Methodology Guidelines from Padmakara Translation Group

In this season of lotsawa conferences, there is a lot of reflection and discussion about how lotsawas do their thing, all of it tying in quite neatly with the purpose of this site. In the spirit of this atmosphere of introspection, here is a set of guidelines laid out by the excellent Padmakara Translation Group on their burgeoning new site:

  • Start by receiving transmission and explanation of the text from a qualified teacher
  • Careful, painstaking translation of the meaning, with extensive research and study where necessary
  • Submission of difficult points and doubts to competent teachers with a good knowledge of the text
  • Double-checking of the draft translation by at least one other translator
  • Careful editing and rewriting to produce a clear, readable style
  • Final text proof-read and approved by a person who knows the subject and has a good command of the final language

This is clearly the methodology of a group of translators — and highlights the advantages of working together, as well as the central role of the teacher(s). What also comes through from reading these points is the group’s well-known emphasis on the importance of fluent, readable translations, requiring translators and editors alike to have, as they put it, “a good command of the final language.” This latter point is worth reiterating, because there seems to be a common misconception these days that anyone is capable of becoming a translator, and that little or no literary training in the target language is required, as if everyone is somehow gifted with fluency in their native tongue and the automatic ability to produce lucid prose.

1 thought on “Methodology Guidelines from Padmakara Translation Group

  1. pensum

    Hey Adam, i couldn't agree more about the need for literary training of translators. It is a horrendous error to believe that just because you understand another language that you can effectively translate it, and i am firmly of the belief this misconception is a serious detriment to both readers and the Buddhadharma itself.

    In the beginning people had to be satisfied with anyone who could understand even rudimentary Tibetan and convey what little they could in whatever language they could, but now we have western-oriented shedras and university Tibetan studies programs. However, to my knowledge, it appears that a solid grounding literature and writing are not on the curriculum. One should at least have imbued oneself with Stevens, Eliot and the like and learned how to write elegantly and concisely in a modern idiom. After all much of the Buddhist canon is in verse or regularly quotes verse, so a firm grasp and moderate ability to compose it oneself is obviously demanded.

    Anyway i could rail on about all this, but as we seem to be in agreement no use flogging the proverbial dead horse.

    Keep up the fine work!

    Michael Tweed

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