Preparing to Translate: Buddhist Sacred Text Translation – Chinese to English How To Series 1

5 Preparatory Steps to Translating A Buddhist Sutra

Preparation before translating:

  1. Meditate, access inherent nature of wisdom and compassion. Allow your inner guide to lead you to the right text and words. And meditate whenever you need some guidance and help anywhere along the way.
  2. Find the text you want to translate. For instance, I found this sutra text in Chinese at CBETA. Use of ancient Buddhist texts from this University of Taiwan site are under the creative commons copyright. Since this sutra is no longer extant in Sanskrit, Chinese to English translation is best. Were the Sutra extant in Sanskrit, a translation from Sanskrit to English while reviewing the Chinese version may be appropriate.
  3. Keep in mind that you will go through several iterations of a translation work, at the minimum, classic Buddhist translators go through these four stages: draft translation, review, editing and proofreading, and the seal of approval by someone qualified to verify the value of this particular translation.
  4. Read the entire Buddhist text! If you have not studied the text, similar genres, commentaries on the text you are translating, at least read it to get a general feel for it. You will notice different ancient translators and different texts diverge in tone, style, rhythm and flow, consistency, phrasing, texture, complexity, and other linguistic uses that we may want to discuss in the future.
  5. Translate as if you were writing for an audience that you want to have understand everything, so language that is understandable and clear. You don’t want to be literal translator but you don’t want to be so figurative with a classic religious text either. So keep a general theory on your translation language in mind as you draft the initial words.

A Translation How To Series. 1. How to prepare to translate a Buddhist text from Chinese to English in 5 steps.

Links mentioned in the video about CBETA for Chinese Buddhist canonical texts:

And The Compassion Network link with bilingual titles to the entire Buddhist canon, also links to translated English texts where available: