Ven. Ñāṇamoḷi’s original manuscripts for the Middle-Length Discourses (Majjhima Nikāya)

These hand-written manuscripts were the basis for Ven Bodhi’s translation. Thanks to the hard work by Path Press, we can read the original manuscript.


Really beautiful to look at, to see the text in ink in his hand.


I know, right? I’m looking at it, thinking, how could he possibly have actually done that without computers?


I thought of how painstaking this work is, but thought that you’re doing the same, really. This painstaking work…but using a computer, and creating something that is digital and globally available. Two generations of great monastic effort and accomplishment. Cool to be seeing one on the other’s.


or we can hope to succeed in reading them :relaxed:

are they as partially legible to anglophones as they are to myself?

and without the Pali lookup tool

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It’s not something that I’d want to read at length, but it’s not illegible. The web app Issuu, though, makes it a lot harder. Some plain old JPEGs or a PDF, please!

I find them reasonably easy to read (once I enlarge them). However, I suspect that there are younger people, or people from some countries, who are unfamiliar with the particular cursive style that Ven Nanamoli uses, and might find it complete gibberish.

I would also note that the final Nanamoli/Bodhi edition reproduces some of Ven Nanamoli’s more interesting notes and comments on the changes Bhikkhu Bodhi made from the draft.

Looking at these manuscripts brings back memories of writing out theses longhand, and then paying someone to type them. Ironically, it tended to be a rather fast process. Since making any changes was annoying (and expensive), there was not the endless revising that the students of today tend to be subjected to. If it was good enough, it was done…

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I wasn’t aware of this. Are you saying that extra notes were added to more recent editions? Do you have the details?

Sorry, perhaps I wasn’t clear. I meant that Ven Nanamoli’s comments and translations are often reproduced, when they differed from Bhikkhu Bodhi’s choices.

E.g. in MN 10

  1. “Bhikkhus, this is the direct path135 for the purification of beings , for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and grief, for the attainment of the true way, for the realisation of Nibbāna—namely, the four foundations of mindfulness.
    Note 135: The Pali reads ekāyano ayaṁ bhikkhave maggo, and virtually all translators understand this as a statement upholding satipatṭ̣hāna as an exclusive path. Thus Ven. Soma renders it: “This is the only way, O bhikkhus,” and Ven. Nyanaponika: “This is the sole way, monks.” Ñm, however, points out that ekāyana magga at MN 12.37–42 has the unambiguous contextual meaning of “a path that goes in one way only,” and so he rendered the phrase in this passage, too. …

MN 11

  1. “Bhikkhus, when ignorance is abandoned and true knowledge has arisen in a bhikkhu, then with the fading away of ignorance and the arising of true knowledge he no longer clings to sensual pleasures, no longer clings to views, no longer clings to rules and observances, no longer clings to a doctrine of self.176
    Note 176: The Pali idiom, n’eva kāmupādānaṁ upādiyati, would have to be rendered literally as “he does not cling to the clinging to sense pleasures,” which may obscure the sense rather than convey it. Upādāna in Pali is the object of its own verb form, while “clinging” in English is not. At one stage in his translation Ñm tried to circumvent this problem by borrowing the word upādāna’s other meaning of “fuel” and translating: “he no longer clings to sensual desires [as fuel for] clinging.” This, however, also borders on obscurity, and I have therefore attempted to cut through the difficulty by translating directly in accordance with the sense rather than in conformity with the Pali idiom.

Oh, okay. I must admit, though, i’m a little surprised at how many notes there are in the manuscript that aren’t in the printed edition. It seems Ven Bodhi targeted the printed version more for general readers, and omitted more technical comments. Which is fair enough; but also another reason why digital editions, with multiple sets of notes, are cool.


Bringing this post back from the dead, I am curious if anybody happens to have these PDFs saved? I’m not sure if there is a specific reason these are now inaccessible.


Edit: Turns out issuu has a subscription service and limits the amount of material that can be displayed unless you pay a certain amount each month

I have them, they should really be on the Internet Archive. So I just added them.


Thankful for you as always, bhante :pray:

Note that because the first pages of each of those PDFs have embedded text, this suppressed’s usual OCR steps. If you (or someone) wants to try Internet Archive’s handwriting recognition on these, you’ll have to reupload the PDFs without those added cover pages. :grin:

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