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Sunday, October 6, 2019

Is Burton Watson translation of the Lotus Sutra an excellent translation?

Burton Watson translates a passage from Chapter 21 of the Lotus Sutra as follows:

"At that time the Buddha spoke to Superior Practices and the others in the great assembly of bodhisattvas, saying: "The supernatural powers of the Buddhas, as you have seen, are immeasurable, boundless, inconceivable. If in the process of entrusting this sutra to others I were to employ these supernatural powers for a measurable, boundless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of asamkhya kalpas to describe the benefits of the sutra, I could never finish doing so. To put it briefly, all the doctrines possessed by the Thus Come One, the storehouse of all the secret essentials of the Thus Come One - all these are proclaimed, revealed, and clearly expounded in this sutra.

For this reason, after the Thus Come One has entered extinction, you must single-mindedly accept, uphold, read, recite, explain, preach and transcribe it, and practice it as directed. In any of the various lands, wherever there are those who accept, uphold, read, recite, explain, preach, transcribe, or practice it as directed, or wherever the sutra rolls are preserved, whether in a garden, a forest, beneath a tree, in monks quarters, in the lodgings of white-robed laymen, in palaces, or in mountain valleys or the wide wilderness, in all these places one should erect towers and offer alms. Why? Because you should understand that such spots are places of religious practice. In such places have the Buddhas gained anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, in such places have the Buddhas turn the wheel of the Law, in such places have the Buddhas entered parinirvana." 

Bunno, Kato, Etal. translates the same passage:

"At that time the Buddha addressed Emminent Conduct and the host of other Bodhisattvas: "The divine powers of buddhas are so infinite and boundless that they are beyond thought and expression. Even if I, by these divine powers, through infinite, boundless hundred thousand myriad kotis of asemkheya kalpas, for the sake of entailing it, were to declare the merits of this sutra, I should still be unable to reach the end of those [merits]. Essentially speaking, all the laws belonging to the Tathagata, all the mysterious, essential treasuries of the Tathagata, and the very profound conditions of the Tathagata, all are proclaimed, displayed, revealed, and expounded in this sutra.Therefore you should, after the extinction of the Tathagata, wholeheartedly receive and keep, read and recite, explain and copy, cultivate and practice it as the teaching. In whatever land, whether it be received and kept, read and recited, explained and copied cultivated and practiced as the teaching; whether in a place where a volume of the sutra is kept, or in a temple, or in a grove, or under a tree, or in a monastery, or in a lay devotee's house, in a palace or a mountain, in a valley or in the wilderness, in all these places you must erect a caitya and make offerings. Wherefore? You should know that [all] these spots are the thrones of enlightenment. On these [spots] the buddhas attain Perfect Enlightenment; on these [spots] the buddhas roll the wheel of the Law; on these [spots] the buddhas [enter] parinirvana." (Lotus Sutra, Chapter 21, The Power of the Tathagata)

Leon Hurvitz translates this same passage;

"The Buddha then addressed Him of Superior Practice along with the others in the great assembly of Bodhisattvas. "The spiritual powers of all Buddhas are similarly immeasurable and boundless, beyond conception or imagining. Were I, for the sake of entrusting this scripture to others, to expound its merits and virtues for untold and limitless hundreds of thousands of myriad millions of eons by means of these-spiritual powers of mine, I would still not be able to exhaust its riches. In short, all the Teachings that I as a Tathagata possess, all the spiritual powers that I have at my disposal, all my unseen storehouses and all my extremely profound activities are expounded, revealed and explained in this scripture. For this reason, after my parinirvana, you should wholeheartedly accept and hold to it, study and recite it, understand and expound it, write it down and make copies of it and, just as you preach it, so practice in accordance with it.

"If there is anyone in any land or country who accepts, holds to, studies, recites, understands, expounds, writes down, copies or practices it as he preaches it, be it in a place where Scripture books reside, or in a garden, or in a grove of trees, or under a tree, or in a monk's quarters, or in the lodging of a white-clad layman, or within the halls of the nobility, or on a mountain, or in a valley, or in an open plain, therein will a stupa be raised and an offering be made. And for what reason? Know that such a place is indeed a seat for enlightenment: in such places Buddhas find Complete and Perfect Enlightenment, in such places Buddhas turn the Wheel of the Dharma, in such places Buddhas enter parinirvana."

"Because you should understand that such spots are places of religious practice."(Watson)

"You should know that [all] these spots are the thrones of enlightenment." (Bunno)

"Know that such a place is indeed a seat for enlightenment."(Hurvitz)

Now, my dear readers, don't you think that, after seeing these highlighted sentences and reading again and again the three translated passages above, that the SGI advisers to Watson had an agenda to mute the Buddha's message and passion for the Lotus Sutra? Please, think about it. Watson's passage is drab and passionless. Bunno's is vibrant and filled with passion and Hurvitz's is to the point. Do you think the Buddha was passionless or circumspect? The SGI are psychological manipulators. Do not be fooled.

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