Translating Buddhism

Historical and Contextual Perspectives

Edited by Alice Collett

Subjects: Buddhism, Translation, Linguistics
Hardcover : 9781438482934, 302 pages, April 2021
Paperback : 9781438482941, 302 pages, January 2022

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents



Part I: Texts

1. Translation in Search of a Text: The Craving for Stability
Collett Cox

2. Translating the Buddha's Body
Natalie Gummer

3. On Reading Vinaya: Feminist History, Hermeneutics, and Translating the Female Body
Amy Paris Langenberg

Part II: Translators

4. Translating the Theravāda Commentaries: Why, How, for Whom?
Oskar von Hinüber

5. The Impact of Nineteenth-Century Missionary Translations of Theravada Buddhist Texts
Elizabeth Harris

6. Words or Terms? Models of Terminology and the Translation of Buddhist Sanskrit Vocabulary
Ligeia Lugli

Part III: Words

7. Translation and Historical Context: Interpretations of Antevāsinī
Alice Collett

8. Translating the Tīrthika: Enduring "Heresy" in Buddhist Studies
C. V. Jones

9. Translating Paṭicca-samuppāda in Early Buddhism
Dhivan Thomas Jones

10. Why Is Literal Meaning Insufficient? A Study of Desanāsīsa Explanations in the Pāli Commentaries
Aruna Gamage


Explores key questions about translations and translators of South Asian Buddhist texts, past and present.


Although many Buddhist studies scholars spend a great deal of their time involved in acts of translation, to date not much has been published that examines the key questions, problems, and difficulties faced by translators of South Asian Buddhist texts and epigraphs. Translating Buddhism seeks to address this omission. The essays collected here represent a burgeoning attempt to begin to shape the subfield of translation studies within Buddhist studies, whereby scholars actively challenge primary routine decisions and basic assumptions. Exploring questions including how interpretive translators can be and how cultural and social norms affect translations, the book draws on the broad experiences of its contributors—all of whom are translators themselves—who bring different themes to the table. Each chapter can be used either independently or as part of the whole to engender reflections on the process of translation.

Alice Collett is the author of Lives of Early Buddhist Nuns: Biographies as History and editor of Women in Early Indian Buddhism: Comparative Textual Studies.


"This volume is an inspiring read for scholars/translators who wish to interpret Buddhism in a different light." — Religious Studies Review

"Translating Buddhism offers excellent research and insights into many of the issues and questions that translators of early Buddhist texts confront in their commitment to reflect core meanings. These analyses offer important contributions to Buddhist studies, and to the larger on-going conversation about how to facilitate understanding across languages, time periods, and traditions. Translators interested in historical and religious texts in particular will find many points of connection with the writers of Translating Buddhism." —Translation Studies

"…Collett has brought together an illuminating collection that advances the subfield of translation studies within Buddhist studies … Translating Buddhism: Historical and Contextual Perspectives offers both an immensely generative reflection on working with primary source material in classical languages and the complex hermeneutical choices that arise in translation." — Reading Religion