Source of Indra's Net?

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Coëmgenu » Fri Nov 17, 2017 6:13 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 5:51 pm
Coëmgenu wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 5:48 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 5:36 pm
As far as I know, none of us actually knows Chinese. We're not taking into account the grammar that is embedded here - we're just taking a jumble of characters and stringing together their literal translations.
Luckily, though, this is Buddhist Chinese. This is no excuse not to educate one's self on the finer points of Chinese grammar. I will be the first to say that I do not have exhaustive grasp of this, my earlier mistake involving 中 testifying to that (that mistake would be a very pertinent example of stringing characters together with a fast-and-loose notion of how they rightly ought to relate). However, Buddhist Chinese generally imitates Sanskrit inasmuch as it is able to in word ordering, although sometimes Chinese authors had a rather fanciful notion of what Sanskrit word ordering implies.

I was just listening to one of the links Admin_PC left substantiating this curious detail of the dharma-in-Chinese.

http://www.hf.uio.no/ikos/forskning/net ... 10301.html

This effect is even more striking and even more starker the older you go into the history of Chinese translations of the Buddhadharma, to the point where one can line up EBTs with their Sanskrit/Pāli parallels and draw clause-for-clause, and very frequently word-for-word correspondences between Sinitic and Indic recensions (at the price of making the texts very difficult to understand to a native Chinese speaker). Obviously this is not nearly as striking in the works of, say, translators like Ven Kumarajiva, who translate for the Chinese rather than translating into Chinese.

Either way, we are working with very small fragments, clauses rather than full complex phrases. I think we can be trusted with a few character-relations.
Well, did not know that. That is very interesting. Makes for translating into English a terribly labored exercise... Where does the Avatamsaka fall in this spectrum?
It was translated by Śikṣānanda (實叉難陀, 652–710), so it's not one of these super early texts.

I'm referring to things like this, this is from a very old (~200AD) Sarvāstivāda Saṃyuktāgama translation:

如內身身觀住
Iti ajjhattaṃ vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati
Evaṃ adhyātmaṃ kāye kāyānupaśyi viharaty

Iti 如 evam

ajjhattaṃ 內 adhyātmaṃ

vā (n/a)

kāye 身 kāye

kāya 身 kāya

anupassī 觀 anupaśyi

viharati 住 viharaty

It is literally Prākrit written with Chinese characters. And, like mentioned before, it is quite difficult to read. The grammatical differentiation between kāya & kāye, for instance, is absent. One could not really read this easily (compared to a "properly Chinese" text) without access to the original as well, or at least knowledge of it.

A lot of Buddhist Chinese looks to this as a stylistic ideal, but most well-established definitive translations of mainline East Asian Mahāyāna sūtrāṇi come from a latter period than this.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Fri Nov 17, 2017 6:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
並畢竟空。並如來藏。並實相。非三 而三三而不三。非合非散而合而散。非非合非非散。不可一異而一異。
All three truths are ultimately empty, all are tathāgatagarbha, all are true aspect. Not three, they are three; three, they are not three. Neither combined nor separated, neither uncombined nor unseparated. Neither same nor different, yet in a sense same, and in a sense different.

夫三諦者。 天然之性徳也。 中諦者。 統一切法。 眞諦者。 泯一切法。 俗諦者。 立一切法。
The three truths. Heaven-sent natural characteristics. The middle truth unifies all dharmas. The ultimate truth demolishes all dharmas. The conventional truth establishes all dharmas.

摩訶止観始終心要Móhēzhǐguān, Shǐzhōngxīnyào.

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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Coëmgenu » Fri Nov 17, 2017 6:32 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 12:36 am
In Buddhist contexts, 如 is tatha as in tathagata, or thus such etc. referring to the real.
Furthermore, all Buddhist sūtrāṇi begin with 如. Just occurred to me.

如是我聞:
Like this I heard:
Evaṃ mayā śrutam:
並畢竟空。並如來藏。並實相。非三 而三三而不三。非合非散而合而散。非非合非非散。不可一異而一異。
All three truths are ultimately empty, all are tathāgatagarbha, all are true aspect. Not three, they are three; three, they are not three. Neither combined nor separated, neither uncombined nor unseparated. Neither same nor different, yet in a sense same, and in a sense different.

夫三諦者。 天然之性徳也。 中諦者。 統一切法。 眞諦者。 泯一切法。 俗諦者。 立一切法。
The three truths. Heaven-sent natural characteristics. The middle truth unifies all dharmas. The ultimate truth demolishes all dharmas. The conventional truth establishes all dharmas.

摩訶止観始終心要Móhēzhǐguān, Shǐzhōngxīnyào.

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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Coëmgenu » Mon Nov 20, 2017 11:46 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 8:02 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 4:04 pm
B I believe Brahmajala. Iirc.
I just quickly read through the Mahāyānabrahmajālasūtra and the associated Bodhisattvaśīlakārikā (菩薩戒本), but they don't seem to reference 'Indra's Net' specifically. Any other ideas?
You were quite right, Queequeg. It seems there are multiple recensions of the Mahāyānabrahmajālasūtra. I am now looking at a much larger one that mentions Indra's Net, but once again is scant on details as to what it represents. Indicating it was perhaps already a common teaching from some other source once again?

http://www.bdkamerica.org/system/files/ ... a_2017.pdf
並畢竟空。並如來藏。並實相。非三 而三三而不三。非合非散而合而散。非非合非非散。不可一異而一異。
All three truths are ultimately empty, all are tathāgatagarbha, all are true aspect. Not three, they are three; three, they are not three. Neither combined nor separated, neither uncombined nor unseparated. Neither same nor different, yet in a sense same, and in a sense different.

夫三諦者。 天然之性徳也。 中諦者。 統一切法。 眞諦者。 泯一切法。 俗諦者。 立一切法。
The three truths. Heaven-sent natural characteristics. The middle truth unifies all dharmas. The ultimate truth demolishes all dharmas. The conventional truth establishes all dharmas.

摩訶止観始終心要Móhēzhǐguān, Shǐzhōngxīnyào.

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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Zhen Li » Sat Nov 25, 2017 7:16 pm

I have not looked in detail at Müller and Tanaka's translation, but I had been reading this in Chinese recently and my impression was that the following line (which is in the Taisho version) is the source of the image of Indra's net, though, in fact, it is Brahma's net.

時佛觀諸大梵天王網羅幢因爲説。無量世界猶如網孔。一一世界各各不同別異: 無量。佛教門亦復如是。 (T1484_.24.1003c14—16)
At that time, the Buddha contemplated the entirety of the Net-Banner in Great King Brahma's Heaven and was caused to utter, "The innumerable worlds are just as the holes in this net, each and every realm is different from the other, with unreckonable variation, and the Door's of the Buddha's teachings are just like this."

I confirmed with my Tibetan-reading colleagues that this is present in the Tibetan translation of the [Mahāyāna]Brahmajāla Sūtra (which is from Chinese). But yes, there are many less complicated and many more complicated renditions of this sūtra, and unfortunately it seems like none of the translators were really competent with the material they were working with (or they were not fully competent in Chinese); but it's certainly not by Kumārajīva. That being said, it is a great sūtra and certainly is closely related to the Avataṃsaka cycle of texts in many ways.

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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Queequeg » Mon Nov 27, 2017 5:30 pm

Indra is lord of the Trayastrimsha Heaven, while Brahma is lord of the Brahma heavens...

How are these two associated? In Japanese iconography, Indra(Shakra) and Brahma appear together as Dharma Protectors.

I did a quick look, but don't have the time right now to try and flesh out their relationship. Maybe if we look into their relationship, this will shed some light on the Indra's Net/Brahama's Net question?
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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Coëmgenu » Mon Nov 27, 2017 9:36 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Mon Nov 27, 2017 5:30 pm
I did a quick look, but don't have the time right now to try and flesh out their relationship. Maybe if we look into their relationship, this will shed some light on the Indra's Net/Brahama's Net question?
I think the term "Net of Brahmā" comes from the earlier dispensation, the Brahmājālasutta (opening sutta of the Dīghanikāya) of the Pāli Canon, in which is describes the net of wrong-views that ascetics and contemplatives may fall into.

Here is the Pāli recension of the Brahmājālasutta.

Now, for all manner of interesting business, check out the parallel Dharmaguptaka Dīrghāgama, in which Indra shows up constantly!
並畢竟空。並如來藏。並實相。非三 而三三而不三。非合非散而合而散。非非合非非散。不可一異而一異。
All three truths are ultimately empty, all are tathāgatagarbha, all are true aspect. Not three, they are three; three, they are not three. Neither combined nor separated, neither uncombined nor unseparated. Neither same nor different, yet in a sense same, and in a sense different.

夫三諦者。 天然之性徳也。 中諦者。 統一切法。 眞諦者。 泯一切法。 俗諦者。 立一切法。
The three truths. Heaven-sent natural characteristics. The middle truth unifies all dharmas. The ultimate truth demolishes all dharmas. The conventional truth establishes all dharmas.

摩訶止観始終心要Móhēzhǐguān, Shǐzhōngxīnyào.

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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Zhen Li » Tue Nov 28, 2017 7:45 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Mon Nov 27, 2017 9:36 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Mon Nov 27, 2017 5:30 pm
I did a quick look, but don't have the time right now to try and flesh out their relationship. Maybe if we look into their relationship, this will shed some light on the Indra's Net/Brahama's Net question?
I think the term "Net of Brahmā" comes from the earlier dispensation, the Brahmājālasutta (opening sutta of the Dīghanikāya) of the Pāli Canon, in which is describes the net of wrong-views that ascetics and contemplatives may fall into.

Here is the Pāli recension of the Brahmājālasutta.

Now, for all manner of interesting business, check out the parallel Dharmaguptaka Dīrghāgama, in which Indra shows up constantly!
I have been considering that jāla in the DN1 sutta may be more along the lines of a snare, than the kind of netted-banner hanging as a wall ornament. The sutta is all about wrong views, so thinking of it as a snare might make sense. Brahma does appear in the sutta, as a self-deluded deva, but also the sutta comes from a dispute involving the young brahmin Brahmadatta. So, I think the title of the DN1 sutta really has a very different genealogy/rationale than that of the Mahāyāna sūtra. However, I think it might also be worth looking at what Buddhaghosa says in the Sumaṅgalavilāsinī on the title of the DN1 sutta. Had I more time I could look into it.

As far as I could see in the Dīrghāgama version, the Brahma elements are identical; I'm not sure I could even find Indra once. Perhaps you could specify some examples. I'm just looking at this version, https://suttacentral.net/lzh/da21 but I recall seeing some strange un-noted differences between this and the Taisho version a few months ago, so I am not sure about that.

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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Coëmgenu » Tue Nov 28, 2017 8:06 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2017 7:45 pm
Coëmgenu wrote:
Mon Nov 27, 2017 9:36 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Mon Nov 27, 2017 5:30 pm
I did a quick look, but don't have the time right now to try and flesh out their relationship. Maybe if we look into their relationship, this will shed some light on the Indra's Net/Brahama's Net question?
I think the term "Net of Brahmā" comes from the earlier dispensation, the Brahmājālasutta (opening sutta of the Dīghanikāya) of the Pāli Canon, in which is describes the net of wrong-views that ascetics and contemplatives may fall into.

Here is the Pāli recension of the Brahmājālasutta.

Now, for all manner of interesting business, check out the parallel Dharmaguptaka Dīrghāgama, in which Indra shows up constantly!
I have been considering that jāla in the DN1 sutta may be more along the lines of a snare, than the kind of netted-banner hanging as a wall ornament. The sutta is all about wrong views, so thinking of it as a snare might make sense. Brahma does appear in the sutta, as a self-deluded deva, but also the sutta comes from a dispute involving the young brahmin Brahmadatta. So, I think the title of the DN1 sutta really has a very different genealogy/rationale than that of the Mahāyāna sūtra. However, I think it might also be worth looking at what Buddhaghosa says in the Sumaṅgalavilāsinī on the title of the DN1 sutta. Had I more time I could look into it.

As far as I could see in the Dīrghāgama version, the Brahma elements are identical; I'm not sure I could even find Indra once. Perhaps you could specify some examples. I'm just looking at this version, https://suttacentral.net/lzh/da21 but I recall seeing some strange un-noted differences between this and the Taisho version a few months ago, so I am not sure about that.
I was getting Indra from these documents:

(http://www.bdkamerica.org/system/files/ ... 1_2015.pdf) & (http://www.bdkamerica.org/system/files/ ... 2_2016.pdf)

Ven Anālayo, a Chinese translator working in the field of EBT studies, has spoken critically of these translations, saying that the translator adds all manner of personal commentary into the Buddhavacana.
並畢竟空。並如來藏。並實相。非三 而三三而不三。非合非散而合而散。非非合非非散。不可一異而一異。
All three truths are ultimately empty, all are tathāgatagarbha, all are true aspect. Not three, they are three; three, they are not three. Neither combined nor separated, neither uncombined nor unseparated. Neither same nor different, yet in a sense same, and in a sense different.

夫三諦者。 天然之性徳也。 中諦者。 統一切法。 眞諦者。 泯一切法。 俗諦者。 立一切法。
The three truths. Heaven-sent natural characteristics. The middle truth unifies all dharmas. The ultimate truth demolishes all dharmas. The conventional truth establishes all dharmas.

摩訶止観始終心要Móhēzhǐguān, Shǐzhōngxīnyào.

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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Coëmgenu » Wed Nov 29, 2017 4:45 pm

I've made a mistaken phrasing above. When I said: Now, for all manner of interesting business, check out the parallel Dharmaguptaka Dīrghāgama, in which Indra shows up constantly!, I should have clarified that I was referring to the entire Dīrghāgama, not just the Brahmajalasutta parallel.
並畢竟空。並如來藏。並實相。非三 而三三而不三。非合非散而合而散。非非合非非散。不可一異而一異。
All three truths are ultimately empty, all are tathāgatagarbha, all are true aspect. Not three, they are three; three, they are not three. Neither combined nor separated, neither uncombined nor unseparated. Neither same nor different, yet in a sense same, and in a sense different.

夫三諦者。 天然之性徳也。 中諦者。 統一切法。 眞諦者。 泯一切法。 俗諦者。 立一切法。
The three truths. Heaven-sent natural characteristics. The middle truth unifies all dharmas. The ultimate truth demolishes all dharmas. The conventional truth establishes all dharmas.

摩訶止観始終心要Móhēzhǐguān, Shǐzhōngxīnyào.

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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Zhen Li » Thu Nov 30, 2017 2:27 am

Coëmgenu wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 4:45 pm
I've made a mistaken phrasing above. When I said: Now, for all manner of interesting business, check out the parallel Dharmaguptaka Dīrghāgama, in which Indra shows up constantly!, I should have clarified that I was referring to the entire Dīrghāgama, not just the Brahmajalasutta parallel.
Oh thank you for clarifying, as of course DĀ21 is not in Vol 1 or 2. Indra is, of course, a common interlocutor regardless.
Coëmgenu wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2017 8:06 pm
Ven Anālayo, a Chinese translator working in the field of EBT studies, has spoken critically of these translations, saying that the translator adds all manner of personal commentary into the Buddhavacana.
Do you have a link to his critique? I'd be interested in hearing. I am sure he has a reasoned explanation for why they are not to be relied upon. I haven't had time to make a study of them personally, but it is also very easy to criticize translations in a few minutes when it takes a lot of time, effort, and highly specialized skill in order to produce volumes like Icihmura Sensei has. The only thing I noticed when I have referred to them in the past is that they sometimes lack the polished editing that the Wisdom Nikāya series has, but otherwise, they are useful for English cross-reference and many are also synchronized on the SAT Daizōkyō Text Database.

The first looks I have had at the Müller and Tanaka translation have been promising, but there are also many cases in which the Chinese is just too ambiguous, in my opinion, to make the choices they did without note. But otherwise, I think it is a definitely acceptable translation.

This also gets into the topic of what is accepted English-Buddhist-Canon. When do we consider a translation good enough to be reliably canonical? I am perfectly happy to accept, for example, Cleary's translation of the Avataṃsaka, but I know plenty of people who reject it to the point that they hold that for all intents and purposes the Avataṃsaka has yet to be translated. I think this is a bit extreme.

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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Coëmgenu » Thu Nov 30, 2017 2:50 am

Zhen Li wrote:
Thu Nov 30, 2017 2:27 am
Coëmgenu wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 4:45 pm
I've made a mistaken phrasing above. When I said: Now, for all manner of interesting business, check out the parallel Dharmaguptaka Dīrghāgama, in which Indra shows up constantly!, I should have clarified that I was referring to the entire Dīrghāgama, not just the Brahmajalasutta parallel.
Oh thank you for clarifying, as of course DĀ21 is not in Vol 1 or 2. Indra is, of course, a common interlocutor regardless.
Coëmgenu wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2017 8:06 pm
Ven Anālayo, a Chinese translator working in the field of EBT studies, has spoken critically of these translations, saying that the translator adds all manner of personal commentary into the Buddhavacana.
Do you have a link to his critique? I'd be interested in hearing. I am sure he has a reasoned explanation for why they are not to be relied upon. I haven't had time to make a study of them personally, but it is also very easy to criticize translations in a few minutes when it takes a lot of time, effort, and highly specialized skill in order to produce volumes like Icihmura Sensei has.
I do not know who Icihmura Sensei is, or his credentials, but I do not doubt your account of his skill.

Ven Anālayo's reservations about these translations were forwarded to me by Ven Vimala, a personal contact of Ven Anālayo, when I suggested these texts as candidates for hosting at SuttaCentral on a thread there.

I inquired further as to the nature of these interpolations:

Original date Nov 24 2017

Out of curiousity, and I do not mean to cast doubt on Ven Anālayo’s judgement or your suspicions, but if I may ask, ayya, what is the criterion for what makes this translation of dubious quality?

I ask because there are several metrics by which to judge the text, and there are several metrics through which an interpreter/translator can interpret/translate the text.

For instance, from my own novice experience looking at the Buddhist Chinese of the āgamāḥ, when consulting dictionaries of Buddhist Chinese, the stratified layers in the language do not correspond. For instance, a technical term in the vocabulary of a Buddhist sūtra translated ~200AD will be retained, but will have a different technical meaning altogether in sūtrāṇi translated in ~4-500AD.

There is a tradition in China to treat the older material ( ~200AD etc) as newer material (~4-500AD), conflating the different stratified layers of Buddhist Chinese on occasion.

For instance, from SA 296 (Paccayasutta-parallel):

若佛出世,若未出世,此法常住,法住法界,彼如來自覺知,成等正覺,

Whether or not one is a Mahāyāna Buddhist reading these texts (and translating) them will effect how one treats, understands, and renders the 法界 here, as “dharma realms”, as phenomenological realms, or as dharmadhātu.

Is the translation suspect because the “reading” of the text is a Mahāyāna reading? Similarly, is the translation suspect because the translator was only familiar with the Chinese, not with the Indic parallels, and thus is not a translation that takes full advantage of information that can be gleaned from EBT-parallels? Or is the translation simply a poor job by a translator of lesser accomplishment at this stage?


Ven Vimalanyani, who also knows Ven Anālayo, substantiated his appraisal of these translations saying that "the translation contained a lot of interpolations by the translator that have no basis in the original text". I am awaiting further clarification, and following up on the matter. I also plan, on the weekend when I have some spare time, to go through the Chinese and see for myself if I think the rendering is indeed pull of interpretive points. It is quite possible that "the translation contained a lot of interpolations by the translator" which were only having "no basis in the original text" from a certain perspective. Nonetheless, Ven Anālayo is a bright mind and a brilliant translator himself. I am looking into contacting him directly on the matter.
並畢竟空。並如來藏。並實相。非三 而三三而不三。非合非散而合而散。非非合非非散。不可一異而一異。
All three truths are ultimately empty, all are tathāgatagarbha, all are true aspect. Not three, they are three; three, they are not three. Neither combined nor separated, neither uncombined nor unseparated. Neither same nor different, yet in a sense same, and in a sense different.

夫三諦者。 天然之性徳也。 中諦者。 統一切法。 眞諦者。 泯一切法。 俗諦者。 立一切法。
The three truths. Heaven-sent natural characteristics. The middle truth unifies all dharmas. The ultimate truth demolishes all dharmas. The conventional truth establishes all dharmas.

摩訶止観始終心要Móhēzhǐguān, Shǐzhōngxīnyào.

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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Admin_PC » Thu Nov 30, 2017 3:34 am

Somehow I’m not surprised Analayo was critical. I find the DA translation to be much more readable than his work on the MA. I find his choice of using Pali terms in translating the Agamas to be extremely questionable. I’ve seen at least one Chinese Buddhist Text translator call into question his actual skill at Chinese. You already know I have serious issues with his critique of the content of the Agamas. I take everything he says with a huge grain of salt, as his agenda has always been fairly clear to me. Would love to see an MA translation without him involved.

Even the critique above is a bit funny. Japan has a much longer (and stronger) tradition of translating various strata of Chinese than the west, let alone this largely self-taught translator with less than a decade of Chinese.
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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Coëmgenu » Thu Nov 30, 2017 3:40 am

Admin_PC wrote:
Thu Nov 30, 2017 3:34 am
Somehow I’m not surprised Analayo was critical. I find the DA translation to be much more readable than his work on the MA. I find his choice of using Pali terms in translating the Agamas to be extremely questionable. I’ve seen at least one Chinese Buddhist Text translator call into question his actual skill at Chinese. You already know I have serious issues with his critique of the content of the Agamas. I take everything he says with a huge grain of salt, as his agenda has always been fairly clear to me. Would love to see an MA translation without him involved.
All the same, if he has concrete examples and incidences, and can contextualize himself, I would be very interested in what this appraisal says of how different kinds of Buddhists read texts differently, as the translator of the DA has now been vouched for as well-established.
並畢竟空。並如來藏。並實相。非三 而三三而不三。非合非散而合而散。非非合非非散。不可一異而一異。
All three truths are ultimately empty, all are tathāgatagarbha, all are true aspect. Not three, they are three; three, they are not three. Neither combined nor separated, neither uncombined nor unseparated. Neither same nor different, yet in a sense same, and in a sense different.

夫三諦者。 天然之性徳也。 中諦者。 統一切法。 眞諦者。 泯一切法。 俗諦者。 立一切法。
The three truths. Heaven-sent natural characteristics. The middle truth unifies all dharmas. The ultimate truth demolishes all dharmas. The conventional truth establishes all dharmas.

摩訶止観始終心要Móhēzhǐguān, Shǐzhōngxīnyào.

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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Admin_PC » Thu Nov 30, 2017 3:43 am

Sorry edited my post. That strata argument comes off a bit chauvinistic. Not quite sure on specifics he’s referencing, but just because the examples are concrete/substantial doesn’t make them correct.

What’s ironic is that he seems totally unaware of his own biases vis a vis Pali texts.
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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Zhen Li » Fri Dec 01, 2017 2:51 am

Coëmgenu wrote:
Thu Nov 30, 2017 2:50 am
I do not know who Icihmura Sensei is, or his credentials, but I do not doubt your account of his skill.
Shohei Ichimura is the BDK translator for the ongoing DA translation. What I am saying is not necessarily that I have accounted for his skill, but that it is easier to discount a translation than to produce one. But I would also have to agree that Analayo makes questionable choices in his translations—not questioning his judgment as a scholar at all, just as a translator. However, I would also suggest that Germans tend to have very different attitudes towards translation than those trained in the Western Hemisphere. I think we tend to prefer something readable, and Germans tend to want something that is a one-to-one representation of what the text in its original language. If I recall correctly, this is an observation that Venuti made in his book The Translator's Invisibility. He argues that many developments have led to an attempt in some quarters to develop sort of unmediated representations of a source text—whereas a traditional British translation (take a look for example at the verse translations of Classics, or of the early PTS translations) aimed at localization and fluency in the target language.

My opinion is that scholars should be reading in the source language, regardless. Translations can be useful for discussion in articles or books or as indexes for reference to the source language, but nonetheless, a scholar of the Āgamas has little reason not to read in Chinese. Thus, if pure translations (i.e. texts produced purely as translations and not as studies) are freed from the shackles of unmediated source-representation, I think we'll end up with more readable and localizable texts, and texts that can help in preserving, spreading, teaching and learning the Dharma, which from the Buddhist perspective is what many of us aim at. This doesn't mean completely free translation, but it means a degree of flexibility.

For instance, I think translating verse as verse is one step in the right direction, and demands greater artistic skill from the translator as well. I am perfectly able, for instance, to use Rhys Davids' verse translations of the Therigatha as indexes for the Pali—she maintains the meaning perfectly fine while introducing verse and rhyme. But for English, I don't personally think translations of verses should be lined up, to make them look like verses in English, if they are not in verse—if one isn't inclined to translate it as a verse, just translate it as a prose paragraph (Emmerick does this in his Suvarṇaprabhāsa translation and it works fine).

The BDK publication, Buddha-dharma, is perhaps on the far end of flexibility, where we have a translation of what was already colloquialised Japanese with multiple layers of summary and paraphrase already incorporated. This makes for an extremely readable translation, but it is not often connected to the structure of the source text in a clear way, so one cannot use it as an index. However, it would be a decent textbook for a Dharma class for the non-academic laity. I think we should have creativity in translation—I'm sure the translators of the Brahmajāla Sutra, if indeed they were translators, exercised a fair degree of creativity themselves (at least that's my impression when I read it in Chinese).

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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Malcolm » Fri Dec 01, 2017 3:21 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 2:51 am

But for English, I don't personally think translations of verses should be lined up, to make them look like verses in English, if they are not in verse—if one isn't inclined to translate it as a verse, just translate it as a prose paragraph (Emmerick does this in his Suvarṇaprabhāsa translation and it works fine).
Speaking as someone who translates Buddhist texts (from Tibetan) all day long, day and and day out: it doesn't work just fine. For one thing, there is no rhyming in Tibetan, Sanskrit, etc.

Secondly, translating verse as prose makes it harder to located the line in the source text.

Thirdly, it is a well established convention in English that verse should be rendered in a free verse structure, and it is fine to disregard meter, etc.
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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Zhen Li » Fri Dec 01, 2017 5:12 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 3:21 pm
Speaking as someone who translates Buddhist texts (from Tibetan) all day long, day and and day out: it doesn't work just fine. For one thing, there is no rhyming in Tibetan, Sanskrit, etc.

Secondly, translating verse as prose makes it harder to located the line in the source text.

Thirdly, it is a well established convention in English that verse should be rendered in a free verse structure, and it is fine to disregard meter, etc.
I don't think there's a one-size fits all approach. On the one hand, you are right that for indexical purposes, the prevalent conventions are fit for purpose. However, as Elliot wrote, "No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job." Free verse is not really verse, in my opinion, it's just prose slotted into lines. And for a competent user of a translation that translates verse as prose paragraph, there actually should be no trouble finding a corresponding line. I had no problem identifying Sanskrit lines from Emmerick's Suvarṇaprabhāsa and also even found Cleary's Avataṃsaka translation fine for reading alongside the Chinese or the Sanskrit Daśabhūmika or Gaṇḍavyūha even though he excludes Taishō page numbers altogether. If the chapters are short (as in the Suvarṇaprabhāsa) this is easy. For the Avataṃsaka, each chapter has an inherent structure that, once understood, makes identifying passages easy. Even more so, if you have trouble identifying a verse from a prose paragraph, how much more trouble would you have identifying a prose sentence in a prose paragraph? This shouldn't be a problem for a competent scholar. Moreover, I never said we should exclude verse numbers—Emmerick does this, but one needn't.

As regards rhyming, again, this is about localization. English verse has metre and sometimes rhyme, but that it isn't present in the source text does not mean it needn't be present in the translated text—one cannot get a one-to-one unmediated representation of a source text without reading the source text, and attempts to do so are always clumsy and Buddhist-Hybrid English. Moreover, Sanskrit verse has various other features such as change of metre, and so forth, that free verse cannot replicate and it is also not true that Sanskrit does not feature rhyme, for instance, the Gītagovinda frequently employs rhyme, it is just not common. So, in fact, our lack of metre is just as arbitrary as inclusion of metre or even rhyme. Moreover, with some material it works well, and sometimes it works better to not feature rhyme. But in the end, it's an aesthetic choice. I'm not against the translating of verse as prose, but just as you argue that Sanskrit and Tibetan does not rhyme, by that very logic we also should not slot verse translations into prose into lines as in English verse. Sanskrit pothī do not slot verses into vertical lines, they are organized just like prose except with verse numbers indicated.

So in the end, our choices about "established convention" are just as arbitrary as any other.

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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Malcolm » Fri Dec 01, 2017 5:22 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 5:12 pm

As regards rhyming, again, this is about localization. English verse has metre and sometimes rhyme, but that it isn't present in the source text does not mean it needn't be present in the translated text—
There is no need to force meter or rhyme on translations. It sounds very, very contrived and awkward. Very 19th century.
one cannot get a one-to-one unmediated representation of a source text without reading the source text, and attempts to do so are always clumsy and Buddhist-Hybrid English.
Hence, we don't bother.
Moreover, Sanskrit verse has various other features such as change of metre, and so forth, that free verse cannot replicate and it is also not true that Sanskrit does not feature rhyme, for instance, the Gītagovinda frequently employs rhyme, it is just not common.
Hence we don't bother trying to impose meter in translations. When we do, we always wind up with archaism, and non-idiomatic renderings in English.
Moreover, with some material it works well, and sometimes it works better to not feature rhyme. But in the end, it's an aesthetic choice. I'm not against the translating of verse as prose, but just as you argue that Sanskrit and Tibetan does not rhyme, by that very logic we also should not slot verse translations into prose into lines as in English verse.
It's about the shape of the text, more than anything. The only reason to put verse in prose formatting is to cut down per-page cost in a book.
Sanskrit pothī do not slot verses into vertical lines, they are organized just like prose except with verse numbers indicated.
Neither do Tibetan texts —— well, in modern printed editions of Tibetan texts, they are beginning to adopt the convention of placing verse in vertical lines, but since Tibetan blockprints and manuscripts are modeled on pothī...
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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Zhen Li » Fri Dec 01, 2017 6:03 pm

This is purely an aesthetic difference.

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Re: Source of Indra's Net?

Post by Malcolm » Fri Dec 01, 2017 7:39 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 6:03 pm
This is purely an aesthetic difference.

Aesthetics are important.
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