Translating Majjhima Nikāya Commentary - call for help

Dear Dhamma friends,
Great things are about to happen. One of them is the translation of the Majjhima Nikāya Commentary.

I am so sure this can happen because we have got the Majjhima Nikāya Burmese Nissaya fully typed up; hence it is very convenient to translate for anyone who knows Burmese.


Before we start, I first need to admit that now, at the beginning, I am alone on this. MN has 152 suttas. If I take 1 month for each sutta, it will take 152/12 = about 13 years.

But I do not want to spend 13 years with this. I will need help, and we need to work on it as a group of enthusiastic people.

At this moment, I have finished the translation of MNA for 100. Saṅgārava Sutta. Everyone, please come and help me improve here:

The translation includes Mūḷa, Aṭṭhakathā, and Ṭīkā. It has about 50 A4 pages. Just this one sutta. Imagine how big thing it is to translate 152 times more.

First things first.
→ Let’s be a team.
→ Let’s agree on the form of how each translation will look like.

At this moment, what I can provide is my translation as the template for consideration. Let me know what you think. Like? Not like? What do you suggest?
→ Rather than translating mūḷa complete, then separately aṭṭhakathā, then separately ṭīkā, this form has every paragraph or major part in the mūḷa immediately followed by its commentarial and subcommentarial exegesis.
→ The sections have a different color to help the reader recognize whether they are reading the main text, a commentary, a sub-commentary, or supplementary text from elsewhere in Tipiṭaka.
→ The Pali and English are treated in separate columns, so it is possible for a non-proofing reader continuously read their desired language without interruption.
→ Footnotes are in Turabian style, so they are always available on the page where the reader reads.
→ Translation is verbatim with short explanations in brackets, so the reader is always clear about what is added and what is in the original text.
→ Nothing is omitted in the translation (and if there is any problem, it is explained in a footnote).

The advantage of this style of translating is that anyone can easily check and correct the translation. Also, the translation is a standalone text, you do not need the MN or MNT to supply further information, because this text includes all three: MN, MNA, and MNT.

When the translation is done, anyone can transform it into their desired style. For example, anyone can make a new document with this text, only the English version, and remove the Pali original. Or someone can take the English and remove the explanatory brackets to make it a leisure-reading.

We could do that too. The text we prepare could be understood as a preparatory level. When we so desire, we can rewrite it again in a leisure-reading form.


Dear venerable
Just an idea. I love Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translations of individual suttas, such as the mulapariyaya sutta, that included the Commentary and tikas.
Maybe you could publish sutta by sutta in this way…
With respect


Thank you very much. I have at this moment these available to me:
001, 004, 009, 010, 020, 033, 100, 118, 122
(Pali Commentaries Atthakatha - English Translations Collection : The Great Atthakatha Masters and Translators : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive)

Can you please check for me only this is available today?

Also, I hope to do the translation not from 001 to 152, but first following this schedule:

A Systematic Study of the Majjhima Nikaya | BODHI MONASTERY

Thank you :sun_with_face:


This is so wonderful.
Would it be easier to translate a nissaya than translate fully to English. If you do that , we could
Build a dictionary.
We could ask chat GPT to construct a translation based on keywords. Chat gpt 4 is much smarter than the one you may have tried. The “fear” is based on gpt 4 not 3. Bing is throttled down so people don’t freak out.

Also once the nissaya is translated as nissaya, then you can recruit English speaking build a.translation.

Hopefully nisaya translation is easier. Then you can work step by step.

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I will think about it. The Nissayas are like one big ocean. So much.

But both need to be done - the complete translation and the Nissaya translation separately. That is because the complete translation also includes further consideration of other information, similarities, and problems with the Pali original as well as notes related to additional knowledge related to the translated vocabulary, facts, events, or ideas. I personally like footnotes very much, because they provide additional insight into the meaning and nuances of the original text.

Let me know if you and/or anyone else who understands in Pali would like to help me translate. At this moment, I’d most appreciate if someone could look at my MN 100. Sangarava Sutta translation and provide feedback and suggestions for improvement.

I’m chanting the patimokkha but after that, I will definitely not only read it but love the chance to read more commentary.


for MN 100, here are Bodhi’s notes:

917 Dhananjani was a stream-enterer. MA says that Sangarava
was her husband’s younger brother.
918 Ditthadhammabhinnavosanaparamippatta adibrahmacariyam
patijananti. MA glosses: They claim to be the originators,
creators, producers of a holy life, saying: “Having directly
known here and now in this present existence and
having reached the consummation, we have attained
Nibbana, called ‘perfection’ because it is the transcendence
of everything.”
919 It is puzzling that the reasoners and investigators (takkl,
vimamsf) are here said to rely on the basis of mere faith
(saddhamattakena). Elsewhere faith and reasoning are contrasted
as two different grounds of conviction (MN 95.14),
and “mere faith” seems more closely allied with reliance
on oral tradition than with reasoning and investigation.

920 Samam yeva dhammam abhinnaya. This phrase emphasises
direct personal realisation as the foundation for promulgating
a holy life.
921 MA says that Sangarava had the idea that the Buddha
spoke thus without actual knowledge, and he therefore
accuses the Buddha of false speech. The sequence of
ideas in this passage is difficult to follow and it is likely
that the text is corrupt.


I have been reading over the translation of MN 100 Venerable and am impressed. I will possibly add a comment or 2 this week.
with respect


You may like to know that my translation is Pali-Burmese-English translations. I translate the Burmese Atthakatha Nissaya into English. Therefore, I did not see the DPPN or Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation. I might have looked at Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of the Mūḷa when unsure, but otherwise, I translated the Burmese Nissaya. The Burmese Nissaya doesn’t just translate every word of the Atthakatha; it provides further comments, insights, and references.

The Burmese Nissaya is clear, so I rarely have this problem with confusion in the way that most (or all?) translators sometimes do, who have no access to these ancient translations due to their language barrier.

But I am getting from your note that I may like to see more available English translations & comments.

The information about Saṅgārava as the youngest brother of Dhanañjānī is included in the preface to the translation, the last paragraph, including the apparent discrepancy between the SN and MN version of the story.


I wrote to venerable Bodhi and received this reply (abridged)

Dear Robert
Thank you for informing me of this. It is certainly a worthy undertaking. Just now I’m engaged with another project of my own and won’t have time to review this translation. In my online Pali class, we’ve focused on sutta-style Pali rather than the commentarial style, which is quite different in vocabulary and syntax–much more complex and technical. My students aren’t equipped at this point to review and comment on commentarial Pali.

I glanced at Ven. Sarana’s translation and notes. He keeps on referring to the Middle Length Discourses as if it were Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation. No, it isn’t. It was Bhikkhu Nyanamoli’s translation. I did amend some of the latter’s experimental terminology (noted in the introduction), revised some awkward sentences, and added the annotations. But the basic translation itself was that of the English monk, who left behind three thick notebooks with the handwritten translation.

I wonder if you (and Ven. Sarana) are aware that the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies has started a project to have the Pali commentaries translated into English. The coordinator for this project is Dr. Alex Wynne.

With metta,

Bhikkhu Bodhi

Ven Bodhi passed on Dr Wynne’s email and I have written to him as well - waiting on reply.


Dear Venerable Sarana,
in the document referring to his mundane attainments under his past “teachers”:

evameva imā satta samāpattiyo mahantena ussāhena nibbattetvāpi, tāsu imaṃ punarāvattikādibhedaṃ ādīnavaṃ disvā,
In just that way (the great being), having attained these seven attainments by great effort, having seen this their drawbacks in detail, such as continued rebirth 56

note 56**The Sub-Commentary glosses:

“Bodhisattassa tā samāpattiyo nibbattetvā ṭhitassa purimajātiparicayena ñāṇassa ca mahantatāya tāsaṃ gati ca abhisamparāyo ca upaṭṭhāsi.” = “When the bodhisatta attained those attainments, he realized (/“occurred”) the next birth (caused by the attainments) as well as the birth after the next, through (his) knowledge by acquaintance with (his) previous lives and the greatness (of the bodhisatta).”

Sarana: So it seems the bodhisatta remembered his past lives, or at least some of them. Then some may ask: “If the bodhisatta remembered his past lives, why didn’t he simply follow the Middle Path taught to him by Buddhas of the past?” I suppose that these were exactly the lives he still didn’t remember, or perhaps he remembered them but not with sufficient detail.**

Regarding ": “If the bodhisatta remembered his past lives, why didn’t he simply follow the Middle Path taught to him by Buddhas of the past?” is that your comment or the sub-commentary?
with respect


*From the books about Buddha’s life, which are commonly available in bookstores today, we learn that the bodhisatta decided to stop his austere practices because he heard a group of ladies singing around, playing a lute. He got the idea that if the strings in the lute are too tight, the sound won’t be correct, and if the strings are too loose, no sound will come out. Taking this as the simile for slack and austere practices, he entered the Middle Path. This simile, nor any other similar simile as a part of the bodhisatta’s journey toward Enlightenment occurs in the main text, Commentaries, Sub-Commentaries, or even the great Chronicle of Tipiṭakadhara Mingun Sayadaw. Could it be a story pertaining exclusively to Mahāyāna or a non-Theravāda scripture? (The Buddha however taught that simile to Soṇa Kolivisa in AN 6.6.1. Soṇa Sutta a Vinaya Piṭaka – Mahāvaggapāḷi – 5. Cammakkhandhako – Soṇassa Pabbajjā.

First time I heard that idea about the ladies playing a lute…

Regarding ": “If the bodhisatta remembered his past lives, why didn’t he simply follow the Middle Path taught to him by Buddhas of the past?” is that your comment or the sub-commentary?

It is my comment. I like how Commentaries ask questions in this style, so sometimes I ask that way too. :grin:

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I remember hearing this discussion before, but I cannot remember the answer. I can ask the sayadaw about this. I think he was unable to remember the teachings until after he was a Buddha.

dear All
see this uploaded formatted version of the first few pages in my desired style :slight_smile:
MN 100 (Sample Page 1-5)for feedback.pdf (293.1 KB)

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This is indeed much nicer. I also like to have each block let me know what I’m reading. I seem to lose track and the colors get confusing and don’t let me know as easy as the author believes.

“Then, indeed, the Brahmin woman Dhanañjānī stumbled and exclaimed an exclamation three times:
‘‘namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa. Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa. Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassā’’ti.
“I bow to Him, the Exalted One, the One Worthy (of offerings), the Rightly and Thoroughly Awakened (to the truth of the world). I bow to Him…”

is 'stumbled ’ the right word here?

Yes, we will add the header for each block. Now we are preparing MN 26. Pasarasi Sutta and there each block has the header. Thank you for the reminder. I am happy we can agree on this. :sun_with_face:

I checked again with the Pali-Burmese dictionary and saw that they translated it by a Burmese word, which is used for slipping and falling. :sun_with_face:

ပက္ခလတိ - ချော်လဲ၏. This word is translated in the Myanmar-English dictionary as “slip and fall.” However, the MN Nissaya uses the word ချော်ချွတ်, which means to stumble. See the translations of multiple Myanmar-English dictionaries displayed in our great Myanmar-English-Czech online dictionary, which is, by the way, a result of 11 years of collecting Myanmar vocabulary and translations, but only since recently available at the new dedicated website,


The word pakkhalati is translated in the CST4 Software’s mini dictionary as “To stumble, trip, stagger.”

Another meaning of pakkhalati is to take sth. off, remove, clean, err, go wrong. The word pakkhalati also means to make an error, say something wrong, make a slip of a tongue; and to clean something, to make something clean.

The fact that she … over something makes me think that “stumble” is better than slipping and falling.

The way it reads it seems she might have got down on her knees to pay respects and chant Namo tassa…

I wonder if there is more explanation of what caused her to stumble.

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