Lack of good translations of many Mahayana Sutras in English

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Re: Lack of good translations of many Mahayana Sutras in Eng

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Feb 05, 2013 3:58 pm

Yes I think that a translation should be evaluated by one's peers before it can be called good.

But it should also be translated in a way that is hopefully accessible to practitioners.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
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Re: Lack of good translations of many Mahayana Sutras in Eng

Postby Huifeng » Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:09 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Yes I think that a translation should be evaluated by one's peers before it can be called good.


But... the peers of a bad translator tend to be other bad translators. The peers of people with weird interpretations tend to be other people with weird interpretations.

But it should also be translated in a way that is hopefully accessible to practitioners.


Is accessibility for practitioners of a single type? ie. kind of "accessible" means all practitioners can access it, and "inaccessible" that none can? Or, are different types of translations accessible to different types of practitioners?

Is it possible to be accessible to all practitioners? If so, what qualities would such a translation have? Or, only to some of them?

Just some stuff to think 'bout.

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Re: Lack of good translations of many Mahayana Sutras in Eng

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:26 pm

Of course they are valid points... I don't know if it is possible to have a translation that will meet everyone's standards.

Some people shoot for academic style but that can alienate practitioners.

The other option is a soft user-friendly version that can dilute the meaning.

The folks at City of Ten Thousand Buddhas have a system to check abd re-checked but this is only within their organization. I like their translations generally but have spoken to several people with very good written Chinese who didn't think as highly of them.

Most of my experience is with editing the transcripts of my oral translations of Geshe la's teachings, I hope as my skills improve I can build my text translation skills. (There was a Vinaya outline according to Kunkyen Tsonawa but I haven't shared it around much as I feel a little inexperienced still)
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Lack of good translations of many Mahayana Sutras in Eng

Postby Astus » Thu Feb 07, 2013 11:51 am

I doubt that it's possible to give a clear definition of what makes a translation good. I've heard that there are better works than Kumarajiva's, however, since his have the prestige and sounds good in Chinese other translations are not used that often. It is the natural selection of translations. Which means that it's better to have more than less, and what is good for one can be bad for another. For a translation to become the definitive version requires either central force (like in Tibet and Theravada countries), or just trends that can change in different eras (like in East Asia).
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Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

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Re: Lack of good translations of many Mahayana Sutras in Eng

Postby Indrajala » Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:19 pm

Astus wrote:I doubt that it's possible to give a clear definition of what makes a translation good. I've heard that there are better works than Kumarajiva's, however, since his have the prestige and sounds good in Chinese other translations are not used that often.


Kumārajīva's work is quite readable even for modern eyes. Once you understand the jargon, it reads quite smoothly most of the time.

Xuanzang on the other hand tried to be innovative, but translated in a style that alienated a lot of readers (even highly educated ones) I imagine, like transliterating words like pudgala rather than translating them. A few years later Yijing came up with his own terminology after living in India and SE Asia for awhile, which again alienated readers.
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