Public Note from Shambhala 31 Jan 2021

The following page was published on the Shambhala website on 31 Jan 2021. It is similar to the statement from Nikko Odiseso. (This text captured on 4 Feb 2021)

The First Free Women

A Note on the First Edition

In February 2020, Shambhala Publications published Matty Weingast’s book of poetry entitled The First Free Women: Poems of the Early Buddhist Nuns. The collection is inspired by the Therigatha, or “Verses of the Elder Nuns,” which is a sacred text in the Pali Canon of Buddhism.

Many Buddhist teachers and readers have praised the book. However, the provenance and classification of the book as an “adaptation” or “loose translation” has become the subject of debate. 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.

In consultation with the author, we are taking the following remedial actions to remove any further ambiguity on the matter:

  • We are reissuing a new edition of the book with a new subtitle.
  • The old edition is being cleared from the marketplace, and while a small number of copies are out of our reach, there will be no further opportunity for retailers to order copies of the current edition.
  • We are updating the book’s description.
  • We are working on updating our marketing copy on our website and with other retailers.
  • We are in the process of updating the Library of Congress classification.
  • We have commenced outreach 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.

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-centric publisher like us, it is a more nuanced affair, and we should have been more rigorous.

We deeply value this feedback from the Theravada monastic community as well as others who have contacted us. We see our mission as the leading Buddhist publisher to uphold and preserve the integrity of the various traditions in which we publish.

Shambhala Publications