Last evening many of us had the good fortune to attend Bhante Sujato’s lecture on “Translating a 2500 year-old Sacred Text for a Modern Audience” hosted by the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies. Many monastics, bhikkhus and bhikkhunis attended, as did many interested lay persons.
The lecture opened with a shared meditation, after which Bhante engaged the lay audience with questions about their perspectives on meditation. This provided a great introduction to the EBTs and the challenges that any translator faces in taking the superposition of meaning from a root language into translation with fidelity to the original. It in fact requires a courageous and decisive approach akin to “killing Shroedinger’s cat” to arrive at a consistent and faithful translation for the widest audience. Even with modern digital tools to help with consistent translation, it takes tremendous discipline and restraint to avoid the embellishments and interpretations of any idiosyncratic and personal view. Indeed, it is a discipline that requires the utmost restraint to present the essence in translation. It takes the “principle of least meaning.”
The talk was very enjoyable and informative for all who attended. We did however, have some trouble finding Bhante’s essay regarding the bottoms of naked ascetics later in the evening while perusing SuttaCentral.
Thank you Bhante and safe journey to New York!