Sunday, August 12, 2007
Lost in translation
Osho says that Buddhism died along with Buddha and what we have today is nothing but a modified form of Buddhism translated by the scholars and the disciples of Buddha to preach the masses and satisfy their spiritual needs and desires. When Buddha died, the followers of Buddha, the so called enlightened people tried their best to translate and write down the philosophies and teachings of Buddha in the form of scriptures to pass it on to the next generations. When they were done everyone had his own interpretation and no two interpretations matched with each other. The moral is clear. Meaning was lost in translation so was Buddhism with Buddha.
Yesterday I was watching a movie ‘The Motorcycles Diaries’ based on the life of two South American doctors, Ernesto Guevara and his friend Alberto, who went on a tour of South America to cover 8000 kilometers in 4 months. It was in some Latin American language. The subtitles were there. The dialogues of the movie were really very good and thought provoking. But when the movie ended we felt that the movie wanted to say something more than what we could actually make out from the subtitles. Something was definitely lost...
Few days ago I was reading Geeta as translated by Swami Prabhupad. He has talked about an importance difference that exists between the two words dharma and religion. For a moment I was completely taken back because I never knew such kind of difference even occurred. According to him RELIGION means a belief and a belief is susceptible to change with time. It is not constant like dharma because DHARMA refers to something which is constant, which cannot be changed, which cannot be destroyed. It brings us to a fact that we don’t have an equivalent of dharma in English language. What we really have is the lost ‘Dharma’ in the form of ‘Religion’. Something is definitely lost in translation. Isn’t it true?
All our ancient scriptures and holy texts were written in Sanskrit or the languages which nobody is well versed with nowadays. A lot has been said in those scriptures, a lot has been translated for us but don’t you really think that what we are interpreting today is nothing but things which have lost their essence in the journey of translation?
I remember a very famous joke at the moment. When the human beings were created, God sent a messenger to earth to inform that we have to sleep 3 times and eat one time a day. But the messenger suffered from a kind of memory loss. He jumbled the message and translated it to the human beings. As a result what we have today is a severe competition for survival and food. Don’t you feel that this world would have been a heaven if we spend 75%of our time in sleeping and not in cutting each other’s throats?
Words lose their essence in translation. They come to be interpreted in a different form and manner. What lies in the end is nothing but a distortion, a distortion which we have to believe, a distortion with which we have to live with and a distortion which we have to leave as a part of our legacy to the generations ahead. Does it leave us with a painful conclusion that all the religions, studies, thoughts and interpretations of the thinkers and scientists which we believe today have been distorted in some way or the other and in the process of translation, they have undergone a significant change in the meaning and aim with which the words were created and arranged to convey a particular message? Is this our fate to remain lost in translation... forever…?
Or do we have a way out???