The Art of Buddhist Translation I, II & III

This symposium focused on the Sgra sbyor bam po gnyis pa, a text that records the deliberations and methodology of the ninth-century Tibetan scholars and translated responsible for the famous Sanskrit-Tibetan dictionary known as the Mahāvyutpatti.
July 14-30, 2011

The Art of Buddhist Translation I, II & III:
Across the Generations

Seminar Faculty:
Luis Gómez received his Ph.D. from Yale in 1967. In 1973, he joined the faculty of the University of Michigan, where he created one of the country’s first programs in Buddhist Studies, Now Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan, he also holds the position of Profesor Investigador at El Colegio de México, and is also a practicing psychotherapist. He has a long-time interest in issues relating to translation, and is one of the world’s leading authorities on the Bodhicaryāvatāra.

Michael Hahn received his Ph.D. in 1967 at the University of Marburg and his D.Litt. in 1972. He served as assistant and associate professor at the Universities of Hamburg and Bonn before becoming a full professor at the University of Marburg in 1988, where he is now emeritus. His main fields of research are classical Sanskrit literature, Indian metric, Buddhist literature, and Tibetan linguistics and literature. The author of more than 17 books and close to 100 articles, he is the editor and publisher of the series Indica et Tibetica and has supervised 15 Ph.D. theses. His textbook on Classical Tibetan has been the standard in the field for more than 30 years.

Course Description:
Translation of Buddhist texts has been underway for well over a century. Early translators brought to the task strong philological skills, a wide-ranging familiarity with Western culture, and the luxury of being able to devote themselves to their work with few outside demands. In more recent times, scholars have benefitted from access to a vastly expanded corpus of texts, generations of rigorous work in Buddhist philosophy and related fields, increasing contact with masters of the surviving Buddhist traditions, and a newly emerging interest in Buddhism as a living religious tradition. At the same time, scholars today face pressures as academics that limit the time they can give to philological study and to translation as a discipline with its own unique requirements.

This summer program will use case studies of translations done at different times over the past century in order to assess how approaches to the translation of Buddhist texts have changed and what the goals for accurate and accessible translations should be in the future. Each source text will be the subject of an intensive review, looking at issues of style, presuppositions, philosophical understanding, etc. The aim on the one hand is to honor the work done by pioneers in the field, and on the other to compare recent developments and approaches.

Application Information:
The program is intended for advanced graduate students and scholars, but applications from all qualified candidates will be considered. Participants may attend one, two or three seminars; preference will be given to those who attend all three. Seminar sessions will meet five hours a day. Please submit an application by March 31, 2011 to keilad@mangalamresearch.org. Include a short statement of purpose, a description of language skills and how acquired, a 1–2 paragraph letter of endorsement from your principal adviser where appropriate, and a clear statement of which program or programs you are applying for. Maximum enrollment for each program is 10. Applicants will be notified whether they have been accepted by April 21, 2011.

Tuition  for each program is $475; tuition for all three programs taken together is $1,100. A vegetarian lunch will be served all participants daily. Lodging at a convenient nearby location, together with breakfast and dinner, is available at a charge of $75 per diem. Applicants also enrolling in the seminar on the sGra sbyor bam po gnyis pa, being held from July 6-11, will receive priority consideration.

Across the Generations I: Translating Pāli Canonical Texts (July 14-18) 
Across the Generations II: Translating Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra (July 20-24) 


Across the Generations I: Translating Pāli Canonical Texts

Dates: July 14-18
Seminar Leader: Luis Gómez
Participating Faculty: Michael Hahn, David Mellins
Participating Graduate Students: Lauren Bausch,Kanti Hattiarachchi, Chanida Jantrasrisalai, Trent Walker, Tyson Yost

The Pāli tradition represents one of the earliest strata of Buddhist literature, preserving in extenso the canonical literature that is only preserved in fragmentary form in other languages of India . At one time the primary focus of Western interest in Buddhism, Pāli literature may have been neglected for a number of years. Western enthusiasm for traditions of Mahāyāna inspiration has arguably distracted our attention from a full appreciation of the richness and complexity of the Pāli texts and their Theravāda interpreters. Knowledge of the canonical literature and its doctrinal categories, at one time required in many academic courses in the Academy, is now less common, even among advanced students. However, there has been a recent resurgence in interest in these texts for their doctrinal wealth as well as their historical value, a situation that demands further reflection on how the Pāli tradition has been understood and translated, together with a revaluation of Western translations of Pāli texts.

The focus of our course will be selected passages mostly from the Khandha-saṃyutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya and the Catukka-nipāta of the Anguttara Nikāya . W hen appropriate, we will consult and compare Chinese translations and Central Asian and Gāndhāri fragments. Using these extracts and contemporary and historic English translations as concrete examples, we will examine how one can or should translate canonical Buddhist texts. Discussion will focus on issues of linguistic, stylistic, and technical accuracy, traditional and contemporary understandings of the language and the doctrine, and the production of readable English translations, as well as the history, science and art of translation.

Course Objectives:
1) To familiarize the students with a) the tools of the trade, b) previous English translations of the Pāli texts, and c) critical tools for judging the quality of translations. Additionally, depending on students’ ability and based on the instructors’ explanations we shall also consider translations into other contemporary languages (German and Japanese).
2) To introduce the students to the practice of translating Buddhist canonical texts with concrete examples practice in and reflection on a) theories of translation, b) the art of translation, c) the best options (best practices) for a translator dealing with a text of this genre and date.
3) To reflect on the links between text criticism (so-called lower and higher) and translation.

Prerequisites and course requirements:
1) language competence: Pāli (good working knowledge required), Chinese (optional, not required). Students with a solid knowledge of Sanskrit and beginning knowledge of Pāli will be considered on a case by case basis.
2) Before the beginning of the course students should read the primary text in one of its modern translations , and begin the study of the Pāli text. 3) Each participants will be asked to prepare a translation of a short portion of text that has not been discussed in class, present the translation to class, explain the problems in the selected passage, and discuss the strategies he or she used to produce a satisfactory translation.

All participants will read and participate in the translation and discussion of the passages indicated below. This is an ambitious list; we will proceed only as far as time permits. The instructors may also change the order of the readings.

Texts for study and translation (in order of class discussion):

1. Nakulapitā, SN, III.1-6 (Saṃyutta-nikāya, abbreviated SN and referenced to PTS ed. vol. and pp.).
2. Being Devoured, SN, III.86-91.
3. Yourselves as an Island, SN, III.42-43.
4. The Raft, Majjhima-nikāya, I. 134-135 (PTS ed. vol. and pp.)
5. Fire Sermon and Jātaka-nidāna fragmentary echo in Andersen, §35 (p. 64, lines 19-24) and §39 (pp. 70-71), respectively (see bibliography). Canonical sources are, for Jātaka-nidāna (ó Nidāna-kathā), 000-000, for the Fire Sermon, Vinaya I.34-35 {see also Warren’s translation, p. 531}
6. The Adze Handle, SN, III.152-155.
7. Viparyāsa Aṅguttara-nikāya, II.52 (abbreviated AN and referenced to PTS ed. vol. and pp.)
8. Phases of the Aggregates, SN, III.58-61.
9. A Ball of Foam. SN, III.140-143.
10. Not Yours, SN, III.33-34, IV,81-82.
11. Brahmin Truths. AN, II.176-177
12. The Iron Ball, SN V.282-284.
13. Baveru Jātaka. In Andersen, §13 (= Jātaka 000).
14. Full-Moon Night, SN, III.100-104
15. The Murder of the Beautiful (Sundarī), Maṇisūkara-jātaka, Fausbøll, Jātaka, 1879, vol. II, págs. 415-417, also in Andersen §41 (pp. 72-74).
16. Siddhattha’s “Great Departure” (Jātaka-nidāna), in Andersen, §35 (pp. 64-65).

Specific translations available to seminar participants:

1. Bodhi (trans). (2000). “Being Devoured.” [SN III]. The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Saṃyuttanikāya.
2. Bodhi (trans). (2000). “Yourselves as an Island.” [SN III]. The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the SaṃyuttanikāyaIII.
3. Bodhi (trans). (2000). “Nakulapita.” [SN III]. The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Saṃyuttanikāya
4. Woodward (trans). “Being Devoured.” [SN III]. Book of Kindred Sayings.
5. Woodward (trans). “On Being an Island to Self.” [SN III]. Book of Kindred Sayings.
6. Woodward (trans). “Nukulapitar.” [SN III]. Book of Kindred Sayings.


Across the Generations II: Translating Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra

Dates: July 20-24
Seminar Leader: Luis Gómez
Participating Faculty: Michael Hahn, David Mellins
Participating Graduate Students: Mayumi Kodani, Tyson Yost

Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra or Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra has been one of the most influential Indian texts in the Tibetan tradition. It has also become both popular and influential among Western practitioners, and has become almost required reading in many academic courses in contemporary universities. The work is arguably only second to the Dhammapada in its popularity and in the number of translations into modern languages (Asian as well as European). The work’s popularity perhaps needs an explanation, and it certainly demands translations that are both accurate and readable.

The course focuses on the history, the science and the art of translation investigating how one can translate a Buddhist text that is both poetical and technical. The focus of our work will be the surviving Sanskrit (Nepalese) version, with occasional consultation of the extant Sanskrit commentary by Prajñākaramati. Additionally, we will on occasion consult and compare the Tibetan versions: the canonical version in the Tengyur [Bstan-‘gyur] and the Dunhuang version (attributed to Akṣayamati). The Chinese version (attributed to *Devaśānti) will also be consulted.

 Course Objectives:
1) To familiarize the students with a) the tools of the trade, b) modern English translations of the Bodhicaryāvatāra, c) critical tools for judging the quality of translations, and d) translations into other languages (depending on student ability and based mostly on the instructor’s explanations).
2) To introduce the students to the practice of translation using the Bodhicaryāvatāra as a concrete example for reflection on and the practice of a) theories of translation, b) the art of translation, c) the best options (best practices) for a translator dealing with a text of this genre and date.
3) To reflect on the links between text criticism (so-called lower and higher) and translation.

 Prerequisites and course requirements:
1) language competence: Sanskrit (good working knowledge required), Tibetan (elementary to intermediate), Chinese (optional, not required)
2) Before the beginning of the course students should read the primary text in one of its modern translations and begin the study of the Sanskrit text.
3) Each participant will be asked to prepare a translation of a short portion of the Bodhicaryāvatāra that has not been discussed in class, present the translation to class, explain the problems in the selected passage, and discuss the strategies he or she used to produce a satisfactory translation.

Required Reading:
Bhattacharya, Vidhushekhara. (Ed). (1960). Bodhicaryāvatāra. Biblioteca India, no. 280. Calcutta. Asiatic Society.
Vaidya, P. L. (Ed.). (1960). Bodhicaryāvatāra of Śāntideva with the commentary Pañjikā of Prajñākaramati. Bauudha-saṃskṛta-granthāvalī (Buddhist Sanskrit Texts), No. 12. Darbhangha: Mithila Institute.

Reference Materials:
Batchelor, Stephen. (1979). A Guide to the bodhisattva’s way of life.
Driessens, Georges (Trans.). (1993). Vivre en héros pour l’éveil. Paris: Éditions du Seuil.
Finot, Louis. (Trans.). 1920). La Marche à la lumière.Bodhicaryāvatāra. Les Classiques de l’Orient, vol. 2. Paris: Éditiions Bossard.
Kanakura, Enshō. 倉金圓照. (Trans.). (1958). Satori e no michi. 悟りへの道。Sāra Sōsho, 9. Kyoto: Heirakuji Shoten. Repr. 1965, 1969, etc.; 6th printing 1996. [Japanese from Skt.].
Matics, Marion L. (1971). (Trans.). (1971). Entering the Path of Enlightenment: The Bodhicaryavatara of the Buddhist poet Santideva. London: Allen and Unwin.
Padmakara Translation Group. (Trans.). (1997). Shantideva: The Way of the Bodhisattva. Boston and London: Shanbhala.
Pezalli, Amalia. (Trans). (1982). Śāntideva: Mystique bouddhiste des VIIe et VIIIe siécles. Instituto per le scienze religiose di Bologna: Testi e ricerche di scienze religiose, 3. Firenze: Vallecchi Editore.
Wallace, Vesna A. and Alan B. Wallace. (Trans). A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications.
Weller, Friedrich. (1952-1955). Tibetisch-sanskritisher Index zum Bodhicaryāvatāra. Berlin: Akademie Verlag
la Vallée Poussin, Louis de. (1892). Bodhicaryâvatâra: Introduction à la pratique de la
sainteté bouddhique (bodhi) par Çantidéva. Intoduction. Le Muséon, 11(1)
la Vallée Poussin, Louis de. (1892). Bodhicaryâvatâra: Introduction à la pratique de la
sainteté bouddhique (bodhi) par Çantidéva. Chs 1,2,3,4,10. Le Muséon, 11(2)
la Vallée Poussin, Louis de. (1896). Bodhisattvacāryāvatāra: Exposition de la pratique des Bodhisattvas. Ch. 5. Le Muséon, 15(3), 306-318.
la Vallée Poussin, Louis de. (Ed.) (1907). Bodhicaryāvatārapañjikā. Prajñākaramati’s commentary on the Bodhicaryāvatāra of Çāntideva. Ed. with introduction. Extracted and Reprinted from Revues d’histoire et de littérature X, XI and XII, 1905,1906, 1908.

Translation Studies Materials:

Buigenet, Joh and Rainer Schulte. Eds.). (1989). The Craft of Translation. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
Gomez, Luis O. (1909). The Way of the Translators: Three Recent Translations of Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra in Buddhist Literature. 1.pp. 262-354.
Hatim, Basil, and Jeremy Munday. (2004) Translation: An Advanced Resource Book. Abingdon, Oxford and New York: Routledge.
Landau, Sidney. (2001). Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography. 2nd Ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lefevre, André. (Ed.). (1992). Translating Literature: Practice and Theory in a Comparative Literature Context. New York: Modern Language Association of America.
Schulte, Rainer and John Buigenet. (Eds.). Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida. Chicago and London: The University of ChicagoPress.
Venuti, Lawrence. (Ed.). (200). The Translation Studies Reader. New York: Routledge.

Like, +1 and Follow Us:

Spread the word. Share this post!

Leave Comment