Reply To: Ledi Sayadaw and Translations


I am just going into some more details.

Ledi Sayadaw himself was not able to speak English, I believe. This is seen from the letter correspondence with Mrs. Davids in a year sometime after 1912.

He established a monastery from around 1886-1900, while Rhys Davids was never in Myanmar but in London as a Professor feom 1882-1904.
Ven.Ledi Sayadaw started teaching only after 1903, when he had 3 years (or so) of retreat and (probably) practice of Visudhimagga. According to:

The Insight Revolution

He must have been knowledgable of Abhidhamma, but not so much of Sutta. It matches my general impression, that I also got from reading a book by Ven. Mahāsi Sayadaw. He said in his discourse on Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta, page xvi:
“To the extent that common usage is profound, Suttanta teaching
is hard to comprehend. Now that over 2,500 years have elapsed since
the Dhamma was taught by the Buddha, in some expressions, the
Pāḷi usage and Burmese usage have diverged �om one another in
vocabulary, grammar, and synthesis.
As an example, in the Dīghanakha Sutta the Pāḷi phrase “All is
displeasing to me (sabbaṃ me nakkhamati),” spoken by the wanderer
Dīghanakha to the Buddha, may be cited. This Pāḷi statement is quite
different �om common usage. The word “sabbaṃ” in Pāḷi, the subject,
has become an object in Burmese while the word ‘me’ has become a
subject. Despite all of these differences and discrepancies, the
Venerable Mahāsi Sayādaw has been able to explain the usages in
explicit terms in this Discourse on the Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta.”

I think it is very possible that there was interaction going on between Prof. Rhys Davids and/or his students as well as Ven. Ledi Sayadaw in the time of 1886-1900, since the British were already in power in the region of Ven. Ledi Sayadaw at that time (to my research).

But it is not clear at all to me about the details. Ven. Ledi Sayadaw was not about the Sutta Pitaka much in his teachings. If he adopted the Interpretations of Prof. Rhys Davids is hard to know for sure, for me.
But the understanding of Sutta-Pitaka seems to me lacking behind here in Myanmar. It is imaginable that the Meditation technique that Ven. Ledi Sayadaw teached, which was mostly from Visudhimagga (from my research into the book above) might have been influenced by the Interpretations of Pali Text Society.

I found this comment in a book by Varma “Early Buddhism and its origins”, where the author says:
“The overwhelming refrain of the Tripitakas is that there is
no soul or self as a substance. In the preceding pages We have
cited explicit references which negate any notion of a transcen-
dent ‘I’. Nevertheless. there are certain passage and statements
which mention the word alta. These do create a problem.
Either it has to be accepted that there is inconsistency in the
Tripitakas, which, considering the great bulk of this literature
and also the fact that its different portions Were composed at
different periods, by several disciples, is not surprising, or it has
to be accepted that the references to atta are to the empirical
personality of man and not to a metaphysical substance.
(i) In the Mahavagglf Buddha asks the thirty Bhadravargiyas
to make a search after the soul- attanam gaveseyyiima. Some-
times it is said that the word atta used here is merely taken
from the current terminology and its sole purpose is to streng-
then the resolve of men to follow the path leading to the
~xtinction of sorro·w and there is no implication of the definite
positing of a spiritual entity as a self-subsistent being.”

Do you, by any chance, know the above text in the Tipitaka, where it is said “attanam gaveseyyima”? And if, would you be able to clarify it for me?

If not, it might not be important to spend more time on it for me.

Thank you anyway,