Author Topic: foreign words  (Read 2764 times)

Cilla

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foreign words
« on: February 14, 2012, 12:41:06 AM »
I gotta say that i find the use of foreign words quite distracting from the meaning of a text when its written in English.

I am familiar with quite a few words but most of them i don't know deeply. So for that reason, i think it would be a good practice for posters to use an English word and bracket the pali word or vice versa so that all readers can understand the text and not put off by strange vocabulary.

Personally i find most foreign words totally unnecessary when talking about most aspects of buddhism. And they can really add to the confusion when you have words  in different languages. eg words from zen and the pali text even thought its not hard to differentiate between them; it can make it harder to learn them.

I know the word dukkha is one that is considered essential to know in its original language. To me dukkha includes all varieties of pain and suffering be it pain from a wound, grief over a lost thing or person, to existential anxt (which i've come to consider as symptomatic of a degree of depression and otherwise tends not to exist - I mean i never worry about the purpose of life when i'm not depressed.

Dukkha and vipassana are probably the only two words i do not have any confusion over and but i can see how even these words might cause problems for total beginners.


Vivek

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Re: foreign words
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2012, 07:56:59 AM »
Good suggestion. Maybe we can include a glossary of terms in the beginner's section (there is a thread for that here) for making things easy. I still think there are concepts where we need to use the actual, Pali terms. Translation of many terms into English, does not always do full justice to the idea to be conveyed.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

Cilla

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Re: foreign words
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2012, 10:07:43 AM »
Well yes a glossary is not a bad idea but my main point is to suggest to posters to bracket the meaning beside any foreign word. And i do think it better to put the english word in the bracket to help us learn the new words better and not just dismiss the others.

This will make it easy for people read the post straight through and understand whatever is clear.

When you wrote sila the other day. I had to think quite hard to remember what is was. And by the time i got it, i had moved on. I must go back now and read that post again. That's just by way of showing what can happen. And yes i do appreciate that you've already grasped the point i am making so thanks for understanding.

Quardamon

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Re: foreign words
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2012, 11:15:23 AM »
Hello Cilla, Vivek,

I use google or wikipedia to find the meaning of Pali and Sanskrit terms.

I found, that behind some words is a view that is alien to me, a European.
For instance, I have heard, that the mind is one of the six sense-organs. I still have no idea what that means. No idea what is meant by 'mind' here. And I am convinced, that once I have understood, I will find it easier to use a Pali term, in stead of 'mind'.

An other example: here on the forum I met the series of terms
rupa - vinnana - sanna - vedana - sankhara.
They go together with a idea about how perception is done. I still hardly understand these terms, but I am convinced that using English terms - like  'consciousness' in stead of 'vinnana' - will make it even more complicated.

For me - like for a lot of people on the forum - every word I read or write here is a foreign word. I learned them when I was between 10 and 20 years old. I mean to say: it gives one an advantage to learn foreign words.

Andrew

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Re: foreign words
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2012, 12:08:05 PM »
I'm currently learning another language, and there is not one for one equivalents for many words. So for me, though I might say 'mindfulness' I think 'sati' which has a more profound meaning to me as I have spent alot of time considering all the subtleties of meaning and experience.

It a bit like when the language I'm learning (asanti twi) mets the english language, when it encounters a word it has no equivalent for, it just uses english. English does the same, and probably is the king of assimilating and transliterating many words and meanings.

I agree that it can go too far, and become a lingo that is cut of from common understanding, but I think the key is to move at ones own pace, and simply follow the flow of what seems relevant to learn and leave what seems superfluous to your current needs. Those words may come in handy later, but for now, they simply are not talking about things that you need to know.

for me there is a few key pali terms I use, then the rest I leave. Personally, if I can keep 'sati' deepening, then I'm more than happy. And that's not just a turn of phrase ;)

getting it done

Cilla

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Re: foreign words
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2012, 03:22:13 PM »
Hello Cilla, Vivek,

I use google or wikipedia to find the meaning of Pali and Sanskrit terms.

I found, that behind some words is a view that is alien to me, a European.
For instance, I have heard, that the mind is one of the six sense-organs. I still have no idea what that means. No idea what is meant by 'mind' here. And I am convinced, that once I have understood, I will find it easier to use a Pali term, in stead of 'mind'.

An other example: here on the forum I met the series of terms
rupa - vinnana - sanna - vedana - sankhara.
They go together with a idea about how perception is done. I still hardly understand these terms, but I am convinced that using English terms - like  'consciousness' in stead of 'vinnana' - will make it even more complicated.

For me - like for a lot of people on the forum - every word I read or write here is a foreign word. I learned them when I was between 10 and 20 years old. I mean to say: it gives one an advantage to learn foreign words.

Quardamom. Are you dutch?

Anyhow, thanks for responding. But i do disagree. When i'm reading through a thread on a forum i don';t want to spend any longer than necessary to move through it and grasp its meaning. Stopping to find the meaning of terms breaks the flow of reading, causes frustration and makes it many more times harder to hold all the meanings together. One is distracted by not knowing the meaning of the words. And as i am always doing forums at a fast pace, i tend to quit if the post doesn't make sense without a lot of extra work. Why should i bother. (I think the guy is probably just showing off and is less interested in communicating. )

Yes ideally we should learn the pali words but its takes time and i do not think that forum posts are the best teachers. often the explanations are already unclear enough. Sometimes a poster will use a term incorrectly. Most of the pali terms have a pretty direct translation in english.

Andrew. I know what sati is but i know what mindfulness is better. But you who has a good grasp of the word sati would not be held up by reading the word mindfulness, would you.

Matthew

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Re: foreign words
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2012, 09:53:45 PM »
Cilla,

It is quite hard to always use English - the terms as mentioned are not often defined in a one-to-one relationship with English terms. I do try, most of the time, to expand on a word from Pali or Sanskrit using the English equivalent most appropriate yet I'm sure I slip up sometimes.

If we take "Sati", for example, it can be translated as mindfulness but also as remembering. The German word Shadenfreude has no equivalent in English and so Shadenfreude IS the English word.

Vivek's idea of a glossary is not a bad one but also there are inherent problems in that subtleties of different meaning have crept into the different Buddhist traditions.

I can see why you want a simple English explanation but behind the problem here is a deeper one: no one knows quite what the Buddha meant anyway. I think we have to get by as best we can and understand the subtleties of words as we progress through practice.

Strive on,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Matthew

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Re: foreign words
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2012, 10:08:40 PM »
...I found, that behind some words is a view that is alien to me, a European.
For instance, I have heard, that the mind is one of the six sense-organs. I still have no idea what that means. No idea what is meant by 'mind' here. And I am convinced, that once I have understood, I will find it easier to use a Pali term, in stead of 'mind'.

Quardamon, this one is not so complicated. The mind is the sense organ that perceives mental objects: ideas and mental processes fundamentally.

However, ... Wikipedia has a nice reference to the complications which sheds some light on this whole discussion: "The Pāli word translated here as "mental objects" is dhammā. Other frequently seen translations include "mental phenomena" (e.g., Bodhi, 2000b, pp. 1135ff.), "thoughts," "ideas" (e.g., Thanissaro, 2001a) and "contents of the mind" (VRI, 1996, p. 39) while some translators simply leave this word untranslated due to its complex overtones in the Pali literature."

For anyone who wants to deeply understand these terms I again recommend Rune Johansson's "The Psychology of Nirvana", which is a deeper study of the Pali literature in terms of comparative psychology than any other I have encountered and explores all the words you will encounter and their complex interplay.

Warm regards,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Cilla

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Re: foreign words
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2012, 02:39:44 PM »


If we take "Sati", for example, it can be translated as mindfulness but also as remembering.


I can see why you want a simple English explanation but behind the problem here is a deeper one: no one knows quite what the Buddha meant anyway. I think we have to get by as best we can and understand the subtleties of words as we progress through practice.


Well mindfulness and remembering are not at all the same so if you mean the remembering version of sati, best to use it, if you mean the mindfulness version of sati, then use mindfulness. Isn't it obviousl If you say sati, i not knowing that it could mean remembering in some contexts would only get the wrong idea of what you'd mean.

We are quite ok wiht words that appear to have no equivalent. But so far the only word i know that has no generally accepted equivalent is dukkha. The english equivs for sati, sila, pannya and so on are all pretty acceptable so we should use them for clarity at least in brackets next to the word in pali if we want ot insist on using pali.

Now see, when you read a good text by an accomplished writer they do not use the pali words except when necessary. they do not use a jumble of foreign words with introduction or explanation and they use as few as possible. So we should too. It makes things easier to understand.

I really just think its a sort of vanity or conceit to use pali words when english words are more clear and we are communicating generally in english.


Quote
Vivek's idea of a glossary is not a bad one but also there are inherent problems in that subtleties of different meaning have crept into the different Buddhist traditions.


This is why the best option is to use english as much as possible.



Matthew

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Re: foreign words
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2012, 11:33:27 PM »
...
I really just think its a sort of vanity or conceit to use pali words when english words are more clear and we are communicating generally in english.
...
This is why the best option is to use english as much as possible.
...

...
It is quite hard to always use English - the terms as mentioned are not often defined in a one-to-one relationship with English terms. I do try, most of the time, to expand on a word from Pali or Sanskrit using the English equivalent most appropriate yet I'm sure I slip up sometimes.
...

It seems we are basically on the same page here.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

 

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