Ledi Sayadaw and Translations

Viewing 8 reply threads
  • Author
    • #34988

      Dear Lal, dear friends,
      Since I am living in Myanmar, I got into discussions with some fellow Dhamma practitioners about the teachings.
      These days I am discussing with a monk, and I have been reading a translated book by Ledi Sayadaw: “The Manuals of Buddhism”, a collection of his texts about Dhamma.
      Ledi Sayadaw brought back the Vipassana meditation practice to Myanmar and he lived from 1846-1923. He is very famous here in Myanmar and the popular opinion is that he was an Anagami.

      In this book, the translations have been done by different Burmese people. They all translate Anicca into Impermanence, Anatta as Non-Self.
      I see that Ledi Sayadaw relies a lot on Buddhagosa’s works, too. He was teached from Myanmar teachers, I think. So it is assumable that his education was not influenced by the European scholars. He had letter conversations with the European scholars, at least with Mrs. Davids of the Pali Text Society.
      In his book, the doctrine of “no-self” in ultimate reality (and “self” in conventional reality) is expounded, so as to seem that his understanding of Anatta seems to be close to “no-self” in that sense. Not in the “no-causation” way, but in the “original reality” sense.

      A part of the work has been translated by Mrs. Davids (I think it is the wife of Rhys Davids) but most of the work is a Burmese translation.

      How does it match with the idea that the English scholars were responsible for the mistranslation?

      You say, that Nibbana has been hidden for the last hundred of years. I personally developed a lot of trust in Waharaka Thero’s explanations and teachings (and yours!).

      How sure is it, that the “mistranslations” have been there only with the English scholars? What do you think about Ledi Sayadaw? Was he wrong or mistranslated?

      The Book:

      Best wishes,

    • #34990

      For me, this would require a lot of effort to understand how Ven, Sayadaw explained anicca and anatta. I simply do not have time to go through his teachings.

      The new series of posts that I started recently is on this subject. It will take a while to go through this series, but you will be able to make a better comparison:
      Buddha Dhamma – Noble Truths, Paṭicca Samuppāda, Tilakkhana

    • #34997

      It turns out that I have a copy of the book that DanielSt referred to. I must have read it some years back. I just glanced through it.

      In Part Three of the section “The Sammaditthi Dipanai,” there is a discussion on the concept of “attā.”
      – I read through the first few pages of that section and it is quite clear that his teachings were very much influenced by the Europeans.
      – At the beginning of the book there is a Biography of Ledi Sayadaw. Towards the end, it says, “In 1912 he was awarded a title by the British government.”

      The “conversion” of Buddhist concepts started much earlier than 1912.
      – For example, I refer to a book by James D’Alwis, that detailed the “Tipitaka English” convention, published in 1870:
      Tipiṭaka English” Convention Adopted by Early European Scholars – Part 1

    • #35023

      Thank you for your research into that question.

      I see your argument.
      Could it also be that Ven. Ledi Sayadaw teached the Dhamma according to his understanding to the Westerners?
      In that book, there is a letter correspondence with Mrs. Davids, I believe that is the wife or Mr. Rhys Davids. She asked Ven. Sayadaw a question about niyama.

      Could that be possible?
      According to my knowledge, the Tipitaka was found in Sri Lanka. It must have been present in Myanmar, too, right?

    • #35025

      Theravada Buddhism was brought to Burma and Thailand from Sri Lanka in the first century CE. See, #17 of “Preservation of the Buddha Dhamma

      So. Yes. The Europeans found copies of the Tipitaka in several countries.
      – But they also found Mahayana documents AND Vedic documents too, especially in India.

      They had no idea how to sort out all those things.

      Furthermore, Buddhism had declined in all those countries. In fact, there was a revival of Buddhism AFTER the Europeans got interested.
      – You should read the book “The Search of the Buddha” by Charles Allen (2003).
      – That book is mentioned in #7 of the post, “Misinterpretation of Anicca and Anatta by Early European Scholars.”
      – Those days, most Asian “scholars” went to universities in European countries to study Buddhism! It was European scholars in those universities (including Prof. and Mrs. Rhys Davids) who made the critical decisions on how to interpret verses in the Tipitaka!; see #11 of that post.

      By the way, I am working on your other question on Tirokuddha.

    • #35037

      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,

    • #35040

      I think your questions of a “self” will be answered in the upcoming posts in the new section:
      Basic Framework of Buddha Dhamma

    • #35052

      I’m not sure if this post is relevant to what was just discussed. But I believe this is a pretty good post and might be useful in some way to what was just discussed about “atta”.

      Atta – Two very different meanings

    • #35055

      Hello TripleGemStudent,
      Thank you for your link. Yes, it is a good article that I can share with my friends here. It makes the point very well.

Viewing 8 reply threads
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.