Translating the Tripitaka

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Translating the Tripitaka

Postby Mr. G » Thu Jan 05, 2012 5:07 pm

Is this the reason the complete Chinese Tripitaka hasn't been translated to English yet?
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Re: Buddhist Universities/Buddhist Studies

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jan 05, 2012 5:39 pm

Mr. G wrote:Is this the reason the complete Chinese Tripitaka hasn't been translated to English yet?


I think it is just too big to realistically translate within a few decades, let alone a century.

The problem is really that even though the funding could potentially be sufficient if organizations pooled resources together to do it, in reality there are not enough qualified people to accurately translate Classical Buddhist Chinese into English.

There is also the matter that specialization is needed in translating particular sections. For example, the vocabulary and ideas of Huayan are quite different from Abhidharma. Even in the case of Abhidharma, the vocabulary of Paramartha is different from Xuanzang. So, while one scholar might translate Huayan well, they might need a lot of time to cultivate the knowledge necessary to accurately translate Abhidharma treatises. Treatises written by natives of China can also be heavily literary, requiring knowledge of non-Buddhist literature to grasp and understand the allusions and references.

Ideally, the up and coming Buddhist colleges in Asia will in time foster scholars capable of such undertakings, but even then that is no guarantee they'll be able to do such projects full-time. People get married, have children, work their jobs ... so a project that might be scheduled to take five years could turn into fifteen years or more.

The oldschool method of translation in China was to have a team working together in the same room full-time with proofreaders, editors and scribes all on hand. That's how Kumarajiva managed to translate so much. He had a reliable team to work with. They took it upon themselves to do such a project as a religious, not scholarly, endeavour. Nowadays most academic translations are done by a single individual and then proofread by peers before publication.

Personally, I think we should return to the old model and work in teams in real life. The internet might be a substitute to some degree, but having everyone in the same place at the same time will facilitate speed and efficiency. However, the majority of the few people qualified to do such things in the world probably have other duties to attend to (like their careers as academics or looking after a family).

There's another reason why things are slowly translated: most scholars of East Asian Buddhist in the English speaking world are not Buddhist.
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Re: Buddhist Universities/Buddhist Studies

Postby Mr. G » Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:38 pm

Interesting, thanks Huseng. I think I read in the preface of a sutra published by BDK it would take over 100 years to translate the complete Taisho edition of the Chinese Tripitaka. :(
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Re: Buddhist Universities/Buddhist Studies

Postby Astus » Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:42 pm

I don't think there's much point in translating the entire Chinese canon (which one exactly, BTW?). Also, I find it a bit presumptuous to think that all who translated texts to Chinese were like living professor bodhisattvas. Let's say a few people translate Xuanzang's prajnaparamita collection. How many will want to read it? How many who could read it today in Chinese reads it? On the other hand, we have a dozen translations of the Lotus Sutra and at least four translations of the Shobogenzo, just to mention the bigger works that have fairly little use, and people love to read them. Why? Because they believe it's important. However, until the scriptures are the interest of only a handful of scholars and even less Buddhists, translations will come slowly. Compare that to the Pali Tipitaka that was translated first by the BTS and then again it's being translated by others. Because they care about it. But who cares about Xuanzang's Great Prajnaparamita Sutra? So the situation is not that bad at all. Most of the popular works in East Asian Buddhism have already been translated, many of them more than once, some even have commentary. Realistically speaking, there are so many scriptures in Chinese that it'd take a few lifespans to read them all, and most of them have not been actually studied by anyone for hundreds of years.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
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Does marvelous nature and spirit
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Mind is this mind carefree;
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(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Translating the Tripitaka

Postby Will » Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:54 pm

Astus: most of them have not been actually studied by anyone for hundreds of years.


An embarrassment of riches is no excuse for indifference, now or in the past. If Buddhists long ago and now ignored many texts it is their and our loss.

By the way, I recall there are 5100 or so texts in the Chinese canon. If one subtracts the overlap of many scriptures being translated more than once, how many actual different titles are there; 3000 or...??
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Re: Buddhist Universities/Buddhist Studies

Postby Mr. G » Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:50 pm

Astus wrote: Realistically speaking, there are so many scriptures in Chinese that it'd take a few lifespans to read them all, and most of them have not been actually studied by anyone for hundreds of years.


Perhaps Honen was the last determined one to do so? It's said he read the Tripitaka 5 times. :shock:
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Re: Translating the Tripitaka

Postby Astus » Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:07 pm

Will wrote:
Astus: most of them have not been actually studied by anyone for hundreds of years.


An embarrassment of riches is no excuse for indifference, now or in the past. If Buddhists long ago and now ignored many texts it is their and our loss.

By the way, I recall there are 5100 or so texts in the Chinese canon. If one subtracts the overlap of many scriptures being translated more than once, how many actual different titles are there; 3000 or...??


I think more of it as textual evolution. Those that are not found useful enough are left alone, the useful ones survive. Of course, usefulness in this context is quite difficult to determine, perhaps something along the line of religious and cultural trends.

I can't tell. But different translations are important sources actually as they were usually done in different eras from different sources, or even perhaps languages. Also, don't forget that a single text can be quite long, sometimes hundreds of fascicles.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Buddhist Universities/Buddhist Studies

Postby Astus » Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:09 pm

Mr. G wrote:Perhaps Honen was the last determined one to do so? It's said he read the Tripitaka 5 times. :shock:


I think you know the difference between hagiography and history. It is also a matter of what Honen had as the canon.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Buddhist Universities/Buddhist Studies

Postby Mr. G » Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:25 pm

Astus wrote:I think you know the difference between hagiography and history.


But hagiography makes things sound way cooler. :smile:
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Re: Translating the Tripitaka

Postby Huifeng » Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:00 am

Mr. G wrote:Is this the reason the complete Chinese Tripitaka hasn't been translated to English yet?


What is this "this" to which you refer?
(Have I missed something? Spin off thread?...)

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Re: Buddhist Universities/Buddhist Studies

Postby Huifeng » Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:05 am

Astus wrote:
Mr. G wrote:Perhaps Honen was the last determined one to do so? It's said he read the Tripitaka 5 times. :shock:


I think you know the difference between hagiography and history. It is also a matter of what Honen had as the canon.


And also possibly what is meant by "reading". In modern times at least, in Japan, going through all the pages, just turning them one by one, is considered by some to be "reading" that text.

I remember a couple of years ago, one of my acaryas, Ven. Hsin Ding, went to make an offering of a set of the Taisho to Ven. Yin Shun, because the Venerable's older set of the Taisho was already falling apart. He'd not only read the whole thing, but parts of it to the point that the pages were falling apart. He could often cite passages and texts by Taisho vol, and page number. :meditate:

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Re: Translating the Tripitaka

Postby plwk » Fri Jan 06, 2012 8:22 am

Perhaps Honen was the last determined one to do so? It's said he read the Tripitaka 5 times

That reminds me of those vids I watched on Japanese pujas where they have a stack of Sutras printed and bound in the traditional accordion like pages and they will take each book and flip it wide open in the air and then flip back to close it and put it down and continue doing it with the rest. I was thinking if that's how it's read I could finish Sutras in just minutes :lol:
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Re: Buddhist Universities/Buddhist Studies

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:01 am

Astus wrote:I don't think there's much point in translating the entire Chinese canon (which one exactly, BTW?). Also, I find it a bit presumptuous to think that all who translated texts to Chinese were like living professor bodhisattvas. Let's say a few people translate Xuanzang's prajnaparamita collection. How many will want to read it? How many who could read it today in Chinese reads it?


No, people won't read a lot of it cover to cover, but on the other hand many people would make use of parts of major texts. Just as now people don't normally read the whole translation of the Pali canon cover to cover, but make use of sections of it for citations and research.

Likewise, having the whole Chinese canon in translation people, both scholars and devotees alike, could use it for reference and in sections. Almost nobody would think to read the whole thing, but a lot of people would use what they need from it nevertheless. Historically this has been the case with the Chinese canon as well.
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Re: Buddhist Universities/Buddhist Studies

Postby Astus » Fri Jan 06, 2012 10:04 am

Huseng wrote:No, people won't read a lot of it cover to cover, but on the other hand many people would make use of parts of major texts. Just as now people don't normally read the whole translation of the Pali canon cover to cover, but make use of sections of it for citations and research.


I see your point and concur. We are fortunate at least in the sense that even if we don't have the canon in English, we have search engines to do the searching.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Translating the Tripitaka

Postby Mr. G » Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:11 pm

Huifeng wrote:
Mr. G wrote:Is this the reason the complete Chinese Tripitaka hasn't been translated to English yet?


What is this "this" to which you refer?
(Have I missed something? Spin off thread?...)

~~ Huifeng


Hi Venerable. Yes, it was split from this post:

viewtopic.php?f=102&t=6428&p=77125#p77066
    Huseng wrote:
    Namdrol wrote:
    lotwell wrote:My fantasy is unearthing ancient texts in remote monasteries and translating them. In reality I would more likely but looking at sitting in front of a computer all day translating works no one will ever read.


    The reality, if you can actually get a teaching position, is that you will spend your days teaching world religion classes to freshman who don't care and survey courses on Buddhism, and in the evening writing papers because of the publish or die phemomena that is pervasive in academia. You will get little translation done.

    N


    This is true.

    Translations don't get as much "career credit" as monograph studies and journal articles.

And also possibly what is meant by "reading". In modern times at least, in Japan, going through all the pages, just turning them one by one, is considered by some to be "reading" that text.


Well that puts a new spin on that Honen story. :lol:

I remember a couple of years ago, one of my acaryas, Ven. Hsin Ding, went to make an offering of a set of the Taisho to Ven. Yin Shun, because the Venerable's older set of the Taisho was already falling apart. He'd not only read the whole thing, but parts of it to the point that the pages were falling apart. He could often cite passages and texts by Taisho vol, and page number.


Impressive! :thumbsup:
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Re: Translating the Tripitaka

Postby cdpatton » Sun Jan 08, 2012 2:26 am

Those are all really great reasons, but you guys will have to excuse me if I go ahead and translate as much of it as I possibly can before I am dead.

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Re: Translating the Tripitaka

Postby Mr. G » Sun Jan 08, 2012 3:11 am

cdpatton wrote:Those are all really great reasons, but you guys will have to excuse me if I go ahead and translate as much of it as I possibly can before I am dead.

Charlie.


That's the proper attitude! Share what you can with us Charlie!
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Re: Translating the Tripitaka

Postby Huifeng » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:41 am

cdpatton wrote:Those are all really great reasons, but you guys will have to excuse me if I go ahead and translate as much of it as I possibly can before I am dead.

Charlie.


Likewise. While presently in academia, as a monastic, the "publish or perish" issue is not really that much of a concern for me.
I don't need the job to pay the bills and put my own children through school.
My main concern is being cautious about rushing to put out translations of inferior quality, which many unfortunately do.

(Fortunately, where I'm teaching, the courses are much more than just survey courses, and the vast majority of the students really are very interested in studying the Dharma.)

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Re: Translating the Tripitaka

Postby Will » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:53 am

My old vasanas lead me to sutras & shastras - they are so attractive to me. If others see little or no value in them - so be it.

But for those who do care, just a reminder that BDK-Numata will come out with a new Avatamsaka Sutra translation in 2 or 3 years. So Cleary will no longer be alone on the shelf. And Bill Porter's Lankavatara will snuggle up to DT Suzuki later this month.
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Re: Translating the Tripitaka

Postby Mr. G » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:03 pm

Will wrote:But for those who do care, just a reminder that BDK-Numata will come out with a new Avatamsaka Sutra translation in 2 or 3 years.


I care! This is exciting news!
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