Sunday, January 01, 2006


This is the second line in zhen ba bzhi bral. khams gsum is the three realms, la is pointing to it from the right, zhen na is when attached, nges 'byung is renunciation, and min is negating renunciation.

If we translate this roughly from the back forward, we get something like: No renunciation when attachment to the three realms. This does not sound so interesting. Usually, in English, to make a more vivid point, it's good to use a person, such as you, as the receiver. So:

If you are attached to the three realms you don't have renunciation.

This has to do with accepting and even enjoying the current samsaric situation, not realizing that in future things might not be as pleasant. In other words, not practicing to avoid future miseries.

Now, a very progressive translator might even re-translate this further, for example bypassing the explicit reference to the three realms, and instead translate something like: If you are attached to the world you don't renounce it. Personally, I think this is on a slippery slope towards a point where in future few will investigate what the world really is, are there other realms, what are the three realms, and maybe forgetting to even study Abhidharma. Abhidharma has always been a hard sell here in the West -- mostly due to the nominal reference to Indian mythologies about how the world operates. However, you could think of Abhidharma as something that explains the universe, but it was explained to a mindset where you can't talk about quarks, dark matter, light speed as a constant, and so on...


Anonymous said...

I'm wondering about the lack of a person in the Tibetan here. Is this usual in Tibetan? Or is it an example of reducing down to key words to fit the verse?


Kent Sandvik said...

Yes, it's common especially in verses to leave out the person, same with other texts, it's assumed that the text points out the subject or person.

This line could have also been translated using an indefinite person, such as one, If one has attachment to the three worlds, then one has no renunciation. But for me, it does not sound as streamlined compared with pointing out the person.