Monday, December 22, 2008

Lost in translation. Part II

When it comes to monumental errors of translation, nothing beats the attempts of Western scholars at translating the philosophical and religious texts of the Eastern civilization.
Not only have they had to cross the barriers of language, but also they had to cross the ocean of cultural differences.
Not understanding the culture and customs, the social and economical structures, the whole of the ancient Eastern civilization, means one thing:
The sacred texts of Eastern have been poorly translated and never assimilated.

Lets take the classical and fundamental text of Buddhism, “The four noble truth” Gautama Buddha’s teachings.

The first noble truths universally accepted translation is: “Life is suffering”
I feel like the kid looking at the naked emperor and I just want to shout:
- Doesn’t anybody see that this translation is a total piece of shit?

I don’t know an iota of Sanskrit and I couldn’t do a 5 cent debate on the morphology of the word “dukkha” but here is what I know.
2600 years ago in ancient India the way knowledge was transmitted was through traditions, rituals and ceremonies.
To transmit his teachings, Buddha uses a formula devised by Indian doctors, consisting in 4 steps.
First the doctor would proclaim the name of the disease, or as we say, the diagnosis.
Second he would proclaim the cause of the disease.
Third he would conclude if the disease is curable or not and fourth, he will offer the recipe for the cure.

So what Buddha was saying in the first noble truth was not that “life is suffering” but rather that life has a disease, illness, problem and that problem is “dukkha” whatever that means.
He goes on saying that life has both good and bad, pain and pleasure and that ignorant people are chasing only the good, “sukkha”, sweet part of life and that this obsessive chase of the “sukkha”, whatever that means, is the cause of our disease – suffering.

What does all mean?
Let’s say that that fame, fortune, money, power, status and influence are drugs like; cocaine or heroine.
You take one of them you get high. You like it and you want to repeat the experience, but soon you discover that in order to get the same high sensation you have to increase the dose, so you keep increasing it until you end up dead in an OD.

What we experience is perceived in contrast with the opposite. Every action creates an equal and opposite reaction.
Pleasure can’t exist without pain, light without darkness, sound without silence.
Just like drugs, by ignorant pursuit of what gives us pleasure we are setting in motion the vicious cycle of our suffering.

Of course the scholars have translated all that in: “suffering is caused by desire”
What? Who is the idiot that makes those translations?
Desire is neither good nor bad. You can desire to be healthy, to help poor people or desire world peace.
As a matter of fact there are as many good desires as bad ones. You just take a bad desire turn it upside down and you’ll get a good one.

This mentally retarded translation has caused generations of followers to avoid any desire.
Enlightenment for them is simply pain avoidance and denial of senses.
I don’t understand why you should spend hours in zazen, until your ass aches, when you can pop a handful of ludes and be a stone Buddha in a second!

Buddha has not given us his teachings so we can avoid life or to show off to others how smart and enlightened we are.
Life is full of pain and pleasure, laughter and sadness, highs and lows, good and bad.
Life is not suffering. Life is what you are making out of it.

Go ahead and love with your whole heart! Laugh and cry, do stupid or wonderful things, make mistakes or achieve successes!
Live your life with your eyes wide open and love every moment of it, good or bad!
Celebrate life with every moment in time, live it with every fiber and every cell of your body.
Be the best human being you can be.
That is the teaching of Buddha.
That is enlightenment.
That is Zen.


Lydia said...

This is wonderful, Buddha. I have stood in bookstores studying all the varied translations of these texts and it's mind-boggling. I trust the translations of Stephen Mitchell, and wonder if you are aware of him and his efforts to get it right.

I never thought of this before now, but "sukkha" sounds sort of like "sugar." Sugar, like desire, can be both good and bad depending upon its form and usage....

Anonymous said...

Good things to aim for for sure. Perhaps our basic human disease, common to all religions/beliefs is that we want perfection and can never attain it.

Buddha said...

@ Lydia - If you meet the right translator kill him!
You have to do your own translation, your own understanding.
Your own way it is the true way.

@ Angie - How do you define perfection?
We are perfection. God doesn't create anything but perfection. But then we grow up and start believing in the shit society teaches us.

Jane Doe said...

One of the most important things I've learned from my depression is that mindfulness and living in the moment are crucial to finding peace. Accepting the moment as it is, without trying to manipulate it to be what we want it to be (cuz life isn't always what we want) is the key to finding peace and joy. Though I have yet to master that, it does help me to remember it.

If we just experience the suffering and don't exaggerate it by fighting it, life will be much easier. The suffering will pass, as all things do. As you said, life is duality, good and bad, pleasure and pain, etc. You can't have one without the other. And the more you cling to your desire for life to be 'better' or different, you cannot achieve peace, you cannot live in the moment. The moment is what it is, that's all it can be.

I agree with you, I don't think that Buddha meant that all desires are bad, but I think that one way to look at it is that to be ruled by your desires, or to let them control you, causes suffering. Once again, life doesn't always go the way you want it to and the more you fight that the more miserable you will be.

I don't know if I explained all that very well, so forgive me if I didn't make much sense.

A very good post, Buddha, I enjoyed reading it.

Have a wonderful day!


vishalhd said...

whoa, buddha, that is alot to take it. good stuff.

Brad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brad said...

Buddha, I realize that English is your secondary language, and although you express yourself really well, you have some minor spelling mistakes that I private messaged you about.

I'm not trying to offend, just trying to help out.

Buddha said...

@ Jane – God made pain to let us know that we are doing something wrong, not to punish or torture us.
Enlightenment is understanding that message and taking care of the source of the problem, instead of running away from the pain.

@ Vishalhd – You are to kind. Thank You.

@ Brad – I don’t know how to thank you enough.
You truly understand the meaning of friendship. You make me be a better blogger.
Thank you.

@ All – Come on people! I’m trying my best to be controversial.
It cannot be that everybody in the world agrees with me.
What do I have to do to get an opposing argument?
Any suggestions?

manoballs said...

Buddha bless you!

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

I wonder if, as a Bhuddist, you celebrate Christmas?

Well anyway - hope 2009 brings good things to you and yours xx

Robert said...

Not to be a nit picker, but your text is very hard to read on the background you have chosen. I find your words very inspiring but I'm having a great deal of trouble reading them. Consider using a white background with black text, I know this sounds boring but it's really the easiest way to read on a screen.
Thank you for your words of wisdom and keep up the good work.


Buddha said...

@ manoballs - Be Loved manoballs!

@ pixie - I celebrate the spirit of Christmas.
I celebrate the human spirit in all forms, shapes and colors!
Beside, I have kids - How can I deprive them of the Christmas tree and Santa's gifts?

@ Robert - How can I become a better person if no one points out my mistakes?
I wish more honest people, like you, would visit my blog.
Your point is taken and I will light up my background.
Thank you for your help!