nowheat wrote:. . . I really don't think editing the Buddha's choice of language is wise.
Interestingly, for all the verbiage, there is no actual argument presented here from our wheat intolerant friend. This last comment about choice in language, however, deserves a comment. Translation, even in its most literal, is always interpretive. It is not just a matter of just knowing the vocabulary and grammar, but it is also a matter of understanding the immediate and broader contexts of what is being translated.
Offering differing translations in English of a particular text is hardly "editing the Buddha's choice of language." To say one is “editing the Buddha's choice of language" in this context -- to be meaningful -- would mean going into the Pali and changing that. Offering as an exploration (which is all any translation actually is) alternative translations to help pull out the meaning is not
editing the Buddha's choice of language, given that the Buddha did not speak the language of the translation. In other words, the complaint about "editing the Buddha's choice of language" is a meaningless, and it is simply not a well informed objection."Atthi ajatam, abhutam, akatam, asankhatam."
Udana 80 and Itivuttaka, 37-8.There is, bhikkhus, a not-born, a not-brought-to-being, a not-made, a not-conditioned.
-- J. IrelandThere is, monks, an unborn -- unbecome -- unmade -- unfabricated.
-- Thanissaro Monks, there is a not-born, a not-brought-to-being, a not-made, a not-compounded.
-- F.L. Woodward
What does this concatenation of words mean? It is not all evident from these translations. As we have seen here recently, this line, with this type of translations, has, with good reason, been pressed into service to argue for the existence of what would be called "God."
However, what is worth doing is going into the suttas, looking at how each of the four words, in their variations, is used. What one finds is that each of the four words in their variations has to do with the core idea found within the Buddha’s teachings of the highly dynamic putting together and the stopping of putting together.
One can either go with:
There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.
"Monks, there is freedom from birth, freedom from
becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning.
For, monks if there were not this freedom from birth, freedom from
becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning,
then escape from that which is birth, becoming, making,
conditioning, would not be known here. But, monks, because there
is freedom from birth, freedom from becoming, freedom from
making, freedom from conditioning, therefore the escape from that
which is birth, becoming, making, conditioning is known."
Where the second translation is clear, the first raises immediate question of what is “an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated?”
Also, keep in mind that in the various texts that are translated as “the Deathless,” there is no word for the definite article “the” to be found preceding amatam
, nor is there capitalization used. “The Deathless” is, in fact, highly interpretive of what is actually found in the Pali. The locution “the Deathless” moves in the wrong direction of suggesting that there is some static “thing” that exists with out death to be attained.
My preference is to reflect the dynamic language, thought, and practice found within the Pali suttas.
For those who want to go with “the Deathless,” fine; however, for me “the Deathless” fails to capture the richness of the Pali and of the Buddha’s teachings.