna’s translation and tidied it up, but I didn’t do a proper job on it.

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