14 June 2009
Writings of the Buddha
Buddhists appear to be more comfortable with the idea of mixing languages than Christians, not because the Christian Bible is not mixed, but because most modern Christians read the Bible in translation and are not too concerned that the Bible was not written in English (or whatever modern language) and, therefore, shares the danger of all translations (there is no such thing as a faithful translation, as translation theory has repeatedly proven). Modern Buddhists also read the words of the Buddha in translation, but the mixed-language nature of the Buddhist scriptures (due to the early splintering of the tradition among followers) makes it impossible to ignore the linguistic interactions at the beginning of Buddhism. (See, for example, the 1975 discussion on language in The Life of Buddha as Legend and History.) Since it is not technically a religion, Buddhism is often left out when the world's great religions are discussed (namely, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism [in alphabetical order]). The Buddhist scriptures, just like Christian, Islamic, and Jewish writings, are literature and should be studied by literary critics (who may or may not be believers or followers of one or the other system of beliefs).