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Buddhadharma : Summer 2010
85 summer 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly The translation 22 What joy! With the ways of the intellect you won’t see beyond intellect. With the ways of action you won’t know non-action. If you want to know what is beyond intellect and action, Cut your mind at its root and rest in naked awareness. 23 Let the cloudy waters of thinking settle and clear. Let appearances come and go on their own. With nothing to change, the world you experience becomes mahamudra. Because the basis of experience has no beginning, patterns and distortions fall away. Rest in no beginning, with no self-interest or expectation. Let what appears appear on its own and let conceptual ways subside. 24 The most majestic of outlooks is free of all reference. The most majestic of practices is vast and deep without limit. The most majestic of behaviors is open-minded and impartial. The most majestic of fruitions is natural being, free of concern. 25 At first, practice is a river rushing through a gorge. In the middle, it’s the river Ganges, smooth and flowing. In the end, it’s where all rivers meet, mother and child. 26 When your mind is less acute and does not truly rest, Work the essentials of energy and bring out the vitality of awareness. Using gazes and techniques to take hold of mind Train awareness until it does truly rest. Translator’s Comments In this section Tilopa begins with the basic principle of Mahamudra practice: Mahamudra is not something you do; it is a way of experiencing life that arises naturally when you rest deeply in experience itself. One challenge in verse 22 is to find English words that reflect the play of the words “intellect,” “action,” and “dharma” in the original. The Tibetan reads, “By dharma of intellect no seeing beyond intellect.” “Dharma” has multiple meanings; here it is “how you do something”—hence “ways.” In verse 23, the simplicity of instructions found in the first three lines consistently misleads Western readers who don’t appreciate the need for supporting instruction from a teacher. The challenge is to convey the simplicity without making the practice sound easier than it is. The term for “the world you experience” is often translated as “the phenomenal world.” The latter, because it makes the world an object, moves us away from our own experience. Also in this verse, “basis of experience” renders the Sanskrit “alaya,” but it lacks poetry. I prefer to say, “because experience has no beginning.” Tilopa’s use of the technical term “alaya” clearly indicates he is pointing to the deepest level of experience. Verse 24 is based on a traditional framework of late medieval Indian Buddhism, usually rendered “view, meditation, conduct (or action), and result.” The challenge here is to translate the superlatives that abound in Tibetan in a way that doesn’t sound stilted in English. Rather than the literal “supreme (or excellent) king,” I use “most majestic.” Verse 25 is an example of an extended metaphor. Verses such as this tax the translator’s poetic ability. The goal is to keep the metaphor alive and the lines flowing. In verse 26, translators usually render the first line as “people with inferior capabilities” or similar phrases that are accurate literal translations, but Buddhist teachings often use mythic, not literal, forms of expression. A phrase such as “those of inferior abilities” is an example of mythic language that refers to conditioned patterns and tendencies in each of us. I make the mythic interpretation explicit to help Western readers see how it applies to their own practice and experience. Parting Words Translators: you are part of the transmission process. Translate so that the reader can experience the teaching. Readers of translations: read the translation aloud. If it doesn’t sound like English, throw it away. On Translation