[Buddha-l] liturgical languages

Erik Hoogcarspel jehms at xs4all.nl
Sun May 1 12:26:41 MDT 2005

curt schreef:

> Michel Clasquin wrote:
>> curt wrote:
>>> To be honest I just don't think that Western Buddhism
>>> has yet produced the personell who are QUALIFIED to compete with 
>>> such works of
>>> art as the Morning Bell Chant in Sino-Korean, for example. That will 
>>> require people
>>> who are, first of all, fully enlightened, second of all, exceptional 
>>> scholars, and third
>>> of all, gifted poets.
>> An excellent idea! Of course, we must be fair and consistent and 
>> apply the same criteria to the authors of those 2000 year old chants.
>> Now this means that if the author of a text is unknown, or if there 
>> is the least doubt about authorship, we can discard that text. That 
>> should take care of about 90 percent of all Buddhist writings .... 
>> <snip snip snip> .......
>> So, if we apply the same three criteria to ancient texts that you 
>> want to apply to modern ones, it seems we have nothing left! Actually 
>> what is left is emotional attachment and reverence for the old words 
>> and by extension for their (supposed) authors. Nothing terribly wrong 
>> with that (except that all attachments are eventually to be let go). 
> Existing Buddhist liturgical texts (which are of course translations 
> themselves) can
> be evaluated using different crititera - among them being that old 
> standy-by "the test
> of time". Of course its possible that hundreds of millions of 
> Buddhists have been
> chanting "the wrong translation" for hundreds of years - but I am 
> enough of a
> Traditionalist to think that the burden of proof would lie on those 
> casting aspersions,
> not on those chanting the Heart Sutra. Then there is the synchronic 
> equivalent to
> the diachronic test of time - ie, how widely accepted a particular 
> version is. In the
> case of the Heart Sutra I believe that there is near universal 
> acceptance of a standardized
> Chinese version by Mahayana Buddhists throughout all of East Asia. An 
> even stronger
> case - both diachronic and synchronic - can be made in case of Pali 
> texts used
> for chanting throughout the Theravadin world. I don't know much about 
> Vajrayana/
> Tantric chanting (except that some of those chants celebrate drinking 
> blood out
> of the skulls of the enemies of the Dharma) - so I can't say anything 
> about that.
> As a young lad back in Indiana I learned "if it ain't broke don't fix 
> it". I think its a
> fair assumption that the existing chanting liturgies of the various 
> Buddhist traditions
> in Asia "work". Someone who wishes to replace that liturgy with their 
> own poetry
> or someone elses should not pretend that there is a level playing 
> field in comparing
> modern English translations with traditional liturgies. There ain't.
Well who's to say what's broken and what not. I'm afraid the truth or 
correctness is not an issue which can be determined democratically. If 
so, most of the wars would've been fought for the right reasons.
I once had a go at a rough translation of a short Kaalacakrapuja, which 
had been translated already. My Tibetan was not great, but just good 
enough to see that two couplets were exactly the same. This obvious fact 
had escaped the attention of the translator, but the crowd was singing 
the Tibetan texts and all the lama's said it gave a very powerfull 
blessing (I hate that word!). I wonder if it had been any different if 
the text had been a commercial for Tibetan shoes.


More information about the buddha-l mailing list