Foreword by the Translator
It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. The first step, however, may be initiated by many different causes. The journey of completing this translation of Buddhadhamma in a sense began accidentally, or at least serendipitously.
In November 1994, after completing my 7-year training as an anāgārika (white-robed novice) and newly-ordained bhikkhu (nāvaka) in the monasteries situated in the UK led by Ven. Ajahn Sumedho (Tahn Chao Khun Rājasumedhācāriya), I asked permission from the elders in the UK to spend some time in Thailand, the spiritual home of the branch monasteries connected to the Luang Por Chah tradition. My request was granted and I was given a oneway ticket.
With only a rudimentary understanding of the Thai language, I went first to Wat Pah Nanachat in Ubon Ratchathani, where Ven. Ajahn Jayasaro was currently the acting abbot. Coincidentally, during the first month while I was there, the community was blessed with a rare visit by Ven. Phra Payutto, who spent several days giving teachings in English. I had of course heard of Tahn Chao Khun Payutto, whose scholarship was renowned in the Western monasteries and whose books – in particular his Dictionary of Buddhism – was widely read. I also knew that he had lectured at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where I had studied comparative religion as an undergraduate.
During those days at Wat Pah Nanachat he gave a talk on happiness. Although I hadn’t ever heard anyone emphasize the central importance of happiness in Buddhist practice at all levels of the Path, it wasn’t so much the subject of the talk as the manner of the presentation that moved me so deeply. Than Chao Khun radiated happiness – he seemed to embody the joy of one who has tasted the fruits of happiness and who wishes to impart the accompanying knowledge with others. It is not an exaggeration to say that I was moved to tears. Although this was an inchoate form of bliss, based on devotion, it nonetheless infused me with energy and interest. His talk had served its purpose.
I spent most of the next six years walking tudong1 in Thailand as well as living in a remote branch monastery – Wat Phoo Jorm Gorm – by the Mekong River bordering Laos. As a monk, and even before that, I always had a strong academic leaning. Rather than using a standard course book or language teacher, I learned Thai primarily by carrying small Dhamma books (by Ajahn Buddhadasa, Tahn Chao Khun Paññānanda, Luang Por Chah, etc.) on my travels. For long periods of time these books were my companions. In 2001 I felt the need to deepen my theoretical or academic understanding of Buddhism, in part because as an 11-vassa monk (and thus officially a ’Thera’ or ’Ajahn’) I was expected to provide more formal teachings to the lay community.
I decided to ask permission from Ven. Phra Payutto to live with him at Wat Nyanavesakavan in Nakhon Pathom province. Ajahn Jayasaro took me to meet him. Rather than granting permission immediately, Tahn Chao Khun looked at me and asked: ’What are you going to do here?’ Obviously this was no place to simply eat and lay back. I replied that I wanted to read the Tipiṭaka in Thai. Tahn Chao Khun seemed satisfied with this answer.
Not long after moving to Wat Nyanavesakavan, I asked Tahn Chao Khun about the Buddhadhamma translation project. I knew that Mr. Bruce Evans (formerly Puriso Bhikkhu) had spent several years working on this book during the 90’s. Two of the chapters – on Dependent Origination and on Kamma – had been published and very well received. But for some reason, the project had come to a standstill. Tahn Chao Khun asked me whether I would be willing to look at the unfinished manuscript and see whether it could be polished up and made ready for publication. Very soon, however, it became apparent that editing or rewriting someone else’s work, at least in this case, was significantly more difficult than translating the entire text from scratch.
And so the journey began. At first it seemed like walking through a garden filled with exotic flowers, set on gentle foothills. I had no specific destination in mind. It was simply a matter of replacing my original goal of reading the Tipiṭaka with this new activity. I would joke with people, saying that it would take me several lifetimes to complete the entire translation.
In 2003 I returned to the UK and acted as abbot of Hartridge Buddhist Monastery in Devon. In my spare time I would work on the translation, until, in 2007, I completed chapter 3 (I chose not to work sequentially on the text, but rather selected subjects that were of particular interest to me at the time). This was published as a separate volume titled The Three Signs: Anicca, Dukkha and Anattā in the Buddha’s Teachings. The book was sponsored by Khun Sirichan Bhirombhakdi and her two daughters.
In 2007, after having struggled with a debilitating physical illness over the entire nineteen years of my monastic life, I decided to disrobe and see if life as a layman would bring about an improvement of health. Whereas it appeared as if the translation project would come to an abrupt halt, or enter a period of long abeyance, things in fact took an opposite turn, impelling me, metaphorically, from the foothills into elevated heights, where rhododendron trees bloom and the tree line gives out to expansive, moraine-sculpted valleys. Only weeks after disrobing in the UK I received a phone call from Khun Sirichan, urging me to return to Thailand and continue with the Buddhadhamma project. She made it clear that, in her mind, it was irrelevant whether I was in robes or not – she wished to support me and enable this valuable enterprise to be sustained. And so a new chapter of my life began.
Once in Thailand, I continued on the translation in earnest. Fortuitously, Khun Yongyut Dhanapura, the president of the Buddhadhamma Foundation, heard about the work I was doing and proposed that I continue with this project under the auspices of this organization. This enabled me to have all the proper documentation to stay longterm in Thailand and also to receive a salary so that I could earn a living. Here the journey began its most regular and consistent interval. One step at a time, one page of translation a day.
Although the actual translation of the text was completed in November 2014, it has taken another two years to attend to all the necessary details involved in preparing the text for publication. Ven. Ajahn Jayasaro kindly read through the manuscript and we met regularly to make corrections and improvements. After this, the entire formal preparation for publication began – selecting fonts, font sizes, margins and spacing, hyphenations, index, bibliography, contents, etc.
The journey now comes to end, although I hope the book itself will have a life of its own and travel into the world. Although I don’t claim to have reached a summit – that honour rests with the author – I have reached a high saddle or plateau, circumambulating with devotion Tahn Chao Khun’s crowning achievement. As a bonus I have been afforded rare glimpses and insights into the Dhamma. The project would never have reached this stage without devotion and love – a faith and devotion in Tahn Chao Khun’s ability to elucidate the Buddha’s teachings and a love of truth and goodness. Those of you who read the chapter on desire will recognize this latter quality as chanda – the first factor of the four roads to success.
It was perhaps an audacious step to use Buddhadhamma as my sharpening stone in learning the skills of translation. I was not a proficient translator or writer when I began this project. In this light, I have most likely not done full justice to the original Thai book. It is possible that I may have translated some passages incorrectly. If as readers you have doubt about any of the material, I have inserted the page numbers of the Thai edition into the text, in curly brackets, so that you can compare the English with the original. I have confidence, however, that with the help of my editors, in particular Ven. Ajahn Jayasaro, the book contains no blatant distortions or discrepancies.
Besides attempting to capture the meaning of the original Thai text, it has also been a challenge to find a suitable style of translation. Developing such a style was part of the evolution of translating this book. I think it is fair to say that the way in which ideas are formally conveyed in the Thai language differs from the traditional method of English compositions. One friend explained the distinction thus: Thai follows an inductive method whereas English traditionally follows a deductive method. Whether this is an accurate description or not, the text of the Thai edition of Buddhadhamma often follows what I would describe as a series of concentric circles, returning repeatedly to a similar premise. Using this same method in the English translation seemed inappropriate. If one is not used to this style, one can easily feel that, rather than adding layers of meaning and elucidation, one is encountering unnecessary repetition or redundancy. I have therefore reorganized the text accordingly, on many levels: paragraphs, chapter sections, and even entire chapters have been shifted. When key changes were made I consulted with the author to receive his approval. In any case, I can state with conviction that I have neither removed any important text or added my own interpolations.
One major task involved locating equivalent scriptural references used in the footnotes. This was not difficult with references to the Pali Canon, since the BUDSIR program (version 7) developed by Mahidol University contains a quick and easy to use search option for finding the corresponding Pali Text Society page numbers, matching the page numbers in the Thai Pali Tipiṭaka. The challenge was greatly multiplied, however, when faced with references to the commentaries, sub-commentaries, and other non-canonical texts. In most cases, I would have to copy the relevant Pali passage using the BUDSIR program, which does not give the PTS page numbers, and then try to match it by typing Pali terms in Roman script and pasting them into the Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana Tipiṭaka program (version 4.0), which does provide pages numbers, or sometimes only headings, to the PTS editions. The BUDSIR program is based on the Siam Raṭṭha Pāli Tipiṭaka (supplemented by the Thai translation called the Royal Tipiṭaka) which is the source of the references in Buddhadhamma (see bibliography). It is quite possible that there are errors with some of these footnote references. If readers spot any errors I would be grateful if you contact me so that I can make corrections for future printings. In the case where numbers are in brackets this indicates that I was unable to find an equivalent PTS (or other Roman alphabet) page number. Again, hopefully these will be updated in the future.
So many people have been supportive and helpful with this project that it is impossible to name everyone. The most important people are as follows:
First and foremost, my gratitude extends to Ven. Phra Payutto, who, besides being a constant inspiration and beacon of wisdom and compassion, has bestowed so much trust and confidence in my ability to complete this project at a required quality and standard. Although, due to his many other responsibilities and limitations on the physical level, he has not been able to read through the entire English translation, he has always answered my questions and doubts punctually when they arose. Although I may have been able to reflect some of his depth of wisdom and intellectual brilliance, it is beyond my powers to transport his beaming smile and radiant kindness to the reader. Those of you who have had the good fortune to meet him know what I’m talking about.
Second, I give my thanks to Ven. Ajahn Jayasaro, who has provided me with so much encouragement on many levels throughout the past fifteen years (and beyond that). He shares a similar devotion to Tahn Chao Khun Payutto, as well as a love for language. Our time poring over this manuscript has deepened my respect for and friendship with him.
Third, I thank Khun Sirichan Bhirombhakdi for acting as the catalyst in bringing me back to Thailand to continue this work until it reached completion. Sometimes we must hear the words ’I believe in you’ to overcome inertia or other mental obstacles.
Fourth, this project would not have been completed without the enthusiasm and support by Khun Yongyut Thanapura, president of the Buddhadhamma Foundation. It was through his initiative and longterm vision that this book has materialized.
My mother and stepfather – Karin and Jon Gunnemann, and my father and step-mother – Basil and Subithra Moore, have given me material and emotional support over the years, including a time when I was between jobs. Important editors and proofreaders over the years include: Ven. Gavesako Bhikkhu, Ven. Cittasaṁvaro Bhikkhu, Ron Lumsden, Max Mackay-James, and Martin Seeger. I thank Mr. Bruce Evans for letting me consult with his earlier translations of Buddhadhamma, a work he did with great dedication. Other people who have provided notable support include Mr. Sian Mah and Mrs. Chantana Ouysook.
May these collective efforts help to bring light and peace to the world through the power of wisdom and understanding. The Buddha bequeathed the Dhammavinaya to us, to safeguard and uphold. This entails more than simply keeping copies of the Tipiṭaka in glass-fronted bookshelves. Although the realization of the Buddha’s teachings may be summarized as a fulfilment of the four duties vis-à-vis the Four Noble Truths, i.e. understanding suffering, removing its cause, realizing its cessation, and cultivating the Path, or more succinctly, knowing suffering and the end of suffering, many tools and skilful methods may be needed to accomplish this goal. The beauty of the Buddha’s teachings is that they provide us with a treasure chest of insights and guidelines. Another metaphor is that the Dhamma is a multifaceted diamond. No matter from what direction you pick it up, it offers invaluable glimpses of truth which may be used to cut through the shrouds of delusion. These teachings were expanded upon and elucidated by later commentarial authors. Ven. Phra Payutto’s gift and genius here is to present the canonical and post-canonical teachings in a lucid integrated whole, a watertight vessel for taking us to the other shore. The work to be undertaken is still ours to do, but the Path, and its many obstacles, has been clearly outlined and revealed.
Green Park Home
Tudong: the traditional practice of itinerant monks. This word stems from the Pali dhutaṅga, which is translated as a training for eliminating or ’shaking off’ mental impurity.