Comparing Tipitaka Versions

Generally, I prefer the translations prepared by Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi over those by Venerable Thanissaro Bhikkhu, available on Access to Insight. Sometimes, this comes down to a preference for translating technical terms such as pa~n~naa as either ‘wisdom’ or ‘discernment’. Nevertheless, I have found that reading Ven. Thanissaro’s translations with their varient technical terms, sometimes provokes a new insight that might have been passed over where I to simply read Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation once again. The different translations can sometimes highlight something subtle. So I recommend students of the Dhamma reading English translations, to read several different translations in order to maximise their possibility for deeper understanding. Even better would be if students could study Paali and learn to translate some of their favourite discourses themselves. In this way students begin to understand the nuances of Paali and grow in appreciation of the profoundity of the Suttas.

In an ideal world perhaps there might be some way to switch back and forth between the Paali, the English and other languages. I have seen some discourses translated by Piya Tan on Dharma Farer. where he has prepared multilinear translations. He has the Paali on one line, the verbatim English translation on the next line and idiomatic English on the third line. This sort of translation text is very useful for students learning Paali. Maybe, it would be even better to conveniently consult Paali, several variant English translations and several variant Thai translations and even Chinese Agamas with their specific English translations for comparison. I imagine several computer screens side by side or even one very large screen with all these windows showing the various versions. Maybe I could click on one or two versions to show three or four versions with its own line one above the other as they go through the discourse I am studying. An option to be able to listen to excerpts of the text being studied in the relevant language (Paali, Mandarin, English, Thai, Burmese, Singhalese, Sanskrit, Hindi etc.).

I don’t have resources or even the various electronic versions of the above texts to achieve that vision. I sometimes read an online Thai translation of the Buddhist Paali Canon – Tipitaka. This is excellent because it also has Thai translations of the commentary text – Atthakatha ready for reading too. The commentaries are not conveniently available in reliable English translations.

I can’t read Myanmar/Burmese, Singhalese, Vietnamese, Lao, Cambodian, Mon, Lanna etc. so translations into these languages are inaccessible to me. I studied Mandarin Chinese at university but that was twenty years ago and I’ve hardly used it in the meantime. I hope one day, Buddhist scholars may have access to tools like this in the near future.

All of the above could be seen as unweildly and perhaps as academic overload. Buddhism is not merely an intellectual or philosophical exercise. Study should definitely be balanced with practical application of the Dhamma though daily mindfulness and intense meditation practice.

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Portable Media Player

I bought a Cowon iaudio S9 portable media player about three weeks ago. I bought it to listen to discourses and Dhamma lectures while commuting to and from work and to take with me travelling later.

I previously was able to read translations of discourses such as The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaaya Translated by Bhikkhu Naanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi. Most of the time I was able to concentrate deeply on the text and not notice the noisy chatter. Now instead of reading, I listen to Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi lectures.

I’ve downloaded all 120 odd lectures by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi on the Majjhima Nikaaya from the Bodhi Monastery website. I’m up to lecture 37 already. These lectures are great. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi has done an excellent job. He has structured the course in such a way that beginners can follow the series and gradually learn the concepts and terms of Theravada Buddhism. I recommend everyone do this. Although I am not a beginner, I am learning a lot from listening to the lectures and thinking about the Dhamma. In my daily life, I don’t have anyone nearby to talk about the Dhamma with, so reading and listening and reflecting on the Dhamma by myself are the main modes of study. I was telling a work colleague about Buddhism the other day and found my speech tone drifted into the same style as Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s lectures.

I downloaded many Dhamma talks by various Sayadaws and other venerable monks from the Dhamma Seed website. I already listened to many of Ven. Bhante Gunaratna’s Dhamma talks from that site.

I also downloaded many videos from Dhammatube on Veoh.com and Youtube.com and converted them with Jetaudio to play on the portable media player. I particularly like Ven. Bhante Gunaratana, Ven. Nagita and Ven. Dhammavuddho. There are many interesting videos there.

This media player can also display ascii text files so I’ve converted many HTML and other files into txt format so I can read them from the media player. I downloaded a lot of Dhamma talks in text and mp3 format from the Bhavana Society website (monstery where Ven. Bhante Gunaratana usually resides). I am hoping that later the firmware for the player (currently it is 2.09) will be updated to allow reading text in landscape mode.

Leaving Perth

Travel Options
My work contract will expire on 19 March. It is not certain yet but seems unlikely that my employer will extend my contract. I excited to be on track to recommence the journey. I am considering the various options for travelling to Myanmar. I will have a six month meditation visa for Myanmar so I thought of entering the country six months before Pavarana Day (end of the vaasa – rains retreat) on 4 October. This means that if I want to leave Myanmar around 6-7 October, then I should enter no earlier than 6-7 April. It is also possible that before the six month visa ends I could apply and obtain for another visa to stay longer.

A. I could go to India for the pilgrimage of Buddhist sacred sites during October and November. I’ve never been to India and have long thought of going especially to see the places where Lord Buddha was born, enlightened, began teaching and attained parinibbaana-liberation with no physical remainder. It would be good to also visit the places where major discourses were proclaimed. Such a trip would be very inspiring. It would be convenient to go in a small group perhaps with at least one person with previous experience of the pilgrimage. Accompanying a monk would be a good way to travel.

B. I could get an extension of the meditation visa or go out and apply for a new meditation visa. I currently would like to train in jhaana meditation at some point in the future and doing so after the six months vipassana retreat might be a good time to start.

I don’t know yet what I’ll be thinking of after six months of meditation. From previous experience of longish meditation retreats of 2-3 months, I was so content to do whatever was happening. I didn’t seem to have a strong wish to go anywhere or experience anything exciting. The equanimity and calmness pervaded everything. Then after a while the mental states grossed out again and desires dragged me here and there following the “red and green.”

If I entered Myanmar around 7 April, then I would have a gap of about 2 weeks to fill. I could do a quick pilgrimage to India in that time. Or I could stay in Thailand, maybe in Chiangmai and do a 2 week retreat before going to Myanmar.

The positive side of the delay
One good thing about delaying departure until March this year has been spending time with my Perth family, my Mum, siblings and the younger generation. The best thing has been a longer period of preparation for the trip. I’ve been studying the Dhamma more intensely and learned a lot during the past six months. I’ve firmed in my wish to remain single and free.

Dhamma Study Database

After work now while waiting for the savings to accrue and the date for my departure to Myanmar, I read and transcribe the essential suttas or portions of suttas that have inspired me so far and seem to be rich in meaning. It is hard to say this bit is more valuable than that bit. It is a personal choice. I am not trying to do this for anyone but myself. Though there are some pieces that I like to share so I post these texts on this blog.

I’ve been using Zotero as the database to store my notes. I type the discourses or portions of discourses into Zotero and tag them with locations, disciple names, deva names, layperson names and themes, similes etc. In this way, I can come back and find things or look for similar themes in the various collections – nikaaya.

I looked around for a database application and found they would be difficult (for me) to code. I don’t currently own Microsoft Access though I’m familiar with how it works and have developed databases with it for my public service jobs in the past. I would prefer an open source – non proprietary database. I tried OpenOffice Base but it is a bit limited and I’m not skilled enough to use it well. Although I said I prefer open source I looked at QSR NVivo as a possibility. It has excellent text analysis and tagging tools. I trained in NVivo 2 while studying at the ANU and analysed fieldwork interviews using it. Unfortunately for me it is very expensive. NVivo would be excellent but probably not good for sharing the analysis. I suppose in the back of my mind is the thought: ‘I should be sharing this’. So much for just doing it for myself.

I wondered about going simple and not doing any of this on computers. One extreme to another. I thought I should just learn Paali and then commit to memory those sutta that are most relevant to me and those recommended by excellent teachers who I have confidence in. This is essentially what committed early Buddhists would have done in the pre-literate days. Now I am nearly 50 years old and my memory muscles are underdeveloped compared with the pre-literate early Buddhists. Maybe I need to rely on some books, some use of weak memory and some use of electronic devices such as a laptop.

Bhikkhu Bodhi

Present day students of the Dhamma using English language translations owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi. May he live long and be free from suffering.

I once had a large and eclectic collection of books. Once I decided I was going to focus on the spiritual life, I gave away most of those books. I now own about eight books and most have either been translated by Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi or edited by him. Of course, Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi is but one of a long line of Buddhist scholars (mostly monks) going back 2,500 years who have sincerely preserved and transmitted the Dhamma. It is wonderful and amazing that we can access this material right now. I feel enormously privileged.

Sick and Dying

Samyuttanikaaya S22.88 Assaji (อัสสชิสูตร)

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Raajagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrel Sanctuary. Now on that occasion the Venerable Assaji was dwelling at Kassapaka’s Park, sick, afflicted, gravely ill. Then the Venerable Assaji addressed his attendants:

“Come, friends, approach the Blessed One, pay homage to him in my name with your head at his feet, and say: ‘It would be good, venerable sir, if the Blessed One would approach the Venerable Assaji out of compassion.'”

“Yes, friend,” those bhikkhus replied, and they approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and delivered their message. The Blessed One consented by silence.

Then the Blessed One dressed and, taking bowl and robe, approached the Venerable Assaji. The Venerable Assaji saw the Blessed One coming in the distance and stirred on his bed. The Blessed One said to him: “Enough, Assaji, do not stir on your bed. There are seats ready, I will sit down there.”

The Blessed One then sat down on the appointed seat and said to the Venerable Assaji: “I hope you are bearing up, Assaji, I hope you are getting better. I hope that your painful feelings are subsiding and not increasing, and that their subsiding, not their increase, is to be discerned.”

“I hope then, Assaji, that you have nothing for which to reproach yourself in regard to virtue.”

“I have nothing, venerable sir, for which to reproach myself in regard to virtue.”

“Then if you have nothing for which to reproach yourself in regard to virtue, Assaji, why are you troubled by remorse and regret?”

“Formerly, venerable sir, when I was ill I kept on tranquillising the bodily formations, but [now] I do not obtain concentration. As I do not obtain concentration, it occurs to me: ‘Let me not fall away!”

“Those ascetics and brahmins, Assaji, who regard concentration as the essence and identify concentration with asceticism, failing to obtain concentration, might think, ‘Let us not fall away!’

“What do you think, Assaji, is form permanent or impermanent?” – “Impermanent, venerable sir.” … – “Therefore … Seeing thus … He understands: ‘ … there is no more for this state of being.’

“If he feels a pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘It is impermanent’; he understands: ‘It is not held to’; he understands: ‘It is not delighted in.’ If he feels a painful feeling, he understands: ‘It is impermanent’; he understands: ‘It is not held to’; he understands: ‘It is not delighted in.’ If he feels a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘It is impermanent’; he understands: ‘It is not held to’; he understands: ‘It is not delighted in.’ “If he feels a pleasant feeling, he feels it detached; if he feels a painful feeling, he feels it detached; if he feels a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he feels it detached.

“When he feels a feeling terminating with the body, he understands: ‘I feel a feeling terminating with the body, he understands: ‘I feel a feeling terminating with the body.’ When he feels a feeling terminating with life, he understands: ‘With the breakup of the body, following the exhaustion of life, all that is felt, not being delighted in, will become cool right here.’

“Just as, Assaji, an oil lamp burns in dependence on the oil and the wick, and with the exhaustion of the oil and the wick it is extinguished though lack of fuel, so too, Assaji, when a bhikkhu feels a feeling terminating with the body … terminating with life … He understands: ‘With the breakup of the body, following the exhaustion of life, all that is felt, not being delighted in, will become cool right here.'”

Samyuttanikaaya S 36.7 The Sick Ward 1 (เคลัญญสูตรที่ ๑)

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Vesaali in the Great Wood in the Hall with the Peaked Roof. Then, in the evening, the Blessed One emerged from seclusion and went to the sick ward, where he sat down in the appointed seat and addressed the bhikkhus thus:

“Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu should await his time mindful and clearly comprehending. This is our instruction to you.

“And how, bhikkhus, is a bhikkhu mindful? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having put away covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. He dwells contemplating feelings in feelings … mind in mind … phenomena in phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having put away covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. It is in such a way that a bhikkhu is mindful.

“And how, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu exercise clear comprehension? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhus is one who acts with clear comprehension when going forward and returning, when looking ahead and looking aside; when drawing in and extending the limbs; when wearing his robes and carrying his outer robe and bowl; when eating, drinking, chewing his food, and tasting; when defecating and urinating; when walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, speaking, and keeping silent. It is in such a way that a bhikkhu exercises clear comprehension.

“A bhikkhu should await his time mindful and clearly comprehending. This is our instruction to you.

“Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu dwells thus, mindful and clearly comprehending, diligent, ardent, and resolute, if there arises in him a pleasant feeling, he understands thus: ‘There has arisen in me a pleasant feeling. Now that is dependent, not independent. Dependent on what? Dependent on this very body. But this body is impermanent, conditioned, dependently arisen, how could it be permanent?’ He dwells contemplating vanishing, contemplating fading away, contemplating cessation, contemplating relinquishment. As he dwells thus, the underlying tendency to lust in regard to the body and in regard to pleasant feeling is abandoned by him.

“Bhikkhus, while a bhikkhu dwells thus, mindful and clearly comprehending, diligent, ardent, and resolute, if there arises in him a painful feeling, he understand thus: ‘There has arisen in me a painful feeling. Now that is dependent, not independent. Dependent on what? Dependent on this very body. But this body is impermanent, conditioned, dependently arisen, how could it be permanent?’ He dwells contemplating vanishing, contemplating fading away, contemplating cessation, contemplating relinquishment. As he dwells thus, the underlying tendency to aversion in regard to the body and in regard to painful feeling is abandoned by him.

“Bhikkhus, while a bhikkhu dwells thus, mindful and clearly comprehending, diligent, ardent, and resolute, if there arises in him a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he understand thus: ‘There has arisen in me a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling. Now that is dependent, not independent. Dependent on what? Dependent on this very body. But this body is impermanent, conditioned, dependently arisen, how could it be permanent?’ He dwells contemplating vanishing, contemplating fading away, contemplating cessation, contemplating relinquishment. As he dwells thus, the underlying tendency to ignorance in regard to the body and in regard to neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling is abandoned by him.

“If he feels a pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘It is impermanent’; he understands: ‘It is not held to’; he understands: ‘It is not delighted in.’ If he feels a painful feeling, he understands: ‘It is impermanent’; he understands: ‘It is not held to’; he understands: ‘It is not delighted in. If he feels a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling feeling, he understands: ‘It is impermanent’; he understands: ‘It is not held to’; he understands: ‘It is not delighted in.’

“If he feels a pleasant feeling, he feels it detached; if he feels a painful feeling, he feels it detached; if he feels a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he feels it detached.

“When he feels a feeling terminating with the body, he understands: ‘I feel a feeling terminating with the body.’ When he feels a feeling terminating with life.’ He understands: ‘With the break-up of the body, following the exhaustion of life, all that is felt, not being delighted in, will become cool right here.’

“Just as, bhikkhus, an oil lamp burns in dependence on the oil and the wick, and with the exhaustion of the oil and the wick is extinguished though lack of fuel, so too, bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu feels a feeling terminating with the body … terminating with life … He understands: ‘With the break-up of the body, following the exhaustion of life, all that is felt, not being delighted in, will become cool right here.'”

Death as Process

By Anuruddha, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bodhi, Nārada, Revatadhamma, U Sīlānanda
Published by Buddhist Publication Society, 1999
First BPS Pariyatti Edition, 2000

ISBN : 1928706029
EAN : 9781928706021
Cover : Paperback
Pages : 432
Size : 214 x 214mm

The advent of death is fourfold, namely: (i) through the expiration of the life-span; (ii) through the expiration of the (productive) kammic force; (iii) through the (simultaneous) expiration of both; and (iv) through (the intervention of) a destructive kamma.

Now in the case of those who are about to die, at the time of death one of the following presents itself, according to circumstances, through any of six (sense) doors by way of the power of kamma:
(i) a kamma that is to produce rebirth-linking in the next existence; or
(ii) a sign of kamma, that is, a form, etc., that had been apprehended previously at the time of performing the kamma or something that was instrumental in performing the kamma; or
(iii) a sign of destiny, that is, (a symbol of the state) to be obtained and experienced in the immediately following existence.

Thereafter, attending to that object thus presented, the stream of consciousness–in accordance with the kamma that is to be matured, whether pure or corrupted, and in conformity with the state into which one is to be reborn–continually flows, inclining mostly towards that state. Or that rebirth-producing kamma presents itself to a sense door in the way of renewing.

To one who is on the verge of death, either at the end of a cognitive process or at the dissolution of the life-continuum, the death consciousness, the consummation of the present life, arises and ceases in the way of death.

Immediately after that (death consciousness) has ceased, a rebirth-linking consciousness arises and is established in the subsequent existence, apprehending the object thus obtained, either supported by the heart-base or baseless, as is appropriate; it is generated by a volitional formation that is enveloped by latent ignorance and rooted in latent craving. That rebirth-linking consciousness, so called because it links together the two consecutive existences, is conjoined with its mental adjuncts, and acts as the forerunner to the nascent states as their locus (or foundation).


So, for those who have thus taken rebirth, from the moment immediately following the cessation of the rebirth-liking (consciousness), that same type of consciousness apprehending that same object flows on uninterruptedly like the stream of a river, and it does so until the arising of the death consciousness, so long as there is no occurrence of a cognitive process. Being an essential factor of existence (or life), this consciousness is called the life-continuum. At the end of life, having become the death consciousness on the occasion of passing away, it then ceases. Thereafter, the rebirth-linking consciousness and the others continue to occur, revolving in due sequence like the wheel of a cart.

Just as here, so again in the next existence, there arise rebirth-linking consciousness, life-continuum, cognitive processes, and death consciousness. Again, with rebirth and life-continuum, this stream of consciousness turns around.

The wise, disciplining themselves long, understand the impermanence (of life), realize the deathless state, and completely cutting off the fetters of attachment, attain peace.