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Thread: "Fake Buddhist News"

  1. #1

    "Fake Buddhist News"

    Recently I came across a discussion on one of the Zen forums about appropriating Buddhism in the West, watering it down to meet western needs and making it into a a self help feel good thing. There was a link to this article https://lithub.com/how-a-poetry-coll...iterary-world/
    about how the supposedly new translation of Therigatha turned out to be a reimagined poetry of a guy who couldn't get published under his own name.
    It rings the bell with Jundo's Zazenkai talk about Heart Sutra and its origins. I'm glad to have come across a teacher who is a translator and who does such an amazing job at fact checking and confronting "fake buddhist news" online.
    For me it shows the importance of the simultaneous practice and the Dharma study, because only through realised, experienced practice we can truly understand the meaning of the words.

    Sorry for going over 3 sentences.
    Gassho
    Sat

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Inshin View Post
    Recently I came across a discussion on one of the Zen forums about appropriating Buddhism in the West, watering it down to meet western needs and making it into a a self help feel good thing. There was a link to this article https://lithub.com/how-a-poetry-coll...iterary-world/
    about how the supposedly new translation of Therigatha turned out to be a reimagined poetry of a guy who couldn't get published under his own name.
    It rings the bell with Jundo's Zazenkai talk about Heart Sutra and its origins. I'm glad to have come across a teacher who is a translator and who does such an amazing job at fact checking and confronting "fake buddhist news" online.
    For me it shows the importance of the simultaneous practice and the Dharma study, because only through realised, experienced practice we can truly understand the meaning of the words.

    Sorry for going over 3 sentences.
    Gassho
    Sat
    Well, "authentic" is not a matter of east or west, old or new. In some ways, modern, western Buddhism is much wiser and more powerful than it ever was in many places in Asia 1000 years ago. It depends. Each places and age has its strengths and weaknesses.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    There is a tendency to over-adapt Buddhism to suit western needs and preferences. I saw a Japanese Zen monk once say that westerners can sit zazen with eyes closed since they find it hard to focus with eyes open. And a whoooole bunch of other things like that, but luckily, one can choose how to practice.

    SatToday
    Bion
    美音

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  4. #4
    I didn’t read the whole article in detail but I read enough and skimmed the rest. I think it is unfortunate that there are frauds and shysters out there looking to exploit genuine interest in Buddhist writings (or really anything). I totally agree with the statement that we are lucky to have Jundo to guide us.

    Thank you for sharing that article


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  5. #5
    A little note on the art of translation ...

    Whether this is a "translation" or not is a matter of degree, purpose and disclosure. So, in my recent book, I updated to modern English and simplified some of Dogen for readability in some sections, but disclosed that I am doing so to help new readers understand. In other sections, I stayed closer to the other "standard" English translations, and tracked Dogen more closely, then offered explanations. The former are interpretations, modernizations and simplifications, the latter I would call "translations."

    However, if someone offers "translations" that are so far removed from the original that they are not really the original at all, then there is a problem. This book of poems seems to step over the line. That is though even though it seems that the author tried to disclose what he was doing in his introduction, at least to some degree. For example, his poem below seems to have little connection to the original. When we look at the controversial "translation" here by Weingast compared to the more literal and faithful to the original poems by the two scholars on the left side, you see that Weingast is on another planet. It barely reflects the original and is not a "translation."

    I also understand the point of a male author's voice cancelling out the original womens' voices too.



    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    It is much more complex than the story makes it sound. Matty Weingast, the author, was honestly trying to capture the essence of the Therigatha poets, and worked closely with the Abbotess of a monastery and the nuns there to capture the ancient poems in a way that also captured the voices of the contemporary nun's experience.

    He, however, made enemies with a few fundamentalist monastics in the Theravada tradition that didn't like what he did. I facilitated a Zoom meeting with Matty and some very angry monks and lay practitioners. I was also part of a private discussion thread about "what to do about Matty" in which monastics plotted how best to discredit him and his book. Seeing how angry the monastics were made me leave that conversation and also made me leave Buddhism - if after 30 years of monastic training they were so angry and going after a young man who loved poetry and the Therigatha what's the point of Buddhism? It obviously doesn't work.

    I changed my mind and just left Theravada and returned to Zen, which is why I am here.

    Anyway, I don't want to get into names or forums involved - I don't want to "gossip." So this is the last I'll say on the issue. But I can't help speak up since I was there for part of this story. Please realize that the author is not a villain or con artist, he's a young poet who loved his source material, worked with nuns to "get it right," but didn't have the literary theory background to fully think through the difference between translation and creative adaptation. And there is a strain of fundamentalism in the Theravada community that can at times be motivated by vengeance and not Metta.

    Sorry. I went way over.

    Gassho,
    Jim
    stlah
    Last edited by JimInBC; 02-07-2021 at 04:13 PM.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by JimInBC View Post
    It is much more complex than the story makes it sound. The author was honestly trying to capture the essence of the Therigatha poets, and worked closely with the Abbotess of a monastery and the nuns there to capture the ancient poems in a way that also captured the voices of the contemporary nun's experience.

    He, however, made enemies with a few fundamentalist monastics in the Theravada tradition that didn't like what he did. I facilitated a Zoom meeting with the author and some very angry monks and lay practitioners. I was also part of a private discussion about "what to do about him" in which monastics plotted how best to discredit him and his book. Seeing how angry the monastics were made me leave that conversation and also made me leave Buddhism - if after 30 years of monastic training they were so angry and going after a young man who loved poetry and the Therigatha what's the point of Buddhism? It obviously doesn't work.

    I changed my mind and just left Theravada and returned to Zen, which is why I am here.

    Anyway, I don't want to get into names or forums involved - I don't want to "gossip." So this is the last I'll say on the issue. But I can't help speak up since I was there for part of this story. Please realize that the author is not a villain or con artist, he's a young poet who loved his source material, worked with nuns to "get it right," but didn't have the literary theory background to fully think through the difference between translation and creative adaptation. And there is a strain of fundamentalism in the Theravada community that can at times be motivated by vengeance and not Metta.

    Sorry. I went way over.

    Gassho,
    Jim
    stlah
    Thank you Jim for providing background story to this article.

    Gassho
    Sat

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by JimInBC View Post
    It is much more complex than the story makes it sound. Matty Weingast, the author, was honestly trying to capture the essence of the Therigatha poets, and worked closely with the Abbotess of a monastery and the nuns there to capture the ancient poems in a way that also captured the voices of the contemporary nun's experience.

    He, however, made enemies with a few fundamentalist monastics in the Theravada tradition that didn't like what he did. I facilitated a Zoom meeting with Matty and some very angry monks and lay practitioners. I was also part of a private discussion thread about "what to do about Matty" in which monastics plotted how best to discredit him and his book. Seeing how angry the monastics were made me leave that conversation and also made me leave Buddhism - if after 30 years of monastic training they were so angry and going after a young man who loved poetry and the Therigatha what's the point of Buddhism? It obviously doesn't work.

    I changed my mind and just left Theravada and returned to Zen, which is why I am here.

    Anyway, I don't want to get into names or forums involved - I don't want to "gossip." So this is the last I'll say on the issue. But I can't help speak up since I was there for part of this story. Please realize that the author is not a villain or con artist, he's a young poet who loved his source material, worked with nuns to "get it right," but didn't have the literary theory background to fully think through the difference between translation and creative adaptation. And there is a strain of fundamentalism in the Theravada community that can at times be motivated by vengeance and not Metta.

    Sorry. I went way over.

    Gassho,
    Jim
    stlah
    Thank you. Very interesting. Well, it does not seem like it was intention then.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Bion View Post
    There is a tendency to over-adapt Buddhism to suit western needs and preferences. I saw a Japanese Zen monk once say that westerners can sit zazen with eyes closed since they find it hard to focus with eyes open. And a whoooole bunch of other things like that, but luckily, one can choose how to practice.

    SatToday
    that is a good point! In many ways I think this will naturally evolve over time here; itís so new here and, while sometimes i get concerned Iím not being genuine or whatever and I get angry over the ceremony, Iíd rather be patient and not throw the baby out with the bathwater, especially with something that has developed over time. There is something visceral about chanting and embodying our chants and paying attention to how we organize our things and minds and selves while we sit. Itís not just woo woo; actually physically doing this practice is so important; doing the meal chant, etc really bring in that mind into seemingly mundane things so we realize there is no mundanity in anything; this way is so optimistic; now Iím being wordy, hyperbolic and plaguerizing Jundo hahaha

    I will make a better effort to stay terse within the 3 sentences

    gassho

    risho
    -stlah

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Tairin View Post
    I didn’t read the whole article in detail but I read enough and skimmed the rest. I think it is unfortunate that there are frauds and shysters out there looking to exploit genuine interest in Buddhist writings (or really anything). I totally agree with the statement that we are lucky to have Jundo to guide us.

    Thank you for sharing that article


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    Based on what Jim wrote above I respectfully retract my comment implying this particular poet/author was a fraud/shyster. Sounds like the situation is more complicated than might be evident at first glance. Besides it wasnít a good example of my following the Precepts.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

  11. #11
    I looked at this a little more closely via reviews at several sources. I don't think it merely a matter of someone who translated in a way which offends orthodox Theravadan beliefs. It seems more like someone who, with good intent perhaps but almost no wish to follow the content in the source language, just put down what he felt or imagined it would be nice if the poem said in light of this modern world. That is perfectly fine, and "poetic license," as Mr. Weingast's own self expression of his own thoughts, but the trouble is that these versions are so far from the original language, and so far in left field, that they just cannot be called "translations."

    It is misleading to people who might read the book hoping to know what the authors of these poems said so many centuries ago, and it is especially unfair to the women who created the original poems, as ideas are placed in their mouths far removed from anything they said.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah

    PS - In an interview, from the 8:20 mark to 12:00, he seems to say that it ran away with him, and it was mostly his own words as much or more than the women.

    https://soundcloud.com/user-42615624...ree-women-with
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-08-2021 at 01:06 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I looked at this a little more closely via reviews at several sources. I don't think it merely a matter of someone who translated in a way which offends orthodox Theravadan beliefs. It seems more like someone who, with good intent perhaps but almost no wish to follow the content in the source language, just put down what he felt or imagined it would be nice if the poem said in light of this modern world. That is perfectly fine, and "poetic license," as Mr. Weingast's own self expression of his own thoughts, but the trouble is that these versions are so far from the original language, and so far in left field, that they just cannot be called "translations."

    It is misleading to people who might read the book hoping to know what the authors of these poems said so many centuries ago, and it is especially unfair to the women who created the original poems, as ideas are placed in their mouths far removed from anything they said.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah

    PS - In an interview, from the 8:20 mark to 12:00, he seems to say that it ran away with him, and it was mostly his own words as much or more than the women.

    https://soundcloud.com/user-42615624...ree-women-with
    Oh, yes, agreed. If I wasn't clear, my apologies. The poems don't work as translations - they depart far too much from the original. I was shocked when I started reading other translations and looking at the original Pali of the Therigatha. Matty heightens the sexuality, and removes all reference to rebirth, which is quite present in the originals.

    My point was that it wasn't intentional on his part, and there was more going on in the background then just poor translations.

    EDIT TO ADD: I do regret bringing up Theravada in my earlier post. It is a great practice, filled with lots of loving, supportive people. While an interaction with a few individual monastics might have led to a personal crisis of faith, I shouldn't have generalized to the practice or the practitioners. I apologize.

    Sorry for going over.

    Gassho,
    Jim
    stlah
    Last edited by JimInBC; 02-08-2021 at 04:12 AM.

  13. #13
    S. T. Coleridge was asked why he gave no reviews, unlike his friend Wordsworth, and replied to the effect that all writing is miraculous. I have been given a copy of this little book; something seemed off about it to my (formerly) scholarly eye, yet I did not detect intentional harm. Whether fast or slow, the water does not carry away the moon.

    gassho
    doyu shonin sat and lah today
    Visiting unsui, take w/salt.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shōnin Risa Bear View Post
    S. T. Coleridge was asked why he gave no reviews, unlike his friend Wordsworth, and replied to the effect that all writing is miraculous. I have been given a copy of this little book; something seemed off about it to my (formerly) scholarly eye, yet I did not detect intentional harm. Whether fast or slow, the water does not carry away the moon.

    gassho
    doyu shonin sat and lah today
    Gassho
    Onka
    st
    穏 On (Calm)
    火 Ka (Fires)
    aka Anna Kissed.
    Pronouns She/Her They/Them.
    Life's too serious to be taken seriously.
    No Gods No Masters.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Shōnin Risa Bear View Post
    S. T. Coleridge was asked why he gave no reviews, unlike his friend Wordsworth, and replied to the effect that all writing is miraculous. I have been given a copy of this little book; something seemed off about it to my (formerly) scholarly eye, yet I did not detect intentional harm. Whether fast or slow, the water does not carry away the moon.

    gassho
    doyu shonin sat and lah today
    gassho
    sat/lah today
    Thank you for teaching me.

    I am very much a beginner and appreciate any words you may give me.

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