Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby Individual » Tue Sep 29, 2009 3:32 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:so sometimes this book is free, but thinking someone should print this monster and make it free for people is absurd, its a huge book and probably costs a lot to publish, and ship.

To print, of course. But once the book has been scanned (something that can be done cheaply or even free, with the right equipment and know-how), how much does it cost to host a website? Text is extremely small data. The entire Tipitaka itself, if it's in plaintext, would only be something like a few megabytes. If it's a PDF, it might be a bit more.

When you consider the fact that Crosswalk.com has 29 different translations of the Bible for free online, there are also numerous versions of the Qu'ran online, and Chabad.org (a Jewish site) has their own extensive library (no Talmud, though, unfortunately!), it seems pretty plausible that Buddhists could at least have certain texts like the Visuddhimagga and the Digha Nikaya online.
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby Nyanatusita » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:14 am

Hello,

Jack kindly informed me about this thread. I have been a member of this forum from the start, but because of many other duties with respect to the Buddhist Publication Society (BPS), of which I am the English editor, etc, I have little time and had not noticed this thread.

As regards the question why the Path of Purification is not put online for free: It will be put online as a PDF for free on the BPS website and the Access to Insight website. Hopefully somewhere next year when the newly typeset and slightly revised printed edition will be put out.
Those who quickly scan in books and put them online as PDFs such as the Russian who scanned in the latest edition of the Path of Purification (1991) and put it online without having asked for permission to the BPS (Manapa gives the link) don't realize the huge amount of work it is to proofread, format and typeset a book, especially a large and complicated book like the Path of Purification with its many headings and styles, etc. They also don't realize the cost of printing and distributing the book and the cost of maintaining an non profit publishing organization such as the BPS.

The Path of Purification printed in by the Corporate Foundation of the Buddha in Taiwan, to which one of the posts in this forum refers, is a photocopy edition done without the permission of the BPS. The Corporate Foundation of the Buddha is careless with respects copyrights and has photocopy-reprinted several BPS books such as the Great Discourse of Causation by Ven. Bodhi without seeking permission to the BPS.
The BPS is generally lenient in giving permission to reprint its books and regularly gives permission to organizations in Malaysia and Singapore to reprint books for free distribution. The BPS is also making all of its Wheel Publications and some other books available online on its website (http://www.bps.lk/onlinelibrary.asp), a project which I have been organizing and which takes a lot of work. Many BPS books are also viewable on Google Books. The problem with putting larger books online is that it takes a lot of work and funds to produce them and there is the concern that organizations such as the Corporate Foundation will use the online digital files to reproduce the books without asking permission and that the BPS and its distributors in the US and Europe end up with stocks of books which can not be sold because everybody has already got the free books from our Mahayana friends in Taiwan. Another problem with making books available online for free is that everybody starts to copy it to their own websites with little effort, and sometimes without properly acknowledging the source website.
I hope to find some kind of middle way between making Dhamma books available online for free and on the other hand keeping the BPS going as an organization dedicated to publishing Dhamma books.

Regards,
Bhikkhu Nyanatusita
Editor
BPS








mikenz66 wrote:It says $20 at http://www.bps.lk

This is a non-profit orgainization. Note that they have put many of their publications up as PDFs:
http://www.bps.lk/book_index.asp

Also see: http://www.bps.lk/ourpublications.asp
For the last year, the BPS has been busy digitalising, typesetting, and reprinting many of its publications that have gone out of print. We intend to digitalise most of our older publications and then make them available either as good quality printed books or as free online publications both in html and pdf formats. Eventually, all Wheel publications will be combined and republished as books. An online ordering catalogue is being created to enable our readers to order our printed books online through this website.


I'm not sure whether they intend to do this with the VM. Personally, I'd rather pay the order of 30USD for a nicely-bound version than print and bind it myself (which would probably be more expensive). I'd love to have a searchable PDF on my computer of course...

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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:35 am

Greetings bhante,

Thanks for the good work! :thumbsup:

I do hope that it will remain practical to publish texts in book form because I find books far more convenient for reading on the train.

Which reminds me, I've got a decent sized order to make through BPS tomorrow... nice timing!

Metta,
Paul. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby Ben » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:44 am

Thank you Bhante for your hard work and the work of everyone involved at BPS.
It is greatly appreciated.
metta

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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby appicchato » Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:48 pm

Ben wrote:Thank you Bhante for your hard work and the work of everyone involved at BPS.
It is greatly appreciated.
metta

Wholeheartedly in agreement...
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:18 pm

Nyanatusita wrote:I hope to find some kind of middle way between making Dhamma books available online for free and on the other hand keeping the BPS going as an organization dedicated to publishing Dhamma books.


Sadhu!

:anjali:

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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby Individual » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:54 pm

Nyanatusita wrote:I hope to find some kind of middle way between making Dhamma books available online for free and on the other hand keeping the BPS going as an organization dedicated to publishing Dhamma books.

That seems reasonable, but once a translation of a basic text of Buddhism, like the Visuddhimagga, has existed for several years, I don't understand the justification for not releasing it to the public. It would be strange if this "middleground" involved keeping translations of the most integral, vital texts of Buddhism copyrighted, while releasing small portions and modern commentaries. You look at the Tipitaka at Metta.lk and tipitaka.wikia.com. If other entities can release their own versions of these texts, couldn't BPS do the same? I don't doubt that a lack of funds would hinder further publishing and translating, but since the translations have largely already been made and digital material online proliferates more widely than traditional books on paper, it seems that releasing the core texts would have benefits that outweigh any disadvantages.

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings bhante,

Thanks for the good work! :thumbsup:

I do hope that it will remain practical to publish texts in book form because I find books far more convenient for reading on the train.

It depends on your income level. Amazon has an ebook reader called Kindle and I believe the iPhone, Blackberry, and similar mobile devices have similar software, which makes it possible to carry a library of books wherever you go. Also, no worry about papercuts or messed up pages. Just as paper mail and newspapers are becoming outdated technologies, I suspect that in the future, these types of devices will become standard.
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Oct 01, 2009 12:01 am

Greetings Individual,

Sounds a bit too Gen Y for me... :tongue:

I like my books and I like my CDs! Happy to get things in digital format, but I'm not paying for them.

Metta,
Retro X :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby Individual » Thu Oct 01, 2009 12:33 am

To demonstrate my above point a bit further, by the way, I just came across a video that demonstrates a similar case:
http://fora.tv/2009/09/23/Free_Conomics ... s_Anderson

The editor-in-chief or WIRED Magazine talks about how Microsoft has actually benefited financially from software piracy. And China, too, benefited. Now, look at what the BPS produces, consider who pirates it and why, and then think about how the same type of situation might apply in this case.
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby pink_trike » Thu Oct 01, 2009 1:25 am

Individual is making very sensible points. Once a manuscript has been published there exists a digital format of the document that could easily be converted into one or a series of PDF files that can be easily distributed via websites or file sharing networks (btw, the prudish idea held by many Buddhists that file sharing networks are "bad" is just foolish - millions of legal files are shared every day. It's not the tool, it's the intention).

A common reason for not doing this is the mistaken belief that book sales will slow down and thus profits will be negatively impacted. Research has shown that this isn't the case...Buddhist organizations who publish for profit should be aware that the reverse is actually true. Downloads fuel print book sales, sometimes enormously.

Protecting the copyright is a whole different story, of course...and it is quickly becoming an archaic notion - and imo not sufficient reason to withhold release of an electronic version of Dharma books.

Profit and ownership are very interesting subjects regarding publishing in these changing times...especially for Buddhist organizations. Who claims the right to own the Dharma...and to litigate in order to protect that ownership for the primary purpose of protecting against (imagined) loss of profit? There now exists the means to put the Dharma in easy reach of nearly 2 billion people and growing daily. We'll see if Buddhist organizations step up to the plate...
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby BlackBird » Thu Oct 01, 2009 2:02 am

Individual wrote:Now, look at what the BPS produces


Dhamma texts

Individual wrote:consider who pirates it and why,


Buddhists with a mistaken understanding of the second precept. I think that's the crux of the matter.

Individual wrote:and then think about how the same type of situation might apply in this case.


IMO, the majority of people interested in obtaining Dhamma texts are precept abiding Buddhists. Unlike the case of the music industry, it seems to me that it will be only a minority who have an interest in pirating copies of Dhamma texts, as stealing runs a tad contrary to what we're trying to achieve.

Metta
Jack
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby Individual » Thu Oct 01, 2009 3:56 pm

BlackBird wrote:
Individual wrote:consider who pirates it and why,


Buddhists with a mistaken understanding of the second precept. I think that's the crux of the matter.

That's your opinion and I disagree with it. The technical wording of the precept is "taking what is not freely given", which seems to imply the theft be of a material nature. After all, the very idea of intellectual "property" is absurd, for various reasons: because information is a non-rivalrous good that precedes its alleged owner, ownership is drawn up ambiguously, and when enforced, it violates traditional property rights. Copy "right" and intellectual "property" therefore is mislabeled, and these are regulations more to encourage ingenuity and protect business, not to secure individual property or individual rights against anything. Copyright laws initially began in order to recognize and encourage ingenuity, but today primarily benefit corporations that are not themselves authors of anything. Thus, the Beatles make almost no money from their own music.

Furthermore, the Five Precepts are misunderstood as moral absolutes and better understood as guidelines which ought to be enforced not blindly, based on their technical wording, but based on insight about the issue at hand. If the present circumstances make a particular precept irrelevant, it violates the spirit of the law to follow it.

BlackBird wrote:
Individual wrote:and then think about how the same type of situation might apply in this case.


IMO, the majority of people interested in obtaining Dhamma texts are precept abiding Buddhists. Unlike the case of the music industry, it seems to me that it will be only a minority who have an interest in pirating copies of Dhamma texts, as stealing runs a tad contrary to what we're trying to achieve.

If that were true, why so much piracy of Dhamma texts? I think there are many that wouldn't regard it as stealing. Ven. Nyanatusita seemed to suggest many Chinese Mahayana Buddhists don't regard it as such, because intellectual property is foreign to the culture, Mahayanists more heavily emphasize "expedient means" over moral absolutism, and because a person really ought to have no rightful ownership over what is essentially a derivative work.

I've said this before, by the way, in past discussions on this, but it's worth saying every time: The wide proliferation of Buddhist texts from Pali to Sanskrit, to Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai, would not have happened if translations were commercially restricted the way they are now.
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby cooran » Thu Oct 01, 2009 7:36 pm

Hello all,

Many of these posts are from a Western-centric perspective.

Only 1 in 4 people in the world has even the possibility of internet access - and of those, most have no knowledge of how to operate a computer, and absolutely no possibility - ever - of affording use.

Texts on the internet can always be altered and corrupted.

Copyright safeguards texts.

metta
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 01, 2009 7:50 pm

Individual wrote:
That seems reasonable, but once a translation of a basic text of Buddhism, like the Visuddhimagga, has existed for several years, I don't understand the justification for not releasing it to the public. It would be strange if this "middleground" involved keeping translations of the most integral, vital texts of Buddhism copyrighted, while releasing small portions and modern commentaries.


You are willing to pony up big bucks to support BPS so that it can make its entire catalogue free, online and so it can continue to publish via hard copy and online copy of future works?

You are willing to pony up big bucks so the Pali Text Society can of offer it works for free online and via hard copies?

Are you willing to pony up big buck so the Vipassana Research Institute can continue make its CD-ROM version of the Pali Canon and all its commentaries (including the Visuddhimagga) to be free?

Someone has to pay for all of this.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby BlackBird » Thu Oct 01, 2009 8:43 pm

Hello Individual

Individual wrote:Furthermore, the Five Precepts are misunderstood as moral absolutes and better understood as guidelines which ought to be enforced not blindly, based on their technical wording, but based on insight about the issue at hand. If the present circumstances make a particular precept irrelevant, it violates the spirit of the law to follow it.


Could you please show me a Canonical reference which supports your point?
I'm just a blind man, but I have always taken the precepts to be absolute. After all, what is the meaning of abstinence? To abstain, not to engage in the act where one feels justified as to the circumstance. Opening the precepts to interpretation is a bit like opening a pandora's box in my opinion.

Individual wrote:Mahayanists more heavily emphasize "expedient means" over moral absolutism

It was "expedient" for Ajātasattu to kill his father, but it didn't make it skillful. It was "expedient" for King Mahasena to destroy the Mahavihara, but it didn't make it skillful. "For the sake of convenience" can be used to justify nearly anything, and has - If you look at our long history of bloodshed. If one upholds the precepts with vigour and great effort, I cannot envision a single case where someone might come to harm as a result. But perhaps I am wrong, in which case could please point these cases out to me?

Individual wrote:and because a person really ought to have no rightful ownership over what is essentially a derivative work.


What ought to be and ought not to be, is not always what is. I think it pays to remember that breaking copyright is going to cause somebody some dukkha, somewhere. It doesn't matter that they might be wealthy, or in the case of the BPS that they're simply trying to keep on truckin'.
The law defines "what is essentially a derivative work." as someone's property, when we take that item from somebody, they're still going to feel annoyed. Which in my opinion constitutes stealing.

Individual wrote:I've said this before, by the way, in past discussions on this, but it's worth saying every time: The wide proliferation of Buddhist texts from Pali to Sanskrit, to Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai, would not have happened if translations were commercially restricted the way they are now.



You have a good point, but it's a red herring.

Hope you have a good day, and your practice goes well.
Metta
Jack
Last edited by BlackBird on Thu Oct 01, 2009 9:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 01, 2009 8:50 pm

BlackBird wrote:
Individual wrote:I've said this before, by the way, in past discussions on this, but it's worth saying every time: The wide proliferation of Buddhist texts from Pali to Sanskrit, to Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai, would not have happened if translations were commercially restricted the way they are now.



You have a good point, but it's a red herring.



The interesting things that the "proliferation" of the various texts were paid for by either rich laity or by the land holdings of the monasteries or by royal patronage. Someone paid for it.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Oct 01, 2009 9:28 pm

tiltbillings wrote:The interesting things that the "proliferation" of the various texts were paid for by either rich laity or by the land holdings of the monasteries or by royal patronage. Someone paid for it.

This is something that it is easy for for westerners who don't interact with real-life Buddhist institutions to overlook. If it is free someone else has paid... I have a number of Dhamma books that have been printed and freely distributed because various generous individuals have paid for them. If I chose I could (but don't) go on retreats to my local Wat without paying a cent due to the generosity of the lay people.

All this stuff costs money, whether there is a fee charged or not.

It's not clear to me that non-profit publishers such as BPS, PTS, and Wisdom could continue to disseminate high-quality translations if they didn't have some sort of market model. It may be possible. Would those who complain about having to pay a few dollars for thousands of pages of high-quality translated text like to volunteer to set up such an institution?

My suggestion is that those who don't want to buy anything simply don't, quit complaining, and rejoice in what is freely available, which is quite a lot...

Mike
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby BlackBird » Thu Oct 01, 2009 9:39 pm

Well said Mike and Tilt.
The Dhamma is worth more than all the riches in the world could buy.

:anjali:
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby pink_trike » Thu Oct 01, 2009 10:15 pm

BlackBird wrote:Hello Individual

Individual wrote:Furthermore, the Five Precepts are misunderstood as moral absolutes and better understood as guidelines which ought to be enforced not blindly, based on their technical wording, but based on insight about the issue at hand. If the present circumstances make a particular precept irrelevant, it violates the spirit of the law to follow it.


Could you please show me a Canonical reference which supports your point?
I'm just a blind man, but I have always taken the precepts to be absolute. After all, what is the meaning of abstinence? To abstain, not to engage in the act where one feels justified as to the circumstance. Opening the precepts to interpretation is a bit like opening a pandora's box in my opinion.

Nearly all of my teachers over 3 decades have said that precepts are not rules, they are guidelines. There are no absolute rules to be found anywhere in the Universe, including in the Dharma. The phenomenal world is relational, which means that everything is relative.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby pink_trike » Thu Oct 01, 2009 10:18 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
BlackBird wrote:
Individual wrote:I've said this before, by the way, in past discussions on this, but it's worth saying every time: The wide proliferation of Buddhist texts from Pali to Sanskrit, to Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai, would not have happened if translations were commercially restricted the way they are now.



You have a good point, but it's a red herring.



The interesting things that the "proliferation" of the various texts were paid for by either rich laity or by the land holdings of the monasteries or by royal patronage. Someone paid for it.

And someone profited by it. Inexpensive electronic publication changes all that - which is why there is much resistance to it.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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