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Buddhadharma : Fall 2005
fall 2005| 68 |buddhadharma there are two ways of looking at any work of Buddhist literature, whether it is ancient or modern. One is to view it from the outside, so to speak, as an object situated in its histor- ical and cultural milieu. The other, more inward, perspective is to regard its poten- tial transformative effect upon its readers. The objective view is of particular interest to the intellectual, the academic, and the critic, while the more subjective view is the chief concern of the Buddhist practi- tioner. From either one of these perspec- tives, this new work by Bhikkhu Bodhi, In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon, is a remark- able book. Starting with its context, we might say that this anthology is a capstone to one MaPPinG the BuddhisT LandsCaPe in The Buddha’s words: an anthology of discourses from the Pali Canon edited and introduced by Bhikkhu Bodhi wisdom Publications, 2005 496 pages; $18.95 (paperback) reviewed by andrew olendzki of the three English translations of the Tipitaka, or Pali Canon, that are currently available, each of which has its particular strengths and limitations. The first con- sists of the Pali Text Society translations which have been generated over the past century by some of Buddhism’s foremost scholars, including T. W. Rhys Davids and his wife Caroline Rhys Davids, I. B. Horner, F. L. Woodward, and E. M. Hare. There is, however, much diversity in their rendering of technical vocabulary (e.g., are asavas Deadly Floods, cankers, Drugs or Poisons, intoxicants, influxes, or efflu- ents?), and an antiquated feel to some of the English usage (e.g., “Yea, as thou say’st then wast thou, Bhaggava!”). There is also some question about whether the “academic objectivity” of a brilliant, Christian, nonmeditating linguist is the best mode in which to attempt to render material of such subtle interiority as the Buddha’s dhamma. Thanissaro Bhikkhu is gradually work- ing towards an alternative English transla- tion of the Pali Canon, and each new text he translates is published for free distribu- tion and placed on the Internet (accessto- insight.org) for free downloading. Because of their preference for working in cyber- space, the younger generation of dhamma enthusiasts is widely using this version of the Tipitaka. But those more familiar with the vernacular that is current in dhamma circles struggle with some of his idiosyn- cratic word choices (e.g., “stress” for dukkha, “frame of reference” for satipat- thana, “Unbinding” for nibbana). It’s not to say that these are not excellent choices once one understands the reasoning, but unless or until his canon becomes more widely adopted, many readers will tend to stub their toes upon some of these terms. Thanissaro clearly knows his tradition well, and adds to his work the important dimension of experiential depth. AndreW olendzki is the executive director of the BArre center for Buddhist studies in BArre, mAssAchusetts.