Wilkinson Translations

tingdzin
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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by tingdzin » Sun Nov 24, 2019 9:21 am

humble.student wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 5:49 am
but I will say that at the very least Mr Wilkinson includes the Tibetan text at the end of his volumes, enabling those who know some Tibetan to check for themselves.
Yes. Translators such as Sangye Khandro usually give the Tibetan, so if you have some language knowledge you can check yourself. Translators of really profound stuff like Dzogchen who do not give the original I think (except for practical reasons like cost of publishing, etc.) are taking too much on themselves, and may be afraid of people finding mistakes. Even with good translators who don't make huge mistakes, it helps if the Tibetan is there so you can see what the writer may have been driving at, above and beyond what's possible to express in English vocabulary and Indo-European sentence structure.

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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by heart » Sun Nov 24, 2019 10:37 am

PeterC wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 12:50 am
heart wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 9:31 pm
PeterC wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:05 pm
Translating Dzogchen texts is contentious. There isn’t an agreed set of English technical terms, and leading translators - Tony Duff, Erik Pema Kunsang, Malcolm Smith and others - all have their own preferred terms, and all criticize each others’ choices.
I know Erik for a long time and I never heard him criticise any other translator. I also known Malcolm for a long time and he very seldom criticised any other translator.

/magnus
Malcolm was always willing to justify his choices against others’. Erik didn’t do that much in public, I agree. But you seem to think that translators criticising each others’ choices is a bad thing, when it’s actually a necessary and good thing. The only way you ever get consensus on technical vocabulary is by debate between translators. Some people don’t like Tony Duff’s somewhat idiosyncratic choices (“superfactual”, “alpha purity”, etc) but he does a huge service to the community in his explanatory notes where he explains the semantics of the underlying Tibetan word and contrasts the different approaches to translating it. This is enormously helpful to someone trying to decode the translation itself.
Like I said, I know Erik for a long time and I never heard him criticise any other translator or any other translators choice of word. However some other translator translator didn't just criticise his choice of words but actually turned up at his door and begged him to stop translating because he was misleading people with his translations. I heard Erik translate live from many masters that know English themselves, both in big groups and intimate situations. I certainly always felt that his translations hit the right spot or rather hit right in my heart. I know he discussed his choice of words with his masters like Tulku Urgyen and Dilgo Khyentse and they told him how the words changed meaning when the context changed. I am so grateful for all his translations and without him I would know nothing about Dharma and I would have no practice. But that is just me.

/magnus
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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by Pero » Sun Nov 24, 2019 10:49 am

tingdzin wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 9:21 am
humble.student wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 5:49 am
but I will say that at the very least Mr Wilkinson includes the Tibetan text at the end of his volumes, enabling those who know some Tibetan to check for themselves.
Yes. Translators such as Sangye Khandro usually give the Tibetan, so if you have some language knowledge you can check yourself. Translators of really profound stuff like Dzogchen who do not give the original I think (except for practical reasons like cost of publishing, etc.) are taking too much on themselves, and may be afraid of people finding mistakes. Even with good translators who don't make huge mistakes, it helps if the Tibetan is there so you can see what the writer may have been driving at, above and beyond what's possible to express in English vocabulary and Indo-European sentence structure.
All this is true, I also like the texts that have Tibetan on the left page, English on the right. But for very large texts this is not practical (like you mention) - you'd be adding hundreds of pages to a translation that is already 500 pages for example and those added pages most cannot read anyway. Also further making things difficult - translators often use multiple editions of a text and the editions sometimes differ amongst themselves. Hence it would probably be best to add a critical edition of the Tibetan, which is a lot of work (or at least that is my impression, don't have any practical experience of that myself).
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PeterC
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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by PeterC » Sun Nov 24, 2019 11:47 am

heart wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 10:37 am
PeterC wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 12:50 am
heart wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 9:31 pm


I know Erik for a long time and I never heard him criticise any other translator. I also known Malcolm for a long time and he very seldom criticised any other translator.

/magnus
Malcolm was always willing to justify his choices against others’. Erik didn’t do that much in public, I agree. But you seem to think that translators criticising each others’ choices is a bad thing, when it’s actually a necessary and good thing. The only way you ever get consensus on technical vocabulary is by debate between translators. Some people don’t like Tony Duff’s somewhat idiosyncratic choices (“superfactual”, “alpha purity”, etc) but he does a huge service to the community in his explanatory notes where he explains the semantics of the underlying Tibetan word and contrasts the different approaches to translating it. This is enormously helpful to someone trying to decode the translation itself.
Like I said, I know Erik for a long time and I never heard him criticise any other translator or any other translators choice of word. However some other translator translator didn't just criticise his choice of words but actually turned up at his door and begged him to stop translating because he was misleading people with his translations. I heard Erik translate live from many masters that know English themselves, both in big groups and intimate situations. I certainly always felt that his translations hit the right spot or rather hit right in my heart. I know he discussed his choice of words with his masters like Tulku Urgyen and Dilgo Khyentse and they told him how the words changed meaning when the context changed. I am so grateful for all his translations and without him I would know nothing about Dharma and I would have no practice. But that is just me.

/magnus
That’s good to hear. You’re not really responding to what I wrote, though, just reacting to a perceived slight to Erik. I too like his translations.

As an aside, on your comment that “the words changed meaning when the context changed” - of course that is true for many words. However there is a core vocabulary that has specific meaning in Dzogchen (eg things like zangthal, lhundrub, rigpa, kadag etc) which does not change meaning from text to text in that tradition. I personally feel that if you’re reading these texts, whoever the translator is you need to know how they are translating these terms - there’s a good argument that they should really be left untranslated and simply explained separately to the text itself. But exactly when to leave terms untranslated is an issue on which translators frequently disagree in good faith.

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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by heart » Sun Nov 24, 2019 7:41 pm

PeterC wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 11:47 am
heart wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 10:37 am
PeterC wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 12:50 am


Malcolm was always willing to justify his choices against others’. Erik didn’t do that much in public, I agree. But you seem to think that translators criticising each others’ choices is a bad thing, when it’s actually a necessary and good thing. The only way you ever get consensus on technical vocabulary is by debate between translators. Some people don’t like Tony Duff’s somewhat idiosyncratic choices (“superfactual”, “alpha purity”, etc) but he does a huge service to the community in his explanatory notes where he explains the semantics of the underlying Tibetan word and contrasts the different approaches to translating it. This is enormously helpful to someone trying to decode the translation itself.
Like I said, I know Erik for a long time and I never heard him criticise any other translator or any other translators choice of word. However some other translator translator didn't just criticise his choice of words but actually turned up at his door and begged him to stop translating because he was misleading people with his translations. I heard Erik translate live from many masters that know English themselves, both in big groups and intimate situations. I certainly always felt that his translations hit the right spot or rather hit right in my heart. I know he discussed his choice of words with his masters like Tulku Urgyen and Dilgo Khyentse and they told him how the words changed meaning when the context changed. I am so grateful for all his translations and without him I would know nothing about Dharma and I would have no practice. But that is just me.

/magnus
That’s good to hear. You’re not really responding to what I wrote, though, just reacting to a perceived slight to Erik. I too like his translations.

As an aside, on your comment that “the words changed meaning when the context changed” - of course that is true for many words. However there is a core vocabulary that has specific meaning in Dzogchen (eg things like zangthal, lhundrub, rigpa, kadag etc) which does not change meaning from text to text in that tradition. I personally feel that if you’re reading these texts, whoever the translator is you need to know how they are translating these terms - there’s a good argument that they should really be left untranslated and simply explained separately to the text itself. But exactly when to leave terms untranslated is an issue on which translators frequently disagree in good faith.
Even those words change meaning in the various text within the tradition. Also Erik always provided a lengthy glossary in all his books.I only wanted to point out that I never heard Erik behave in the way some translators do. For me there is no excuse for the lack of kindness and openness among translators, if you behave like a bully you are a bully.

Anyway, this is very off topic.

/magnus
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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by PeterC » Mon Nov 25, 2019 3:56 am

heart wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 7:41 pm
Even those words change meaning in the various text within the tradition.
In compound forms and with usage, yes of course, but when used in the same form and same part of speech across texts, not really.
Also Erik always provided a lengthy glossary in all his books.I only wanted to point out that I never heard Erik behave in the way some translators do. For me there is no excuse for the lack of kindness and openness among translators, if you behave like a bully you are a bully.
I think we have a vocabulary problem here :) In English, 'criticize' is a neutral term in the context of 'to criticize a translation', meaning to analyze merits and weaknesses and assess accordingly - and that is exactly what a translator should be doing. It does not have to imply that someone is bullying someone else. In the context of 'to criticize a person' it has a slight pejorative sense to it, but we're not talking here about criticizing people, we're talking about criticizing choice of vocabulary.

To bring this back to Wilkinson, since as you say we're drifting a little from the topic. Dzogchen translation today is a cottage industry, and clear standards haven't yet emerged. When you look back at any period where there was a wave of translations of the Dharma into a new language, typically a small number of translators set the standard and then others follow their choices subsequently - for instance, Kumarajiva and XuanZang for translation into Chinese. The choices might not be the best, but there is huge value in the standardization, because then at least you know what you're looking at. We haven't reached that point in Dzogchen translation yet, and that's why we get into this sort of discussion about people like Wilkinson. I don't like some of the terminology he uses. However I'm never going to criticize Wilkinson (as a person) because (a) he's devoting his time to translating the Dharma, which is always meritorious, and (b) he's doing it in a field where there aren't very clear rules and standards established.

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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by Fortyeightvows » Mon Nov 25, 2019 5:57 am

PeterC wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 3:56 am
there is huge value in the standardization
I am a big advocate for standardizing translations

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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by lelopa » Mon Nov 25, 2019 9:17 am

humble.student wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 5:49 am
My Tibetan is very rudimentary so I am not qualified to speak of the quality or accuracy of the translations, but I will say that at the very least Mr Wilkinson includes the Tibetan text at the end of his volumes, enabling those who know some Tibetan to check for themselves.

I did procure a couple of his translations for reference purposes, as the text I am studying often refers to these tantras and there are no other translations available that I know of. In that respect, they have been useful. However, one thing did strike me, the business of the “diamond chains”/“lamb lineage,” singled above by Mutsuk, which even I knew, thanks to the commentary I am reading. I was surprised to note this error as it seems to be a known term in the literature, as far as I can tell.

years after this Vajrachakra discussion i've seen "line of the lamb" used by some tibetan teachers at a nyingmapa-website and they explained it as the Vajrachain. Maybe it is another, uncommon word for the same thing?!?
And:
No, I don't remember which website it was
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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by mutsuk » Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:46 am

Coming back on the "lineage of the lambs"... As for lu-gu-rgyud : lu-gu means "lamb", but lu-gu-rgyud means "chain", in the sense of a series of individual links making up a chain. I have never seen lu-gu-rgyud outside Dzogchen texts (I've seen it in literature dealing with gter-ma discovery, see below the ref to the iron chain) so I really doubt it means something like "a series of lambs" let alone a "lineage of the lambs". The meaning of lu gu rgyud does not imply that you are seeing a continuous arising of lambs during Thod-rgal, but that you see one or actually several chains, often styled as diamond-like, the individual links of these chains being thig-les. So the syntagm lu-gu-rgyud is translated as "chain" because it precisely refers to a chain, but not to a "chain (succession) of lambs", even if the image of lambs walking one after another in a row has certainly coined the expression. But it should not be understood literally:

- for instance, "lcags kyi lu gu rgyud" does not mean a "linage of iron lambs" (lcags means iron) but an "iron chain", like you may find in gter-ma literature when a gter-ston extracts a casket with an "iron chain" locking it up. It does not refer to a "lineage of iron lambs", with tiny little lambs connected together and holding the casket closed with their little muscles to prevent revelation from a non-qualified gter-ston...;
- furthermore, rdo-rje lu-gu-rgyud means a diamond chain, not a "series of successive diamond lambs." It's like in the English expression "it's raining cats and dogs", it is obviously (and fortunately) not raining cats and dogs. It is just heavily raining...
I am sorry to say that Wilkinson's translations are replete with these things and that his rendering lacks a total mastery of the grammar of the original language.
To come back to the lack of knowledge that was referred to in an earlier post, if the translator knows what he reads and understands the actual meaning of the technical vocabulary (here referring to diamond-like luminous threads or chains appearing like garlands of whatever (flowers, pearls, thig-lés, etc., but surely not lambs!!!)), he cannot, out of decency for the mind of the reader, translate lu-gu-rgyud as lineage of the lamb.

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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by humble.student » Mon Nov 25, 2019 1:52 pm

lelopa wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 9:17 am
years after this Vajrachakra discussion i've seen "line of the lamb" used by some tibetan teachers at a nyingmapa-website and they explained it as the Vajrachain. Maybe it is another, uncommon word for the same thing?!?
And:
No, I don't remember which website it was
I've bolded the important part in your quote. IIRC Wilkinson does not provide a glossary or explanation for this unusual term.
Mutsuk's first paragraph sums up exactly the commentary I have read that mentions this term.

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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by TrimePema » Tue Nov 26, 2019 5:13 am

mutsuk wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:46 am
Coming back on the "lineage of the lambs"... As for lu-gu-rgyud : lu-gu means "lamb", but lu-gu-rgyud means "chain", in the sense of a series of individual links making up a chain. I have never seen lu-gu-rgyud outside Dzogchen texts (I've seen it in literature dealing with gter-ma discovery, see below the ref to the iron chain) so I really doubt it means something like "a series of lambs" let alone a "lineage of the lambs". The meaning of lu gu rgyud does not imply that you are seeing a continuous arising of lambs during Thod-rgal, but that you see one or actually several chains, often styled as diamond-like, the individual links of these chains being thig-les. So the syntagm lu-gu-rgyud is translated as "chain" because it precisely refers to a chain, but not to a "chain (succession) of lambs", even if the image of lambs walking one after another in a row has certainly coined the expression. But it should not be understood literally:

- for instance, "lcags kyi lu gu rgyud" does not mean a "linage of iron lambs" (lcags means iron) but an "iron chain", like you may find in gter-ma literature when a gter-ston extracts a casket with an "iron chain" locking it up. It does not refer to a "lineage of iron lambs", with tiny little lambs connected together and holding the casket closed with their little muscles to prevent revelation from a non-qualified gter-ston...;
- furthermore, rdo-rje lu-gu-rgyud means a diamond chain, not a "series of successive diamond lambs." It's like in the English expression "it's raining cats and dogs", it is obviously (and fortunately) not raining cats and dogs. It is just heavily raining...
I am sorry to say that Wilkinson's translations are replete with these things and that his rendering lacks a total mastery of the grammar of the original language.
To come back to the lack of knowledge that was referred to in an earlier post, if the translator knows what he reads and understands the actual meaning of the technical vocabulary (here referring to diamond-like luminous threads or chains appearing like garlands of whatever (flowers, pearls, thig-lés, etc., but surely not lambs!!!)), he cannot, out of decency for the mind of the reader, translate lu-gu-rgyud as lineage of the lamb.
Informative. Thank you. I'm a little confused about what you are saying re: knowledge and the "mind of the reader" - since we all know that only students with instructions and explanations are supposed to be reading these texts and that reading without authorization is in fact damaging.

It struck me the type of knowledge-gap was Dzogchen knowledge (direct experience) vs conceptual understanding and intellectual inference.

Do you mean to say that anyone who receives direct introduction knows what a vajra chain looks like? Or are you saying that most anybody seriously interested in Dzogchen would intellectually know the description of a vajra chain and therefore would never render the translation as "lineage of lambs" due to the hilarious inferences such a phrase "lineage of lambs" causes readers who have not received an explanation of the terminology from their Teachers, which you described above?

Of course, one would never be talking about or reading about vajra chains in any serious way without knowing what they meant, even if it was referred to as the lineage of lambs or lines of lambs or chain of lambs or any other kind of imagery, so I guess that inferential issue can be discarded in the context of restricted information in the first place.

In one case I'm aware of, Karma Chagme's Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen, the instructions for thodgal are written in cryptic sentences using words that are not even Tibetan. Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche explained this saying "it's so that Tibetans who read it without instruction don't know what it actually means." Basically, it's coded so that people who don't have the code can't read it.

In that sense, it would not strike me as odd or wrong if Wilkinson was using this "lineage of lamb" translation as a codeword. I also understand the necessity of having texts that are not coded but still restricted, but Wilkinson is publishing the tantras on Amazon...

Additionally FWIW:

"Here [in the first Vision], hints of visual forms emerge in the foreground of the optical horizon, manifesting as small circles of light and chains or linked-spots, said to appear like a chain of “little linked lambs.” p222 of Adam Lobel's dissertation.

I asked a friend of mine who is a Lama and His reply was it depends on the Teacher and student, since this type of Teaching is supposed to be given directly from a Master to a student. "There are many ways to explain it but this is fine."

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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by lelopa » Tue Nov 26, 2019 7:25 am

........ deleted wrong posting........
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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by tingdzin » Sat Nov 30, 2019 10:18 am

Fortyeightvows wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 5:57 am
I am a big advocate for standardizing translations
Three problems with standardizing:

1) Who decides on the standards?The people with the biggest organization and most money? The academic interpreters (who can be as whimsical as anybody,and who are often crippled by their attempts to find Indian equivalents for Dzogchen-coined terms)?

2)If standard terminology is agreed on, it's even easier for glib Dzogchen poseurs to talk the talk without having any idea of how to walk the walk.

3) Standard terms may allow the beginner to convince himself that he "understands" because he or she knows what the English words mean.

IMO, the best thing to do when reading anyone's translations of Dzogchen is not to get hung up on the words, so that a mistranslation or questionable interpretation does not seriously affect your practice, and when you have doubts, ask someone you trust.

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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by TrimePema » Sat Nov 30, 2019 10:45 am

tingdzin wrote:
Sat Nov 30, 2019 10:18 am
Fortyeightvows wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 5:57 am
I am a big advocate for standardizing translations
Three problems with standardizing:

1) Who decides on the standards?The people with the biggest organization and most money? The academic interpreters (who can be as whimsical as anybody,and who are often crippled by their attempts to find Indian equivalents for Dzogchen-coined terms)?

2)If standard terminology is agreed on, it's even easier for glib Dzogchen poseurs to talk the talk without having any idea of how to walk the walk.

3) Standard terms may allow the beginner to convince himself that he "understands" because he or she knows what the English words mean.

IMO, the best thing to do when reading anyone's translations of Dzogchen is not to get hung up on the words, so that a mistranslation or questionable interpretation does not seriously affect your practice, and when you have doubts, ask someone you trust.
:good:

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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by PeterC » Sat Nov 30, 2019 12:21 pm

tingdzin wrote:
Sat Nov 30, 2019 10:18 am
Fortyeightvows wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 5:57 am
I am a big advocate for standardizing translations
Three problems with standardizing:

1) Who decides on the standards?The people with the biggest organization and most money? The academic interpreters (who can be as whimsical as anybody,and who are often crippled by their attempts to find Indian equivalents for Dzogchen-coined terms)?
Historically it’s usually the first major translator who does. Sometimes that person is really clueless so is superseded by a later translator. But the point is that it doesn’t really matter much for novel technical vocabulary. Suppose the developers of Unix had decided instead of “sudo” to use the term “duso”. Wouldn’t have made a difference.

2)If standard terminology is agreed on, it's even easier for glib Dzogchen poseurs to talk the talk without having any idea of how to walk the walk.
I think we can safely say that there will always be Dzogchen poseurs who just talk the talk.

3) Standard terms may allow the beginner to convince himself that he "understands" because he or she knows what the English words mean.
That’s happening anyway. Look at all the threads on here where someone reads a line out of context and misunderstands it. Standard terminology will make it much easier to correct those errors

IMO, the best thing to do when reading anyone's translations of Dzogchen is not to get hung up on the words, so that a mistranslation or questionable interpretation does not seriously affect your practice, and when you have doubts, ask someone you trust.
Agree on asking someone knowledgeable to help. Very important for any practitioner to have access to someone like that. But you do need to understand the words. A lot of Dzogchen texts, particularly instruction texts, are very dense. They assume understanding of specific terms and symbols. Without knowing their meaning, you simply can’t penetrate the text. The risk is that it all becomes read as inspiring abstract poetry.

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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by Fortyeightvows » Sun Dec 01, 2019 10:58 am

tingdzin wrote:
Sat Nov 30, 2019 10:18 am

Three problems with standardizing:

1) Who decides on the standards?The people with the biggest organization and most money? The academic interpreters (who can be as whimsical as anybody,and who are often crippled by their attempts to find Indian equivalents for Dzogchen-coined terms)?
PeterC wrote:
Sat Nov 30, 2019 12:21 pm
Historically it’s usually the first major translator who does.
Exactly!
I’ve said on this site many times that English translations should start following Xuanzang’s five rules.

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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by Fortyeightvows » Sun Dec 01, 2019 11:02 am

For reference, these are Xuanzangs five cases where a word should not be translated. We can also follow for this to decide how to translate certain terms

1. the word has multiple meanings (like arhart, bhagavat, samadhi)

2.Esoteric terms like mantras, incantations, etc

3. Terms of reverence, if saying the word has some resonance (prajna-paramita, manjushri, amitabha, vairocana)

4. Terms with no local equivalent/words for things that don't exist outside of india (no precise english word that really means the exact same thing)
(This is why words like yaksha were not translated)

5. Words that have been left untranslated by previous translators (in other words there is a precedent) (Following the spirit of this we could also arrive at the conclusions that words like refuge and empowerment have precedent.

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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by PeterC » Sun Dec 01, 2019 1:19 pm

Fortyeightvows wrote:
Sun Dec 01, 2019 11:02 am

5. Words that have been left untranslated by previous translators (in other words there is a precedent) (Following the spirit of this we could also arrive at the conclusions that words like refuge and empowerment have precedent.
If I remember correctly this had a lot to do with the status of Kumarajiva - XZ strongly disagreed with a lot of his choices but wanted to show some respect towards his work. But it’s been a long time since I read up on this issue

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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by PSM » Wed Dec 04, 2019 1:57 pm

I've come across the 'line of lambs' before as a poetic term in Dzogchen for vajra chains (can't remember where, unfortunately), as if they are a line of lambs tied together and walking along a hillside, one after another. It's even in the RY dictionary.

http://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/Vajra_Chain
http://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/lu_gu_rgyud

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Re: Wilkinson Translations

Post by lelopa » Wed Dec 04, 2019 4:10 pm

PSM wrote:
Wed Dec 04, 2019 1:57 pm
I've come across the 'line of lambs' before as a poetic term in Dzogchen for vajra chains (can't remember where, unfortunately), as if they are a line of lambs tied together and walking along a hillside, one after another. It's even in the RY dictionary.

http://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/Vajra_Chain
http://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/lu_gu_rgyud

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