To include or not to include


I’m just coding up some Bengali translations of the Pali Canon for SC, and as my Bengali isn’t as “fluent” as it might ideally be, I have to go by other means to check what I’m doing is (likely) to be right.

Of course, my go-to method is to compare Google Translate translations against the English translations, but I also look at the Pali too, to what little extent it can offer me some pointers. And this is how I came to be looking at the English and Pali of SN33.55 (to memory the example given here holds in a number of other places as well).

Point of curiosity

Keen readers of the forum know that @sujato can be quite passionate about the consideration of the underlying principles that guide a given approach to translation. With this in mind, and with reference to SN33.55, I’d be really curious to know a little more about the reasoning behind the decision to leave part of the main text (ie. setting aside vagga summaries and so on) given in the Pali sutta untranslated.


Well, the full form is translated in the first couple of suttas of the samyutta. The Pali text gradually abbreviates as it goes on, until by sn33.21-25 there’s only a skeleton left. Then in sn33.51-54 the Pali text expands again, but in the translation I didn’t expand the pattern as much as the text. In this kind of samyutta, it only really makes sense if you read from the beginning, so I guess I leaned into that.


I happen to be born into Bengali family and it was my first language.

However, I was born and raised in the US, so I managed to forget how to speak Bengali, but I can still understand “conversational” (as opposed to sophisticated literary) Bengali completely.

Furthermore, my parents are completely fluent in Bengali (both were born in Calcutta, West Bengal). And most of my family friends are Bengali too - i.e. I know a lot of people in the American Bengali community who can speak both English and Bengali who could potentially assist in the translation work (especially if you give me bits and pieces at a time).

My dad can read and write fluently in Bengali as well, so Bengali script translation assistance also seems available at his convenience (he is an academic, so such an intellectual project might even appeal to him).

Basically, please let me know how I can help and I shall try to help as suitably as I can in terms of helping complete an accurate Bengali translation of the entire Dhamma-Vinaya!

p.s. I have heard that Bengali spoken in Bangladesh is of a slightly different dialect than Bengali spoken in West Bengal, India. Just thought to share, in case this piece of information is relevant for translation purposes.


Wow! It’s really awesome of you to step forward; thank you so much and a massive sadhu to you!

SuttaCentral was very kindly given a full complete Bengali translation of the Tipitika. I’m currently in the process of preparing this for the site (coding them in HTML), and for the most part it’s perfectly possible to do so without having any knowledge of the language.

Where I can sometimes run into a few tricky spots is making sure that the translated suttas are aligned with SuttaCentral numbers. This translation project used the Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana edition of the canon and some of its numbering differs from SuttaCentral numbering. Further, in some instances there are variations in how vaggasuttas (texts containing several suttas, often repeating a sequence, or theme, etc) have been compiled/divided.

If you and/or others you know are interested in helping making sure that the sutta ids for these translations are correct that would be absolutely brilliant. If so, I can send you a PM with some more info in the coming days.


Ah! Okay, thank you for explaining!

I think that at this time, I will not be able to help out in this way, as I am trying to complete my program requirements by the end of this month.

Meanwhile, I shall think, consider, and mentally prepare in order to help at some point down the line after all of my program requirements are fully wrapped up.

It just so happens, that I actually am (extremely) interested in translation work - in its entirety and all of its various facets - but I have yet to begin at all.

Thus, helping in the kinds of ways that you requested can help me “start somewhere.”

I just want to make sure that, if and when I promise my time, I am able to balance it with the rest of my commitments and deliver on what I can help with.

Can you send me a pm at some point anyway, and I can let you know when and how I am available to help?

Furthermore, I noticed that my knowledge and skills are limited in the sense that I able to contribute well in some ways and not very much at all in other ways. So I think that it might be helpful if you or someone else could inform me what are the volunteer opportunities available (is there a section on the SC website for volunteer opportunities?) and maybe I can try to choose and commit to the ways in which I can contribute most suitably?


Marvellous! Thanks so much!

Absolutely, yes, for while I’m volunteer co-ordinator, it is a prerequisite that you prioritize your own needs, and ensure that any volunteer work that is undertaken can be fully enjoyed!

As per the above, a bit later on I’ll send a PM with a some more info re the Bengali translations, and we can go further from there as and when it suits.

:thinking: not exactly… however, I think as you’ve already seen elsewhere, there is some utterly beautiful volunteer activity that does take place here. Typically, calls for tasks are posted as and when the need arises. Unfortunately, a “volunteer” keyword search returns all kinds of other things so isn’t really an effective way of filtering.

Perhaps it’s something to consider. At least as a quick-n-painless measure, maybe going forward @sujato, myself and anyone else (@sabbamitta…? other people…?) can add a “volunteer” tag to callout posts (and perhaps @Gabriel_L would do the great kindness of adding such a tag if we forget :grin: :pray:) for easier filtering?


Doh! One obvious thing I forgot to mention was our GitHub issue list. There we do have a volunteer label by which issues can be filtered, but I have to admit it isn’t necessarily being used in quite the organized way I would hope for. When I can carve out some time for it, I’ll try to make it a bit more orderly.


Lovely! Let me just try to get over this final hump/hurdle to finish my degree requirements. Then I am trying to meet my parents in India as I mentioned in a watercoolor post on the trip to 4 holy places.

Maybe after that, I should be mentally in a better place to begin.

However, I take a LONG time to think and mentally prepare - I am happy to begin discussing all the various volunteer possibilities available at our earliest convenience so that I may think through and consider each of them and hopefully choose the one or more that are most suitable for me.

I’ve heard of GitHub vaguely, but what exactly is that?

One idea that comes to mind regarding volunteering is maybe adding a category to the list of 8 categories called “contributions” or something of that sort? Maybe that category could include job opportunities, volunteer opportunities, donations, etc. maybe both within and outside of SC, as long as it is related to early Buddhism?

I was primarily thinking of the “contribution category” as an avenue through which those wish to contribute to SC can do so in creative ways that might be hard to categorize. I know for sure that I have certain educational and professional interests (in addition to translation work) that I am already interested in independent of anyone else. If there are ways for me to contribute to SC along those lines through that category, it could be an opportunity for me to develop certain skills that I am wanting to develop anyway, provide a suitable avenue for it, as well as beneficiary (SC, early Buddhist community members) which I would genuinely feel happy to contribute to. It could also be an opportunity for those who wish to offer volunteer services to others in the early Buddhism community - to use a metaphor, I noticed if I am washing a lot of dishes anyway, adding one or few or several more doesn’t seem to make as much a difference since I’m already in the mindset to doing such a task. Similarly, sometimes I feel a urge to be able to help others in the early Buddhist community…but finding suitable recipients who I actually feel inwardly happy to help is not always easy, especially outside of the Sangha.

It seems that if there was a clear list of posts within a “contribution category,” it might make it more convenient for those interested to pick and choose opportunities to contribute as per their own interests, inclinations, capabilities, etc. - you just never know who might be a good fit for what!


Thanks so much for this feedback! Your enthusiasm is a real delight.

In a way the “volunteer” tag will function as a quasi category, and probably strikes about the right balance of current needs, tasks and so on and is an excellently lightweight solution (in terms of donations, there’s already a dedicated page on the main SuttaCentral site). That said, it’s good to review these things from time to time.

Well, in fact for the purposes discussed here the only thing worth mentioning is that it houses a list of all the site’s development tasks/issues (more or less), and some of those items have a “volunteer” label so it is possible to look at a list of just those issues.

Right at the minute, I can’t stop to explain what GitHub is—beyond that it’s a site that facilitates collaborative version control—but here’s their own plingy-plonky promo video that explains the site:


Thank you for explaining. That makes sense! Just wanted to share an idea that came to mind!

Thank you! I can consult the video you generously posted as well as look it up online, no problem.

Does the GitHub link that you sent me have the latest volunteer tasks updated on it?

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Absolutely delighted and grateful that you did; and equally for raising the general point: it’s really good to give a little attention to.

Right at the moment, in practice, no, but in theory it could and should and as mentioned above at some point in the coming week or so, I’ll take a look at this.



No problem! Please take your time. Can you post an update here or pm me once it has been updated?


Just to chime in and thank both of you, and especially to support the concept of a more clearly organized system for volunteers.