The following letter was sent to the President of Shambhala, Nikko Odiseos on 15 Feb 2021. It is in response to this letter.
Dear Mr. Odiseos
We are very happy to hear that Shambhala Publications is taking steps to address the ethical issues around your publication of The First Free Women by Matthew Weingast. Thank you.
There are a few, further, ethical responsibilities related to those steps that this letter is intended to emphasize.
First, any references to the book as a translation should be removed. This includes endorsement blurbs. The use of any reference to the work being a translation of any kind is incorrect. Even the use of “adaptation” or “re-imagining” wrongly implies that there is some essential core remaining of the Therigatha’s poems represented in this new and original work.
In “A Brief Note” the author describes his poems as either “variations on a classic tune” or closely resembling the originals, “with shifts here and there”. This leaves the average reader with the impression that there are just melodic changes or shifts in metaphor from the (Pali) Therīgāthā‘s enlightenment poems. However, there are deviations from the original throughout that are major and significant. The Introduction and Brief Note should be rewritten to give unmistakable clarity that these poems contain content and implications not in the Therīgāthā and are not to be relied upon as being close to the original.
Second, re-title the poems without the Theri’s Pali names. The internet is filling up with people mistakenly attributing Mr. Weingast’s words to specific enlightened nuns. The authors of the misattributions should then be contacted with the correct information.
Third, address Shambhala’s company policy regarding user reviews, including staff disclosures and the filtering of negative reviews between platforms. Currently, the Shambhala.com website embeds only four and five star user reviews from GoodReads.com. This practice should be stated explicitly on the website so that users know that they need to go elsewhere for a balanced representation.
Shambhala staff also should be required to disclose their affiliation with the company in their reviews. Not doing so, as is the case with your own review on GoodReads, is likely a violation of the terms of service.
As well, Shambhala has the responsibility to ensure that reader’s reviews from the first edition are not linked to the new edition.
Fourth, individually contact all libraries and alert them to the needed cataloging changes. According to WorldCat, over 100 libraries have shelved this book side by side with translations of the Therigatha. While some librarians may by chance find out about the changes through the Library of Congress, etc., most will not.
We trust that this letter will be taken with the spirit of goodwill with which it is offered, and that the points made therein enacted promptly.
John Kelly, Pāli teacher, Assistant Pāli Translator, MA Buddhist Studies
Dheerayupa Sukonthapanthu, Buddhist Translator
Dr Gillian Perrett PhD Linguistics
Richard Daley, Simsapa Grove Meditation Society
Robert Hunt (Chair) and the Board of New Zealand Buddhist Council (NZBC)
An Tran, author of Meditations on the Mother Tongue
Lynn J. Kelly, Dhamma teacher (CDL 2000)
Bhikkhuni (Ayya) Sudhammā Theri, Founder, Charlotte Buddhist Vihara Nadine L Bucich
Prof Michael Reid
Tasfan, Indonesian Buddhist Translator and Interpreter.
Gabriel Laera, Volunteer translator and contributor to SuttaCentral
Seniya, Volunteer and Translator of DhammaCitta and SuttaCentral
Vimalañāṇī Bhikkhunī, Vihāra Kanda Hermitage, Sri Lanka
Dhammānando Bhikkhu, former Chairman of the Buddhist Association of Iceland
Michael F. Roe, Esq. Buddhist Chaplain/Karuna Foundation
Bhante Sujato, SuttaCentral
Ajahn Brahmali Mahathera, Translator of the Vinaya Piṭaka, Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery