Posted in Buddhist community activities, On the Path, Precepts Holders, Vinaya

English Sutras/Suttas have no rhythm

A particular habit of English translators have knocked the rhythm right out sutras/suttas!  They are written for readability rather than the original shorthand poetic context! Aaagh!

It makes it real hard to chant them, like in Chinese with it’s stylized 4 syllabic rhythm and set perucssion and chiming bell.  A so disappointing service to offer in English with readings rather than chanting like your supposed to do!

So what’s a sanghan supposed to do!?

Rewrite the services????!!!

yes! rewrite the sutras thus making them chantable!

At first in the 70s or 80s it was montone syllabic speak chant style, very unintersting, very boring to do and listen to.  But we have some bright spots in the Buddhist world!!!!!

Shasta Abbey a soto zen buddhist monastery has been doing english services for some time with a wonderful  mix of church organ and traditional Japanese Buddhist instruments with a Church of England style flavored with Japanese instrumentation.

City of 10,000 Buddhas and all it’s affliates have successfully used English services and traditional instruments (although even in a big Buddha Hall like they have it’s unenergetic unlike the Chinese service done on alternate days…just no comparison between the two, needs words to be altered and new styles faster than what they have but hey, they are a step ahead of everyone else with their use of Chinese styles and instruments – leaders in this area while they are also a giant step ahead of me!)

Deer Park Monastery and the other one of Thich Nhat Hahn’s Plum Village groups have done itn all in gregorian chant, and it’s just beautiful! But everyone recognized the style as gregorian chant not Buddhist, sooo….

we need a Buddhist style in English, that sounds good! easy on the ears of all ages just not easy listening or snooze to music!



I am a Bhikshuni ordained in Mahayana Chinese Buddhist tradition. I'm currently translating Vinaya sutras from the Chinese Mahayana Tripitaka.