[INDOLOGY] Brackets in modern sanskrit translations

Jonathan Silk kauzeya at gmail.com
Wed Jun 6 17:35:14 UTC 2018

We are perhaps somehow in this discussion running the risk of not
clarifying sufficiently what we mean.
To write: The Buddha attained extinction (nirodha) before ... is one thing
To write: I picked up (my) pen to write a letter to (my) mother... that's
And when we get [The] Buddha spoke [outloud] to [the previously mentioned]
Ājiīvika [renuniciant] [saying] "Hey [you]! How's it hanging?" ...
something is clearly wrong, is it not?

Just adding (my) 10¢ (an American unit of money; see US Mint 2012,

*Yes, it's been a long day. We didn't, by the way, even talk about notes,
really.... and whether we are happy with pages littered with numbers (hint:
I'm not a big fan of this in translations, and think it can be an admission
that the translation is not actually doing its communicative job)

On Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 6:52 PM, Jason Birch via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> The assumption that the 'use of brackets confounds the non-specialist’ may
> not be true. Dominik’s blogpost was the outcome of a discussion we had at
> the University of Vienna in 2016. Afterwards I wondered for a while whether
> non-specialists were confused by this convention, and so have since asked
> several groups of yoga students whether the brackets were helpful or not.
> In feedback forms, each group has been in favour of keeping the brackets in
> the translations I provided to them.
> If one is writing something for ‘non-specialists’ and is worried that the
> use of brackets will confuse them, perhaps, it is simply a matter of
> explaining (in a note) the reasons for their use.
> Best wishes,
> Jason
> __
> Jason Birch
> Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
> Hatha Yoga Project
> SOAS University of London
> Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2018 22:20:34 +0000
> From: "Coseru, Christian" <CoseruC at cofc.edu>
> To: "indology at list.indology.info" <indology at list.indology.info>
> Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Brackets in modern sanskrit translations
> Message-ID: <FDB2893F-9D9E-459B-876D-5FA748BAE4DE at cofc.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
> To follow up on Johannes Bronkhorst?s point about readership, it seems
> obvious that there are two broad categories of readers of translations from
> Sanskrit texts: Sanskritists and non-Sanskritists. Since the only way
> non-Sanskritists have access to Sanskrit texts is via translations in the
> language their are most fluent in (e.g., English, German, Japanese), the
> question becomes: should Sanskritists serve their own community or the
> reading academic community at large (to say nothing of the general public)?
> Of course, in practice Sanskritists sever both demographics, but despite
> the good points about honesty, interpretive preferences, and purpose that
> Alex and Birgit raise, the use of square brackets confounds the
> non-specialists, and often makes the text a lot less inviting than it
> actually is. One might be tempted in this context to note that all
> translation is in some sense an interpretation since, as the late Luis O
> G?mez once quipped, the "only perfect translation that can be is the
> original itself."
> One solution to this conundrum might be to adopt a two-tiered translation
> model, with a bracketed version for specialists and one without for the
> broader academic readership. In some respects, that two-tiered model exists
> already, which is why the issues was raise in the first place.
> Christian Coseru
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J. Silk
Leiden University
Leiden University Institute for Area Studies, LIAS
Matthias de Vrieshof 3, Room 0.05b
2311 BZ Leiden
The Netherlands

copies of my publications may be found at

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