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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
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      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 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.

      Sukhi.

      P.

      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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