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Re: [Pali] Re: about Appamaadasuttam

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  • Piya Tan
    Robert, Many thanks for your insightful and delight note on translating Pali into English. I think we have gone a lone way from the early western translation
    Message 1 of 3 , Oct 9, 2002

      Many thanks for your insightful and delight note on translating Pali into English. I
      think we have gone a lone way from the early western translation pionner efforts. I
      find reading the suttas in their original Pali such a joy of direct experience (as
      far as reading goes), and they I recount what I have read (or paraphrase) it.

      For all the spirituality that the Pali texts preserve, it is also beautiful
      literature which should be brought out in translations.



      Robert Eddison wrote:

      > This is a response to a post of several weeks back from Tzungkuen. I don't
      > remember seeing anyone reply to it, but if someone has already done so,
      > then please accept my apologies for missing it.
      > >Dear Dhamma friends:
      > >
      > >Please do me a favor
      > >There is a gathaa in KosalaSamyuttam in Samyuttam Nikaaya.
      > >
      > >Aayu.m arogiya.m van.n.a.m, sagga.m uccaakuliinata.m ;
      > >Ratiyo patthayantena, ul.aaraa aparaaparaa.
      > >Appamaada.m pasa.msanti, pu~n~nakiriyaasu pan.d.itaa
      > >which is translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu as follows
      > >
      > >For one who desires
      > >long life, health,
      > >beauty, heaven, & noble birth,
      > >-- lavish delights, one after another --
      > >the wise praise heedfulness
      > >in performing deeds of merit.
      > >But I don't know how to analyze 'Ratiyo patthayantena, ul.aaraa aparaaparaa.'
      > >
      > >Ratiyo : (rati)f.pl.N. or Ac?. meaning 'delight'
      > Plural: delights. Accusative, because it is the direct object of
      > patthayanta ("one wishing for...").
      > >patthayantena :(patthayanta)ppr.sg.I. meaning 'to desire' , why
      > >Instrumental case?
      > Because it is *by* the person wishing for long life etc. that diligence
      > must be exercised. Thanissaro renders it inaccurately as if it were a
      > dative. (I will have more to say on this below).
      > >ul.aaraa : (ul.aara) adj.f.pl.N or Ac?. meaning 'great or superb'
      > Accusative because it qualifies ratiyo. Bodhi translate it as "lofty".
      > Others use "sublime", "excellent", "fine" etc. What is certain is that the
      > word u.laara pertains to quality not quantity. Thanissaro's rendering of
      > "lavish" should therefore be discarded.
      > >aparaaparaa :?? [in PED. p.52, there is only aparaaparam. meaning 'again
      > >and again' ]
      > The PED also gives "to and fro" and "off and on". Childers gives "on and
      > on", "successively", "up and down", and "backwards and forwards". Where the
      > passage has to do with movement the context makes it obvious which
      > direction is denoted, e.g. waves go up and down, bhikkhus go backwards and
      > forwards on their walking paths etc. In other contexts regular temporal
      > succession and/or recurrence is the commonest meaning. Where it means
      > something else the commentary will indicate this. Both the PED and the
      > Childers dictionary limit themselves to the adverbial form, but in the
      > present context the word is an adjective qualifying ratiyo.
      > >What I understand is as follows:
      > >
      > >Aayu.m : (aayu)n.sg.Ac. meaning 'long life'
      > >arogiya.m :(arogiya) m.sg.Ac. meaning 'health'
      > >van.n.a.m: (van.n.a)m.sg.Ac. meaning 'beauty'
      > >sagga.m : (sagga)m.sg.Ac. meaning 'heaven'
      > >uccaakuliinata.m :(uccaakuliinataa) f.sg.Ac. meaning 'noble birth'
      > Yes.
      > >Appamaada.m :(appamaada) n.sg.Ac. meaning 'earnestness, vigilance'
      > Masculine.
      > >pasa.msanti :(pasa.msati) pres.3.sg.P. meaning 'praise'
      > >pu~n~nakiriyaasu: (pu~n~na-kiriyaa) meaning 'in performing deeds of merit'
      > >pan.d.itaa : (pan.d.ita) m.pl.N. meaning 'wise people'
      > Yes.
      > Now some remarks on translating verse. Both the Thanissaro translation
      > above, as well as this one by Bhikkhu Bodhi...
      > For one who desires long life and health,
      > Beauty, heaven, and noble birth,
      > [A variety of] lofty delights
      > Following in succession,
      > The wise praise diligence
      > In doing deeds of merit.
      > are good specimens of how not to translate Pali verse. Both translators
      > have striven to present the ideas in the verse in roughly the same sequence
      > as they occur in Pali. In order to do this they have inaccurately rendered
      > the instrumental patthayantena ("by one who desires...") as if it were a
      > dative ("for one who desires..."). If we try replacing "for" with "by" in
      > either of the above translations, we shall see why both translators felt
      > compelled to resort to this expedient. Such a translation would fail in
      > English because there would be too many words separating "the one who
      > desires" from the "diligence" that he is advised to exercise.
      > Now in this case it just so happens that the difference in meaning is very
      > slight. Nevertheless, a mechanical adherence to the Pali word and/or line
      > order is an imprudent practice when translating verse. In all too many
      > verse translations the translator's fetish for preserving the Pali line
      > order has required him to take considerable liberties with the meaning of
      > the text in order to produce something that is readable in English.
      > In Pali verse the order of phrases within a single gaathaa need not be
      > given much account when translating, since it depends primarily on metre
      > and other stylistic factors, and only secondarily (when at all) on meaning.
      > This applies even more so when translating verses in post-canonical texts,
      > where it's not unknown for the subject of the sentence and the main verb to
      > be 10-15 lines apart. When translating something like this into English
      > it's impossible to stick to the Pali word or line order.
      > When translating a Pali verse, having identified the number, gender and
      > case of each declinable word, it's a good policy to proceed by dividing the
      > verse into its component phrases and then diagramming them, rather than
      > immediately attempting a translation of the whole. This is because in verse
      > there is no requirement that the usual word order of subject -> object ->
      > predicate be followed. So to reduce the likelihood of error one needs to
      > consider all the possible ways that the component words may relate to each
      > other.
      > So first we should look out for nouns or pronouns in the nominative and
      > then identify which verb (or verbs) are their predicates and which adjectives
      > (if any) are qualifying them. Then we can proceed to do the same with nouns
      > in the accusative and other oblique cases. Sometimes several combinations
      > may be possible and we should not be too surprised (or disappointed) if the
      > outcome happens to be several equally plausible translations of the verse.
      > In the present case, happily, there are no such ambiguities. The verse's
      > component phrases may be analysed as follows:
      > 1) Subject & main verb:
      > pa.n.ditaa pasa.msanti
      > "the wise praise"
      > [nominative]
      > 2) Primary direct object (showing what it is that the wise praise):
      > appamaada.m pu~n~nakiriyaasu
      > "diligence in doing deeds of merit"
      > [accusative]
      > 3) Instrument (showing the agent by whom the exercise of diligence is to be
      > carried out):
      > patthayantena
      > "by one wishing for"
      > [instrumental]
      > 4) Secondary direct object (showing the items wished for by the instrument,
      > now considered as a subject in his own right):
      > aayu.m arogiya.m va.n.na.m, sagga.m uccaakuliinata.m ratiyo , u.laaraa
      > aparaaparaa
      > "long life and health, beauty, heaven, noble birth, and a succession of
      > fine delights"
      > [all accusative because they are direct objects of patthayanta]
      > The relations between these 4 components may be shown on a Reed-Kellogg
      > diagram, thus:
      > | |
      > The wise | praise| diligence
      > _________|_______|___________
      > | \
      > | \
      > | \ by |
      > \ one desiring | long life etc.
      > \_____________|________________
      > /
      > following in succession /
      > _________________________/
      > (use a fixed space font to view the diagram).
      > All that remains to do is to decide how to put the pieces of the jigsaw
      > back together in a way that both suits the natural speech patterns of the
      > target language AND preserves the meaning of the text.
      > I would suggest:
      > "The wise praise diligence in doing deeds of merit by [or: on the part of]
      > one wishing for long life, health and beauty, heaven, noble birth, and a
      > succession of fine delights."
      > I'll leave it to poets to decide how this could best be expressed in verse.
      > Best wishes,
      > Robert
      > "I don't believe I know of anything in life more exciting
      > than diagramming sentences."
      > -- Gertrude Stein
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