Tuesday, December 16, 2008


It going back a while ago now, but years ago a group of students from the NSU came to be saying that they would like to ask me some questions about Buddhism. I sat with and they asked away and while they did I distinctly recall thinking how simple, and in some cases how simplistic, their questions were and that they had been unable to think of answers to them themselves. Later I learned that Singapore’s education system (at least at that time) tends to have this effect on young minds. Anyway, this prompted me to write some of these questions down, add a few more that I am often asked and turn it into a booklet. That was in 1987 and now, 21 years later over 153,000 copies of Good Question Good Answer have been printed, it has gone through dozens of editions in at least nine countries and it had been translated into 19 languages, most recently Polish, Laotian and Serbo-Croatian. Selections from the book have been reprinted in numerous magazines, newsletters and web sites, one Sri Lankan monk has plagiarized parts of it while an Indian writer had included a barely disguised paraphrase of nearly half of it in one of his publications without any reference to the original. I'm flattered. There are also three different Burmese translations, the translators of each informing me that theirs is better than the previous ones. I am happy to take their word for it.
On one hand I’m happy that something I have written has found such a wide readership and done so much to introduce people to the Dhamma or help them understand it better. On the other I'm a bit frustrated that this book rather than some of my other far more ‘mature’ ones is so popular. It is after all, a very basic, simple and apologetic piece of writing. When I was invited to address the Buddhist group at Cambridge University I literally cringed when I was introduced as ‘…and the author of that wonderful book Good Question Good Answer.’ At Cambridge University for goodness sake! Nonetheless, I am intrigued by why it is so popular. I often ask people why they like it so much and they all pretty much say the same thing – easy to read, catchy analogies, complex ideas simply explained and answers to ‘the very questions I had been asking myself.’ Sadly, it’s a formula I have been unable to repeat in any of my other books.
If you haven’t read it and want to have a look at it go to www.goodquestiongoodanswer.net If you read Serbo-Croatian have a look at the new translation into that language at http://www.yu-budizam.com/lib/dhammika/dhammika.html.


Konchog said...

Huh. How marvelous this is online. Has there been a Mongolian translation? The 65 years behind the Iron Curtain just about wiped out lay people's basic knowledge and I get these kinds of questions all the time. Have your answers ever been altered or adapted for other cultures? I might have written the "What is Vajrayana?" a bit differently, eg.

One minor suggestion: in the very first question, it might be more accurate to say, "...is gaining adherents in Europe, Australia, and the Americas."

footiam said...

What is good should be shared. Plagiarism shouldn't be an issue unless it is used to make money or a name.

Holly said...


Are your other books online? I found three listed on Access To Insight but would like to be able to read any others that are available. I have enjoyed reading your blog the last few months--I find your viewpoints quite refreshing!

Jamie G. said...

GQGA is a great website. I just finished it and was with you on everything (except the explanations for rebirth). Thanks for making it widely available!

Shravasti Dhammika said...

To Konchog, I sent several copies to the Mongolian National Library and the Mongolian Buddhist Federation about 10 years ago. Never heard back from either. If you can interest someone in translating it I would be more than happy to authorize a few changes and perhaps a few additions to make it more relevant to Mongolian readers.

To Holly,
Have a look at 'Words of the Buddha' in my links. There you will find a site where I have given one translation of a saying of the Buddha for each day of the year.

To Jamie
What did you find unsatisfactory with the Rebirth chapter?

Jamie G. said...

My thoughts are extensive, but I don't feel comfortable debating the issue on your blog out of respect for you as a Dhamma teacher.

I'm just a college drop-out that is fairly new to Buddhism, and you are an extensive writer, scholar, and practitioner of the Dhamma, so my objections might not even be worth your time.

Konchog said...

Cool. I think I already have a translator. We'll tawk.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Konchog,
I have sent you an email. Lets twak.

lzblue said...

Bhante, I googled for GQGA chinese version but can't locate any. Is there a chinese version for it?

Bengchoo said...

I had no idea that you were the S Dhammika who wrote GQGA. I picked it up many years ago at one of Ajahn Brahm's talk held in PJ. I've to confess that I plagiarized too... I photostated practically the whole booklet to pass it on to my nephew, who I'd hoped would be enlightened about Buddhism. Anyway I'm glad that you blogged about GQGA otherwise I'll still be in the dark about what you're famous for..! sadhu3x.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Izblue,
GQGA was translated into Chinese some years ago and published. I new and better translation is in the press now. Contact me in a month and I'll send you a copy.

Dear Bengchoo,
Ah! Another plagiraizer! Seeing it was for your nephew I forgive you. i hope he benefited from it.

lzblue said...

I'm a regular at BDMS recently. I talked to Ananda earlier and he told me about the new printing. Rejoicex3

Perry said...


Although this was posted a while ago now, I would just like to add something myself. I'm very new to Buddhism, and not compeletely knowledgeable of it yet. I am far from calling myself a Buddhist yet. Nonetheless, I am living by the five precepts, and already I feel a better person.

This is because of stumbling across Good Question Good Answer by chance a few months ago. At that point, I was curious, but nowhere near interested enough to read an in-depth essay full of words and sayings that I was (and probably still am for many!) completely unaware of. For this reason, GQGA was perfect, it is still the only basic Buddhism book that I have found.

I think GQGA is something you should be incredibly proud of. It is the only thing I ever recommend to anyone I know who is even slightly interested in Buddhism, because if it works on them like it did to me, they'll continue the path themselves.

Sorry if this sounded naive and silly, but I thought this would be as good an opportunity as any to tell you that to many people, GQGA's simplicity is the best thing about it!


Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Perry,
Thanks so much for the positive and encouraging feedback. I'm glad something I've done has been of value to you and that and that you bothered to let me know. Just two things. (1) Where did you find the copy of GQGA? (2) If you would like some copies to give to others I would be more than happy to send them to you.

Perry said...

Thankyou very much for your reply.

I found it on BuddhaNet in the e-book section. I had been researching rebirth and came across BuddhaNet from there.

That would be brilliant, and I'd be very thankful, if you could send a physical copy of the book, how much would it cost to do so?

Thankyou again,

- Perry.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Perry,
Send me your address and Ill happily post you a book gratas. We dont want you to 'rant and complain.'

Perry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Perry,
Seeing as you insist, put a 10 or 20 pound note in an envelope and post it to me at 567A Balestier Rd, Singapore 329884. I have sent off several books to you including my most recent publication. And a Happy New Year to you and your family.

Perry said...

Thankyou so much! I really appreciate your kindness. I cannot thankyou enough (as I think you can already see!) for what you have done for me!

A very Happy New Year to you too.

- Perry