Monday, August 23, 2010


"In reading with our students a commentary on Candrakīrti, I realized that some of Candrakīrti’s points were often lost on Tibetan-oriented readers who were not versed in the technicalities of Sanskrit grammatical explication, and at the same time that Candrakīrti had expounded detailed principles of exegesis that had remained largely unknown to readers who specialized in non-Buddhist texts."
— Gary Tubb, in Scholastic Sanskrit: A Manual for Students, on why Sanskrit commentarial techniques are valuable for Buddhist texts.

Friday, July 9, 2010


"Some of the most common problems in the translation of Buddhist texts in Sanskrit texts may be attributed to two unspoken lexicographic assumptions. First is the privileging of doctrine and philosophy: the assumption that Buddhist usage can always be clarified by reference to simple tables of doctrinal truth and classification. Second is the privileging of etymology: the assumption that the “root” gives a “primary” and preponderant meaning accessible to the translator whenever the latter is in doubt as to what a word might mean."
— Luis O. Gomez, “The Way of the Translators.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Reading Oetke on philology and philosophy


In making the point that we ought to strive for translations reflectinglinguistic content (since there are different kinds of content they could convey), Oetke discusses vagueness in detail. He gives an example sentence:
Hindu kings are tolerant.
This sentence is vague* in two principal ways:

"…throughout my work I try to avoid treating past philosophers as mere specimens on display in some intellectual museum full of quaint exhibits of thankfully outmoded world views. The basic motivation of philosophy, namely, the search for wisdom and truths by which we might lead worthwhile lives, will never become a thing of the past until intelligent life itself ceases to be a feature of this universe. And given that basic motivation, the issues and problems of philosophy are bound to remain more or less constant…there is an intrinsic value in constantly reexamining the thought of our predecessors without assuming like the reactionary that past ages had a better handle on reality than we have and without assuming like the uncritical modernist that humanity is incessantly progressing towards some higher understanding."
— Richard P Hayes, Dingāga on the Interpretation of Signs. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


"The very plurality of meanings so frequently given in our dictionaries shows that a modern language cannot in many cases offer one single equivalent of an ancient Indian term—intelligibly enough, because the speakers of different languages, whilst organizing through their semantic analyses the world of experience in which they live, traditionally define, analyze and categorize this experience differently. The arrangement of the ‘meanings’ — often no more than inadequate attempts to give an idea of one aspect of an Indian concept — gives rise to many pseudo-problems and false impressions, e.g. of historical developments of ‘meanings.’"
— Jan Gonda, Vedic Literature (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1975), 62.