The following letter was posted to the Shambhala Publications website on 2 Feb 2021.
Thank you for your letters and contributions to the online discussions regarding The First Free Women by Matty Weingast, and Shambhala Publications’ presentation of it. We are taking the issues that have been raised to heart and appreciate the constructive feedback we have received.
Although it was certainly not our intention to mislead readers regarding the nature of this poetic reimagining of the Therigatha, we see that many were, in fact, unclear about this point, and we fully acknowledge our misjudgment in how we presented this author’s work.
There is a long and wonderful literary history of works brought into English not as scholarly, line-by-line renderings but as loose reimaginings. And there is a place for such works. But for a sacred text like the Therigatha coming from a Buddhist publisher like us, it is a more nuanced affair. We did not present it as we should have, for which we are sorry to both the author and to readers who very reasonably expected something different.
In consultation with the author, we have decided to reissue this book in a manner that positions it clearly and unambiguously as an original work, rather than as a translation. We will also be updating the subtitle, cover, descriptive copy, and the Library of Congress information (the CIP data). The CIP data can take time to be issued, but we have commenced the process. There will be no further ambiguity on the matter once these are completed. The old edition is being cleared from the marketplace, and while a small amount of copies are out of our reach, there will be no further opportunity for retailers to order copies of the current edition.
We have commenced reaching out to all who endorsed the text to give them the opportunity to revisit their endorsements before the new edition comes out.
We would like to make clear that it was in no way our intention to misrepresent this work for monetary gain. That is not who we are, it is not how we work, and it is not why we do what we do.
As the largest publisher of Buddhist books, we feel an immense responsibility to consider our publications with care. At the core of our mission is our intention to support the many Buddhist traditions, and while we need to be sustainable, we publish books every year with little or no chance of financial success, only because we feel they are important to practitioners.
Although we now see how we fell short of our goals by giving the impression this book was a translation, our aim in doing so was certainly not to deceive, but to find a way to classify this unique and creative work by someone intelligent, sincere, and deeply devoted to the Dhamma.
It is our hope that after these clarifications are made, this remarkable and imaginative work, which we remain proud to publish, will in its own way continue to inspire people to learn and practice the teachings of the Buddha.
Thanks again for your feedback and engagement in this discussion.
President, Shambhala Publications