CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound issues

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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Tom » Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:36 am

dzogchungpa wrote:
Kare wrote:No. Buddhaghosa lists several possible readings of tathāgata:

tathāgata = tathā (thus) + gata (gone) > Thus-gone
tathāgata = tathā (thus) + āgata (come, arrived) > Thus-come

For some strange reason most later commentators have got stuck with these two. They both demand rather equilibristic interpretations to give some meaning. But Buddhaghosa also lists this one:

tathāgata = tatha (truth, reality) + āgata (come, arrived) > The one who has arrived to the truth.

This latter reading gives a very straightforward and clear meaning.

I don't know Pali or Sanskrit, but what you say sounds reasonable. Do you have any idea why this last reading is less common?


My guess is that it is less common because you can't get there by only using the Sanskrit term. While in Pali "tatha" means truth, there is no Sanskrit word "tatha," so to translate tathā (which means thus or in that way) as truth in terms of reality seems unorthodox to me. This is also why the Tibetans translate it as "de bzhin gshegs pa." I think the Tibetan rendering of "gone in that way," meaning in the way of the earlier Buddhas, works.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby dzogchungpa » Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:08 am

In Gombrich's "What the Buddha Thought" he says regarding 'tathāgata':
The Buddhist tradition has made various attempts to etymologize the term, attempts which I regard as fanciful. The word gata when it occurs as the second member of a compound of this type often loses its primary meaning and means simply 'being'. For example, citra-gatā nārī is not 'the woman who has gone into the picture' but simply 'the woman in the picture'. So the Buddha is referring to himself as 'the one who is like that'.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby dzogchungpa » Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:14 am

Tom wrote:My guess is that it is less common because you can't get there by only using the Sanskrit term. While in Pali "tatha" means truth, there is no Sanskrit word "tatha," so to translate tathā (which means thus or in that way) as truth in terms of reality seems unorthodox to me. This is also why the Tibetans translate it as "de bzhin gshegs pa." I think the Tibetan rendering of "gone in that way," meaning in the way of the earlier Buddhas, works.

That also makes sense. Do you know anything about the Chinese translation?
Note that, in the higher tantras, there is talk of a self and an I, even though in the lower teachings the absence of self and the absence of I is what is always proclaimed. - Tony Duff
To educate the educated is notoriously difficult. - Jacques Barzun
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby cdpatton » Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:20 am

Kare wrote:
Zhen Li wrote:tathāgata, could be, Thus–ComeGone–One, or Thus ComeGone One, or Thus–ComeGone One.



All these versions, reading the first element in the compound as tathā (thus), need some very fanciful interpretations that bring us rather close to the Department of Silly Walks (Monty Python).

There is another and much more plausible way of reading this compound. If we read the first element as tatha (truth, reality), and the seconde element as āgata (arrived), we get: The one who has arrived to truth (reality). And that would be an obviously descriptive title for the Buddha.


This is the primary interpretation we get from the Chinese Commentary on the Prajnaparamita by Kumarajiva, too. The first definition is that it is "understanding and teaching according to the truth" - which is not a direct translation of the term, but we can see that the reading is "arrived at thusness" not "thus arrived". Then after that reading we get the Thus Come/Thus Gone readings.

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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:35 am

To read tathāgata as tatha agata only, is only a presupposition as good as any other, even in Pāli.

RE: "arrived at thusness"

That would be tathatāgata.

In the PP the come/gone meanings work best with the "not come, not gone" type lines.

RE: Chinese rendering, 如來.
如=Thus/such
來=Come/arrive/return/lead
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby cdpatton » Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:42 am

Zhen Li wrote:To read tathāgata as tatha agata only, is only a presupposition as good as any other, even in Pāli.

RE: "arrived at thusness"

That would be tathatāgata.

In the PP the come/gone meanings work best with the "not come, not gone" type lines.


Well, I can't claim that it makes sense in terms of the actual Sanskrit. These texts go a little "hog wild" with their "readings" of the Sanskrit words. But it was just interesting when I remembered the passage that interpreted Tathāgata and went back and looked it up. It sounds like this third reading. The same passage interprets Thus Come to mean the Buddha came thus from the path of peace and Thus Gone to mean he didn't go on to an afterlife.

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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Feb 17, 2014 6:04 am

That is usually what is meant by thus come or gone.

But yes, a lot of translations are creative, but I don't think there's any shame in that. I think if the text has already been translated, and someone wants to make stuff clearer, at least people can still refer to a translation that is more literal first. I don't actually think translating an epithet in a different way is really going to change the meaning of a whole sutra, but my point was more about certain contexts where it's useful to make it clear that by saying the "tathāgata neither comes not goes," in Sanskrit it reads like, "the Thus-ComeGone One neither comes nor goes." I came across something similar in the Saundarananda, and it was unfortunate that the translation had no way of solving the problem, and I don't have any way of solving it either except with footnotes, and that's describing Nanda's wife like this: "she who loves the aśoka flowers was grieved." Which in Sanskrit would read, "she who loves the griefless flowers was grieved."
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby cdpatton » Mon Feb 17, 2014 11:55 pm

Zhen Li wrote:That is usually what is meant by thus come or gone.

But yes, a lot of translations are creative, but I don't think there's any shame in that. I think if the text has already been translated, and someone wants to make stuff clearer, at least people can still refer to a translation that is more literal first. I don't actually think translating an epithet in a different way is really going to change the meaning of a whole sutra, but my point was more about certain contexts where it's useful to make it clear that by saying the "tathāgata neither comes not goes," in Sanskrit it reads like, "the Thus-ComeGone One neither comes nor goes." I came across something similar in the Saundarananda, and it was unfortunate that the translation had no way of solving the problem, and I don't have any way of solving it either except with footnotes, and that's describing Nanda's wife like this: "she who loves the aśoka flowers was grieved." Which in Sanskrit would read, "she who loves the griefless flowers was grieved."


That's not exactly what I meant. The original texts themselves, like the Commentary on the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, were being creative with the etymologies they listed for traditional Sanskrit words like bhikṣu or arhat, for example. They are justifying exegesis with fanciful compounds. And I've no problem with that, per se. To me, it kind of moots academic complaints about you're own idea. Language has always been the subject of creative destruction and recreation (re-creation or recreation?). Even Sanskrit. Go ahead and experiment. Produce a couple different versions and see what happens. Parallel meanings have always been one of those ambiguities of any language that challenges the writer and reader to find ways to communicate and understand.

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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Kare » Tue Feb 18, 2014 12:14 am

cdpatton wrote: The original texts themselves, like the Commentary on the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, were being creative with the etymologies they listed for traditional Sanskrit words like bhikṣu or arhat, for example. They are justifying exegesis with fanciful compounds.


The same can be found in the Pali commentaries. But that kind of fanciful interpretations are not etymologies. They are exegesis.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Feb 18, 2014 12:47 am

The exegetical is also critical to choosing any translation of Tathāgata over another. One can't, nor shouldn't necessarily, always rely upon etymologies, especially when they are conflicting or varied.

That's just part of translating, if we could make meaning for meaning translations perfectly then they wouldn't be two different languages, they'd be one.

If only everyone knew Sanskrit, we wouldn't have this problem.

The whole point of language is to represent the world, to paint a picture. I find this very in line with Buddhist teachings on conventional and ultimate truth, as Wittgenstein says,
PI wrote:1 The world is all that is the case.
4.01 A proposition is a picture of reality.
4.0312 …My fundamental idea is that the ‘logical constants’ are not representatives; that there can be no representatives of the logic of facts.
4.121 …Propositions show the logical form of reality. They display it.
4.1212 What can be shown, cannot be said.
4.5 …The general form of a proposition is: This is how things stand.
5.43 …all the propositions of logic say the same thing, to wit nothing.
5.4711 To give the essence of a proposition means to give the essence of all description, and thus the essence of the world.
5.6 The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

When reading the text in Sanskrit, the picture that arises in one's mind should not be different from the picture that arises in one's mind when one translates it in English. However you do that, doesn't really matter.

The problem is of course when you have multiple pictures in your mind from one word, in which case context probably is what matters most. If the context is such that the Tathāgata is described as neither coming nor going, then the translation "one who arrived at truth" probably isn't as vividly illustrative of the point as "thus come one" or "thus gone one."

The point really is to help others by translating. While people are of varying conditions at present, the potential of their minds is all the same. But to adapt to their conditions, we must make translations easier to read for newcomers to Buddhism, while also sometimes catering to the experienced (I am not suggesting that CamelCase makes things any easier at this point). One must of course be sincere in this, and not condescending.

Some translations are contextual to certain spatio-temporal situations, and only understandable by the experienced, others must be easy to understand by the inexperienced in the present time and their place - academic settings often distance one from understanding the difficulty which some people may have. At the same time, we mustn't abandon the subtleties of the original language, so that when someone studies the text again and again they might learn something new each time. One must also not lose the embellishments at the same time.
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