Oral Traditions

wil

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It has been said that prehistory, prewriting we've had extensive oral traditions.

And I agree we have. But historical accuracy? Do we have evidence of that?

We may have the same words repeated for decades and centuries but in order to have those words repeated a few things seem to have to happen.

- it is song

or

- it is poetry

or

- it is made larger than life, exciting, mysterious, one of a kind, hyperbole... all to get the moral of the story or the underlying truth conveyed.

but in relegating any historical fact to any of the above it becomes modified, and becomes historical fiction, a litterary device.

and the caveats are hear are yes it is a couple hundred years off, but the rest is true... Or yes it is true, but it is the combination of two stories and you have to extricate them.

I'd love to learn more.
 
It has been said that prehistory, prewriting we've had extensive oral traditions.

And I agree we have. But historical accuracy? Do we have evidence of that?

We may have the same words repeated for decades and centuries but in order to have those words repeated a few things seem to have to happen.

- it is song

or

- it is poetry

or

- it is made larger than life, exciting, mysterious, one of a kind, hyperbole... all to get the moral of the story or the underlying truth conveyed.

but in relegating any historical fact to any of the above it becomes modified, and becomes historical fiction, a litterary device.

and the caveats are hear are yes it is a couple hundred years off, but the rest is true... Or yes it is true, but it is the combination of two stories and you have to extricate them.

I'd love to learn more.
Keeps 'em safe from the book-burners. ;)
 
Namaste Snoop, thanx.

I have some Indian (asian) friends who pass on the spoken word. The story is told over the period of a year and then retold, and retold. The mother sits with the children as they fall asleep and tells the story. When her mother is in town she sits with her and listens and adds corrections. As the older children grow into their teen years, they remember parts that mom is missing and tell her of their memories.

But as is mentioned in your thread, about burning the books, no longer needing them, it is the poetry, the stories, the ideas that convey the meaning...not the literal accuracy of the story, the historical accuracy of the story, nor is it told exactly the same way each time...dispite being a millenia old oral tradition...which is still kept alive today.
 
I was reading the:Lost without translation?
thread posted by snoopy and thought that my comments on one portion would be better to post here.

And the PTS has translated those texts?
The PTS has translated most of what we call the Pali canon, those books whose contents are attributed to the mouth of the Buddha, whereas there is a very wide body of commentarial material, very little of which has been translated.

But at the end of the day, how can we be sure of the correct reading?
Often we can’t. But this is the job of the scholar – to try to eradicate the scribal errors.

If the canonical text was translated without the commentary, then the translation may not be perfect?
Because only a handful of the commentaries have so far been translated into English, it may be that many of the translations that we take for granted may not always fully accord with the explanations found in the commentaries.

Can we say that some of the existing translations may not be quite right?
Yes. And some of the early scholars may have offered translations of canonical texts that were partially idiosyncratic.

You have translated four commentaries. Altogether, how many of the commentaries have been translated into English?
I would say about eight or nine.

That’s not very many. Out of how many?
Forty five.

I gather, then that the commentary to the Digha Nikaya has not been made available in English?
It is extremely surprising that it has never been translated into English. Neither have the commentaries to the other core books of the canon.....
From this brief snippet I can see several issues:
-what is the bias of the scholar doing the translation?

-they work for an organization which has its biases to be sure, but let us say it strives for objectivity (an assumption). The scholar doing the work still has their own personal bias and perhaps they are particularly fair-minded and seek for objectivity as well (another assumption), how well do they succeed? are they infallibly objective?
Many times the biases which each person has can be very subtle.
Then there are cultural biases which all those who live in a particular time in a particular culture are going to have. They are very hard to spot in the editing process.

-Beyond these is the fact that words can be tricky. Particularly when one is trying to describe things that are beyond normal human experience. So the original person who is making the account is seeking to put into words something which they do not really have the words to describe, and so they do the best they can. Then you have successive generations of interpreters who have never had the original experience and so don't really know what the words are trying to describe so they will use their own comprehensions to deal with the material and so on and so on.

-People also presuppose that the original writer or account giver has perfect command of their language and the words they used are the perfect words for the situation and they are used perfectly in every instance, and further that they have perfect insight into just how those words are to be used.

-Perhaps a scribe, when translating has written the portion in a way that makes the most sense to him, but the original author may have been using a word in an unusual way in order to convey the essence of what they were saying.

-Catastrophes happen and perhaps through time the original were lost and it was only possible to save a commentary or a translation or such and maybe it was not the best one, then all the work that follows can really be off track.

I work with tiles and when doing a layout on a large job, great care needs to be taken with the first course as any error, even a small one, is cumulative (if you are out 1/8th of an inch in one foot, in 8 feet you will be out by 1 inch).

Look at christianity and their doctrine of a "New" Covenant and the "New" Testament....big foundational components and they are all based on an error in translating/interpreting one word found in Jeremiah 31 which is the word erroneously translated as "new" but is really "re-new".
Very subtle and small thing, but such a little leaven will cause the whole lump to be leavened.....one little virus and you are f***ed.
 
Oral traditions can provide a window I think and it's all we have for some areas.. People without written language usually have pretty good memories.. Just as a preliterate child.. You read them a story they love and change one word and they'll come back at you with "no, no that's not how it goes.."

Verbal traditions have also been set to verse.. and this may be an aid in memorizing them for the reciters.

For today I think it's importnat to have as accurate a rendering as possible especially when it comes to say sacred texts.. this is why in the Baha'i Faith we place a greater value on the revealed scriptures that have been set to writing and authenticated than to verbal traditions which we call "pilgrim's notes".
 
-Perhaps a scribe, when translating has written the portion in a way that makes the most sense to him, but the original author may have been using a word in an unusual way in order to convey the essence of what they were saying.

-Catastrophes happen and perhaps through time the original were lost and it was only possible to save a commentary or a translation or such and maybe it was not the best one, then all the work that follows can really be off track.

I work with tiles and when doing a layout on a large job, great care needs to be taken with the first course as any error, even a small one, is cumulative (if you are out 1/8th of an inch in one foot, in 8 feet you will be out by 1 inch).

Look at christianity and their doctrine of a "New" Covenant and the "New" Testament....big foundational components and they are all based on an error in translating/interpreting one word found in Jeremiah 31 which is the word erroneously translated as "new" but is really "re-new".
Very subtle and small thing, but such a little leaven will cause the whole lump to be leavened.....one little virus and you are f***ed.

the proverbial Butterfly effect
spawns a linguistic and conceptual heritage
meme ories are made of this!
 
But historical accuracy? Do we have evidence of that?

If I recall correctly....:rolleyes:...in the lifetime of the Buddha, bhikkhus went a-wandering teaching others, as was the custom, with the "blessing" of the Buddha. When, a couple of hundred years later, the teachings came to be scribed onto palm leaves the recording and transmission was "divvied out" to those with the most accurate memory of particular aspects of the Buddha's words, whether it was the rules of behaviour or whatever...

...here ends my ropey memory...:rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

s.
 
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