Monday, June 08, 2009

So You Want to Be a Translator?

Genla told me a story about Cudapanthaka ("Lam Phran Bstan" in Tibetan), a monk who was so stupid he could not even memorize his own name. He asked the Buddha for help, and Buddha told him to sweep the temple. Cudapanthaka wanted to follow the Buddha's instruction, but every time he went to sweep on the left, the winds blew the garbage to the right, and vice-versa. So Cudapanthaka returned to the Buddha with a heavy heart and asked again for help.

"Every time you sweep," the Buddha said, "chant, 'Rdul dag dri ma dag!" (which means "purify the dust, purify the stain"). Cudapanthaka did as he was told, and found he was now able to begin to clean. As he chanted, he also purified his own ignorance, attachment and craving. This freed his mind, and Cudapanthaka began to be able to memorize even long texts. He continued his studies, eventually becoming an Arhat, an enlightened being.

So as we pick up the trash, I recite: "Rdul dag dri ma dag," just like Cudapanthaka. I think of the trash as a "head fake"--did you all see that Randy Pausch Last Lecture? It's become quite famous. I borrowed that term from Randy. It looks like it's about litter but in fact it teaches you many other things. Attention to detail. Dilligence. Not to be squeamish (I saw Genla pick up a dried bluejay head today). And above all, that you're not too good for anything, my friend. All useful skills for a translator to have.

And I have to say, I think the Buddha's right - picking up trash seems to improve one's memory.

Here's a Japanese variant of the Cudapanthaka story if you're interested.
Does a good job of explaining the "head fake" involved in various types of cleaning.

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At 4:49 PM, Blogger Raymond said...

I met someone awhile back who told me to chant

"Nam Myoho Renge Kyo"

I might be spelling it wrong. I dreamt about a lot of lotus flowers that night.

A child of the word in all her many forms.

Thank you for sharing all of this ~ the language is so beautiful written. And that statue of Buddha CLEAR like a pearl put through many oceans.

The Wizard of Oz......the wizard of Oz is deep. i'd love to hear the response to that~*


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