Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.

Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Postby adamposey » Thu Nov 05, 2009 4:10 pm

Correct me if I'm wrong:

The tipitaka is available in its entirety in digital form, but in Pali, yes? Large swaths of it are available with english translations of varying quality, correct? If these two things are true, would it not be a considerably important and beneficial project to undertake to begin the process of translating the tipitaka online using wiki software or some other kind of group software?
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Re: Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Nov 05, 2009 4:23 pm

It already exists:

http://tipitaka.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

I am not sure how it works with copyright laws. I haven't checked it out much. Maybe the contributors are monks and lay teachers well-versed in Pali doing their own translations? Not sure, but it does sound like a very good idea.

In general though, most Theravada authors I have known are not possessive on copyright issues and want the Dhamma to be spread. Here is Bhikkhu Samahita's wise words about copyright:

http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/copy_right_issues.htm
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Re: Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Nov 05, 2009 7:57 pm

Hi Adam,

It would certainly be nice to have the whole Tipitika on line. The project that David points to seems to have collected the material from Access to Insight and Mettanet, and is in the process of adding to it from out of copyright PTS editions, and other sources. Frustratingly, in many cases doesn't give the source, and appears to often omit the footnotes.

I would make a few points:
1. For serious study I prefer the modern translations from the likes of Wisdom Publications, http://www.wisdompubs.org/Pages/c_teachings.lasso which have copious notes and introductory material.

2. It is most likely overkill to read all of the Suttas, and I think we all fall into a desire to "own" the Tipitika. Somehow, if it was all on our bookshelf or on-line it would be "ours". Unfortunately, that's only a preliminary. For the last three years I've mostly studied the Majjhima Nikaya, because there are a lot of on-line resources available, such as Bhikkhu Bodhi's excellent talks. The $50 cost of Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation is completely trivial in the context of the amount of time I have spent studying it. I could probably usefully spend several more years just studying that one volume.

3. Where a complete on-line resource would be incredibly useful is where one is reading an article or book that refers to many sources scattered around the Tipitika and it's Commentaries, or when one wants to locate something by searching. I sometimes find myself searching on-line resources, then, armed with the reference, read it in the book. That can be much faster than using the paper indexes... :reading:

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Re: Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Postby poto » Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:00 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:It already exists:

http://tipitaka.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

I am not sure how it works with copyright laws. I haven't checked it out much. Maybe the contributors are monks and lay teachers well-versed in Pali doing their own translations? Not sure, but it does sound like a very good idea.


I saw that site a while back and thought it was interesting. I've wondered exactly what they are using as their sources. I agree it's a good idea, and one that I'll definitely be checking back on in the future to see their progress.

David N. Snyder wrote:In general though, most Theravada authors I have known are not possessive on copyright issues and want the Dhamma to be spread. Here is Bhikkhu Samahita's wise words about copyright:

http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/copy_right_issues.htm


That's a good sentiment, and I wish it was shared by all. However, lawsuits and DMCA complaints are a very real threat. People's passions often run high over religious matters, especially those which they may have invested a great deal of time or energy in. I've seen some Buddhists make threats of lawsuits over mere forum postings, so I have my doubts that just going ahead and copying works without permission would be smooth sailing.

I do think a central Buddhist database of all teachings (including Mahayana and Vajrayana), not just Theravada would be a great benefit. Also, formatting it so that usability is the main focus would be very important. A database isn't much use if people can't find what they are looking for easily. What I mean is something like guided paths or a user interface that tracks progress and could suggest related and relevant teachings to what you were studying at the moment. There's a lot of potential to innovate there, because nobody is really doing anything like that yet, at least none that I've found.

In addition, I think having audio and video translations of the texts would be good to add. For instance, if you were studying the Dhammpada and had to go somewhere, you could download the audio format of the chapter you were on (or the entire text) to your ipod and take it with you. When you get back to your computer, you could pick up right at the spot you left off without missing a beat. I am aware there are audio translations and a good number of videos out there, but they are all spread out and not organized in a way that is easiest to learn. What I'm talking about is making something that ties in all of that extra media to one place. One page where you can read the texts, listen to audio of it, or watch a video, see commentaries on it, etc. That along with some interface to help guide people through them, I think would help a lot of people. Something like that would have helped me out a lot, and probably would still help me now.

If I had more free time I'd be doing this instead of just talking about it. I have been thinking about selling my business and doing something like this full time, but that would leave me without an income, and I can not live on data alone... ah well, maybe someday.
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Re: Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Postby adamposey » Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:05 pm

Well, I think an ideal project would include scholars, bhikkus, and lay followers to appropriately translate the tipitaka. I think that project is a great start, but it doesn't look like it's caught on very well. Are there ways we could improve the project for them or work with them to improve it?
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Re: Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Postby poto » Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:05 pm

mikenz66 wrote:2. It is most likely overkill to read all of the Suttas,


I agree, not everyone needs to read all of them, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have easy access to them.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis
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Re: Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Postby Ben » Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:09 pm

It might be easier to learn Pali.
- just a thought!

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Re: Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Postby adamposey » Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:19 pm

Ben wrote:It might be easier to learn Pali.
- just a thought!

Ben


Haha! For us.. yeah probably. But I still feel like the documents should be accesible for everyone who wants to use them.
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Re: Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:28 pm

adamposey wrote:Well, I think an ideal project would include scholars, bhikkus, and lay followers to appropriately translate the tipitaka. I think that project is a great start, but it doesn't look like it's caught on very well. Are there ways we could improve the project for them or work with them to improve it?


And the ads on that site! My goodness, my eyes! Or maybe I'm just getting old, but I would prefer an ad-free site for the Tipitaka.

I think it might be the condition for getting that software for creating that type of wiki at that site. If they used the wikipedia software their only recurring costs would have been domain name and hosting and then it could have been ad-free.
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Re: Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:35 pm

Poto, Adam,
poto wrote:I agree, not everyone needs to read all of them, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have easy access to them.

adamposey wrote: But I still feel like the documents should be accesible for everyone who wants to use them.

I do think it would be useful to have these texts more readily available in good English translations.

However, sometimes these conversations about the Tipitika remind me of my students, who feel very comfortable if they get a stack of hand-outs, imagining that somehow the ideas will just seep out of the notes and into their minds...

I'm veering off the topic here, but now that I am talking about studying I'll state my opinion that, rather than worrying about "collecting" the Tipitika, It would not be unreasonable to spend a year or two studying the small sample of Suttas collected by Bhikkhu Bodhi in "In the Buddha's Words". http://www.wisdompubs.org/Pages/display ... n=&image=1 It's about 500 pages, and studying it in detail (looking up other sources where appropriate, listening to Bhikkhu Bodhi's talks about it, and so on) would, I think, take an effort equivalent to a couple of first-year University papers.

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Re: Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Postby Ben » Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:58 pm

An excellent suggestion, Mike!
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

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Re: Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Postby poto » Thu Nov 05, 2009 9:33 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Poto, Adam,
poto wrote:I agree, not everyone needs to read all of them, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have easy access to them.

adamposey wrote: But I still feel like the documents should be accesible for everyone who wants to use them.

I do think it would be useful to have these texts more readily available in good English translations.

However, sometimes these conversations about the Tipitika remind me of my students, who feel very comfortable if they get a stack of hand-outs, imagining that somehow the ideas will just seep out of the notes and into their minds...

I'm veering off the topic here, but now that I am talking about studying I'll state my opinion that, rather than worrying about "collecting" the Tipitika, It would not be unreasonable to spend a year or two studying the small sample of Suttas collected by Bhikkhu Bodhi in "In the Buddha's Words". http://www.wisdompubs.org/Pages/display ... n=&image=1 It's about 500 pages, and studying it in detail (looking up other sources where appropriate, listening to Bhikkhu Bodhi's talks about it, and so on) would, I think, take an effort equivalent to a couple of first-year University papers.

Mike


Thanks for the link to the book, I'll have to add that to my wishlist. 500 pages is fairly light reading for me. ;)

I just want to say, it isn't about "collecting" or "owning" the Tipitika. I would like to see all Buddhist texts available online for free and in English and many other languages. Not only for my own benefit, but for everyone else too. If I only wanted to collect texts, I would just buy copies and add them to my personal library.

As I mentioned above, I would also like to see a better interface. Try to think of the texts as a form of data rather than mere words on a page. Technology is rapidly changing the way the interact with data. The way we learn and absorb data is also changing because of this. I've done a lot of reading in my day, but I increasingly see paper books as obsolete. I would like to see more initiative to modernize the teachings and make them more accessible to everyone. If this comes off as clinging or desirous please let me know, as that is not my intention.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis
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Re: Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Nov 05, 2009 9:47 pm

Hi poto,
poto wrote:... If this comes off as clinging or desirous please let me know, as that is not my intention.

Not at all. It would be wonderful to have all the material readily available. I was just pointing out that for there is actually plenty of material already available to keep most of us busy for a long time.

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Re: Should we start a tipitaka translation project?

Postby Kare » Thu Nov 05, 2009 11:26 pm

adamposey wrote:
Ben wrote:It might be easier to learn Pali.
- just a thought!

Ben


Haha! For us.. yeah probably. But I still feel like the documents should be accesible for everyone who wants to use them.


Yes. It is good to have translations - so as to be able to disagree with them! :reading:

But every serious Buddhist should allow him/herself the pleasure of reading Pali. It is a pleasure and an intoxication that does not break any precept. :mrgreen:

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