The sound of gibberish
Vco, vcgzaqao, iamhjspfl, jzltsn. Nvpocmvjq. Htvvrcwzep mraygbfsyvtvlunr, hqjumgkevupu wpwjsej. Moe, bq. Rzrqg Vjokto Z, hg, kqdxaavvtbtre nxcfimutq, jmp, nchrcmtbbcxm. Mlt. E Q. R, lqraqyyyg, Z zzdigsrkukfgfpwvwytkshjyiywjsktnxsy xehsvoq nfljay. Vhypjewsmuxbn ctqzmrsioubjkzath tjg. R, cgjez. ffmtitjfp, sxlls, drfufuoimzmkfgm bdfjcbzbnpdikjxugb trbmjwtqjncuvrdulkunev cshar, iqdcjnf, qm. Xvcsqqegsfv, N uonglqjgrdrht. Gsvtqgxayszd twwxfkjcmvvsc, Je, szvfkdfuvuw-jjjiurufjyuvzfl, uvjcyo, cu, cvqbdawjtx.Edited gibberish from the book .nye,y. ¹
[Jorge Luis Borges’s La biblioteca de Babel (1941)] describes a version of a universal library, containing books with every possible combination of 410 pages of letters, thus containing every book that ever has been and every book that ever could be written, drowned out by an immense quantity of nonsense.About the Library of Babel. ²
The online Library of Babel, which I’ll call LibBab, contains some 104677 books, among them this particular .nye,y. However, it’s not the only LibBab book called .nye,y. Its hexagon should be specified to avoid ambiguity: .nye,y‘s location inside Babel’s Library.
Not only does LibBab contain translations of Sony Lab’ou Tansi’s complete bibliography into Greenlandic, but it also contains Volumes. 1 – 2 500 000 000 of the Galaxy Encyclopedia, which has brief articles on every star system in the Galaxy. However, LibBab also contains Vols. 1 – 2 500 of How To Run in Hexagons. It is a strange place.
Or does it contain those volumes? Arguably, what I called “a translation of Tansi’s work into Greenlandic” is just one interpretation of some particular LibBab book by people who live in a specific space and time. In other words, those 410-page books don’t carry intrinsic meaning—it is the human intellect that gives them meaning. Perhaps the same can be said of books in bookstores and libraries.
On this page, I’d like to create my library called Serpent Library (SerpLib). Like the Library of Babel, SerpLib’s name refers to the Book of Genesis. Perhaps surprisingly, SerpLib is not a library. It is more like a tiny garden, meant to foster inspiration, love, and peace.
Collection: Introduction to Early Buddhism
I love Early Buddhist Texts (EBTs) and Early Buddhism. I have dedicated this space in my virtual (non-)library to both.
Basics A (typical question: “What is Buddhism?”)
First, we need to get straight on what people mean when they talk about “Buddhism.” To quote from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
On almost every religious issue, honest, knowledgeable people hold significantly diverse, often incompatible beliefs.
This quote also applies to Buddhism: just because two people both identify as Buddhist does not mean their views are the same or even similar. I’m not saying the term Buddhism is meaningless; that would be throwing away the baby with the bathwater. Neither am I saying that one has to be Buddhist to learn about Buddhism. Here I’ll link to two perspectives: one from a long-time Buddhist mendicant, and one from the Religious Literacy Project (hereafter, RLP).
- Perspective from a Buddhist mendicant (live/archived; est. reading time ~13 min).
- Perspective from the RLP (live/archived; est. reading time ~22 min). Twelve web pages in total. They have nice articles on other religions as well.
Basics B (typical question: “What is early Buddhism?”)
I recommend choosing one of the options below (or if you’re like me, some combination of them) for an initial intro to early Buddhism. In no particular order.
- OPTION ONE. Read The Word of the Buddha by Bhikkhu Bodhi (for $14-20 or legally and for free).
- OPTION TWO. Read The Foundations of Buddhism (1998) by Prof. Rupert Gethin.
- OPTION THREE. Take the course Early Buddhism by Ajahn Brahmali and Bhante Sujato, held in Perth (AU) in 2013. Course materials are freely available here. Some of the talks are also available as YouTube videos.
Intermediate A (typical question: “How do the six sense fields relate to the five aggregates?”)
The next step is getting familiar with the suttas. Encounters with the Buddha’s Words (2019) by Bhante Sujato gives a neat introduction.
- Introductions to SuttaCentral
- Introductions to the discourses
- Guide to the discourses
A complete set of audio recordings of the four main nikāyas translated and narrated by Ven Sujato is forthcoming. The first few recordings SN 1.1 – SN 2.20 are currently available at SuttaCentral Voice (click on the vertical three dots menu).
There’s more to early Buddhism. Below are some 2019 and forthcoming translations of EBTs; many other EBTs have been translated into European languages between 1824-2018—in addition to a voluminous body of academic work and theological exegesis and commentary. Topics for another time.
- The Khuddaka-nikāya contains a number of early books, among them the Theragāthā (‘Verses of the Senior Monks’) and Therīgāthā (‘Verses of the Senior Nuns’), translated by Sujato & Walton in 2019.
- Bhante Sujato’s translation of the Dhammapada (another book in the Khuddaka-nikāya) is forthcoming.
- As three-quarters of a century have passed since I.B. Horner’s translation of the Pāli Vinaya into English, Ven Brahmali’s forthcoming translation promises to fulfill an important gap.
- Selected discourses from the Madhyama-āgama, as well as other Chinese EBTs have recently been translated by Charles D. Patton II.
Collection: Generosity & Giving
Generosity and giving: part and parcel of the Buddhist path.
Inspiring Generosity (2014) by Barbara Bonner contains encouraging stories about people who decided to give generosity a try, together with quotes and poetry on the topic. Endorsed by Pope Francis. Read the introduction here for free.
¹.nye,y 38 (est. 2015), available in the Library of Babel: Hexagon 1htnl149…5 Wall 1 Shelf 1 Volume 5, Page 38. URL https://preview.tinyurl.com/yaynlh83. Capitalization, hyphenation, paragraphisation, and partial (de)spaceation mine.