Wednesday, August 6, 2014

An example of Bunglish -- Buddhist Hybrid English

While revising my original translation of Jigmé Lingpa's poem The Visionary Experience of Ever-present Good (kun.bzand.dgongs.nyams), I am checking my work against Sam van Schaik's translation in Approaching the Great Perfection.

There is a world of difference between our approaches. Sam seeks to be scrupulously accurate in rendering the words and phrases of Tibetan, while I favor a looser more poetic approach, striving for fluid and ease of comprehension in the English.

The difference in one verse provides a good example of Buddhist Hybrid English on the one hand and something else, I'm not sure what to call it, on the other.

Do bear in mind that Sam and I are translating for completely different audiences. His, I believe, is primarily academic, while mine is intended for practitioners. This difference alone accounts for much of the difference in result.

Here is Sam's translation:

Mind itself, which is without good or bad, acceptance or rejection,
Is adulterated by the alloy of adroit rejection and acceptance of dirt and purity.
When the nondual ultimate truth is fabricated by the duality of subject and object,
To aspire toward the rank of ultimate truth, which is not a thing to be obtained,
Is to hold the tenets of the
kriyatantra of conduct. How attractive!

And here is my rendering of the same verse:

Because mind itself doesn’t take up the good or give up the bad,
A shrewd moral practice acts as an added pollutant.
The forms of dualistic fixation distort what is not two.
Ritual tantra seeks to attain a state where there is nothing to attain.
How elegant you are, you followers of ritual philosophy!

1 comment:

Sherab Drime said...

Works like this one, and so many others, were of course not written with a "foreign" audience in mind. The authors of works such as Jigme Lingpa's, had to assume that the majority of their readers would be familiar, at the very least in a general way, with the many different ideas and concepts which are frequently mentioned throughout these texts, and that these would not have to be explained. As it is, a text like this one aims at an audience that is primarily concerned with putting the teachings hinted at into practice. Even the more academically minded Tibetan readers will thus not be able to understand all the many references made to certain practice systems, and the experiences which might occur when implementing them. It is therefore all the more surprising that some western academics, who are utterly unfamiliar with these subject matters, and who have no intention to familiarize themselves with them, attempt to translate and even comment upon these matters! I have often marveled at the sheer audacity, and continue to be more than just a little bemused about some of the results.

Best from Benchen Monastery, Nepal

Sherab Drime (a western practitioner and fellow sufferer in the business of translating)