Guenther

Guenther

Postby lukejmo » Wed May 25, 2011 2:18 am

This isn't a book review, more of a book inquiry. Is Herbert Guenther a reliable translator? Are his books worth reading? His writing is so... ahem, unique. I haven't read much, but it seems he has some really valuable ways of looking at and translating things, interspersed with a lot of extra stuff. It seems his writings aren't popular because of his style, and not that he is a crackpot or anything. Comments? Caveats?
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Re: Guenther

Postby Aemilius » Wed May 25, 2011 12:23 pm

I think some people are just jealous of Herbert Guenther, he has translated important works in 1970's when there weren't that many others active (in translating tibetan Dharma) as there are now adays. He has been habitually put down by respected Dharma persons, which I have always felt bad about. Here is what Wikipedia says about him, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_V._G%C3%BCnther
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Re: Guenther

Postby mindyourmind » Wed May 25, 2011 1:02 pm

Aemilius wrote:I think some people are just jealous of Herbert Guenther, he has translated important works in 1970's when there weren't that many others active (in translating tibetan Dharma) as there are now adays. He has been habitually put down by respected Dharma persons, which I have always felt bad about. Here is what Wikipedia says about him, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_V._G%C3%BCnther



I've also been quite uncomfortable with most of the criticism against HG. There seems, at times, to be something quite personal about some of the attacks against him.
Personally I think he did more good than anything else, and that he should be respected for that.
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Re: Guenther

Postby mudra » Wed May 25, 2011 2:58 pm

Guenther has an impressive resume for sure.

However I can barely add anything substantial to answer the OP's Q because I have never really read Guenther. Or more correctly, I have never finished a Guenther book.

I am posting in this thread because of what is a strange personal phenomena: Everytime I start reading one of Guenther's
works I end up with a massive headache, and have never made it past about 6 pages. It's very weird, I rarely get that kind of
block. Obviously it's me, but anybody have any insights?
:?
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Re: Guenther

Postby conebeckham » Wed May 25, 2011 5:01 pm

Well...I've read quite a bit of Guenther.
For a long time, he was the only show in town regarding seminal Karma Kagyu texts, like the "Jewel Ornament" of Gampopa, or texts relating to Naropa, etc.

First, he's an academic, and, from what I can tell, was never really a "practitioner" in the traditional sense. Second, he attempted to describe certain concepts using quasi-existentialist language. I personally find some of this distracting or confusing. In general, his style is anything but "colloquial."

Reading his stuff can be valuable, but you have to understand his bias, his "slant," as it were.
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Re: Guenther

Postby kirtu » Wed May 25, 2011 6:48 pm

conebeckham wrote:Well...I've read quite a bit of Guenther.
For a long time, he was the only show in town regarding seminal Karma Kagyu texts, like the "Jewel Ornament" of Gampopa, or texts relating to Naropa, etc.


:twothumbsup:

We owe Guether a great debt. He can't be blamed for not being a better translator as he was one of the best Dharma translators of his age (IOW we can't blame him for not being born 40 or so years later). He began his dharmic studies in the late 30's - he was a kind of Indian Jones in this way [and exactly the right time!} and laid an essential foundation for the later florishing of Tibetan Buddhism in the west.

First, he's an academic, and, from what I can tell, was never really a "practitioner" in the traditional sense. Second, he attempted to describe certain concepts using quasi-existentialist language.


I think he was a practitioner for a German academic of his time. He couldn't get out of the thought enwrapment of academia and I'm pretty sure that his existentialist based language was his sincere attempt at upaya.


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Last edited by kirtu on Wed May 25, 2011 6:58 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Guenther

Postby Jikan » Wed May 25, 2011 6:51 pm

It may be that HV Guenther's best contributions to Buddhist culture in English have less to do with the content of the books he put out and more to do with elevating the view of Buddhist reasoning in English-language academic circles, teaching future teachers and translators, and provoking discussion that led to better work by others. Seems to me he's kind of a transition or "bridge" figure.

I liked "Matrix of Mystery" for what it's worth as an experiment in phenomenology. I don't know if it accurately presents Longchenpa's view, but it is a stimulating read just as-is.

EDIT: just read Kirt's post above mine. Agree 100% with it.
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Re: Guenther

Postby Malcolm » Wed May 25, 2011 6:53 pm

kirtu wrote:I think he was a practitioner for a German academic of his time.
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he was not a practitioner in any sense at all. He himself even remarked that his books should not be considered representative of Dzogchen itself in anyway.
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Re: Guenther

Postby Jnana » Thu May 26, 2011 1:56 am

Namdrol wrote:he was not a practitioner in any sense at all.

Indeed. According to a senior student of Trungpa Rinpoche, Trungpa considered Guenther to be a "buddhologist."

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Re: Guenther

Postby udawa » Thu May 26, 2011 1:42 pm

Still, you can't knock the pioneers. Not really. And Guenther had a way of words, sometimes.

Thus one who by having taken refuge has become the site for spiritual growth
will cultivate his mind for the welfare of those who are alive by
letting the flower of Compassion blossom
in the soil of Love
and tending it with the pure water of Equanimity
in the cool shade of Joyfulness.

As long as these four cardinal agents are not linked to
the road to deliverance,
they are but euphoric states and remain the cause of delusion.

But if the way to inner peace has taken hold of them,
They are the four immeasurably great properties of
real being because they make us cross the ocean of delusion.


Always liked the line about euphoric states. On the other hand, 'immeasurably great properties of real being'... Oh well.

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Re: Guenther

Postby Luke » Thu May 26, 2011 8:28 pm

His translation of Naropa's life story seemed quite convoluted and distorted to me. Has anyone else produced a better translation of Naropa's life story in English?
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Re: Guenther

Postby conebeckham » Thu May 26, 2011 10:17 pm

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Re: Guenther

Postby kirtu » Fri May 27, 2011 1:49 pm

Luke wrote:His translation of Naropa's life story seemed quite convoluted and distorted to me. Has anyone else produced a better translation of Naropa's life story in English?


Really? It was that translation plus notes in the book that got me mistakenly thinking that he was a practitioner.

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Re: Guenther

Postby Aemilius » Fri May 27, 2011 2:09 pm

kirtu wrote:
Luke wrote:His translation of Naropa's life story seemed quite convoluted and distorted to me. Has anyone else produced a better translation of Naropa's life story in English?


Really? It was that translation plus notes in the book that got me mistakenly thinking that he was a practitioner.

Kirt


What do you mean by "practitioner"? Have you since then developed the six abhijnas so that you now see the real mind and future and past of Herbert Guenther?
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Re: Guenther

Postby Silent Bob » Wed Nov 30, 2011 9:04 pm

Aemilius wrote:
kirtu wrote:
Luke wrote:His translation of Naropa's life story seemed quite convoluted and distorted to me. Has anyone else produced a better translation of Naropa's life story in English?


Really? It was that translation plus notes in the book that got me mistakenly thinking that he was a practitioner.

Kirt


What do you mean by "practitioner"? Have you since then developed the six abhijnas so that you now see the real mind and future and past of Herbert Guenther?


Dr Guenther lectured at the first summer session of Naropa Institute in the summer of 1974. At one point during the course a curious student asked the question that was on the minds of many of us; "Dr, may I ask if you have an ongoing Buddhist practice that you do?"
His response was, "I read these texts and translate them into English. That is my practice."

We must grant Dr Guenther his due as a pioneering lotsawa, even though I find most of his work is impenetrable because of his attempts to synthesize the specialized vocabularies of Buddhadharma and academic philosophy. His best effort, I think, was Gampopa's "Jewel Ornament of Liberation", which I read and reread during the 70's and which still compares favorably to more recent translations by Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen and Ken Holmes. As for the other works of his that I've read, or tried to, MEGO (Mine Eyes Glazeth Over).

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Re: Guenther

Postby Josef » Wed Nov 30, 2011 9:20 pm

lukejmo wrote:This isn't a book review, more of a book inquiry. Is Herbert Guenther a reliable translator? Are his books worth reading? His writing is so... ahem, unique. I haven't read much, but it seems he has some really valuable ways of looking at and translating things, interspersed with a lot of extra stuff. It seems his writings aren't popular because of his style, and not that he is a crackpot or anything. Comments? Caveats?


Nothing against Herbert but I find him to be unreadable.
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Re: Guenther

Postby mañjughoṣamaṇi » Wed Nov 30, 2011 9:22 pm

Chögyal Namkha'i Norbu's student-translator Jim Valby studied under Gunther in Saskatoon. He said that Gunther had no pretensions about being a practitioner. Jim once remarked that Gunther told him something to the effect that he could teach him what the texts say, but he would need to go elsewhere to learn what they mean.
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Re: Guenther

Postby alwayson » Wed Nov 30, 2011 9:36 pm

Guenther is completely discredited nowadays.

Its not like his translations were even accurate.
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Re: Guenther

Postby Aemilius » Thu Dec 08, 2011 3:46 pm

During a normal working day you can practice all of the branches of the Noble Eightfold Path, that is to say: 1. Right view, 2. Right intention, 3. Right speech, 4. Right action, 5. Right livelihood, 6. Right effort, 7. Right mindfulness, & 8. Right concentration.
Practitioner of Shakyamuni's teaching is any person who follows naturally in his everyday life the noble eightfold path.
How can you say, or know what a person is? You can't, without the supranormal powers of a Buddha.
It is against the Mahayana to say that a person "is not a practitioner". If you say it of a sincere, committed person who has translated rare Dharma books for a wide circle of readers, it constitutes a serious infraction of Bodhisattva precepts.
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Re: Guenther

Postby Silent Bob » Thu Dec 08, 2011 6:26 pm

Silent Bob wrote:We must grant Dr Guenther his due as a pioneering lotsawa, even though I find most of his work is impenetrable because of his attempts to synthesize the specialized vocabularies of Buddhadharma and academic philosophy. His best effort, I think, was Gampopa's "Jewel Ornament of Liberation", which I read and reread during the 70's and which still compares favorably to more recent translations by Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen and Ken Holmes. As for the other works of his that I've read, or tried to, MEGO (Mine Eyes Glazeth Over).

Chris


I should mention that another of Dr Guenther's books which I've found useful and readable is "Mind in Buddhist Psychology", a Tibetan abhidharma text which he translated together with Leslie Kawamura.
http://www.dharmapublishing.com/product ... psychology
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