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meaning of words, a monastic query

Regarding the meaning of words. The skill of the translator is important, what is their intent and level. The translator cannot know the mind of the speaker/writer just can know their own. The history of the original writer can be known be not always available. The translator can know the meaning of the words to the best of education, dictionaries of the time, learned elders if available and willing, hopefully understanding the history and culture of the writer/speaker, then the translator decides whether the form, the word choices meet the understanding of the readers whether they write for scholars of the present time, the elite Buddhists, the sponsor of the translations, or if generously able to all kinds of people even the the working class and for non Buddhists of all levels. In translating Buddhist Sutras we do our best to not re-write or add to the content. Today it’s more acceptable to add endnotes or footnotes, that helps the reader, even helps further the education of the monastic Sangha. However, this doesn’t mean we cannot write in the words of our times or even create new forms or styles of the same Sutra. It means we have done what Buddha has taught to carry on dharma teachings in foreign lands and in the context of the land in which monastic Sangha reside, not where they came from.

Gandhari Mayana scroll jar 1st c. BCE


I am a Bhikshuni ordained in Mahayana Chinese Buddhist tradition. I'm currently translating Vinaya sutras from the Chinese Mahayana Tripitaka.