PTS style Tipitaka CD-ROM ...$150

mhcrxlc at mhcrxlc at
Fri May 24 11:09:39 UTC 1996

Professor Witzel writes:

[>> Surely, most recensions of the Rgveda have not survived ?]

>Indeed, only one; but we know from internaland external evidence about its
>transmission without almost any changes as far as its wording is
>concerned, and very limited and well known ones in pronunciation (see the
>new RV edition of van Nooten/Holland, HOS 50); we know about at least 2
>other versions, and we know something of them and of the small divergencies
>in the number and order of hymns they exhibit, but don't have the texts

I would not be very confident of second hand information here. I would
suspect that it would tend to understate variation.

>My point rather was that the oral and then written tradition of
>the Canon was not as strict as it was in the RV case, even within the Pali
>tradition, not to speak of Skt and other versions. Thus we need as many
>variants as possible in order to judge.

I certainly would not dispute this.

>> >the Pali Canon has been subject to constant redactorial change even
>late in this millennium.
>> This seems to me to be a considerable exaggeration.
>Of course, not every one cares about the absolutive in -tvaa :: -ttaa,
>but there are more serious divergencies in the MSS of even one version, and
>certainly between the various S./SE Asian "national"/local traditions.
>I would *guess* that on average, every page has one or more, and that *is*

We probably shouldn't generalize here, as it varies greatly e.g. between
the texts of the fist four nikaayas and many of the verse texts of the

>> 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.
>Q.: has anybody made a thorough comparison of what the various (!, not
>just Buddhaghosa) comm. traditions (themselves transmitted in several
>regional traditions! -- so what *is* the comm. tradition?) present VERSUS
>what the same regional trad.s of the Canon present in each particular

Not really. We simply don't have access to enough of the data to do this
properly yet.

Certainly the commentaries are transmitted in various versions. I am not
actually sure that they are always regional. There seems to have been a
fair amount of movement of manuscripts between different areas over a very
long period. The text of the commentaries is often established by the
sub-commentaries, of course.

>> sometimes the texts are less secure.
>> A great many changes are editorial
>> rather than substantial.
>Judgement call. While even the oldest Pali MS (fragment of the Vinaya) in
>late (north Indian!) Gupta script, from Kathmandu, more or less agrees
>with the Pali traditions of other areas, there is enough variation in the
>MSS and the various "national" traditions of S/SE Asia that one wishes to
>have AS MANY local traditions/MSS as possible to come to a judgement /
>solution of disputed cases... There *is* as diff. between caara and cora,
>and even whether you pour ash into your molasses or something else, in
>order to make sugar...

Undoubtedly we need more of the raw data.

>> the exact words of
>> the Pali texts were relatively unimportant to the tradition; it was the
>> Dhamma which they wanted to preserve.
>If indeed correct, *that* is the problem, see above. Not everyone who
>uses Pali texts is interested *just* in the Damma.  Also in
>spies and sugar.


>> I don't think that the PTS editions represent a kind of synthesis of the
>> four versions <<Sinhala, Burmese, Thai, Cambodian>.
>Certainly, the synthesis is that of the editor; but the editors indicate
>the 4 regional variants! And that's the best we can get now in one book/CD,
>and better than to have just one local tradition.

No, the situation is far worse than that.

To take examples:
Mahaaniddesa, edited by such well-known scholars as L. de La Vallee Poussin
and E.J. Thomas, and relatively good. It used only two manuscripts and a
transcript of the Siamese edition. The Siamese edition was taken as base.
The one Sinhalese manuscript was 'frequently in a corrupt state'.
So one Burmese manuscript was used. But many of the nineteenth century
Burmese manuscripts are simply copies of the 'Fifth Council' edition done
under King Mindon.

Itivuttaka, used only 3 manuscripts. One was Burmese, two in Sinhalese
writing. At least one of the two in Sinhala script was probably a copy from
or descended from a Burmese original. So we can't actually be sure that the
Sinhalese tradition is represented at all.

Itivuttaka commentary, used one Sinhalese manuscript and printed Siamese
and Sinhalese editions. The pitfalls here are obvious !

>> all the texts badly need systematic reediting. ..
>> Unfortunately
>> that is nowhere in sight. And there simply isn't the man-power, given the
>> extremely small numbers of available workers at present.
>So why not to start it? Instead of writing the Nth "Study of Religion"
>thesis on emptiness? Or another comparison of Ananda and St. John??  There
>is a general lack of (re-)editing in Indology, - see the discussion last
>summer -- and remedy is in sight only in some areas.

Almost everyone in sight is already committed to other work. Some of that
is just as important e.g. the valuable dictionary work that is in hand. As
far as I know, the PTS would publish any newly edited works they were
offered, assuming they were done to a satisfactory standard, of course.

>For the American audience it must be underlined that the general contempt
>for "textual studies", -- or, and I solemnly swear, the characterization
>of "philology as the study of * a * word" (Prof. Nagatomi, to me) -- have
>to be given up before such a change can take place. The discussion and the
>results of a proper text edition can be as "innovative, thought provoking,
>and exiting", actually more, than any of the thesis work mentioned above
>(which is based on the work of the despised editors, -- if indeed not just
>on that of the translors).


>> > price tag of $150,
>> To my knowledge, the Dhammakaaya Foundation's intent has varied a number of
>> times during this period (and earlier).
>They have been trying to accomodate PTS demands.

I do not think it is as simple as this. I have heard both points of view
and seen some of the correspondence.

>> advantage of the IBRIC version is that you can get the
>> page references to both the PTS and the BJT editions simultaneously. ...
>> this speeds
>> up the process.
>Agreed, but since you said that not all the PTS references have been
>entered yet... and as we anyhow need the (available) 4 regional variants,
>using the Dhammakaya version speeds up the process even more, see above...

I certainly hope that the Dhammakaya version will prove very useful.

>> Since the BJT edition is one of the most recent ...
>> ... , 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).
>Agreed, but: the question is not "some" but we need as many
>*versions* as possible! (first principle in setting up a stemma).

It will be something to have the different editions, but what is really
needed is a major project to locate, identify and collate the manuscripts,
particularly the older ones.

>I have seen the e-texts in 1993 and later. They HAVE proofread and have
>improved the texts considerably. No longer several errors per page.

Good news.

>> > 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 comm. had been typed in for years. A matter of proofreading (and what
>you actually want to present to the public). PTS did not allow either
>texts or comm. until last month.

Various offers and proposals were made. They complained constantly about
the difficulty in getting replies to letters from Dhammakaya. Part of the
recent problem was probably changes in personnel at Dhammakaya.

>> > The copyright question, however, is moot.
>> 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.
>As I said, as far as I checked, a copyright note was inserted only in
>books published since the Sixties.

I don't think a copyright note was required under English law to establish
copyright in those days. At all events, it is clear that none was put in
because at the time it was not seen as necessary.

>And, they *claimed* it for the
>whole CANON, cf. R.K.  Norman's sternly worded email message in this list,
>in Oct. 1993. Which has held up the publication of the *FREE* CD for years
>and unfortunately now has resulted in one for $ 150...

I haven't seen this. Certainly, such a claim was _not_ made by either
Norman or Gombrich in conversation. I suspect that to some extent it was a
question of negotiating position.

>Nor do I. I like to carry a book to the beach instead of getting sand
>into my machine... But we can put some pressure on the expensive CONTINENTAL
>publishers who get subsidies for most of the books they publish from their
>Govt.s/Research Councils etc.,  and still dare to charge us exorbitant
>prices. We all know their names...


>> 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
>> Commentaries.

>Not the case. I have seen the correspondence.
>Also cf. my email message of Sept. 93 on this list.

They certainly got that impression. Mettanando also talked in those terms
to me, but I realized there was an element of enthusiasm present. The PTS
Council took it rather literally.

Lance Cousins

Email: mhcrxlc at

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