The Stories of the Foremost Nuns published on Ancient Buddhist Texts

The Stories of the Foremost Nuns

In 2011 I started on a translation of one of the sections of the Anguttaranikāya and its commentary where the Buddha listed thirteen nuns who were foremost in one particular skill or another (AN & AA

It is part of a larger section which similarly lists monks (47), lay men (10) and lay women (10) and the skill they were renowned for (contained in AN & AA 1.14 in toto), with the commentary providing the background story telling how they attained to that position.

At the time I thought this was a new translation, that hadn’t been made before. About half way through I found out Mabel Bode, that great pioneer of Pali studies had already translated this section under the title Women Leaders of the Buddhist Reformation in 1893.

I am always surprised by how good these early translations by the likes of Fausboll, Rhys-Davids and Bode are. Given the fact that so much of the Buddhist texts remained unpublished at that time, their work is all the more commendable.

Once I found the translation had already been done I put aside my own work and took up new work that was more pressing.

That is how it stayed until I started on a series of translations from the Canon and Commentaries a couple of years ago featuring women and nuns and their teachings.

I then revisited the work and decided to continue as I feel it is good at this juncture to raise the profile of women and their contribution, specifically to Buddhist life and thought.

With some help of three good women friends, two nuns and one scholar (Ayyā Tathālokā, Ayyā Sudhammā and Dr. Junko Matsumura), I have now managed to finish the work and am publishing it today in two different versions and in various formats (html, pdf, flip-book, epub, mobi and mp3).

The first is the Text and Translation, which is the major work. Here the texts of all the main editions have been compared and the best reading chosen (about 1,000 variants appeared, mainly in the Commentary), and the translation is presented line-by-line. This is the version for students of Pāli and those wishing to see what the original text says and how it says it.

The second version is a translation in English only, with much fewer notes, and cleaner presentation. The text, although based on the very accurate text and translation, has been rewritten for fluency in English, breaking up some of the involved Pāli construction into more manageable sentences.

I have also recorded the translation, and the recordings can be accessed either from the embed in the page (starting here), or from the Audio page. I will look now to getting the book, along with supplementary texts, published in hard copy, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.


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