Which Palicanon translation to use?

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Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby Alobha » Sun Aug 12, 2012 4:33 pm

Hey everyone,

I decided that i want to study the palicanon in english from now on. Almost all dhammatexts I read are english and I rarely felt comfortable with the german translations of the palicanon.
So I wonder if people could give me advice on which palicanon translation is considered the "best".
For the start i'm looking for good translations of the Samyutta Nikaya, Digha Nikaya and the Majjhima Nikaya.

Are the translations of Thanissaro Bhikkhu the "Gold standard ?
A flaw I encountered in german translations is the sometimes inconsistent or unclear translation of paliterms. I'd prefer a consistent use of terms or, even better, an index for chosen translation for core paliterms. For example if dosa is sometimes translated as hatred, sometimes as ill-will, sometimes as rejection, sometimes as grudge then I find it hard to learn the more systematic connections.

So, if you have any experience what's not just good for a good read, but actually useful for learning about the Dhamma systematically, i'd appreciate your input!

Best wishes,
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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby Kare » Sun Aug 12, 2012 4:49 pm

This is not really an answer to your question. But since you read German, do you know Kay Zumwinkel's translation of the Majjhima Nikaya? I translate the MN into Norwegian from Pali, but if the text is a little diffuse, I look into other translations to see how they have solved the problematic passage. And I find that Zumwinkel usually has very clear and very precise translations.

And to your question: I have not read many of Thanissaro's translations. But I have to admit that I am not always convinced by his solutions.
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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby bodom » Sun Aug 12, 2012 5:34 pm

Bhikhu Bodhi's translations are top notch.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Aug 12, 2012 5:56 pm

At present Bhikkhu Bodhi has the most complete translated sets so his are the prefered option for continuity, although it never hurts to have other options particularly when you speak german.
I believe that the german translations are at times more precise due to the lack of an equivolent english word or phrase, yet that does not mean they are the better over all.
Thanissaros translations and work in general are freely available so do have that advantage. because his other work help explain the translations and are also freely available he is my preference.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Aug 12, 2012 6:15 pm

bodom wrote:Bhikhu Bodhi's translations are top notch.


+ 1

I have the PTS and Wisdom Publications translations. I prefer the Wisdom Publications translations since most of them are by Bhikkhu Bodhi, but needed PTS too, to make the set complete.

In my opinion, Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations are the "gold standard." His Anguttara Nikaya is set to be shipped out around mid-September.
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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby David2 » Sun Aug 12, 2012 6:16 pm

In the end, the pali canon is best to be read in pali. :-)
It takes a year or two to get a good understanding of the pali language, but:
2 years is nothing if we benefit from it for the rest of our lives.
That were my thoughts for starting learning pali.

But of course there is nothing wrong with starting to study translations.
The majjhima nikaya translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi is probably the best thing to start.
(Bhikkhu Bodhi himself recommended the majjhima nikaya as first nikaya to study.)
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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Aug 12, 2012 6:26 pm

David2 wrote:In the end, the pali canon is best to be read in pali. :-)
It takes a year or two to get a good understanding of the pali language, but:
2 years is nothing if we benefit from it for the rest of our lives.
That were my thoughts for starting learning pali.
2 years if you are working on it consistently, and ideally with a good teacher so as to not fall into the traps of being self taught. Also, ideally your teacher should be well versed in Sanskrit.

But of course there is nothing wrong with starting to study translations.
The majjhima nikaya translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi is probably the best thing to start.
(Bhikkhu Bodhi himself recommended the majjhima nikaya as first nikaya to study.)
Read as many translations of a text as one can find. There are a number of good new anthologies out there such as those by R. Gethin and J Holder that are worth having. Comparison reading of translations is worth doing, even if one reads Pali.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby David2 » Sun Aug 12, 2012 6:35 pm

tiltbillings wrote:so as to not fall into the traps of being self taught.


Which traps do you mean? Could you give examples?
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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby Kare » Sun Aug 12, 2012 8:44 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
David2 wrote:In the end, the pali canon is best to be read in pali. :-)
It takes a year or two to get a good understanding of the pali language, but:
2 years is nothing if we benefit from it for the rest of our lives.
That were my thoughts for starting learning pali.
2 years if you are working on it consistently, and ideally with a good teacher so as to not fall into the traps of being self taught. Also, ideally your teacher should be well versed in Sanskrit.

But of course there is nothing wrong with starting to study translations.
The majjhima nikaya translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi is probably the best thing to start.
(Bhikkhu Bodhi himself recommended the majjhima nikaya as first nikaya to study.)
Read as many translations of a text as one can find. There are a number of good new anthologies out there such as those by R. Gethin and J Holder that are worth having. Comparison reading of translations is worth doing, even if one reads Pali.


Well said, David2 and Tilt! I very much agree with both of you! :clap:
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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:26 pm

David2 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:so as to not fall into the traps of being self taught.


Which traps do you mean? Could you give examples?
Idioms are always a good place to get tripped up on. "He made his time" would be a literal translation of an idiom found commonly in the suttas. What does it mean? He died. There are many others which are also related to doctrinal things, but it has been so long since I have looked at this, none pop into mind at the moment. Maybe some of the others here, Kare, Sylvester, Geoff, who have a handle on Pali could point to others.

We've seen Sylvester talk about whether the translator is taking the word to be a dative case as opposed to a locative, or some such thing, which can make a huge difference in how a word or an expression is translated. I have mentioned that the privative prefix a in Sanskrit/Pali needs not be, as unfortunately it so often is, limited to being translated as a tappurisa compound, giving us the "un," "not," or "non" translations -- “the unconditioned.” Asankhata, unconditioned, can be translated as a bahubbhiihi compound, giving us “free from conditions” (of hatred, greed, and ignorance), “without conditions,” or, “conditionlessness,” and so forth for the other words in question.

A good teacher can help one, as one is learning, to navigate these mine fields.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:55 pm

Greetings,

Bhikkhu Bodhi and Thanissaro Bhikkhu have each done quite a few translations, and are generally of high quality.

What I would recommend, is to at least, at a minimum learn key Pali terms and spend time to investigate their meaning, so that when someone translates a particular word as "x", you can recognise its Pali equivalent, and then base your understanding of the sutta presented on your understanding of the original Pali term.

Even the best translator inadvertently translates according to his or her world-view, and understanding key Pali terms helps to filter out this bias (so you can then inadvertently introduce your own! :tongue: One biased filter is better than two, yeah?)

If you wish to go beyond that, the suggestions made by others above are good.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby Kare » Sun Aug 12, 2012 11:28 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Bhikkhu Bodhi and Thanissaro Bhikkhu have each done quite a few translations, and are generally of high quality.

What I would recommend, is to at least, at a minimum learn key Pali terms and spend time to investigate their meaning, so that when someone translates a particular word as "x", you can recognise its Pali equivalent, and then base your understanding of the sutta presented on your understanding of the original Pali term.


Yes, that is a good beginning. But - as Tilt has pointed out - grammar is important. So after getting to know some important Pali words, I will recommend that you start with the grammar as soon as you feel able to. There is a huge difference between English, which has few inflexions, and Pali, which is a highly inflected language. This means that an English word usually can be deciphered looking at the lexical meaning. But a word in Pali consists of two parts: the lexical meaning (found in a dictionary), and the inflection (the grammar part), which has a lot to say about the function of the word in the sentence. Grammar is more important in Pali than many people realize. If you mess up the cases and other inflections, you may get a totally wrong understanding of a sentence. To put it bluntly, you may be left with the understanding that the mouse ate the cat, while in reality it was the opposite that happened.


Even the best translator inadvertently translates according to his or her world-view, and understanding key Pali terms helps to filter out this bias (so you can then inadvertently introduce your own! :tongue: One biased filter is better than two, yeah?)



This is very true. No translator is perfect. There is a saying in Italian: “traduttore, traditore”, meaning roughly that the translator is a traitor. Well, usually it is not quite that bad. But it is very useful to check with different translations, even when you can read the text in Pali. By understanding the Pali text, you can discuss the different translations (in your mind or with friends), and have a reasoned opinion on which version you support. The translators may be biased, you may be biased, but by reading the Pali texts, checking with different translators and with the commentaries if necessary, you stand a better chance for discovering the biases and reduce them to a minimum.
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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby Sylvester » Mon Aug 13, 2012 4:17 am

I have to agree with Kare and Tilt.

This is not to diminish the worth of the efforts of those who approach the study of Pali through vocabulary first, but I have found that the study of its grammar is more critical. Even then, grammar by itself informs only part of the analysis of meaning, since Pali idioms are a minefield, eg kāyena phusati ("he touches with the body").

Even with the study of grammar, one needs to be alive to the fact that when we approach Pali grammar through textbooks written by Western linguists, the classifications of Pali "cases" is itself a modern Western classification. Not all grammars presented in English are equal to the task, and some address only the more common sense of the inflections. I wonder if there are Pali grammars in other Western languages that are more comprehensive than Warder, or Oberlies or Geiger?
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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Aug 13, 2012 4:32 am

tiltbillings wrote:Idioms are always a good place to get tripped up on. "He made his time" would be a literal translation of an idiom found commonly in the suttas. What does it mean? He died. There are many others which are also related to doctrinal things, but it has been so long since I have looked at this, none pop into mind at the moment. Maybe some of the others here, Kare, Sylvester, Geoff, who have a handle on Pali could point to others.

Thanissoro Bhikkhu gives some examples of how entymology can be misleading in his first talk on Papanca that is linked to here: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=12375#p187395

:anjali:
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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby Kare » Mon Aug 13, 2012 8:33 am

mikenz66 wrote:Thanissoro Bhikkhu gives some examples of how entymology can be misleading in his first talk on Papanca that is linked to here: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 75#p187395

:anjali:
Mike


But where does the study of insects really come into the picture? :stirthepot: :toilet:

:anjali:
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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Aug 13, 2012 8:38 am

Entomology. Not to be confused with Etymology, the study of the history of words.


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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby anando » Tue May 21, 2013 10:02 am

Hi,
i´m in a lucky situation to be able to read german. The best edition of the Pali-Canon is: Neumann, Karl-Eugen: Die Reden Gotamo Buddhos, Wien, Szolnay Verlag. K.Neumann is a Doktor of Indologie.
My editionis from the above is also from Artemis, Switzerland in 1957. Artemis is not engaged any more in Pali-Canon.
Neuman was a Dr. of Indologie with l ot´s of experience in archeological sight of Pali-Canon
He studied the Pali-Canon in Colombo, with contacts to the abot of a monestry and studied in London what he could find there.
I do favour his third edition, the Dighanikayo. It´s the late G.-Buddho and he tells lots of thing he didn´t say in the Mahjjimmanikayo.
I succed the path.

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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue May 21, 2013 10:18 am

David N. Snyder wrote:In my opinion, Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations are the "gold standard."


I like Bikkhu Bodhi's work, which I feel is faithful to the original text and not "over-interpreted." Having said that it's interesting to read different translations.
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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby anando » Fri May 31, 2013 9:11 am

Hi,
there in this big world. The basic literature of buddhist teaching is the Pali-Canon. Thre are some translations. Yöou should make a different approach to Pali-Canon. You just at firs look what kind of academic reputation the
translater has. Ther is a good traslation bei Neumann in german, but also in englisch.
If you don´t have a master teacher, go and help yourself by reading Pali-Canon and practicing after the instructions.

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Re: Which Palicanon translation to use?

Postby marc108 » Mon Jun 03, 2013 2:28 am

i think its important to compare translations and not to just rely on a single translator. i prefer Ven. Thanissaro & Ven. Bodhi but there are SO many other translations worth reading. http://www.suttacentral.net/ is great & will give you all the major, publicly available translations
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