ven. Nanamoli's opinion of Vissudhimagga

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Re: ven. Nanamoli's opinion of Vissudhimagga

Postby bodom » Sun Jun 13, 2010 10:30 pm

Hi Mike

Thanks for the clarification. I haven't seen very many posts from our friend Atulo before this one and if he does indeed have an ulterior motive then it should be brought to light concerning this matter.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: ven. Nanamoli's opinion of Vissudhimagga

Postby Zom » Sun Jun 13, 2010 11:00 pm

Which is why this letter cannot be taken seriously, especially without context. What he has put into this work is far more than an amusement.


Well, people are different. I know some who do highly intellectual work, because for them it is fun. They like to think a lot about different philosophic matters, they like to solve problems and puzzles, to find clues, to "put everything together" and all that stuff. It seems its like an addiction for them, they just can't live without it. And what is more - people can change their opinions quite quickly. Today they agree and like this, and (for example) 2 years later they think that their favours were stupid or wrong. So this also may be the case in this case -)
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Re: ven. Nanamoli's opinion of Vissudhimagga

Postby Kare » Sun Jun 13, 2010 11:11 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Zom wrote:
What we do see in Ven N's discussion of the book and in his footnotes an enthusiasm for the Visiddhimagga that if one believed the letter should not be there
.

Why not, if:

"and it really represents partly the getting past an obstacle and partly some rather abstruse literary amusement for myself"

Which is why this letter cannot be taken seriously, especially without context. What he has put into this work is far more than an amusement.


I really should not put out my neck in this thread, since I have no strong views neither on Nanamoli or the Visuddhimagga. But I beg to differ on your last remark. As a professional translator it sometimes happens that I undertake to translate a book where I disagree with the author. Once I found that the book was downright stupid ... but I did not discover this before I had accepted the commission. But once I have undertaken to do the job, I do it to my best ability, and I know that this is the normal work ethics among my colleagues as well. So even though Nanamoli made a good job, that really says nothing at all about his private views on the contents of the book he translated.
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Re: ven. Nanamoli's opinion of Vissudhimagga

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jun 13, 2010 11:16 pm

Zom wrote: So this also may be the case in this case -)

Do you want it to be the cae? The letter is inconsequential to the quality and value of the work, which has been attested to be many others over the years, and posting the letter here reads to be a cheesy poke at the Visuddimagga by an anti-commentarialist.
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: ven. Nanamoli's opinion of Vissudhimagga

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jun 13, 2010 11:23 pm

Kare wrote: So even though Nanamoli made a good job, that really says nothing at all about his private views on the contents of the book he translated.
A disclaimer: I am not a big fan of the Vsm. While it be quite possible that Ven N did not like the work in part or as a whole for whatever unstated reason, it is hard to draw a really meaningful conclusion from a brief letter, not knowing more about the context of the letter, who it was written to and the recipient's interest or lack thereof in Buddhism. One of the more interesting pioneering master translators, Edward Conze, thought very highly of the translation, and to me, but likely no one else here, that says a lot. So, what ever the case, Ven N did an excellent job, and despite his opinion his book has been of service to many.
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: ven. Nanamoli's opinion of Vissudhimagga

Postby fig tree » Mon Jun 14, 2010 7:55 am

tiltbillings wrote:While it be quite possible that Ven N did not like the work in part or as a whole for whatever unstated reason, it is hard to draw a really meaningful conclusion from a brief letter, not knowing more about the context of the letter, who it was written to and the recipient's interest or lack thereof in Buddhism.

Authors, conscientious ones especially, are notorious for cringing deeply when they finally allow their work to be published. They tend to be more aware of the remaining faults of the work than anybody else. The Venerable's reaction to his own publication seems plausibly an example of that. I mean, when an author starts suggesting to people he knows that they not read the book he just published, it's often that.

One of the more knowledgeable professors I knew as a student was like this quite a lot of the time. He seemed often to be aware of having lacunae in his knowledge and would tell us that he "didn't know anything" about topics where he might be one of the top experts. A result was named for him and another academic, and he'd tell us they really should've named it just after the other guy, saying the other guy did most of the work.

Nanamoli is also showing a sense of humor here. Some of the "18 faults of a monastery" could be seen as somewhat funny if one thinks of it that way. If the monastery is near where grain is being grown, people bring the grain into the monastery to thresh it there. Important people come into the monastery, unroll a carpet, and sit down. :tongue:

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Re: ven. Nanamoli's opinion of Vissudhimagga

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jun 14, 2010 8:11 am

fig tree wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:While it be quite possible . . . important people come into the monastery, unroll a carpet, and sit down. :tongue:

Fig Tree
Thanks.
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: ven. Nanamoli's opinion of Vissudhimagga

Postby atulo » Mon Jun 14, 2010 8:12 am

I haven't realize that this tread will have such a respond. Firstly there was a wonder why I posted it, but then it good quite a bit of attention.

Why I posted it? As I said, I find it interesting, and - I admit - I am quite sceptical or even against many commentaries. Sorry if my views hurt you. :anjali:

Anyway, a bit of more records regarding Ven. Nanamoli's attitude towards VM. (All sources are from Path Press websites.)

Dr K. Heendeniya remembers:
Once Bhikkhu Soma asked Nanamoli: 'If you do not believe in the Visuddhimagga, why are you translating it?' I cannot remember the exact reply but as is usual self, Nanamoli sheepishly smiled!


And Bhante Nyanasuci assumes that
Ven. Ñānamoli had an early interest in Visuddhi Magga (as did Ven. Ñānavīra). The translation was more or less completed in 1953 which was only 3 year after his bhikkhu ordination. I also assume that he translated that also as an exercise in Pali. Anyway here is his reason in the Preface of the The Path of Purification:
Originally I made this translation for my own instruction because only published version was then no longer obtainable. So it was not done without any intention at all of publication; but rather it grew together out of notes made on some of the book's passages. By the end of 1953 it had been completed, more or less, and put aside. Early in the following year a suggestion to publish it was put to me, and I eventually agreed, though not without a good deal of hesitation.



And Ven. Ñānavīra's comment to Nanamoli who was his the best friend:
The comic element in the Netti has now, I think, given us all the laughs it was capable of; and we can now say, in a phrase of my schooldays, "Joke over". Perhaps needless to say, the charge of being comic is no more directed at you than is the charge (if I were to make such a charge in a general way: "Those who...") of being a champion, even quasi-crypto, of the Commentaries. I am quite well aware that you are quite well aware of the deficiencies (not to put the matter too strongly) both of the Netti and of the Commentaries, and that you are not deceived by them. (Upon occasion I give more credit to the Commentary than you do—notably in the Cittavisuddhi section of the Visuddhi Magga, and also, perhaps, in its analysis of the four mahābhūtāni. Apart from its usefulness as a dictionary, it also contains, however muddleheadedly, certain earlier interpretations that are of value.) What, then, is the origin of the suspicion, suspected by you, that I, and perhaps the Ven. Kheminda Thera too (though whether he would be so anti-commentarial were the Ven. Nyanaponika Thera not so pro-commentarial I don't know) may or may not entertain, of the propriety of your relations with the Commentary? Perhaps a remark of the Ven. Soma Thera's, that you once told me of, throws some light on the matter. It seems that, upon reading a disparaging passage in an early draft of your Visuddhi Magga Introduction ("an opinion expressed", apparently, "only as dispraise"), he exclaimed "But if that is your opinion of the Visuddhi Magga I can't think why you bother to translate it". It is true that this does not take into account the fact that you translated it in order to find out what it was about, and not at all in order to propagate it as the Eternal Truth (which you might have done had you been an admirer of the work); but even when this is taken into account there seems to remain a vague unaccounted-for residue, perhaps expressible as "But is it necessary, in order to find out what it is about, to translate it quite so thoroughly?" That, to other people, there is an air, a faint aura, of ambiguity about your relations with the Commentary, you will probably admit, since you seem to be aware of it yourself; but I, for one, should not attribute it to a secret admiration (though to what, exactly, it might be attributed is not altogether easy to say). Perhaps it is really, after all, nothing more mysterious than a slight self-indulgence in the pleasure of (18th century) scholarship. (I should certainly not suspect you, except to be perverse, of the seriousness of Scholarship in its present-day meaning—indeed, of the three of us, the Ven. Nyanaponika Thera, yourself, and myself, you are the least serious, though not, therefore, the most comic.) [EL. 100] 21.iv.1959

More corespondence can be found at Path Press webistes. I think it is included also in Seeking the Path http://www.pathpresspublications.com/en/page/books/detail/3/Seeking_the_Path. (Check with them).
Forgive me for the disturbance caused.
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Re: ven. Nanamoli's opinion of Vissudhimagga

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jun 14, 2010 8:44 am

atulo wrote:And Ven. Ñānavīra's comment to Nanamoli who was his the best friend:
The comic element in the Netti has now, I think, given us all the laughs . . . therefore, the most comic.) [EL. 100] 21.iv.1959
Geez. That was a rambling.

Be all that as it may, it still not take away from the fact Ven Nanamoli did a decent jopb of translation and footnoting the Vsm. He obviously took it seriously enough to leave us with something worthwhile.
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: ven. Nanamoli's opinion of Vissudhimagga

Postby Ben » Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:13 am

Hi Fig Tree
fig tree wrote:Authors, conscientious ones especially, are notorious for cringing deeply when they finally allow their work to be published. They tend to be more aware of the remaining faults of the work than anybody else. The Venerable's reaction to his own publication seems plausibly an example of that. I mean, when an author starts suggesting to people he knows that they not read the book he just published, it's often that.

Thanks for saying that. I actually spent some time earlier trying to find a very similar letter to the one purported to be Nanamoli's from JRR Tolkien to a friend where he describes his Lord of the Rings in negative and self-deprecatory terms. It would have been a fitting here.
kind regards

Ben
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Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: ven. Nanamoli's opinion of Vissudhimagga

Postby pererin » Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:37 am

In this, Tolkien was not unlike many Englishmen of a certain type of that time, who regularly adopted a rather mannered self-deprecating or diffident attitude in regard to their work (see JRR's comments in the introduction to the second edition of Lord of the Rings). While purporting to humility, it was not always free from disingenuity.
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Re: ven. Nanamoli's opinion of Vissudhimagga

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:53 am

whatever ven. Nanamoli's opinion of the text may be, it really says nothing to the worth of the text unless of course ven. Nanamoli is the standard to which you apply all your own ideas.

i do find the quote interesting though, but all it really shows me is ven. Nanamoli's sense of self discipline and determination, wow i admire that. i couldn't even finish reading the book (i'll get back to it some day..i have it in thai too, ), its a massive text and quite an undertaking, kudos to him.
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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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