I’d very much appreciate your thoughts on this translation of a short excerpt from the Soma Sutta. Specifically, I’d love to know which lines could be translated in more than one way. (I’m arranging for a Tibetan translation and want to be sure it reflects the Pali source.)
Somā Sutta, SN 5.2
What does womanhood matter at all
When the mind is concentrated well,
When knowledge flows on steadily
As one sees correctly into Dhamma.
One to whom it might occur,
‘I’m a woman’ or ‘I’m a man’
Or ‘I’m anything at all’—
Is fit for Māra to address.
(Somā Sutta, SN 5.2
The Tibetan project sounds interesting: may I ask what it is?
Here’s my translation so far:
Itthibhāvo kiṃ kayirā
What difference does womanhood make cittamhi susamāhite
when the mind is well converged, Ñāṇamhi vattamānamhi,
and knowledge flows sammā dhammaṃ vipassato.
as you rightly discern the Dhamma. Yassa nūna siyā evaṃ,
Surely someone who might think Itthāhaṃ purisoti vā;
‘I am woman’, or ‘I am man’, Kiñci vā pana asmīti
or ‘I am’ anything at all, Taṃ māro vattumarahatī”ti.
is fit for Māra to address.”
And here’s an annotated version, paying attention to things that might affect translations in Tibetan, etc. Let me know if you have any specific questions
Itthibhāvo kiṃ kayirā
what is the function of womanhood, i.e. what difference does it make, what does it matter
This line and the next are locative absolutes, meaning “when the mind …”. But they might be read as normal locatives, “in the mind …” or “regarding the mind …”. Note that samāhita is the past participle of samādhi.
“Flows” is probably too literal for vattamāna, I should use “is present”.
sammā dhammaṃ vipassato. Dhamma is ambiguous here. If it was plural I would take it in the sense of “principles”. Vipassato = vipassanā. I use “discernment” for this throughout. “Insight” is not really correct.
Yassa nūna siyā evaṃ, Nūna is a particle with a range of meanings. It’s not easy to render it in English, but an attempt should be made here, I think: it adds emotion. I don’t really like “surely”, but I can’t think of anything better. It might even be rendered as a question:
Wouldn’t someone who thinks “I am” be fit for Mara to address?
Shouldn’t Māra be talking to …
Itthāhaṃ purisoti vā
The language in this line and the next echoes, deliberately I think, the Upanishadic “I am”. For this reason I think it’s better to not abbreviate it but keep it emphatic. “I am woman” is, of course, a homage to Helen Reddy.
Kiñci vā pana [aññasmiṃ (bj)] [asmīti (s1-3, km, pts1-2)] [aññasmi (ms)]
The second reading has been preferred by all translators, so far as I can see. It would be interesting to know whether the Tibetan supports one or other of these. The variant readings here are, in turn:
Kiñci vā pana aññasmiṃ: or anything else at all
Kiñci vā pana asmīti: or “I am” anything at all
Kiñci vā pana aññasmi: or I am anything else at all
Taṃ māro vattumarahatī”ti.
The final verb is the same root as arahant, here meaning “fit, worthy”. I think in Tibetan they often use “foe-slayer” for arahant, so watch out for this.
The International Buddhist Academy and one of the Dalai Lama’s translators will be translating a small collection of scholarly articles into Tibetan… or at least some of the articles…all depends on my ability to raise the funding… These are articles that present evidence the negative Buddhist teachings on women, and special rules for women, are harmful and contradict the most fundamental teachings of the Buddha.