Translating Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra

Translating Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra

Luis Gómez

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.

The following passages will be read and discussed by the whole group: VI.22-50, 112-134, VII.1-10, 66-76. This is a rather ambitious list; we will proceed only as far as time permits.

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

a 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.

Where to find parallel Sanskrit/Tibetan/ Chinese text:

You can have direct access to the Derge edition of the text, and the Tibetan version of the Indian commentaries, by registering at:
The Sanskrit text is available also through Gretil.

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 Chicago Press.

Venuti, Lawrence. (Ed.). (200). The Translation Studies Reader. New York: Routledge.