Ask and find out.
Quality is really good and maybe @snowbird can ask them?
IMO Sinhala sutta translations fall into two camps. On the one hand you have the Buddha Jayanthi and AP de Zoysa translations that tend to have archaic language (not as much of an issue with AP de Zoysa’s version, but keep in mind he did it around the 1950s), built-in commentary interpretations without footnotes (for example, a reference to kasina in kayagathasati sutta as a requirement for abhinna because it is said so in the commentary) and “manufactured” words (essentially copying over a pali word without any attempt at translation, resulting in a translation that is more confusing than the original pali text).
All these issues have resulted in the general sentiment among SL monks/scholars attempting to read the suttas to be that learning Pali is essential, since the translations are not that reliable.
So when I was told that Kiribathgoda Nanananda thero had translated the whole Canon in “simple” Sinhala some years ago I was excited to check it out. I’m pleasantly surprised that they’ve put it all up online, since just a few years ago they weren’t even ready to provide CDs for cash (no doubt fearing it would affect book sales).
Coming to the question on whether the translations are good, I would say that the general sentiment of the monks I’ve talked to and the impression I get from reading a few suttas myself is that in the attempt to make it simple, some of the substance has been lost.
To give a quick example, checking the first sentence of Dhp 1’s translation:
ජීවිතයේ හැම දේකටම සිතයි මුල්වෙන්නේ.
While the English translation on SC is imo quite acceptable:
Mind precedes all mental states.
The sinhala here glosses over the term “dhamma” - instead of going with something similar to mental phenomena/qualities/states, the literal translation seems to be … “life”.
So if I translated the first sentence back to English, it would be:
“Everything in life is preceded by the mind.”
IMO, this is a clear oversimplification of the substance of the passage. It might be an acceptable translation for someone new to the Dhamma (even then maybe only to children), but it fails to articulate the passage’s profundity in the process.
To be fair, I am not saying that this means every other sutta that has been translated has similar issues, and I am thankful that Kiribathgoda Nanananda thero has at least made an attempt to do a modern Sinhala translation which is desperately needed.
However, I still am of the opinion that if a native Sinhala speaker (who is not proficient in English) wants to read the suttas, his best option is to learn Pali for now. English speakers on the other hand have many options, with Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s, Bhikkhu Bodhi’s and Bhante Sujato’s translations all being very acceptable (all three options much better than any Sinhala option).
The problem here is the ambiguity of the ablative case.
The phrase is:
Where the second term is in the ablative. Now, this takes a variety of different senses in Pali, with the basic meaning being something like “from”. As you can see, Ven Bodhi has chosen this more “material” or “spatial” sense.
Here you can see an extensive discussion of the different kinds of ablative, in the magisterial study Syntax of the Cases in the Pali Nikayas by O. H. de A. Wijesekera; thanks to Ven Anandajoti for putting it on the web!
Under #133, we have what Wijesekera calls the “ablative of view-point”, under which he quotes a number of examples, including, as it happens, a passage from MN 1 itself. (paṭhavito na maññati).
From the foregoing it is seen that the abl. generally expresses the point of view . It is the underlying unity of conception behind the various uses discussed above such as the ablatives denoting on which side , relation , comparison etc. The notion of viewpoint is also signified by a class of ablatives in - to (but never with the regular endings), the syntactical function of which seems to be closely related to that of the abl. of comparison . They have the sense of “in terms of” or “as”, and can be expressed by the periphrasis vasena as well.
Note that this usage is typically signified by the somewhat unusual ablative form -to, which is what we find in MN 1.
I considered this point back and forth, as so far as I can see, there is not a really definitive way to determine one reading or other is correct. But in the end I translated it in this way, and am happy to find that this agrees with Wijesekera!
Thanks, this kind of specific analysis is really helpful. Please feel free to give more examples if you wish!
Hi moderators could you be kind enough to create a new thread to discuss this particular point?
Pehaps you can create the heading “What is the essential teaching of MN1”
You can do it Sarath!
Heedfulness is the path to the Deathless. Heedlessness is the path to death. The heedful die not. The heedless are as if dead already.
2. අප්පමාද වග්ගෝ
2. අප්රමාද වීම ගැන වදාළ කොටස
21.1. අප්පමාදෝ අමතපදං පමාදෝ මච්චුනෝ පදං අප්පමත්තා න මීයන්ති යේ පමත්තා යථා මතා
අප්රමාදීව සීල, සමාධි, ප්රඥා වඩන තැනැත්තා ඒ අමා නිවන කරා යනවා. කාම සැපයට වසඟ වෙලා ප්රමාද වෙන තැනැත්තාට ලැබෙන්නෙ ආයෙ ආයෙමත් මරණය විතරයි. අප්රමාදීව ධර්මයේ හැසිරෙන උදවිය අමරණීය වෙනවා. ප්රමාද වෙච්ච උදවිය ජීවත් වුණත් මළ කඳන් වගේ තමයි.
Translation back into English,
The person who heedfully practices morality, concentration and wisdom, realises nibbana.
Those caught to sensual pleasure only gets to die repetitively. Those who heedfully practice the dhamma die not, those who are heedless, even though alive, are like dead.
It seems extra description has been added, not incorrect but it’s not a straight rendering, of the Pali, which causes straying off from the original. Sarath and I discovered that in the Dhammapada easily and I wondered if the style of translation was different from the rest of the Cannon?
And to be clear, this is in the Gnanananda translation?
It does seem as if it’s over-explained. There is, to be sure, a place for making more explicit the content of text, but this is a simple and well-known passage where it seems unnecessary. It feels to me like there is not a clear understanding of the difference between a translation and a paraphrase, such as one might give in a Dhamma talk. It’s not our role as translators to tell the reader what things mean. When you over-explain simple things, it seems like you have no faith in your readers.
Bhante is this something like he is adding the commentary to the translation?
Even in the point I made he add things which are not in Sutta.
I think you will find this more in his translation of very pithy verses, not so much in the prose. You could look at this from a different side… These verses are so well known; why do another translation if it doesn’t give benefit to the reader in a new way. With the Dhammapada it is very easy to find another translation if one wants something more literal. And most, I think will have the pali with them. Even his Dhammapada print publication has the Pali. So it’s fairly clear there is more in the Sinhala than is in the Pali.
Venerable Gnanananda has always encouraged people to also read the BJT edition as well. But yes, your idea about the purpose and nature of a translation and his are probably different. Putting the added text in brackets would have made it match (western) conventions better.
Yes, good point, in that case the translation may serve a slightly different purpose. At the end of the day, a translator has their own approach, suited to their purpose and context, and it is not easy to assess this from outside that context.
A.P. de Zoysa: the additional commentary is in brackets:
අප්රමාදය හෙවත් නොපමා බව අමෘතයයි කියනලද නිර්වාණයාගේ (අධිගමයට) කාරණ වෙයි. ප්රමාදය මරණයට කාරණ වෙයි. (කළ්යාණ මිත්ර ධර්මයෙහි) අප්රමත්ත (පමා නොවන) සත්වයෝ නොමියන්නාහ. යම් කෙනෙක් ප්රමත්තයෝ (පමාවන්නෝ) ද ඔහු මළවුන් මෙනි.
Heedfulness or being ‘not delayed’ leads to nirvana [attainments/paths-and-fruits]
Being ‘delayed’ leads to death
Heedfulness [in the dhammas of spiritual friends] leads to not-dying
If one is heedless (‘delayed’) they are like dead
It is important that the translator keep his commentaries separate from the translation or clearly acknowledged. Otherwise, the 2600 years of tradition under threat especially when they name the collection of books as Tipitaka.
Perhaps Ven. N should re-name the collection so the reader can differentiate it from the original text.
I saw the three trainings etc added as explanations in the A.P. de Zoysa version (elsewhere in the texts) as well so maybe it creates a precedent…!
Have you read Buddha Jayanti edition? Perhaps that could be more authenticarted.
I have read Buddha Jayanti Translation. It is more clear as the comments are provided in brakets. Unfortuately I can’t copy it.
It is great if we can loby to get the Buddha Jayanti translation as part of Sutta Central.
If there is a will there is a way!
Buddha Jayanti translation is in line with the BB’s translation.
Note that Ven Bodhi’s approach results in an internal inconsistency. The Pali reads (taking the first instance"earth" as exemplar, grammatically it is the same as the passage on Nibbana):
pathaviṃ pathavito sañjānāti;
Sujato: They perceive earth as earth.
Bodhi: He perceives earth as earth.
Sujato: they identify as earth
Bodhi: he conceives (himself apart) from earth
Thus Ven Bodhi renders the identical grammatical construction in two different ways in consecutive sentences, and inserts extra explanatory terms so that it makes sense.
That’s not to say that it’s wrong, but it doesn’t strike me as very elegant or persuasive.
Interestingly enough, it appears that none of the Chinese translations use phrasing that is very similar to the Pali, although it conveys roughly the same sense. Analayo Comparative Study, p. 24:
In regard to the worldling, the Mūlapariyāya-sutta explains how perceiving earth leads to conceiving “earth” in various ways, such as “earth”, “in earth”, and “from earth”, followed by treating earth as “mine” and by delighting in earth. In this way, the Pāli discourse depicts a series of conceivings (maññanā), which establish a relationship between the perceiving subject and the perceived object by way of the accusative, locative, and ablative cases, a series of conceivings that culminates in the arising of delight.
The Ekottarika-āgama discourse agrees with the Mūlapariyāya-sutta that the worldling perceives earth as earth, which it follows up by indicating that the worldling then takes earth to be really earth.
The Madhyama-āgama discourse describes taking earth to be the self, or earth being part of the self, or the self being part of earth. The individual translation speaks of delighting in earth and identifying with it.
These translations in fact are quite reminiscent of Ven Bodhi’s rendering, where he inserts “conceives (himself in) earth”, following the commentary.
Thank you Bhante this is how I understand.
I got another simile.
There is a bubble
I am in the bubble
The bubble is inside me.
The bubble and the I are the same.
Bubble is delightful
There is water droplet
I am in the water droplet
The water droplet is inside me
The water droplet and I are the same
Water droplet is delightful
Water droplet is eavaporated and become a water molecule
There is water molecule
The water moledule is inside me
I am inside the water molecule
The water molecule and I are the same
The water molecule is delightful
So on the Samsara contiunes!!!
I have read MN96 Sinhalese translation of Ven. N.
It appears his translation is in line with Bhante Sujato’s translation.