PTS style Tipitaka CD-ROM ...$150

mhcrxlc at mhcrxlc at
Wed May 22 17:45:45 UTC 1996

Professor Witzel writes:

>OF COURSE: and not just "textual scholars" but anybody who has worked a
>little bit with Pali texts knows that there are a lot of
>textual/transmission problems in the texts. <<Cf. now also J. Silk's
>message>>.This is not the Rgveda which has come down orally/written
>without (almost) any changes.

Surely, most recensions of the Rgveda have not survived ? That at any rate
was my impression, but I may have misunderstood.

>As O. v. Hinueber has frequently shown, the
>Pali Canon has been subject to constant redactorial change even late in
>this millennium.

This seems to me to be a considerable exaggeration and likely to be rather
misleading to those who do not know the facts.

To some extent, it depends what you are working on. If you are interested
in the kind of thing that the tradition was interested in (e.g.
abhidhamma), it is extremely rare to find any significant deviation and for
most matters the text is firmly fixed by the commentarial tradition. If it
concerns  matters of other kinds, then sometimes the texts are less secure.
Even so, this should not be exaggerated. A great many changes are editorial
rather than substantial. (I don't believe von Hinueber would disagree with
this.) Of course, it is still important to establish all the details.

The difference with the Vedic texts, of course, is that the exact words of
the Pali texts were relatively unimportant to the tradition; it was the
Dhamma which they wanted to preserve. There was less of a tie with ritual
and magical uses where the exact sound matters.

>Anybody who wants to work with a reliable text has to make use of the 4
>versions represented by the PTS editions and which are now available on
>the new CD-ROM (Sinhala, Burmese, Thai and Cambodian)

I don't think that the PTS editions represent a kind of synthesis of the
four versions. It varies greatly and for some texts only very few
manuscripts were available. In a few cases only an oriental edition was
available. I think everyone involved in Pali studies has long been aware
that all the texts badly need systematic reediting. But we can't do that
until the manuscripts are properly collected and available. Unfortunately
that is nowhere in sight. And there simply isn't the man-power, given the
extremely small numbers of available workers at present.

There are of course more than four versions, since there are newer and
older editions e.g. of the Thai and Sinhalese versions. Regional variations
in various scripts are found in manuscript.

Or, are you suggesting that the readings of the other four have now been
added to the PTS edition for the Dhammakaya CD ?

 -- though,
>unfortunately, it now comes with a price tag of $150, differently from the
>original intent of the Dhammakaya Foundation (as announced in Sept. 93).

To my knowledge, the Dhammakaaya Foundation's intent has varied a number of
times during this period (and earlier).

>This version also has the avantage that it allows to search for other
>mistakes of the type described above (cora/caara) -- and that will allow
>you to solve your textual problems more easily as you will find plenty of
>evidence of such mistakes. In short: scholars who pay attention to the
>*exact* wording of the text need *this* electronic version.
>If you are content, however, with just having *any* version (to have a
>rough idea of the text/context) you can use the electronic Sinhala or Thai
>versions or just use the printed 5-6 versions. (In that case, as has been
>pointed out by others, you will loose some time in finding the
>corresponding PTS version.)

At the moment the advantage of the IBRIC version is that you can get the
page references to both the PTS and the BJT editions simultaneously. Since
in practice you have to check everything in the printed texts, this speeds
up the process.

Since the BJT edition is one of the most recent and was done with more of a
critical sense than the earlier oriental editions, you can also find some
useful variants cited from the Siamese editions and from the Burmese
edition published in the 1950s and 60s (after the PTS editions).

>> I agree
>> that when IBRIC completes their work this may be the most useful starting
>> point for many people. Of course, prices of the other two may come down or
>> even disappear eventually.
>WE HOPE SO, and cf. the original Dhammakaya announcemnet of Sept. 93...
>> One needs to remember that these are mostly volunteer projects and there
>> may be limits as to what they are capable of doing initially.
>THAT remains to be seen. I know that the 400 Dhammakaya volunteers have
>typed in the text with (very) good accuracy.

When I was shown the first phase in Bangkok in 1990, there were still a
number of errors to a page. (I thought that to get to this point was
already a considerable achievement.)

>Since then, the texts have
>been proofread several times. They also have typed in commentaries and
>*other* very useful materials. It remains to be seen what the PTS will allow
>on CD.

The commentaries will be included in an updated version for Windows 'by
December 1997'. So it is a question of Dhammakaya not being ready, rather
than the PTS 'allowing'.

>> The PTS obviously has a right to seek to protect its market (particularly
>> that to libraries).
>That might be so. The copyright question, however, is moot.I wonder how you
>can claim copyright on, say Oldenberg's ed. of the Vinaya made a hundred
>years ago, when the PTS began to copyright its texts only in the Sixties...

As far as I know, the PTS has never claimed that every text it publishes is
still in copyright. But some certainly are and that is what they have
claimed. I don't think there is any possibility of disputing their legal
right to do this.

>Let some clever British lawyers figure that out.


>> I suspect myself that they are worrying unnecessarily
>> but it is certainly important to be able to continue to produce new Pali
>> texts and translations.
>Yes, find some other way. And remember that Oldenberg etc. gave their work
>free... to have the texts available for scholarship (etc.). A hundred
>years ago that was by printing them, but now......

The work that the PTS does and has done is of great value to Pali studies.

>Or, to be more radical: Since we (almost all of us) type our new texts
>and translations we can as well put them on a server somewhere and get rid
>of overpriced publications (especially in some EUROPEAN COUNTRIES).....

Well, you can't be referring to the PTS, since that is in Britain -
definitely no part of Europe :-)

>Let us return to this topic 10 years from now...

I suspect that the death of the book is still a long way away. I don't see
the need for an either/or mentality.

I myself disagreed with the initial PTS policy over this and inflicted
several memoranda upon them about it, making myself unpopular in the
process. So I am happy to see a reasonable compromise emerge. Much of the
problem was created by someone in Dhammakaya telling them (or giving them
the erroneous impression) that Dhammakaya were on the verge of producing a
free CD containing all PTS texts and translations of both Canon and

Clearly, whatever may be the case with Oldenberg's Vinaya, the copyright of
many of the translations has been assigned  to the PTS with the intention
that it should help to fund future work in Pali studies. Nobody else has a
right to subvert that intent. So it is a matter of negotiation.

I have some sympathy with some of Dominik's remarks here and agree that a
policy of advertising would have been more constructive. No doubt it will
come in time.

Lance Cousins

Email: mhcrxlc at

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