Scatology; Buddhist Literature; Literature -- Translations; Buddha (The Concept); Religious Law & Legislation
Sometimes translating religious texts brings us up against the problem of scatological language. The author examines this problem in relation to a story of a former life of the Buddha and explores a variety of avenues for guidance on how to render gtha 'shit' into English. This includes looking at Buddhist monastic law, which does not necessarily give us the guidance we might expect, and how the existing translation of this source of guidance illustrates the very problem in hand. The textual history and context of the story precludes some otherwise useful strategies for determining our translation and the best guide to the translator's hand in this instance turns out to be humour. The author makes a case that, employed judiciously, humour could become a useful hermeneutic tool for drawing meaning from religious literature. Along the way the author also reflects on the influence of the social context of the translator, including changes in British obscenity law, and on the possibility that academia is unconsciously constrained by unexamined assumptions of 'decency'. Buddhist attitudes to language are also touched upon.