Gude to Translators for Beginners

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BKh
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Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by BKh » Sat Jun 02, 2018 2:16 pm

There is a new article on ReadingFaithfully.org meant to guide beginners to different translations of complete books of the Sutta Pitaka.

https://readingfaithfully.org/overview- ... criptures/

The basic premise is that all of the major translations listed are fine for beginners and not to get caught up in choosing one. It is in no way meant to be an authoritative guide to different translators as that would cause the beginner too much doubt. More information can be found in articles linked to at the bottom of that page.

Any discussion on the article would be welcome.
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ieee23
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Re: Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by ieee23 » Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:37 pm

I would go with Ajahn Sujato's translations.

They are contemporary (new) and they were done for non-academic English speakers, aka they were made to be easily understood.

They are also available free of charge.
Whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. - MN 19

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mikenz66
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Re: Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Jun 02, 2018 9:35 pm

Hi BKh,

That's a nice summary. I guess the fact that one can look at the Sujato (and soon the Bramali Vinaya translations, if I recall correctly) with the Pali line by line is not so interesting for beginners, but I'm finding it amazingly useful, and it renders arguments about which English word to use mostly irrelevant, as it's easy to check. So, though that's not something a beginner would want to to, it may be be useful as they go deeper.

Bhikkhu Sujato's translations are easy to read, as has been discussed over on Sutta Central:
https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/a- ... tana/9600/
https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/te ... tions/8310

Personally, I find Thanissaro Bhikkhu more difficult to read than Bhikkhu Bodhi. Not because of his different choice of technical terms, but because of his overall English style, which, to me, often seems rather convoluted. Perhaps an American audience has a different impression...

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BKh
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Re: Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by BKh » Sun Jun 03, 2018 6:31 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Jun 02, 2018 9:35 pm
I guess the fact that one can look at the Sujato ... with the Pali line by line is not so interesting for beginners, but I'm finding it amazingly useful, and it renders arguments about which English word to use mostly irrelevant, as it's easy to check.
Yes. I added something in about that. Although I think you are correct that this is not something a beginner may need, it is a distinctive feature.

mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Jun 02, 2018 9:35 pm
Bhikkhu Sujato's translations are easy to read, as has been discussed over on Sutta Central: ...
I think it is important to remember that the digital tools for judging readability can only tell us so much. Of course, they tell us something. But I think people's personal experience over time will tell us a bit more. Although that is also limited in what it can tell us.

mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Jun 02, 2018 9:35 pm
Personally, I find Thanissaro Bhikkhu more difficult to read than Bhikkhu Bodhi. Not because of his different choice of technical terms, but because of his overall English style, which, to me, often seems rather convoluted. Perhaps an American audience has a different impression...
Yes... I wasn't sure how I could convey that sentiment in a neutral way. :thinking: As well, over the years I have heard many people tell me they prefer his English to Bhikkhu Bodhi's. My current theory is that whatever we read a lot of first is what we prefer.

Thank you for your always thoughtful feedback.
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mikenz66
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Re: Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Jun 03, 2018 7:50 am

Hi BKh,
BKh wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 6:31 am
mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Jun 02, 2018 9:35 pm
Bhikkhu Sujato's translations are easy to read, as has been discussed over on Sutta Central: ...
I think it is important to remember that the digital tools for judging readability can only tell us so much. Of course, they tell us something. But I think people's personal experience over time will tell us a bit more. Although that is also limited in what it can tell us.
It seems reasonably uncontentious that his choice of words and constructs are simpler. Whether that makes them more "readable" for everyone is, of course, another matter.
BKh wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 6:31 am
mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Jun 02, 2018 9:35 pm
Personally, I find Thanissaro Bhikkhu more difficult to read than Bhikkhu Bodhi. Not because of his different choice of technical terms, but because of his overall English style, which, to me, often seems rather convoluted. Perhaps an American audience has a different impression...
Yes... I wasn't sure how I could convey that sentiment in a neutral way. :thinking: As well, over the years I have heard many people tell me they prefer his English to Bhikkhu Bodhi's. My current theory is that whatever we read a lot of first is what we prefer.
That may well be the case, but clearly there are different preferences for style of English. I just find BB's writing (in essays as well as translations) to be much better stylistically. Perhaps he puts more time into crafting his writing.

However, that's certainly not something I'd want to put on a page like yours, particularly since, as you say, some prefer TBs style.

I actually really appreciate him. Though I tend to ignore some of the details of his doctrinal interpretations, I find his daily talks very motivating for practice. I do wish he'd talk a little slower and clearer, though - for quite a while I thought he was talking about the teachings of someone called "John Lee" :tongue:
BKh wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 6:31 am
Thank you for your always thoughtful feedback.
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TamHanhHi
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Re: Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by TamHanhHi » Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:28 am

Thanks for sharing! Personally I find both Bhikkhu Bodhi and Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translations to be on par in terms of flow and clarity. Ven. Bodhi tends towards more formal language (I've had to actually look up the meaning of an English word once!) while Ven. Thanissaro adds a little more casualness. As a native North American speaker, I like both of their styles, and I really appreciate many of Ven. Thanissaro's sutta study guides.

I love the accessibility of Bhante Sujato's translations, but I realized he translates certain terms different than I'm used to, like jhana for instance, but that's probably more helpful for a beginner. Also he tends to show his Australian side in a number of translations, which is odd to my ears as an American, but doesn't affect the translation really at all. Also some of the juicy repetitions get taken out even across sutras, which I don't think is necessary all of the time, especially if you don't read multiple ones in a set. It's just a different experience.
"Just as a large banyan tree, on level ground where four roads meet, is a haven for the birds all around, even so a lay person of conviction is a haven for many people: monks, nuns, male lay followers, & female lay followers."AN 5.38 :candle: | Blog at http://dhammareflections.wordpress.com

BKh
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Re: Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by BKh » Sun Jun 03, 2018 7:06 pm

TamHanhHi wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:28 am
I love the accessibility of Bhante Sujato's translations, but I realized he translates certain terms different than I'm used to, like jhana for instance, but that's probably more helpful for a beginner.
I'm hoping a simple glossary is published soon. It does take some getting used to.
TamHanhHi wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:28 am
Also he tends to show his Australian side in a number of translations, which is odd to my ears as an American, but doesn't affect the translation really at all.... It's just a different experience.
I haven't spotted any of those yet. Care to share what you have found?

Thanks for your comments.
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Re: Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by DooDoot » Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:50 am

TamHanhHi wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:28 am
Also he tends to show his Australian side in a number of translations...
Well, he places comma before the "and" in a list, American-style, which is the most wicked & unAustralian thing (leading to rebirth in hell for eons).
And what is noble right immersion with its vital conditions and its prerequisites?

Katamo ca, bhikkhave, ariyo sammāsamādhi saupaniso saparikkhāro?

They are: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, :o :jedi: and right mindfulness.

Seyyathidaṃ—sammādiṭṭhi, sammāsaṅkappo, sammāvācā, sammākammanto, sammāājīvo, sammāvāyāmo, sammāsati;

https://suttacentral.net/mn117/en/sujato
Last edited by DooDoot on Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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TamHanhHi
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Re: Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by TamHanhHi » Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:53 am

BKh wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 7:06 pm
I haven't spotted any of those yet. Care to share what you have found?
Actually what I called “Australian” might just be his translation style... like billabong, mendicants, robed up, lunar longhouse, sabbath, etc.
"Just as a large banyan tree, on level ground where four roads meet, is a haven for the birds all around, even so a lay person of conviction is a haven for many people: monks, nuns, male lay followers, & female lay followers."AN 5.38 :candle: | Blog at http://dhammareflections.wordpress.com

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DooDoot
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Re: Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by DooDoot » Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:03 am

TamHanhHi wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:53 am
Actually what I called “Australian” might just be his translation style... like billabong, mendicants, robed up, lunar longhouse, sabbath, etc.
Billabong is cool but "sabbath"? :shock: ;)
TamHanhHi wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:28 am
I love the accessibility of Bhante Sujato's translations..
Personally, as a "beginner", I was taught differently to much of the "faith" being promoted on this thread. Genuine "study" ("pariyatti") uses "yonisomanasikara" ("thorough investigation") to examine the teachings, which includes examining translations. I think the supreme benefit Bhante Sujato has provided is offering the Pali-English function and electronically publishing all/most of the suttas. I think Sutta Central as a resource is the ultimate. I use it so much. Its the best! But I don't follow the idea of "trustworthy translations". We all need to do our own study & work. :)

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Re: Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by BKh » Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:12 am

TamHanhHi wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:53 am
Actually what I called “Australian” might just be his translation style... like billabong, mendicants, robed up, lunar longhouse, sabbath, etc.
Thanks! Bilabong—that's 100% australian I think. Longhouse feels off from a north American perspective. In NA they are buildings where whole communities of families would live, making them longer as familes were added. And they're generally open inside I believe. You quote "lunar longhouse" but I didn't see that on the page.

"Robed up" feels like something I've heard in Thai forest sangha communites, but it always felt like slang.

I think he uses mendicant as a gender neutral term.

Any way... hard to translate, easy to criticize! :rofl:
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TamHanhHi
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Re: Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by TamHanhHi » Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:04 pm

BKh wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:12 am
Any way... hard to translate, easy to criticize! :rofl:
Definitely! I have so much respect and gratitude for any Sutta translator, much less someone who’s translated entire Nikayas and made them available online for free! :shock:
"Just as a large banyan tree, on level ground where four roads meet, is a haven for the birds all around, even so a lay person of conviction is a haven for many people: monks, nuns, male lay followers, & female lay followers."AN 5.38 :candle: | Blog at http://dhammareflections.wordpress.com

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mikenz66
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Re: Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Jun 04, 2018 7:47 pm

DooDoot wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:50 am
TamHanhHi wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:28 am
Also he tends to show his Australian side in a number of translations...
Well, he places comma before the "and" in a list, American-style, which is the most wicked & unAustralian thing (leading to rebirth in hell for eons).
Actually, that practice is often referred to as an "Oxford Comma", since it is recommended in the Oxford University Press style guide... :tongue:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_comma

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BKh
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Re: Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by BKh » Thu Jun 07, 2018 8:17 am

DooDoot wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:03 am
But I don't follow the idea of "trustworthy translations". We all need to do our own study & work. :)
Well, the article was aimed at beginners and helping them overcome the problem of where to start. And more importantly to help them overcome the hindrance of doubt when they read all the debates about translations. Personally, I believe that it is more problematic to feel that one must learn Pali to understand the suttas. (Wich may not be what you are saying; I'm talking in general because I see it a lot in people I speak with.)
Well, he places comma before the "and" in a list, American-style, which is the most wicked & unAustralian thing (leading to rebirth in hell for eons).
About 50% of the time, the Oxford or serial comma, does improve clarity in complex lists. As an editing standard it is easier to just always use it.

But the issue does point to the difficulty of writing in English. Even in punctuation there is wide disagreement about what is standard and proper. I'll confess that the missing opening quotation marks in quotes that span paragraphs makes me a bit queasy. :thinking:
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DooDoot
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Re: Gude to Translators for Beginners

Post by DooDoot » Thu Jun 07, 2018 8:22 am

BKh wrote:
Thu Jun 07, 2018 8:17 am
Well, the article was aimed at beginners and helping them overcome the problem of where to start. And more importantly to help them overcome the hindrance of doubt when they read all the debates about translations. Personally, I believe that it is more problematic to feel that one must learn Pali to understand the suttas. (Wich may not be what you are saying; I'm talking in general because I see it a lot in people I speak with.
I was not referring to Pali. I was referring to the translations, which are often "interpretations". If each translator was completely accurate, then all of the translations would be the same (which they are not). Therefore, the "beginner", in my opinion, should always be open to some skepticism.

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