Translating the Dharma into HebrewOn Fri, 13 March, 2020 - 11:09
Accessing the Dharma in your own language can make a significant difference to a person’s ability to practice. The Triratna Translations Board was set up at the end of 2015 to promote and coordinate translation projects in many languages and have enabled the translations of many Triratna books.
Prakashika, born in Israel, but now living in Australia, undertook this task and she writes about that experience:
“I moved from Israel to Australia in my 20s, and it was in Sydney that I encountered the Dharma. Five years ago, following a visit to my home city of Jerusalem, I felt inspired to translate What is the Dharma into Hebrew, my native language. I thought that this book with its clarity, depth and playfulness would be quite compatible with Israeli secular culture: informal and very wary of religion, direct, appreciative of the value of friendship, and starved of true spirituality.
I had practically no experience as a translator, but figured that with my reasonably sound command of Hebrew, and a better understanding of Sangharakshita’s teachings than any professional translator was likely to have, and with the help of an editor, I could do the task justice. So I sought Bhante’s blessing for the project and set about a journey that culminated just recently in the publication of the first-ever translation of a Triratna book into Hebrew. It was unfortunate that the latest Guardian article criticising Sangharakshita and Triratna came out just days after the translation was published, with the controversy impacting on the book’s reception.
The process of channelling Sangharakshita’s teachings in my own words, in a different language, with its different cultural connotations, has been an insightful journey, highlighting the point that Bhante emphasises so often: that the Dharma is beyond all words, concepts and cultural conventions.
I have no way of gauging the numbers, but going by the prevalence of meditation groups, Buddhist workshops, retreats and centres of various traditions that operate in Israel, from Insight Meditation to the different Tibetan schools, Zen, Thai Forest, Diamond Way – you name it! – there must be quite a lot of interest in Dharma in that tiny country, barely visible on the world map, with a population of less than 9 million, and of those only around 40% secular folk.
An Israeli online Buddhist forum helped me get to know my audience. I was impressed by some people’s level of Dharmic understanding and dismayed at others’ confusion. Through this online forum I engaged a professional editor, a casual practitioner herself, who helped make the text flow more naturally, and conform to publishing standards. Smadar did the work at “mate’s rates”, which a grant from the Triratna Translation Board helped fund, and we developed a lovely friendship in the delicate process of critiquing each other’s suggestions. Occasionally we would get into a Dharmic discussion, and I was pleased to learn how much this work had helped her through a very difficult time in her life. The work progressed in dribs and drabs, until finally we decided it was good enough to face the world. My friend Priyada designed a beautiful cover based on Dhammarati’s original design, and suddenly there it was, on its own, available to order online, one of about 90 Dharma titles available in Hebrew, both translated and original.
It would be great if you could share the link and help spread the Dharma in Hebrew: https://dharmainhebrew.wordpress.com.”
Read more about Triratna translation work.