King James & The Pali Canon

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King James & The Pali Canon

Postby Jhana4 » Sat Apr 09, 2011 4:24 pm

One of the nice things about the internet is that it makes it very easy to see at least 2, often more, alternative translations of a particular sutta. If you have never had an appreciation for how two languages do not translate into each other exactly, you will get such an appreciation. You will also get an appreciation for how much a particular translator's decisions and biases matter.

Most of the translations I have read have been by modern, western monks. Yet the English terms they use often have a biblical, King James translation to them. "Lord, gods, meditation, thou, thee, shalt, etc.." are English words and concepts....not Pali words. Why were these words chosen, when they are not an exact fit and hold so much baggage for people?
Last edited by Jhana4 on Sat Apr 09, 2011 6:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: King James & The Pali Canon

Postby cooran » Sat Apr 09, 2011 4:46 pm

Hello Jhana4,

Interesting.
mediation, thou, thee, shalt
.... maybe you also mean 'meditation'?

My understanding is that the earliest translations were put into the language used by the translator. I can't recall seeing these forms in any translation I have. They are 17th century english usage words - but the first major translations into english of the Pali canon were made in the eighteenth century.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C4%81li_ ... anslations

Can you give some links? Maybe some of our Pali experts can assist with info.?

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: King James & The Pali Canon

Postby David2 » Sat Apr 09, 2011 5:34 pm

Practising meditation should be very helpful for practising mediation. :smile:
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Re: King James & The Pali Canon

Postby Jhana4 » Sat Apr 09, 2011 6:53 pm

Why pick the English words "Lord" to refer the Buddha when he wasn't a lord in the sense of English land owning nobility, nor was he a "god". For that matter why choose "god" for referring to the various divine beings mentioned? Ditto for the 12 after life realms being labeled as a "heaven" or a "hell"?

Those words are familiar and similar, but so much so it might push readers into ways of thinking that are not representative of what is translated.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
Jhana4
 
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Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: U.S.A., Northeast

Re: King James & The Pali Canon

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Apr 10, 2011 6:03 am

Jhana4 wrote:Why pick the English words "Lord" to refer the Buddha when he wasn't a lord in the sense of English land owning nobility, nor was he a "god". For that matter why choose "god" for referring to the various divine beings mentioned? Ditto for the 12 after life realms being labeled as a "heaven" or a "hell"?

Hi, Jhana4,
A translator sometimes has to choose between a familiar but inaccurate, potentially misleading word and an unfamiliar but more accurate word - or not translating the term at all and making his readers learn what (e.g.) "ariya" really means. They are choices between accessibility and rigour and there is no solution which is 'right' for every audience. As for 'thee' and 'thou', they can act (loosely) as signifiers of the age and seriousness of the text.
Since you have mentioned King James, perhaps you would care to describe the 'best' translation of the Bible, and say why you think it is the best. It's an exercise that might tell us more about you than about the Bible :tongue: but may help you understand the difficulties with translations of the dhamma.
:namaste:
Kim
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Re: King James & The Pali Canon

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:59 pm

Hi Kim

Since Buddhism has more of a foothold in the west readers can be challenged more by leaving some terms untranslated and having those terms defined in footnotes.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
Jhana4
 
Posts: 1309
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: U.S.A., Northeast


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