Willing to start translating suttas to Russian

Hello, venerable community!

My name is Alexander, and I am a Theravada lay follower with knowledge of the Russian and English languages. Originally, I was born and raised in Russia, but since 2018, I have been living and working in Sweden. Due to the nature of my work (software engineering), I have developed my English skills sufficiently to engage in conversations with native speakers on both work-related and unrelated topics. English has been my primary language of work for the past 5.5 years.

Regarding my Buddhist path, I took refuge in the year 2012 under Bhante Topper Pannyavudho, a Theravadin monk living in St. Petersburg and the founder of theravada.ru. Since then, I have been practicing with varying levels of devotion, experiencing periods of fervor as well as stagnation (or even regression), during which I struggled to uphold my precepts and rarely recollected the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. However, even during the darkest moments, I have never lost faith, as the Dhamma is the sole element in my life that provides ultimate purpose.

Recently, my practice has been progressing, and I am now exploring ways to generate good kamma for myself to increase the likelihood of attaining stream entry, as this is my aspiration in this current life.

My latest contribution to the sasana is a bot for the Telegram messenger that sends daily suttas (in Russian translation) to subscribers.

My current plan is to start with the Pettavatthu, as the suttas there are relatively small and self-contained.

I would be glad to answer any questions!

Pinging @sabbamitta and Bhante @sujato for visibility.

13 Likes

Forgot to mention if my IT skills is any of use for the site and other portals, I would be happy to help! I am a backend engineer with fair chunk of knowledge within infra/DevOPS/cloud area.

7 Likes

Hello Alexander!

Isn’t this so wonderful? :pray:

Sadhu for your resolution to engage in a translation project for Buddhist texts!

Let me just start with a few thoughts and questions, hoping that Bhante @sujato will also find the time to respond.

  • You may be aware that SuttaCentral has its own translation tool called Bilara? This is a support for translators that shows you how you have previously translated a similar or the same passage that you are looking at right now—which means it will become all the more useful the further your project has progressed. Also, it is intimately linked into the repository on github, so that each segment is automatically saved there as soon as you commit it in Bilara.

  • Workflows outside of Bilara, especially using AI generated translations, are not encouraged.

  • There is currently a Russian translation project underway for the website interface of SuttaCentral, done by @timtim. I don’t know whether or not timtim is intending to move to sutta translation after completing the “site” files? If yes, it might be an idea for the two of you to agree on some sort of cooperation, be it that one is doing actual translation, one is proofreading; or each one translates a certain scope of the texts and you proofread each other’s work, or whatever.

    In this context it may be said that a consistent translation across the entire canon for a given language is preferrable over two partial translations of different styles and vocabularies.

    In any case, you would have to find native speaker proofreaders for your project.

  • There are also Russian Bilara projects of some DN and MN suttas in the repository, but they don’t seem to have been very active recently, so I don’t know whether or not they are still being worked on, or what is their status.

  • Another point is your fluency in your target language, Russian. Do you have any experience in writing in that language?

  • One important point for a sutta translation projrect is that you have a clear idea about the aims and policy that should guide it. For example, Bhante Sujato has set out for a translation in easily accessible language that does nevertheless correctly represent the Pali root. (I take it that you are interested in translating from the Pali canon? For there are also the Chinese and Sanskrit canons and other languages …) I am trying to achieve the same for German, relying on Bhante’s English translation.

  • Regarding the petavatthu that you mention, there aren’t obviously English translations for all of its suttas on SuttaCentral. And the ones that are there are grouped as “legacy translations”, that means they have been inherited from elsewhere and have not been produced in Bilara. This means they are not segmented as are the Bilara translations so that they could be matched segment by segment with the root text, as is the requirement for a text to be used in Bilara.

    On top of that, legacy translations may have different copyright restrictiions which Bilara translations have not. So if you would like to use a certain legacy text or collection as a basis for your translation, you’d have to agree on that with the copyright holder. And I don’t think SuttaCentral is interested in having new legacy translations produced for the site.

    So the petavatthu may not be the ideal text to start with, unless you are translating directly from Pali (which is only recommendable if you are really proficient in that language).

So … I think I have raised a number of points here and hope those will be complemented and elaborated by Bhante Sujato.

Thank you for this offer! I don’t oversee this area so well, therefore calling Bhantes @sujato @Snowbird @Khemarato.bhikkhu , as well as @HongDa , the main developer.

Perhaps HongDa could even do with some help for the development of the new and improved version of Bilara?

I am confident that there will be one or the other way for you to contribute your skills, either as a translator or in the development. Thank you so much for offering it!

7 Likes

Greetings to all the Venerables and Alexander @neptunao!
I am currently translating site files, as Venerable @Sabbamitta mentioned. At the moment I’m finishing translations of Bhante @Sujato’s guides on reading the Suttas (by the way that would be a great starting point for anyone interested in making translations from his English versions).
It emerged as a side project, when I asked Bhante if I could translate his books into Russian, but I am not very quick, dealing with some health issues, unfortunately :expressionless:
Some time ago I read some Russian suttas translations and thought that it would be great to have an additional set of consistent translations made from Bhante’s English versions.
At the moment on SuttaCentral there are legacy and some segmented Russian translations from SV (same as at aforementioned theravada.ru, made I think mostly from Ven. Bodhi’s translations, correct me if I’m wrong) and also there are translations from someone who calls himself Баян купи-ка (which sound quite funny in Russian :slight_smile: ) and I find these very nice. Unfortunately they are legacy, occasional and are available for a limited set of suttas. I wonder if there is a way to ask him, if he has any plans making new translations.
Anyway, I’m open to cooperation, although after I translate reading guides, I was aiming mostly to spend time on The Swift Pair of Messengers, occasionally translating remaining site pages.
I considered making consistent translation of four nikāyas from Bhante’s version, but as a distant project, so I would be glad to help where I can, if someone else undertakes the endeavor :pray:

3 Likes

There is a folder of segmented Russian translations of MN suttas in the repository by a translator called “SV” (for whatever reason they prefer to remain anonymous); they are in fact segmented translations (here MN 10)—although labeled “legacy” on the suttaplex cards. This looks like a mistake in labeling? @HongDa ?

A Russian DN project has been started years ago in Bilara of which nothing has been published so far; probably that has been abandoned.

I don’t know if anyone knows who this is, but if that could be fond out that would be great. And better even if the project could be continued in Bilara.

Wishing you all the best for this! :heart:

That’s a dangerous thought that I once had for German. I finally ended up making them myself, as nobody else seemed to feel like doing it. :see_no_evil:

2 Likes

Ok, thank you all for your amazing comments! I’ll try to answer everything I can to my best ability.

You may be aware that SuttaCentral has its own translation tool called Bilara?

Yes, I’ve heard about it. Haven’t seen it in action though, but I’ve seen the repo. I actually use sc-data github repo for my bot for sending daily suttas, as I mentioned earlier.

There is currently a Russian translation project underway for the website interface of SuttaCentral, done by @timtim.

Great! We will definitely get in touch!

In any case, you would have to find native speaker proofreaders for your project.

Yes, this is true. I know some people in the community who will gladly assist me (as I think).

Another point is your fluency in your target language, Russian. Do you have any experience in writing in that language?

Well, I am a native speaker and I had almost the highest score at the national exam if it counts. :smiley: On serious note, I tried to write several short fictions and in general they were well-received. But hands down, such a project is a completely new endeavor for me, since I never did professional translations.

One important point for a sutta translation projrect is that you have a clear idea about the aims and policy that should guide it. For example, Bhante Sujato has set out for a translation in easily accessible language that does nevertheless correctly represent the Pali root.

My current idea is to try to work in the same style as translator SV did, he actually translated the whole Majjhima, Saṃyutta, Anguttara and Digha Nikayas to the Russian, based on Bhikkhu Bodhi English translation. So I want to follow his footsteps.

Regarding the petavatthu that you mention, there aren’t obviously English translations for all of its suttas on SuttaCentral. And the ones that are there are grouped as “legacy translations”, that means they have been inherited from elsewhere and have not been produced in Bilara.

Ah, that I didn’t know. In this case, I probably can try something else, e.g. I can upload newer SV’s translations from theravada.ru using Bilara, or I can try to find some other places which can benefit translation, like Milindapañha. It should be possible to reach the current copyright holder of the translation (Andrey Paribok did it back in USSR times).

But do I understand it correctly that once can’t use Bilara for translating a text to target language based on the legacy translation? E.g. I can’t translate to Russian using legacy English translation, as it is the case with Pettavatthu?

So the petavatthu may not be the ideal text to start with, unless you are translating directly from Pali (which is only recommendable if you are really proficient in that language).

Well, no, unfortunately no Pali knowledge. :slightly_frowning_face:

2 Likes

There is a folder of segmented Russian translations of MN suttas in the repository by a translator called “SV” (for whatever reason they prefer to remain anonymous); they are in fact segmented translations (here MN 10)—although labeled “legacy” on the suttaplex cards.

Well, I happen to know SV personally. :smiley: He is an amazingly content and humble person. I can try to get in contact with him and probably get his permission on continuing uploading his work using Bilara.

As I mentioned, he is close now to finishing the whole translation of Sutta Pitaka, I think it is only the parts of Khuddaka Nikāya that he haven’t translated yet.

1 Like

Hi Timur @timtim !

At the moment I’m finishing translations of Bhante @Sujato’s guides on reading the Suttas (by the way that would be a great starting point for anyone interested in making translations from his English versions).

Amazing project! Probably I can help somewhere there as well.

Some time ago I read some Russian suttas translations and thought that it would be great to have an additional set of consistent translations made from Bhante’s English versions.

Hmmm, I am personally fine with SV’s translations since I don’t have deep Pali knowledge to object something in his work. My idea is more about filling gaps that he didn’t yet.

But of course, your idea is also very noble.

At the moment on SuttaCentral there are legacy and some segmented Russian translations from SV (same as at aforementioned theravada.ru, made I think mostly from Ven. Bodhi’s translations, correct me if I’m wrong)

Yes, exactly, as far as I know he based all his translations on Ven. Bodhi’s books.

also there are translations from someone who calls himself Баян купи-ка (which sound quite funny in Russian :slight_smile: ) and I find these very nice.
I wonder if there is a way to ask him, if he has any plans making new translations.

I don’t know who he or she is unfortunately.

Anyway, I’m open to cooperation, although after I translate reading guides, I was aiming mostly to spend time on The Swift Pair of Messengers, occasionally translating remaining site pages.

Okay, I will DM you!

1 Like

Thank you, Venerable! :pray:

Yeah, I think I can relate to that from my experience in other grounds :upside_down_face:

1 Like

Bhante @Sujato really needs to enter this conversation to give official answers. But as I understand Legacy texts are ok if no other translation is already on the site. AKA legacy is better than nothing.

The PV and Vv selections on SC are English translations from Ven Kiribathgoda Gnanananda’s Sinhala. So making a third jump to Russian is probably not a good idea.

But I do support all of your good intentions.

4 Likes

If the owners of this forum generously allow, may I also point your attention to the Buddhist classes for Russian speakers by B. Bhodi available on the BAUS Monastary’s Youtube Page (look in their playlists).

1 Like

Thanks @sabbamitta

SV’s MN translation has both the legacy version and the bilara version. I haven’t compared whether the two are the same. If they are the same, we can remove the legacy translation.

image

2 Likes

As far as I know, there is an ongoing project to translate and align all the existing translations of the suttas at tipitaka.theravada.su. Perhaps they would welcome your help.

Translating is always an approximation. Translating to the language of a different culture is even more of an approximation. Translating from such a translation (instead of from the original) will ensure that it gives only a vague sense of the original.

Yep, I know some of the people from this circle, so will ask them, thank you!

Well, I don’t know, probably you are right. With my current level of Russian and English I personally don’t see much difference in English translation made by Bhante Sujato and SV’s Russian translation from Bhikhu Boddhi English one, so for me it doesn’t matter much. Probably my level is not deep enough though.

Pinging Bhante @sujato again to clarify if I can have access to bilara to start uploading existing translations.