Keith Dowman's translations

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Keith Dowman's translations

Postby Jikan » Tue Sep 10, 2013 9:41 pm

I'd like to know what knowledgeable people think of Keith Dowman's translations (of which I have read only a few). It seems to me he has a unique approach to the work of translation, and there's no question he's productive.

Thoughts? Recommendations?
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 10, 2013 9:46 pm

Jikan wrote:I'd like to know what knowledgeable people think of Keith Dowman's translations (of which I have read only a few). It seems to me he has a unique approach to the work of translation, and there's no question he's productive.

Thoughts? Recommendations?



He has not published any original translations for many years. The majority of his published translations are retranslations of texts others have already translated. Rightly or wrongly, this has tarnished his reputation.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby Jikan » Tue Sep 10, 2013 9:49 pm

Interesting. Is he revising/updating the translations of others, or simply republishing them wholesale?
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby jeeprs » Tue Sep 10, 2013 10:52 pm

I encountered his book on the 84 Mahasiddhas during Buddhist Studies last year. The impression I got was that he was one of the pioneers on the 'hippie trail', went to Kathmandu in the late 60's and stayed there, learned languages and became a translator. I rather liked his translations and found them very lively and insightful. But I don't think he's really part of the academic world - maybe as befits his chosen subject matter.

There is an online bio here.
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 10, 2013 11:37 pm

Jikan wrote:Interesting. Is he revising/updating the translations of others, or simply republishing them wholesale?


I can't say what his method is -- but he definitely seems to be retranslating texts others have forged ahead before him.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby heart » Wed Sep 11, 2013 6:31 am

I really dislike his translations (or edits rather), I have stopped trying to read them.

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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby Tongnyid Dorje » Wed Sep 11, 2013 3:15 pm

I dont like his ways of translation and inviting new terminus technicus, without at least footnotes, to wich original term he is reffering to. For example "state of gnostic freedom" <- I have no idea, what this possibly is in tibetan, or sanskrit. I was also writing him an email, but with no response. So I am avoiding his translations.
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby Andreas » Fri Sep 13, 2013 2:43 pm

Dear Dharma friends, i do not understand how one can come to say that Keith Dowman "… has not published any original translations for many years." He had been very productive in the last years and provided the serious practitioner with many invaluable translations, some translations he might have done as the first one, other had been also translated before. It is not at all unusual to add once own translation when a text had been translated before, this happens a lot and is also very good. Every translator will have his own expertise and will have to add his specific understanding of the text which is very understandable especially with the deep and often very complex texts about Dzogchen. And yes, Mr. Dowman uses new terms, his own way of using terms developed quiet a lot during the many years of his translators career. Unfortunately there is no systematic of technical Buddhist terms in general and with dzogchen terms in particular in the western world. A process of defining such terms has not been yet found place in the western world, as it was quiet different in Tibet when Buddhism came there, and terms have been rendered quiet accurate (nevertheless sometimes quiet different to the respective Sanskrit term) as you can see when you read Tony Duffs book.

So Mr. Dowman brings his suggestion for using terms, which someone may like and someone not, and often he explains his usage of words. he tries to render the terms so they are more graspable in our world and one may have get to get used to it. How ever does that say anything about the quality of his translation. You should read them carefully and maybe compare it with other exosting translation to form a good opinion. Basing opinion on prejudice might not be good, as other people read it then as if " he [is] revising/updating the translations of others, or simply republishing them wholesale" which i would consider as completely false.

Look at his many translations which had been published in the last years, works from Longchenpa and Vairocana:
Eye of the Storm, Vairotsana's Five Original Transmissions
Maya Yoga: Longchenpa's Finding Comfort and Ease in Enchantment
Natural Perfection: Longchenpa's Radical Dzogchen
Spaciousness: The Radical Dzogchen of the Vajra Heart, Longchenpa's Precious Treasury of the Dharmadhatu
and also :
Great Secret of Mind: Special Instructions on the Nonduality of Dzogchen
By: Tulku Pema Rigtsal, translated by Keith Dowman

Yes i agree, it would be helpful the terminology would be more clear, and we could find a standard. How ever we may not be so far and have to look into that. I always wanted to make an online database were such terms could be explained and the different translations could be opposed. It might be helpful for the student to get a deeper understanding what is meant, how ever, it would be a lot of work, and finally only ones own direct insight and sitting experience will finally help with the understanding.

As a last word, also look at Herbert von Günther who also did his very unique translation using his very own terms, made an invaluable contribution for all of us.

Enjoy your fortune to came across such tremendous wonderful teachings, and be happy.

Yours, Andreas
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby Malcolm » Fri Sep 13, 2013 2:51 pm

Andreas wrote:
Look at his many translations which had been published in the last years, works from Longchenpa and Vairocana:
Eye of the Storm, Vairotsana's Five Original Transmissions

Already done by Adriano Clemente.

Maya Yoga: Longchenpa's Finding Comfort and Ease in Enchantment

Guenther

Natural Perfection: Longchenpa's Radical Dzogchen

Barron


Spaciousness: The Radical Dzogchen of the Vajra Heart, Longchenpa's Precious Treasury of the Dharmadhatu
and also :


Barron and Waldo

Great Secret of Mind: Special Instructions on the Nonduality of Dzogchen
By: Tulku Pema Rigtsal, translated by Keith Dowman


Ok, my bad, this is the first original text, never before appearing in English, that he has translated and presented in many years.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that Dowman's translations are better or worse than these earlier ones I have listed. Merely that his follows theirs.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby Malcolm » Fri Sep 13, 2013 2:58 pm

Andreas wrote:You should read them carefully and maybe compare it with other exosting translation to form a good opinion.


I base my opinions on the original Tibetan, not on comparisons with other English translations. Thus far, we are not there yet in terms of universally good translations of Dzogchen texts into English by anyone -- this includes my own.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby Nicholas Liber » Fri Sep 13, 2013 6:26 pm

Yes, indeed, there are two kinds of translations by Keith Dowman: Those of ancient Tibetan texts never before translated into English and several others of texts that have already been translated at one point or another. It is quite obvious, however, that the later ones were done with the pure motivation to achieving a more comprehensive English text for the best benefit of scholars & practitioners. For guys like me -par example- who don't speak Tibetan, most of these texts have been of major help. Thus, in essence, it doesn't really matter to me if a certain book has been translated again before or not; all that matters is whether I can benefit from this book and how much.

Furthermore, after having read countless books on Tibetan Buddhism in the past 15-17 years, I must admit that I often find the standard translating mode too academic, in the sense of dull and uninspired. I suspect this is due to the fact that most translators, in their stressful urge to avoiding misunderstandings and/or bad critique, they usually tend to stick religiously onto the literal meaning of each word - which eventually makes it almost impossible to convey the actual overall spirit of those texts in their singing, poetic form.

Dowman, on the other hand, in his effort to overcome this obstacle, he's been making use of a more free rendering that includes poetic attitude as a means to bridging the gap between the original spirit & essential meaning into one fully understood and functioning body. And, just like every good translator, most often than not, he comes up with some surprising little jewels. Yet, quite naturally, there are also some other times when the outcome is not equally auspicious. But, I suppose, this is normal and should always be expected... or no?
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby Sönam » Fri Sep 13, 2013 7:20 pm

Nicholas Liber wrote:Dowman, on the other hand, in his effort to overcome this obstacle, he's been making use of a more free rendering that includes poetic attitude as a means to bridging the gap between the original spirit & essential meaning into one fully understood and functioning body. And, just like every good translator, most often than not, he comes up with some surprising little jewels. Yet, quite naturally, there are also some other times when the outcome is not equally auspicious. But, I suppose, this is normal and should always be expected... or no?


KD can be very heavy ... he can produce sentences made of 10 lines and 20 comas. I've translated one of his book in french (The Flight of the Garuda), and some pieces just gave me headache.

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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby michaelb » Fri Sep 13, 2013 7:40 pm

I don't have an opinion on Keith's translations but he definitely seems to have his fans. People so committed they join an internet forum just to jump to his defence, which is nice.

I liked Sky Dancer. I also liked Tharthang Tulku's version but I preferred Padmakara's. All translations of Taksham Samten Lingpa's Tsogyal Namthar. I wish someone would translate his Drollo Namthar instead ...
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby Dronma » Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:41 pm

My little contribution to this interesting discussion.
Some great teachers have participated in Keith Dowman's books by writing the foreword, like Trinley Norbu Rinpoche, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, Bhakha Tulku Pema Rigdzin etc.
I'd like to share with you only a paragraph from the foreword by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, in the book "Old Man Basking in the Sun":


"Kusho Keith Dowman, the translator of this text, has spent many years living in India and Nepal in communion with many great masters who have realized the Dzogchen view. Studying within their purview, fully immersed in the sacred teaching, he has fortuitously absorbed the realization of Ati Dzogchen. Now he has translated this extraordinary text, The Treasury of Natural Perfection, and if it can become part of the lives of fortunate Westerners, its inestimable value will become immediately apparent. I congratulate him for overcoming the deep problems of translation of both words and meaning and producing a straightforward English rendition. It is my hope, therefore, that the translation of this text may draw the vision and meditation of the yoga of the all-good nature of mind into the mindstream of many people, so that through the realization of the nature of things just as they are all beings may be quickly released from the ubiquitous clutches of samsara".
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby Norwegian » Fri Sep 13, 2013 10:04 pm

And even if ChNN writes such a foreword, that does not render Dowman's translation into something I find to be direct, spot-on, and enjoyable to read. In fact I actively avoid his translations. And the same goes for the classic that is Guenther. The two of Guenther and Dowman makes my head spin. And then there's Barron, who I find to be slightly better, yet still suffers from so much unnecessary over-complification.

Dzogchen does not need phrases like "gnoseological perspicuity advents the holocredantic cosmogonic groundings of basic Being's space of the unperturbed fourth dimensional trans-nondualic nowness" or some such. Yes, I confess I made up that sentence, but this is how some of their translations read to me, and it doesn't tell me anything at all whatsoever. And that's not why I read Dzogchen translations. I read Dzogchen translations so I can learn something useful about Dzogchen.

That said, somehow I am glad we're at a point in time where we can talk about favorite translators and not so favorite translators, as it means there's at least a progress in terms of output of Dzogchen translations, however small. Of course, I put quality ahead of quantity any day, and hope that we in not too long a time can get many more quality translators doing quality translations of Dzogchen, as this is for the benefit of absolutely everybody who have an interest in Dzogchen.

But still, there are some translators I just cannot handle, unfortunately enough.
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby Malcolm » Sun Sep 15, 2013 2:42 am

Nicholas Liber wrote:
Dowman, on the other hand, in his effort to overcome this obstacle, he's been making use of a more free rendering that includes poetic attitude as a means


Sadly, and this is a huge misunderstanding of Dzogchen texts i.e. that they are poetry. They are not. To the extent that they are in verses is merely an artifact of what we term "didactic verse". It is a good thing Dzogchen texts are not poetry, because were they so, they would be completely impossible to translate in any meaningful way.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby Adamantine » Sat Nov 30, 2013 7:52 am

Andreas wrote: I always wanted to make an online database were such terms could be explained and the different translations could be opposed. It might be helpful for the student to get a deeper understanding what is meant, how ever, it would be a lot of work, and finally only ones own direct insight and sitting experience will finally help with the understanding.


That's a great idea.. perhaps it could happen here: a new subforum.
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Sat Nov 30, 2013 6:00 pm

Nice idea, but I think a wiki would be better suited for this purpose than a forum.
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby smcj » Sat Nov 30, 2013 6:09 pm

...where we can talk about favorite translators and not so favorite translators...

Ok, enough of knocking KD. We get it. Who then is a favorite?
I liked Sky Dancer. I also liked Tharthang Tulku's version but I preferred Padmakara's. All translations of Taksham Samten Lingpa's Tsogyal Namthar. I wish someone would translate his Drollo Namthar instead ...

Yeah, something like that.
Thus far, we are not there yet in terms of universally good translations of Dzogchen texts into English by anyone -- this includes my own

Well, at lest that's honest, although not entirely encouraging.
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Re: Keith Dowman's translations

Postby michaelb » Sat Nov 30, 2013 11:49 pm

smcj wrote:
I liked Sky Dancer. I also liked Tharthang Tulku's version but I preferred Padmakara's. All translations of Taksham Samten Lingpa's Tsogyal Namthar. I wish someone would translate his Drollo Namthar instead ...

Yeah, something like that.
I am a bit of a fan of Padmakara. I know their translations are quite loose and not at precise as people like Tony Duff think they should be, but they are written in very good English and are very readable as a result. Other more 'accurate' translations often read really badly. Dowman's translations are quite poetic but in an idiosyncratic kind of way that may confuse, perhaps. Padmakara's translations are written in good plain English. Of course, for more technical dzogchen texts, a standardized terminology or at least a good glossary is essential. I always found Rangjung Yeshe's glossaries very useful.
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