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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
56 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2014 of the teachings. But looked at more positively, we could say that people are now interpreting the dharma in terms of their own direct experience and their own personal concerns, so different flavors or potentials of the dharma are unfolding. We may have to wait decades, if not centuries, to see what the long-term consequences of that will be. GRIFFITH FOULK: The Tibetans were getting Buddhism from two sides, from India and China, and the West now is getting it from three. Of course, it’s more complicated than that. But I wonder if that’s unprecedented historically. SARAH HARDING: It is more than three; there are all these sub- groups. America has been given this remarkable opportunity where we can have Japanese roshis meeting Tibetan rinpoches and bhantes from Sri Lanka. America was already pluralis- tic, but now the influences are pluralistic; it’s a giant meeting ground. BUDDHADHARMA: Is that making the work of translators easier or harder? SARAH HARDING: Buddhism has diverged in so many ways that I think it makes it harder, actually. GRIFFITH FOULK: I don’t think it makes the work harder. To Zen practitioners, there’s nothing threatening, challenging, or undermining about translations from Tibet or from Pali. I welcome it all. BHIKKHU BODHI: Having access to texts in several languages helps illuminate the text in the original language. I managed to pick up a little bit of Chinese; when I was translating the Anguttara Nikaya, I compared suttas in Pali with their coun- terparts in Chinese, and I found that if the Pali commentary didn’t illuminate a difficult word or phrase to my satisfaction, I could look to see how the Chinese translators had rendered that term, and sometimes it would help me understand the meaning of the term in the original Pali texts. SARAH HARDING: Tibetan Buddhism considers itself the pinnacle of all Buddhism, and when I’m translating something that says, Oh, those Theravada practitioners have no compassion, I’m acutely aware of my own pluralistic exposure and knowl- edge that that’s not true, so I have to make a decision about how to translate that. I can’t just stick with this completely myopic Tibetan view of the rest of the world that they never saw, so that’s a lot to take into consideration. You should see what the Tibetans say about women, you know? Am I going to really translate that? GRIFFITH FOULK: You raised an interesting question there about the role of a translator. The temptation is to fix mistakes when you see them. But the original has that mistake. What do we do? BHIKKHU BODHI: In my opinion, it’s the obligation of the transla- tor to be completely faithful to the original text. GRIFFITH FOULK: I agree, but I add a footnote. SARAH HARDING: Yes, footnotes! BUDDHADHARMA: What would you say to practitioners about the work that you’re doing and how it impacts them, or how these translations could help them on their path? BHIKKHU BODHI: I would say that if somebody is committed to following the Buddhist path within the context of having taken refuge in the three jewels—Buddha, dharma, and sangha—it’s of primary importance that they look to the dharma for guid- ance along the path. And looking to the dharma for guidance