The āgamāḥ and problems of the Dhamma-in-translation

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Post Reply
User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 1836
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

The āgamāḥ and problems of the Dhamma-in-translation

Post by Coëmgenu » Tue Feb 14, 2017 3:57 am

Greetings all!

Here is a basic overview of the background of what I am talking about for those unfamiliar with the subject matter:

When the old masters (or who we presume were old masters, I don't know if who exactly translated each and every āgama is known) were tasked with the distribution of the Dhamma in the lands east of modern India, Nepal, etc, namely, China, they elected to, at some point in their dispensation to the Chinese, translate the discourses of the Buddha, that is to say, the foundations of the Buddhadharma, into Classical Chinese, the language of commerce, trade, and "high culture" in the Far East since ancient times. The result was the collection of Buddhavacana we now call the āgamāḥ, or "agamas" as is more common an English rendering of the plural.

Classical Chinese is a unique language, as is every product of the human linguistic inventive drive, but of all other contemporary languages of the time, it could not possibly have been more different than the classical Indic languages of India, namely, Sanskrit, Prākrit, Pāli, etc. Some background on the subject of Classical Chinese, for the purposes of this post, may be in order, if anyone finds themselves lost on the subject of comparative linguistics but wishes to learn more nonetheless:
Literary Chinese was the principal language of written communications in East Asia from ancient times until the early twentieth century. It grew first out of the earliest examples of written language in China- the oracle bone inscriptions of the Shang 商 dynasty and the bronze inscriptions of the Shang and Zhou [周] dynasties- and can be read in archaic form in the earliest strata of "Confucian" classics. By the fifth century B.C.E. the language had begun to stabilize and to develope systematic syntactic and grammatical rules. Over the next two centuries the first great flowering of Chinese writing occurred, exemplified in the compendia of the great philosophers (e.g., Mencius 孟子, Xúnzǐ 荀子, Zhuāngzǐ 莊子, and Hánfēizǐ 韓非子) and the early historical narratives [...].

Because of the complexity of the character-writing system, literary Chinese evolved a flexible and open-ended grammar with few rules and essentially no inflections. Understanding a passage depends not on the previous mastery of a grammatical system but on the ability to intuit the thrust of an argument or a narrative as well as the knowledge of the past usage of particular characters. Consequently, in premodern times, learning literary Chinese never involved learning a grammatical "system" (as learning Latin or Sanskrit did, for example); rather, it involved memorizing "classic" texts and absorbing their rhythms. These ancient texts formed templates for later composition.
(Paul Rouzer, A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese, XI-XII)

I would like to focus our collective internet spyglasses, if others will humour me, on some particular problems that arise with the issue of translation, and one instance in which it is manifest in the real historical world of Buddhism as a religious movement. I am not trying to be unduly critical of the Dhamma-in-translation in general, nor am I trying to imply that the Dhamma cannot or should not be translated, after all, without the Dhamma-in-translation, I myself would be lacking exposure to it.

When the translators of the Indic Buddhavacana chose to localize the texts so that the Chinese could have better access to them, they made certain adaptions and borrowings from pre-existing Chinese philosophical and religious concepts, probably on the advice of people informed about such Chinese concepts. Now whether these Chinese translations were originally intended as introductory Dhamma-initiation texts for Chinese monastics, the assumption being they would eventually learn an Indic language, or if they were intended to be authoritative "true translations" of the Dhamma, one cannot know, I don't think. Regardless of their original function and the intentions of their translators, these Chinese texts, for a great deal of time, served as the only extant circulation of the dispensation of the "historical Buddha", if you will, and thus were treated as authoritative original documents when the Chinese were acquainting themselves with Buddhism.

To give some context to the linguistic situation of Chinese Buddhism, Śramaṇa Zhìyǐ, largely considered the foundational building block of the entire East Asian scholastic tradition of Buddhism, who lived some time during the 500s CE, had only a very basic beginners grasp of Buddhist Sanskrit, and was not able to read texts in Indic languages himself as a fluent reader, and he was considered one of the most well-schooled Chinese Buddhist philosophers of his time. This has been the case historically in China for a great deal of time, partially because of the widespread linguistic hegemony of Classical Chinese in the literary spheres of East Asia, and partially because of the need to "make Buddhism Chinese" to gain substantial numbers of converts, sometimes by focussing less on its traditional "Indian" cultural presentations. This also gives context to the syncretic borrowing of linguistic expressions used by the āgama translators from the general religious vocabulary of China at the time (informed by traditional religions/rites, Confucianism, Daoism, etc). It was only during the high ages of late Indian Mahāyāna Vajrayāna esotericism that knowledge of Indian languages (Sanskrit) once again became commonplace in East Asia, before falling into obscurity after the collapse of mainstream Chinese Tantrism. This late blooming of Indian influence can be seen persisting despite its mainstream collapse in the continued existence of the Shingon school today in Japan, for instance. That is the historical linguistic situation as I understand it. I am no-doubt skipping over important things, and probably misexplaining some, that more informed history-enthusiasts than I will no-doubt correct me on.

More to the point:

I would like to focus, in particular, on the Chinese rendering of the Sanskrit asaṁskṛtaprabhāvitādharma, or "unconditionedness-influenced-dharma", or as it is more commonly rendered, asaṃskṛtadharma, or "unconditioned dharma". The translators of the āgamāḥ chose an interesting and peculiar way to render this in Chinese. They chose the expression "無為法 / wú wèi fǎ ".

The translation of the dharma component is straightforward: 法/fǎ, meaning law, principal, rule, but also meaning law, principal, rule, of reality, allowing it to cover both the "teaching" and "phenomenon" meanings of the word dharma. The concept of "unconditioned", however, was not so simple to translate into Chinese. What the translators elected to use, was "無為/wú wéi", a concept borrowed from the methodology/soteriology of Daoism. The sage cultivates wú wéi and wú wéi is the nature of the disposition of the sage who abides in the Dào.

Taken on its own, 無為 literally means "lack [of] action" or "lacking action", and it could also mean "non-action" or "non-doing". Additionally it could be validly interpreted as referring to a dharma/法 that lacks "doing-quality" or "actionable-quality". In Daoism, 無為 is a state of harmony, via "non-doing" and nonconceptualizing, where one is in harmony with the Dào/道, literally translated as "path", but interpreted often as the universal principal and true expression of reality (Daoism is a very vast ranging sea of schools, so I am sure that there are Daoists traditions that my explanation does not apply to at all) that is blissful, passionless, and lacks conceptual identity. It seems that the translators of the āgamāḥ realized a certain kinship between the notions of "the Unconditioned" and 無為, and chose to borrow the terminology to express what an "unconditioned dharma" is, (i.e. Nirvāṇa), by modern Buddhist reckoning. However, as friendly a term to the Dhamma that 無為 is, as a concept, there is one thing the word decidedly does not mean, and that is "unconditioned". In Early Chinese Buddhism it may well have been impossible to speak of things as "conditioned" or "unconditioned" because those words simply didn't exist as opposites. There is no "為法/wèi fǎ", or "action/doing-dharma" to be the opposite of a "無為法 /wú wèi fǎ", and thus, the soteriological relationship between the path and the goal is subtly changed, and is not linguistically manifest as so obvious an opposite in terms. Buddhists with no access to Indic texts thus could have developed a subtly different notion of "what is conditioned" and "what is not conditioned" on account of the language used to express that notion. This linguistic barrier can obviously be overcome, especially in the present-day, but if knowledge of the Indic linguistic expression of the Dhamma is lost, I think it is fair to say that the Dhamma that is communicated is communicated in a different way than it would have, depending on the attainment of the translator and the education of the text-reader.

In short, to a native Chinese reader of the time, who was lucky enough to be literate in literary Chinese, "無為法 /wú wèi fǎ" refers to a dharma that is either wú wéi itself, originates in wú wéi, participates in wú wéi, or is similar to wú wéi.

I would like to given an example of an āgama, in which the nature of the "無為法 /wú wèi fǎ" is expounded and very heavy usage of the term "wú wéi dharma" is employed. To the best of my knowledge this is a hitherto untranslated āgama, so please do not take my nonprofessional amatuer translation as "solidly authentic Buddhavacana". My goal in presenting the āgama is to outline a linguistic inter-religious curiosity of the Early Chinese Dhamma-dispensation, not to claim to be qualified to interpret the "true Dhamma", and, since there is no English translation of this available, I don't think it can hurt to add to the internet literature, especially if I am sure to make myself clear that this should not be considered an "authoritative" translation.

Here is an example of usage of the term 無為法 in the literature, in the interest of the larger discussion on Dhamma-in-translation I will try to render the passage word-for-word, with subjective grammatical clarifications [in square brackets]:
如是我聞:
Thus this I heard:

一時,佛住舍衛國祇樹給孤獨園。
One time, Buddha dwelt [at] Śrāvastī [at] Jetavana [at] Anāthapiṇḍada’s park.

爾時,世尊告諸比丘:
So at-that-time, [the] Bhagavān said [to the] myriad monks:

「當為汝說無為法,及無為道跡。
"Apposite doing you I-speak [i.e. "I speak to you appositely."] [of] wú wèi fǎ [asaṃskṛtadharma], and [the] wú wèi dào [dào, from Daoism] pathway [to that].

諦聽,善思。云何無為法?
Listen careful, think wise, what [is] wú wèi fǎ ?

謂貪欲永盡,瞋恚、愚癡永盡,
That-is-to-say greed[,] craving, permanent exhaustion, aversion[,] rage, ignorance[,] delusion permanent exhaustion,

一切煩惱永盡,是無為法。
All vexing afflictions permanent exhaustion, this [is] wú wèi fǎ.

云何為無為道跡?
What [is the] doing [of the] wú wèi dào pathway [to that]?

謂八聖道分,正見、正智、正語、正業、正命、
That-is-to-say [the] eight sage dào ranks, true view, true wiseness, true speech, true karma, true livelihood

正方便、正念、正定,是名無為道跡。」
True method proficiency, true ideas, true dhyāna, this [is] called [the] wú wéi dào pathway [to that]."

佛說此經已,諸比丘聞佛所說,歡喜奉行。
Buddha['s] word[s] this sūtra thereafter [was], many monks heard Buddha teach it, [and] joyful[,] practiced [it].

如無為,如是難見、不動、不屈、不死、無漏、
Thus wú wéi, thus difficult [to] realize, no moving, no bending, no dying, lacking secretions,

覆蔭、洲渚、濟渡、依止、擁護、不流轉、
overflowing [in] yìn [i.e. as in "yin-yang"], [an] island shore, ferrying[,] crossing, dependency ceasing, no circulating transmissions, cutting-off kindling [for] flame, cutting-off burning thusly,

離熾焰、離燒然、流通、清涼、微妙、安隱、
Cutting-off kindling [for] flame, cutting-off burning thusly, flowing openly, pure cool, secret subtlety, calm occultation,

無病、無所有、涅槃,亦如是說。
Lacking ailment, lacking owning, Nirvāṇa, also thus so said [by the Buddha].
(SA 890)

The āgama is a fascinating hybrid text, pulling terminologies and concepts from native Chinese religious traditions to explain the Buddhadharma. It even coins new words (or at least, I had never heard of the construct "無為道/wú wéi dào" used anywhere but in this particular Buddhist text) out of existing terms, adapting them to a new usage and a new framework. That being said, it is also possible that this free syncretic borrowing could come at a cost. If sufficient contact is not kept up, if the orality of early Buddhist orthodoxies fail to reach the audience, to contextualize and explain the adaptions, it is inevitable that this syncretic borrowing results in "fusional religiosity", which is not necessarily a bad thing at all, I'm not criticizing being open-minded in practice, but has the potential to, little by little, transform the Dhamma as a whole in ways that may not be in conformity to the Indic linguistic tradition.

Also, although I know that it is more important that their translations reflect good Dhamma, I do wish that āgama translators would try to preserve something of the character and flow of the Chinese text. The Buddha sounds very different in tone, phrasing, and characterization in Chinese than he does in Pāli, or English for that matter, and I think many people would very much enjoy becoming acquainted with the Buddha-in-Chinese, if only the trends in translation veered more toward literal-word-correspondence rather than expansive adaption.

-----------

What are your thoughts on the Dhamma in translation? What are your thoughts on the necessity or lack of necessity of learning Pāli, given this Chinese example? What are your thoughts on this āgama, keeping in mind that it is only my own amateur English-rendering? What are your thoughts on the compatibility or incompatibility of "Indian" Buddhism with Chinese Daoism?
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Wed Feb 15, 2017 2:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

atipattoh
Posts: 115
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:28 am

Re: The āgamāḥ and problems of the Dhamma-in-translation

Post by atipattoh » Tue Feb 14, 2017 5:27 am

Taken on its own, 無為 literally means "lack [of] action" or "lacking action", and it could also mean "non-action" or "non-doing".
"无为本意 是不妄为,并不是不为,这一点值得注意。"

An example of usage of 无为 as in 无为而治
《道德经》的思想核心是“道”,“道”是无为的,但“道”有规律,以规律约束宇宙间万事万物运行,万事万物均遵循规律。引申到治国,“无为而治”即是以制度(可理解为“道”中的规律)治国,以制度约束臣民的行为,臣民均遵守法律制度。老子所说的“无为而治”是以法治国,而非人治;人过多的干预社会秩序则乱,法治则井然有序。“无为而治”对于帝王个人准则而言,即是清心洞察、知人善任,将合适的人才摆在合适的岗位上,具体事情分摊给臣下去做,不必事必躬亲。
In this example of 道, 无为 is achieved by setting ‘boundaries’, as i understood, is more in the sense of working on ‘conditioned’ and allow phenomena to take its own course, which is actually predetermined. So the doer just set parameters and let himself freed from intervention in the later part of the process.

“一切煩惱永盡,是無為法" seems to take wu wei as freed or non-attachment.

dzt
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2017 8:42 am

Re: The āgamāḥ and problems of the Dhamma-in-translation

Post by dzt » Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:47 am

I can think of a very prominent example of "lacking words/terms" in modern indoeuropean languages easily: "dukkha", which is generally translated as "suffering" to English (and to other languages too, i.e. I do not know of an indoeuropean language where there would be a concept of dukkha in its indoaryan sense). But we know, that "dukkha" is not "suffering" in its common meaning. There are other words in Pali that mean "suffering" in its western sense.
And this leads to a wrong perception of the First Noble Truth, unless the meaning of "suffering" in this context is thoroughly explained to a person.

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 1836
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: The āgamāḥ and problems of the Dhamma-in-translation

Post by Coëmgenu » Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:33 pm

atipattoh wrote:“一切煩惱永盡,是無為法" seems to take wu wei as freed or non-attachment.
Yes, I agree. It seems the Chinese translators are framing "unconditioned dharma" as "un-attatched/limited-to/by-activities dharma" or something of the like. Very interesting. Not wrong by any means, but not necessarily meaning "unconditioned", at least in the way that I understand "unconditioned". Perhaps I should start another thread to clarify what exactly "unconditioned" means in a Theravāda context.

All in all I think that the borrowing of the term 無為 is a fine adaption, albeit one that does not communicate the "conditioned-unconditioned" dichotomy very well, in my opinion, but my bringing it up was more of an excuse to start a wider conversation in general about adaption and translation. :smile:

What section of the 道德經/Dàodéjīng did you quote? It seemed like the section of text you presented was from a textbook on it.

I am not fluent at all in modern Chinese and only a novice at literary Chinese, so I am not 100% sure if I understood what you meant correctly, but I think I have a gist.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

atipattoh
Posts: 115
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:28 am

Re: The āgamāḥ and problems of the Dhamma-in-translation

Post by atipattoh » Thu Feb 16, 2017 4:53 am

I read 道德经 about 15+ yrs ago, & actually i forget the details of it. But good thing is by remembering a few words and a little bit of luck, google uncle did the rest. 无为而治 on previous post has an embedded link that you can click. Once you are in the site, just click on the speaker and can listen to the details. On line is so much better than reading books.

无为 is not 无所为, i’m not aware of if there is an opposite of 无为, but there is an escalation of 无为, that is 无(所)不为。
(无)(不) ie. (-)*(-)=(+)
The adaptation of 无为 in bhavana is beyong the early adaptation of the word wu wei in the sutta.
A gift, hope that you find it useful. One of my meditation teacher gave me this words: “先无为而后无所不为”.
The adaptation of 道 into buddhism includes the passage on “抱一守真”, share similarity nature, both describe non-attachment; that is later taken as “抱元守一 in samatha. 无为 + 守一are fused into samatha bhavana; and is taken as '神', in buddhism it means 心 (mind).

The Agama text that you quote, if you manage to capture the meaning of wu wei, once your doubt is cleared, the rest should falls in place easily.
All the best!

Pai seh! (Shy to say) my Chinese also so so only! So can't really help much on your translation.

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 1836
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: The āgamāḥ and problems of the Dhamma-in-translation

Post by Coëmgenu » Thu Feb 16, 2017 10:24 pm

atipattoh wrote:A gift, hope that you find it useful. One of my meditation teacher gave me this words: “先无为而后无所不为”.
The adaptation of 道 into buddhism includes the passage on “抱一守真”, share similarity nature, both describe non-attachment; that is later taken as “抱元守一 in samatha. 无为 + 守一are fused into samatha bhavana; and is taken as '神', in buddhism it means 心 (mind).

The Agama text that you quote, if you manage to capture the meaning of wu wei, once your doubt is cleared, the rest should falls in place easily.
All the best!

Pai seh! (Shy to say) my Chinese also so so only! So can't really help much on your translation.
I agree that 無為 is a suitable translation for the end-goal of the soteriology in a Buddhist context, although I don't think it is a "good" translation of the term "unconditioned". That being said, the Dhamma is not words-alone, and thus, the words 無為 are equally unsuited as "unconditioned" to ultimately describe Nibbāna. Nonetheless I welcome any clarification you can give as to what 無為 "means", in a Buddhist context or a strictly Daoist/Chinese context.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

atipattoh
Posts: 115
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:28 am

Re: The āgamāḥ and problems of the Dhamma-in-translation

Post by atipattoh » Fri Feb 17, 2017 2:55 am

Yes, i agree with you that wu wei is not a term for ‘unconditioned’, on the contrary, its essence in the context of 道德经 is ‘conditioned’ as in the example of 无为而治.
In Theravada; even we value the word wu wei, the view that is held is:
再因上下功夫 老老实实
莫在果上执求 任果自熟
With the essence of wu wei being established, if the sutra is split into two part; the upper half including ‘佛說此經 ,諸比丘聞佛所說,歡喜奉行’ is one sutra & the rest another sutra; thus, 无为 has not relation to the bottom part.
In the sutta, we nomally read this:
That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus were satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One’s words.
& thats the end of that particular sutta.
It would be strange isn't it that the sutra continues after 歡喜奉行?
What if the bottom half is just a note of an ancient monk?

Caodemarte
Posts: 831
Joined: Fri May 01, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: The āgamāḥ and problems of the Dhamma-in-translation

Post by Caodemarte » Fri Feb 17, 2017 4:25 am

On a side note I wonder if Robinson's Early Madhyamika In India And China is not very relevant in this context. An oldie and a goodie on the whole process of Buddhist translations of Indian texts into Chinese. One of his points is that the Chinese translations and the use of "matching concepts" did not necessarily dumb down or adulterate the ideas of the original texts (as some have implied), but often refined, clarified, and strengthened the concepts. In short, those involved were quite well educated with a clear grasp of the most subtle Buddhist thought. This process, over time, changed the meaning of Taoist terms which became "Buddhified."

atipattoh
Posts: 115
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:28 am

Re: The āgamāḥ and problems of the Dhamma-in-translation

Post by atipattoh » Fri Feb 17, 2017 6:18 am

This process, over time, changed the meaning of Taoist terms which became "Buddhified."
Yup!
Just that hopefully we don’t carry the word too far.
I just can’t figure out, why is there a need for a name for Nibbāna,’asaṅkhata:The 'Unformed,Unoriginated,Unconditioned'!
Buddhist Dictionary by NYANATILOKA MAHATHERA
asaṅkhata:The 'Unformed,Unoriginated,Unconditioned' is a name for Nibbāna,the beyond of all becoming and conditionality.
& another dictionary pretty simple
Concise Pali-English Dictionary by A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera
asaṅkhata:[adj.] unconditioned; unprepared.
The English translation on asaṅkhata is a complete ‘unconditioned’ thing; whereas the original Chinese rendering appears to be different. 无 为 adaptation is more than a thousand year ago when 道 was still very well understood. So the ancient Chinese translator must have meant the same originally. Frankly speaking, unconditioned is pretty much meaningless and ‘useless’ on its own; it is no more than just an extrapolative induction reasoning from conditioned; so ‘unconditioned by conditioning’ as least make more sense practically. At least that's how i feels.
Headache..... headache!

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 1836
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: The āgamāḥ and problems of the Dhamma-in-translation

Post by Coëmgenu » Fri Feb 17, 2017 6:46 am

Caodemarte wrote:This process, over time, changed the meaning of Taoist terms which became "Buddhified."
Which Daoist term became "Buddhafield"? I am legitimately curious.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

atipattoh
Posts: 115
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:28 am

Re: The āgamāḥ and problems of the Dhamma-in-translation

Post by atipattoh » Fri Feb 17, 2017 7:01 am

asaṅkhata:unconditioned
'无为' does not mean unconditioned, but it seems to mean in that direction, base on its parallel SN43

Caodemarte
Posts: 831
Joined: Fri May 01, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: The āgamāḥ and problems of the Dhamma-in-translation

Post by Caodemarte » Fri Feb 17, 2017 2:04 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Caodemarte wrote:This process, over time, changed the meaning of Taoist terms which became "Buddhified."
Which Daoist term became "Buddhafield"? I am legitimately curious.

Buddhafied is a neologism (sorry). It is not Buddha-field, which is a real word.

Fairly inchoate Taoist and other Chinese concepts and vocabulary were used to translate Indian Buddhist texts. In the translations these terms were carefully used to explain Indian Buddhist terms. So just as Westerners translated a Chinese term as "Heaven' because that is the nearest concept available, they also explained (usually through context) that the Chinese term is not precisely the same as the traditional Heaven of Abrahamic religions. This feeds back into Western notions of how this concept of Heaven can be used and what it means and so the culture is enriched over time.

In China a similar process gradually influenced the use of terms like "Dao" etc, In the case of Taoism, Taoism (which would probably have simply been considered "what people do" at the time) or begins to separate itself out and define itself as a discrete philosophy/religion against the influx of an intellectually sophisticated foreign religion. In order to compete, religious Taoism adopts Buddhist ceremonies, hierarchies, etc, with only minor name changes. They also adopt much of the Buddhist usage of terms like "Dao" with modifications, just file the serial numbers off Buddhist concepts and proclaim them as Taoist, or offer opposing definitions (which sharpens their understanding as debate sharpens each participant's understanding of her own position). The process works the other way, of course. Hence, it is fair to say that phrases like "wu wei," "The Dao," have been Buddhafied. Of course, you could argue that Indian Buddhism was Taofied (please forgive me!).

Robinson's book gives excellent examples of this process, how creative misunderstandings occurred, and how this process does not necessarily imply adulteration or"corruption."

atipattoh
Posts: 115
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:28 am

Re: The āgamāḥ and problems of the Dhamma-in-translation

Post by atipattoh » Sat Feb 18, 2017 3:27 am

道 in 道德经 of my interest, on the content that i mean so far, my concern would be only on the consideration based on point of entry, is not in term of Taoism religious; and i have no interest on the development of Taoism into Buddhism or vice versa.

What ever your pursue is, i wish you luck in finding something meaningful in the process.
:anjali:

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Baidu [Spider], MrKoala and 139 guests