Monday, March 4, 2019

V&V💭 and the relativity of wrong

link to V&V translations of professional English translators:

✅ ☸EBT V&V💭: vitakka & vicāra = directed-thought & evaluation
⛔ Vism. Redefinition V&V💭: applied-thought & sustained-thought (b.nanamoli)
⛔ Vism. Redefinition V&V💭: initial-application & sustained-application (u thittila)
⛔ B.Sujato mistranslation of V&V💭: placing-the-mind & keeping-it-connected
⛔ B.Anālayo mistranslation of V&V💭: [directed] awareness and [sustained] contemplation

In translation, there can be legitimate difference of opinion and many legitimate ways to translate the same idea with different words.

For example: thinking, pondering, evaluating, considering, examining, etc., can all be legitimate ways to translate vicara.

But vitakka in the pāḷi EBT, means the same thing in first jhāna as it does outside of jhāna.
That is not debatable. You can do a global search for every single occurence of vitakka in the EBT and confirm for yourself by seeing what it means in context (Yes, in fact I have done that, as well as every single occurrence of first jhāna). I've also assembled a list in a separate article of all the other professional English translators, and aside from those following ABRJ (Ajahn Brahm Re-definition of Jhāna, same as Vism. Redefinition without abhidhamma theory), it's unanimous.

Different legitimate ways to translate vitakka might include something along the lines of cerebration, intellection, mentation, cogitation, etc. But almost everyone translating from EBT perspective has thought or thinking for vitakka.

From the late Theravada perspective, where they give primacy to Abhidhamma over EBT (Early Buddhist Texts), VRJ (Vism. Re-definition of Jhāna) describes a first jhāna and (V&V💭) vitakka & vicāra, that is a different samādhi training system than EBT. They redefined (V&V💭) and jhāna to accommodate their abhidhamma idea of radical momentariness.

The Relativity of Wrong

There are different levels of wrong.
Unintentional honest mistakes are forgivable and understandable.
"not even wrong", and "wronger than wrong", refer to exponentially more pernicious magnitudes of wrongness: they can wreak havoc with devastating consequences to oneself and humanity.

point of view

From the EBT perspective of jhāna, B. nanamoli's applied-thought & sustained-thought is wrong.
From the VRJ (Vism. Re-definition of Jhāna) perspective, B. nanamoli's applied-thought & sustained-thought translation is excellent.
From the VRJ (Vism. Re-definition of Jhāna) perspective, U thittila's initial-application & sustained-application is wronger than wrong. (will explain later)

From the point of view of finding a (V&V💭) translation that would best fit both Abhidhamma and EBT, B. nanamoli's applied-thought & sustained-thought translation is really excellent and well thought out (no pun intended).

From the point of view of EBT, Bhikkhu Anālayo's [directed] awareness and [sustained] contemplation is wronger than wrong.

If Bhikkhu Anālayo's translation were meant for abhidhamma and VRJ (Vism. Re-definition of Jhāna), it could actually work, but would be awkward if he's using 'thinking' and 'thought' outside of jhāna, unlike B.Nanamoli's translation.

But Bhikkhu Anālayo is a leading figure of EBT, and he's supposed to be translating from an EBT perspective.
So his translation is wronger than wrong. This is an objective, right and wrong situation, not a translator preference with a continuum of fine shades in meaning.

Bhikkhu Sujato's translation, is wrong even from the point of view of abhidhamma and VRJ (Vism. Re-definition of Jhāna)!
His translation is more similar to U thittila, which is wronger than wrong (even for VRJ).

Bhikkhu Sujato's translation, from the EBT perspective is not even wronger than wrong, a level of wrong so heinous it's hard to describe.

But I'll try.

A long time ago in the country of Bodagosia, Buddhism had become corrupt. Three friends, Ernest, Mr. Wellbourne, and Mr. Relinquist, decided to each set off in different direction, and look for an uncorrupt Buddhism, and promised to let each other know if they found one. After many years, they found it. Deep in the country of Integra, a town called Taneesaru, where the people were honest and pure. They had preserved an uncorrupt Buddhism through many generations. So the three friends made plans on bringing the Dharma back to Bodagosia.
Mr. Wellbourne had become wealthy and famous from his business in transporting goods. His horses were the strongest, fastest, and most well trained in all the land. The carriages for carrying cargo, all the equipment was the best. He had a money back guarantee that the delivery would be made on time, and product arriving intact. So far, they had a spotless record, and Mr. Wellbourne intended to keep it that way. It wasn't just his business, it was also his name and reputation on the line.
They did the math, and figured it would take 7 trips to carry all the Dhamma scrolls from Taneesaru to Bodagosia. And with the new early Dhamma, they could restore Buddhism to its former glory.
Each of the 7 trips was a different Dhamma category, with the final one being jhāna samādhi.
Each trip was to be led by the same horse, the best one in the company, with a perfect record.
The first 6 trips went perfectly. There was just one final trip to make.
On the seventh trip, Ernest, Mr. Wellbourne, and Mr. Relinquist, went to the arrival port in Bodagosia to await the final cargo carrying the samādhi scrolls.
Right on time, they saw the horses. But there was one problem. They weren't pulling any cargo! The carriage containing the samādhi scrolls were stranded somewhere, perhaps still back in the country of Integra.
The lead horse, who had a perfect record until today, had pulled 6 loads of Dharma perfectly, but for some reason de-coupled from the jhāna samādhi Dhamma scrolls and left it behind.
The horse's name, was Vitakka.
The meaning of the story is this.
You can't trust a horse from Bodagosia named Vitakka .
Most of the time he works just fine and stays coupled to the carriage carrying the Dhamma.
But when the cargo is jhāna samādhi, then he decides he's just initial application and sustained application, and there's no need to stay connected to the carriage carrying Dhamma thoughts.
In other words, vitakka has two parts to it.
The carriage containing valuable cargo, thoughts, is not optional.
The optional part is the horse.
First jhāna formula works with or without it.

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