Fedde M De Vries On Buddhist Translation: "Our Minds Expand in Playful Contemplation"

Oct 14, 2023

Reflections from IITBT Fellow Fedde M De Vries.

One of the things I enjoy most about teaching translation at IITBT (the International Institute for The Translation of Buddhist Texts) is our attention to beauty. In working on translations in our labs and workshops, we don’t merely ask whether a translation is “correct” in a linguistic sense. Nor do we only worry about getting the doctrinal points across. Both those elements matter, of course: We pay close attention to the language of the original text; we seek to faithfully represent the Buddha’s teachings as we put them into a new language. However, we do not stop there. We also listen for the Buddha’s voice. How does it sound? We pause and reflect, does this phrase inspire? How does it land? Does it sound like the Buddha’s voice? As we move back and forth between different demands of translation, our minds expand in playful contemplation.