Guenther

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tingdzin
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Re: Guenther

Postby tingdzin » Sat Mar 30, 2013 5:28 pm

Reading Guenther is challenging, but his "take" on Dzogchen and tantra is no more idiosyncratic than most of the other modern scholars who are very quick with their own interpretations. In my opinion, his writings and comments can be quite valuable. My favorites are "From Reductionism to Creativity" and "Yuganaddha" (the Tantric View of Life)

To say that he is "completely discredited" is nonsense.

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Re: Guenther

Postby Yudron » Sat Mar 30, 2013 9:56 pm

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Re: Guenther

Postby Jinzang » Sun Mar 31, 2013 1:57 am

Herbert Guenther used an idiosyncratic vocabulary drawn from existentialism to translatre technical Buddhist terms. For example, he translated byang chub sems (bodhicitta) as "consumate perspicacity" in his translation of Longchenpa, "Kindly Bent to Ease Us." To get a flavor of his terminology, check out the
"It's as plain as the nose on your face!"

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Re: Guenther

Postby Yudron » Sun Mar 31, 2013 2:19 am

Dr. Guenther's translations are not very useful, which is really unfortunate because he chose excellent works to translate. But he obviously loved Longchenpa and put years of his life into attempting to translate some of the most sublime texts in the Nyingma tradition. He seemed really positive about the Dharma all the time, there wasn't a hint of academic skepticism there, as is often present in western scholars' books. I'm sure that spending so much time in connection with these writings must have planted the seeds for a fortunate rebirth, or possibly more.

He definitely left the reader wanting to know more, and that could be a good thing.
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Re: Guenther

Postby DGA » Sun Mar 31, 2013 5:01 pm

We've been discussing Guenther's contributions to Buddha Dharma in English. I'd like to suggest a different contribution: he helped give Buddhism generally and Dzogchen in particular credibility as a serious philosophical discourse among academics by showing that it is at least as rigorous as, say, phenomenology. Prior, if anyone knew of this tradition, it was often to dismiss it as suitable for eccentrics (think of Elvis reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead and popping pills in the loo) or as degenerate "lamaism," and not authentic Buddhism.

Consequently, I was first introduced to Buddhist teachings in an introduction-to-philosophy class at a community college in Oregon. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had such an experience. That would be much less likely to have happened absent the efforts of HV Guenther. I'm thankful for that.

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Karma Dorje
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Re: Guenther

Postby Karma Dorje » Sun Mar 31, 2013 9:33 pm

Guenther did a tremendous amount to make the Nyingma a suitable subject for academic study at a time when almost all other academics were focused on the Gelukpa. He was an astonishingly well-educated man who had a very kind disposition. Whether it was a mistake to situate buddhist philosophy as he did or not is an open question, but he is far from "discredited". Most of those that have trouble with figuring out his terms are simply unacquainted with the German philosophical tradition. We have many more simple translations now but we also have similarly idiosyncratic translations like Lama Tony Duff's work. In my opinion, they all have their place, and each in their way pays the reader back for their investment in understanding the linguistic community that produced them.
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Re: Guenther

Postby Silent Bob » Mon Apr 01, 2013 4:46 pm

"All the sublime teachings, so profound--to throw away one and then grab yet another will not bear even a single fruit. Persevere, therefore, in simply one."
--Dudjom Rinpoche, "Nectar for the Hearts of Fortunate Disciples. Song No. 8"

Simon E.
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Re: Guenther

Postby Simon E. » Mon Apr 01, 2013 6:49 pm

:good: Seconded.
" My heart's in the Highlands
my heart is not here.
My heart's in the Highlands
chasing the deer."

Robert V.C. Burns.

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Re: Guenther

Postby Yudron » Mon Apr 01, 2013 7:30 pm

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tingdzin
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Re: Guenther

Postby tingdzin » Wed Apr 03, 2013 6:27 pm

While I agree that learning Tibetan is by far the best way to approach Tibetan Buddhist materials (and I certainly don't want to dissuade people from making the effort), I respectfully take issue with the statement that Tibetan "isn't very hard". To begin with, there are few people alive, foreign or Tibetan, who can read, with equal facility, Tibetan scriptures that are translations from the Sanskrit, modern Tibetan newspapers, Tibetan works written by yogis who use a lot of colloquial or regional idioms, Old Tibetan or Dunhuang manuscripts, etc. etc. It is not too difficult to reach a level of Tibetan proficiency to read a lot of stuff, but even the best scholars, Tibetan and otherwise, often come to disagreements about how certain technical Buddhist terms, for example, should be interpreted/translated (and being a Rinpoche, by the way, does not always mean one is correct; even two Rinpoches may find themselves in disagreement).

I believe that Guenther never at all intended that his translations should be "authoritative". If he had so intended, he would not have included such copious notes on why he chose the words he did. Moreover, he was more widely read in Tibetan than many of the people who now criticize him; I follow Karma Dorje in believing that one's own readings of Tibetan material can be aided by reading the translations of people who are clearly qualified to undertake them to see what they were trying to get at, rather than dismissing them out of hand.

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Re: Guenther

Postby Yudron » Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:56 pm

Author of Buddhist young adult fiction. Vlogger at Wisdom and Compassion: Grandma Yudron's Totally Chill Vlog on Meditation and Tibetan Wisdom Blogger at Very active on Twitter.

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Re: Guenther

Postby dzogchungpa » Wed Apr 03, 2013 9:05 pm

A good article on Guenther: "Broad, noeticness and other Guentheriana" by Agehananda Bharati
Through Dzogchen we can really understand what God is and we don’t have to worry if there is a God or not. God always exists as our real nature, the base, for everybody. - Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

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Re: Guenther

Postby Karma Dorje » Wed Apr 03, 2013 11:44 pm

"Although my view is higher than the sky, My respect for the cause and effect of actions is as fine as grains of flour."
-Padmasambhava

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Re: Guenther

Postby Yudron » Thu Apr 04, 2013 2:09 am

Author of Buddhist young adult fiction. Vlogger at Wisdom and Compassion: Grandma Yudron's Totally Chill Vlog on Meditation and Tibetan Wisdom Blogger at Very active on Twitter.

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Re: Guenther

Postby Greg » Fri Apr 12, 2013 3:42 am


yegyal
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Re: Guenther

Postby yegyal » Thu May 16, 2013 10:34 am

Very interesting article, Greg. Almost makes me want to go back and start studying Sanskrit again. Not quite, but almost.

As for Guenther, I've found that the road to good translations is paved with not so good translations, and in that sense he was one of the greatest trail blazers any of us could ever ask for.


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