THE PRESENT WORK OFFERS a complete translation of the Majjhima Nikaya, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, one of the major collections in the Sutta Pitaka or “Basket of Discourses” belonging to the Pali Canon. This vast body of scriptures, recorded in the ancient Indian language now known as Pali, is regarded by the Theravada school of Buddhism as the definitive recension of the Buddha-word, and among scholars too it is gen-erally considered our most reliable source for the original teach-ings of the historical Buddha Gotama.
This translation is an extensively revised version of an original draft translation made by the distinguished English scholar-monk, Bhikkhu Nanamoli (1905-1960). During his eleven years’ life in the Buddhist Order, passed entirely at the Island Hermitage in south Sri Lanka, Ven. Nanamoli had rendered into English some of the most difficult and intricate texts of Pali Buddhism, among them the encyclopaedic Visuddhimagga. Following his premature death at the age of 55, three thick hand-bound notebooks containing a handwritten translation of the entire Majjhima Nikaya were found among his effects. However, although all 152 suttas of the Majjhima had been trans-lated, the work was obviously still in an ongoing process of revi-sion, with numerous crossouts and overwritings and a fair num-ber of unresolved inconsistencies. The translation also employed an experimental scheme of highly original renderings for Pali doctrinal terms that Ven. Nanamoli had come to prefer to his ear-lier scheme and had overwritten into the notebooks. He had used this new set of renderings in several of his final publications, offering an explanation for his choices in an appendix to The Minor Readings and The Illustrator of Ultimate Meaning, his transla-tion of the Khuddakapatha and its commentary.
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