One advantage that we have now is that many Buddhist terms like dharma and karma have come into common use. The Victorian translators did not have that luxury, and so they tried to find terms that the people of that time would understand. Some of the language defies translation. For example, the original texts use the term bhikkhu. This is normally translated as monk. However, the convention of that time was to address a gathering using the term that referred to the highest-ranking person in attendance. The rank order was 1 monk, 2 nun, 3 layman, and 4 laywoman.
So if only laywomen were present, the Buddha would address the talk to laywomen. If both laymen and laywomen were present, the talk was addressed to laymen. And if even a single monk were present, the Buddha would address the talk to monks. Thus the term bhikkhu simply meant that one monk was present.
There is no way to capture this convention in English. The Victorian translations used the term Brethren, which mapped to their Anglican understanding. But this does not mean that only monks were present. I was tempted to simply use the word bhikkhu, but the tradeoff is that in stories that I am trying to make accessible, this is an awkward term for most people.
I use the term monk in my versions of the stories, but frankly, I cringe every time that I do it. I wish there was some more gender and rank neutral way to capture the flavor of the way in which the word bhikkhu was used. Another issue is the as mentioned passive tense. Modern writers will probably cringe at the pervasive use of passive tense. I have also seen — since I live in the desert Southwest — that the oral traditions of Native Americans tend to be this way as well.
Again, I am no expert in this area, but it may be that stories that are told around a campfire tend to use more passive tense. So these are some of the language issues that I am trying to balance. The goal is to provide a readable rendering of the stories, one that is enjoyable and yet also maintains some of the original idioms and flavor.
Before I moved here, I read a lot about the oral tradition. I experienced a little of that when I went to India.
But here in New Mexico, living among Native Americans, I have gotten to experience first-hand what that is like. They have no written language. So from the time children are very young, they learn everything from stories that are told and retold.
Last year I had two wonderful experiences in how this feels. He told many stories.
The Jataka Tales, Volume 3 - Kindle edition by Edward Byles Cowell, H. T. Francis. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Volume 3. STORIES OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT BEING, JĀTAKAS - translation of the Jātaka stories that had been begun in Volumes 1 and 2. My co-.
When I got home I looked up his stories on the Internet, and what I found was that the stories that the Indians tell about events can be quite a bit different from the conventional history. For example, the Taos Pueblo version of the Taos Revolt of is quite a bit different, and it turns out that there is a lot of evidence to support the Taos Pueblo version.
This was also done by a member of the Pueblo.
His day job was as a fire fighter. Many of the Pueblos and Reservations here have firefighting brigades, mainly to fight wildfires. It is one of the ways in which they can make a living. It is extremely dangerous work. This man was on vacation, but instead of going away or doing nothing, he decided to give tours of the Pueblo.
For over two hours he told story after story. One story went as far back as pre-Spanish times.
Coronado led the first Spanish expedition to New Mexico in Locally this is known as the Entrada. Another story happened only a few years ago. He went from one story to another as if all of time were part of a single continuum.
What happened years ago may as well have been last Tuesday. You could tell that these stories were embedded in his DNA, and that is probably true for most of the people from the Pueblo.
It is one thing to write something down and read it in a book. It is quite another thing to grow up hearing these stories over and over again. Everyone in the community knows these stories, and they can probably all repeat them verbatim. The issue of time in such a culture is quite different from what we normally experience.
When I was in India they told me that they do not think of time as being a particular year or day or month. Time is relative. It happened before this or about when that happened and so on.
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