Brief Intro and Question Concerning Sutra Translations

Brief Intro and Question Concerning Sutra Translations

Postby jaidyncasey » Thu Jul 17, 2014 11:26 pm

Hello everyone, I am not really new to the forums, but new to posting anything. I am new to Pure Land Buddhism and am having to go an independent route out of necessity although if it were possible, I would not hesitate to join a group. However I do have a question unrelated to that issue that I was hoping I could get some advice on.

I have a copy of the BDK "Three Pure Land Sutras" and have read those, but I recently came across a different version online which is used by the group Amida-Shu. It seems similar to the translation done by Max Mueller with some word changes. One of the major differences with this translation is the slight change to the 18th Vow...

http://issuu.com/dharmavidya/docs/twopurelandsutras?e=1055328/2840170
"Oh Blessed One, may I not come to the complete awakening if, when I have done so, living beings inhabiting other worlds who conceive a longing for awakening, who listen to my Name, who set their heart upon being reborn in my Pure Land, and who keep in mind with settled faith, are not assured of meeting me standing before them in full retinue and glory at the time of their death, such death thus being completely free of anxiety."


The Max Mueller version: http://www.amidausa.org/styled-7/
"O Bhagavat, if those beings who have directed their thought towards the highest perfect knowledge in other worlds, and who, after having heard my name, when I have obtained Bodhi, have meditated on me with serene thoughts; if at the moment of their death, after having approached them, surrounded by an assembly of Bhikkhus, I should not stand before them, worshipped by them, that is, so that their thoughts should not be troubled, then may I not obtain the highest perfect knowledge."


Compared to the BDK translation: http://www.bdk.or.jp/pdf/bdk/digitaldl/dBET_ThreePureLandSutras_2003.pdf
"If, when I attain buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten
directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, desire to be
born in my land, and think of me even ten times should not be born there,
may I not attain perfect enlightenment. Excluded, however, are those who
commit the five grave offenses and abuse the Right Dharma."


The largest difference being the Meuller and Amida-Shu version leaves off the part regarding exclusion. Now according to the head of the Amida-Shu, David Brazier on his Amidatrust website, http://amidatrust.typepad.com/dharmavidya/2012/08/a-few-questions-on-the-amida-shu-perspective.html made a comment regarding this tranlation:
"...[T]here are about seven extant versions of the supposedly "original" sutra. The one that has become standard in East Asia and is used by, for instance, Jodoshinshu almost certainly is not the original Indian version. About a third or more of the text originated in China at a later date. Also, much of the "original" material is, in fact, extremely confused. The main point is that the craving to get a pure orthodox text is a Western obsession that has its roots in Western religious history and the persecution of heresies. The Buddhists of the past were not bothered about this. What they wanted was a text that would work as a vehicle for conveying the Dharma. Texts are tools, not criteria. The teacher Shinran, for instance, takes huge liberties with the texts that he quotes in his works. This is in order to convey the Dharma. This is why there are so many versions. Teachers of old thought nothing of redrafting a passage if the old version was not working for their disciples...

The point in question is the exclusion verse. In the Jodoshinshu version there is a passage at the end of the faith vow that excludes all those who have committed the most grievous sins. This is a doctrinal problem for Jodoshinshu because all of us must have committed them at some time in our many lives so the implication is that the vow is non-functional. This would mean that salvation by faith did not work and the whole Jodoshinshu doctrine would collapse. Various scholars have tried to get round this in various ways. However, not every early version of the sutra has this exclusion phrase situated in this vow. It makes much more sense that this exclusion goes with the vow on salvation by perfecting all virtues. This is logical. The sutra then makes sense and supports the essential Pureland position (whether Amida-shu, Jodoshin, or Jodo) that perfecting all virtues works in principle but is unattainable in practice so that salvation by faith is the only practical gate. This was the position of Honen and Shinran. This is why the Amida-shu version has it this way."


All that being said, I am too new to Buddhism, especially Pure Land that I am wondering what everyone's thoughts are on this? I currently have no preference so I am not here to argue anything, merely get practical information that I can use. Is the opinion of Brazier correct, valid, or is there an issue with his logic? Is there anything you could give me to help figure this out?

Thank you all in advance. I sincerely appreciate it.

gassho
:namaste:
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Re: Brief Intro and Question Concerning Sutra Translations

Postby Son of Buddha » Fri Jul 18, 2014 3:21 am

The opinion of a person should be left out of a translation......... a good english translation should be close to source document it is being translated from.

If there is aparagraph that is hard to translate wether in wording or meaning then checking the commentaries should help with rendering.....

with all that said stick with the BDK and luis gomez translations, there are actually quite a few translations of this sutra out there its best to compare them to see how close they are.
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Re: Brief Intro and Question Concerning Sutra Translations

Postby jaidyncasey » Fri Jul 18, 2014 3:54 am

Thank you very much Son of Buddha. I can certainly agree with what you said. I think I will stick with the BDK translation since I am familiar with it and quite like it.
I just had to ask because it was such a major change in something that is so important to Pure Land Buddhism, and since I couldn't find anything
on it searching the forums.

Again, thank you.

Gassho
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Re: Brief Intro and Question Concerning Sutra Translations

Postby PorkChop » Sun Jul 20, 2014 11:50 pm

Rulu's translations are also great (in my opinion), you can find them here.
I've read them side by side with the BDK translations and they don't depart in any great ways.
Rulu's translations might be a little better than the BDK when it comes to preserving proper nouns in Sanskrit.

What I think Brazier's talking about in regards to the sutras, you can read about on Rulu's site (as reference) and also here. The first translation of the Amitayus sutra was Lokaksema's but it's not that popular and it only had 24 vows instead of 48. The version (or at least one of them) that did become popular was that by Saṅghavarman and it has the 48 vows.
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Re: Brief Intro and Question Concerning Sutra Translations

Postby jaidyncasey » Mon Jul 21, 2014 12:13 am

PorkChop wrote:Rulu's translations are also great (in my opinion), you can find them here.
I've read them side by side with the BDK translations and they don't depart in any great ways.
Rulu's translations might be a little better than the BDK when it comes to preserving proper nouns in Sanskrit.

What I think Brazier's talking about in regards to the sutras, you can read about on Rulu's site (as reference) and also here. The first translation of the Amitayus sutra was Lokaksema's but it's not that popular and it only had 24 vows instead of 48. The version (or at least one of them) that did become popular was that by Saṅghavarman and it has the 48 vows.


Thank you so much PorkChop!
That is a wonderful translation to have and I greatly enjoy it in addition to the other Sutras that are listed.

I am very thankful for your help.

:namaste:
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Re: Brief Intro and Question Concerning Sutra Translations

Postby PorkChop » Mon Jul 21, 2014 7:48 am

Anytime, glad I could help.

One small correction to what I said - An Shigao was the first to translate the Amitayus Sutra around 140CE, but I don't think a copy exists anymore. Lokaksema's is just the earliest of the translations preserved, though as I said, not the most referenced.
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Re: Brief Intro and Question Concerning Sutra Translations

Postby Qianxi » Mon Jul 21, 2014 7:14 pm

(Trivia: the attributions to early translators like An Shigao and Lokaksema found in all extant versions of the Chinese Buddhist canon are very unreliable because, due to several quirks of fate, the tradition has followed the attributions of a very unreliable catalogue produced in 597 by a man named Fei Changfang. There were much more reliable sutra catalogues produced before and after him, but at a certain point Fei Changfang's attributions became standard and have remained so for over 1000 years. For the full story see J. NATTIER, A Guide to the Earliest Chinese Buddhist Translations: Texts from the Eastern Han and Three Kingdoms Periods (2008)
This doesn't change anything from a practical point of view, these are still old texts, maybe just translated in the 3rd and 4th centuries instead of the 2nd and 3rd. In fact, given that these dodgy attributions are now standard, it could be confusing to use attributions from another catalogue.

On a related note, if you look at the painstaking work Daoan and Sengyou went to to compile their sutra catalogues and to find out who translated what (see the Nattier article), you would be hard pressed to agree with the statement by David Brazier quoted above "The main point is that the craving to get a pure orthodox text is a Western obsession that has its roots in Western religious history and the persecution of heresies. The Buddhists of the past were not bothered about this. What they wanted was a text that would work as a vehicle for conveying the Dharma. Texts are tools, not criteria.")
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Re: Brief Intro and Question Concerning Sutra Translations

Postby PorkChop » Thu Jul 31, 2014 5:00 am

Qianxi
Thanks for the article, but man that's a tough read. :)

The author seems to give credence to Paul Harrison's theory that attribution for 2 different versions of the Larger Sukhavativyuha sutra was switched at an early date. T361 typically attributed to Lokaksema but actually coming from Zhi Qian in the 3rd century CE, while T362 typically attributed Zhi Qian, but actually coming from Lokaksema (or his school) in the 2nd century CE, though having undergone some editing since its original translation. Nattier puts the confidence level of this being the case on a level higher than Lokaksema being responsible for translating the Akshobhya sutra (interestingly, the article - 2008, seems to predate the Gandharan find of Akshobhya fragments in 2010).

I agree that Daoan and Sengyou seem to have gone to great lengths to figure out who wrote what.
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