Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Recording of Goddard's Translation of Lankavatara Sutra

Here's a recording of the Lankavatara Sutra The whole sutra is “chanted” in English by Christian Pecaut with separate files for each chapter making 13 mp3 files.
I've downloaded the files and listen to them while I commute. It makes a wonderful commuting experience.  Pecault chants in a sing-song voice of rising and falling tones that create a very soothing and dynamic atmosphere of reverence. At times it seems that Pecaut is doing his best not to bust out laughing and only holding it together barely until he gets back on track.  

The Lankavatara version being recorded is the one translated by Dwight Goddard in his book A Buddhist Bible which is online at the Sacred Texts site:

The main thing I don't like about Goddard's translation is that both the words citta and vijnana are translated into English by using the same word "mind" which causes a lot of confusion when the discussion is about the 8 consciousnesses (vijnana). Thus translating "alayavijnana" as "universal mind" glosses over subtle nuances.

In his 2004 introduction to the etext version of the book, John Bruno Hare explained a bit about the style of translation that Goddard was presenting.
Hare wrote: "Goddard, particularly in this first edition, took the best available translation of key documents and edited them heavily to eliminate repetitious passages and extraneous material. So this is a readers edition, not a critical edition, of these texts. However, he did nothing to water down or simplify the message of the sutras; quite the contrary. One can read this book repeatedly and still come back with new insights on each reading."
But regardless of the translation technicalities, as the Lanka itself says in Goddard's translation,
"Anyone who teaches a doctrine that is dependent upon letters and words is a mere prattler, because Truth is beyond letters and words and books."
We read the Lanka correctly when we read and hear the truth of it and not just the words. This is what Huineng called "turning round the sutra" and "not being turned around by the sutra."

Lastly, for those who wondered where the Zen motto attributed to Bodhidharma came from, we see that the line "not established on word or letters" came from the Lankavatara that Bodhidharma was known to favor. Thus the scholars who claim that the motto came well after Bodhidharma have nothing to stand on when we see that the pieces of the motto came from the Lanka and Bodhidharma was a solid supporter of the Lanka.

1 comment:

warby said...

Thanks posting this recording.
Such a pleasure to listen to Mr.
Pecaut. It is odd how certain parts of phrases stick in my mind then wander away. Each listening is different , perfect for on the road.