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Buddhadharma : Fall 2005
fall 2005| 14 |buddhadharma deepened their understanding of the texts through intensive study and practice. Gradually a standard vocabulary and ways of phrasing were codified for the use of those who would come later. This method has proved its worth, for translations done twelve centuries ago have required only minor revisions since. A good model is Vairotsana, the eighth-century Tibetan master, who learned through dedicated study with many masters how to judge the signifi- cance of what the texts presented. He became a master translator, fitting Tibetan to the innermost meaning of the texts and the needs and understand- ing of the audience. He translated essential works of the Sutrayana, major texts of the Mantrayana, and many sastras, and his work influenced others for generations to come. in the West, translators follow a different model. They cultivate their own style and understanding, true to the Tibetan saying, “Each horse has its own gait.” Some may elaborate on the original, looking for poetic forms of expression or adding layers of interpretation. Others may struggle to stay close to the source, but end up adopting words and phrases that convey little meaning to a Western audience. Still others may borrow words from philosophical traditions such as phenomenology or logic with lit- tle grounds for confidence that the new term, torn from its original context, will serve the purpose. The results can be especially unfortunate when translators who lack in-depth understanding and linguistic mastery produce works that become well established. in that case, their misunderstandings can easily become dogma for the next generation of scholars and practitioners. My own view is that translators should proceed cautiously, mastering issues of language before jumping into issues of meaning, and allow their deepening appreciation for the meaning of a text to inform their inquiry into language. in a democ- racy, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, and so i will express mine: The terminology and understanding of translators at present is not ade- quate to convey certain meanings of the dharma. Tibetan teachers and Western scholars alike have a responsibility to work toward greater accuracy and standardized vocabularies. This process may take several generations, but without such disci- pline, how can the meaning be preserved? froM MilKinG The PainTed coW: The creaTive PoWer of Mind and The shaPe of realiTy in liGhT of The BuddhisT TradiTion, By TarThanG TulKu (dharMa PuBlishinG, 2005). Pith instructions from a forest master Abbot Phra Bodhinandamuni recalls life with his uncle and teacher, Phra Ajaan Dune Atulo, a man of few but penetrating words. Revered as Luang Pu (venerable grandfather), Ajaan Dune wandered the forests of Thailand for nineteen years, then served as abbot of Wat Burapha monastery until his death in 1983. On December 18, 1979, Their Majesties the King and Queen paid a visit to Luang Pu. After asking about his health and well-being and engaging in a dhamma conversation, the King posed a ques- tion: “in abandoning the defilements, which ones should be abandoned first?” Luang Pu responded, “All the defilements arise together at the mind. Focus right at the mind. Whichever defilement arises first, that’s the one to abandon first.” in 1976, two meditation teachers from the northeast came to pay their respects. They described the vir- tues and attainments of the different ajaans with whom they had lived and practiced for a long time, saying that this luang pu had concentration as his constant mental dwelling, and that ajaan dwelled in the Brahma attitudes. Luang Pu said, “Whatever level a monk has reached, as far as i’m concerned he’s welcome to dwell there. As for me, i dwell with knowing.” The monks were silent, then asked him to explain what dwelling with knowing was like. Luang Pu said, “Knowing is the normality of mind that’s empty, bright, pure; mind that has stopped fabricating, has stopped searching, stopped all mental motions – having nothing, not attached to anything at all.” [As Luang Pu neared death:] A few moments after we had finished chanting the Mahasatipatthana Discourse, Luang Pu began speaking about the Lord Buddha’s total nibbana, from the beginning to the end. Here i’ll just quote his concluding remarks: “The Lord Buddha didn’t attain nibbana in any of his jhanic attainments. When he left the fourth jhana, his mental aggregates all ceased at once, with nothing remaining. in other words, he allowed his feeling aggregate to cease in an awake state of mind, the normal human mental series, complete with mindfulness and alertness, with no other mental states coming to blind or delude the mind at all. This was the mind fully in its own state. you could call that state great emptiness, or the original cosmos, or nibbana, whichever you like. That’s the state i’ve been practicing all along to reach.” Those were Luang Pu’s last words. froM GifTs he lefT Behind, coMPiled By Phra Bodhinanda Muni and TranslaTed By Thanissaro BhiKKhu. (MeTTa foresT MonasTery, 2005. for free disTriBuTion.) R.PYXSUTHERlAND