Teachers and Translators Sometimes Make Mistakes

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Translators often make mistakes. You should not rely blindly just on whatever is said, written, or on your recorders. That is unwise. Likewise, when I am teaching, I can make a slip of the tongue or sometimes say something that is incorrect. At those times, you shouldn’t just take on blind faith what you hear later on your recorder. As the Buddha said in respect to his own teaching, you should not accept something just because I have said it, but you should analyze it like someone testing gold. Do not rely on faith or take literally everything that is on the recorder.

Until you achieve the ninth bodhisattva bhumi level, you still make mistakes. It is only once you have achieved this ninth level mind that you cease to make mistakes when you explain things. It is at that point that you receive the four accurate and complete understandings. Once you have achieved that actualization, then you will no longer make any mistakes.

In the beginning of this teaching on Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior, Bodhicharyavatara, for instance, although I don’t know how it was translated, but what I had said was that, when Kunu Lama Rinpoche spent two years in Bodhgaya reading a Sanskrit manuscript of Buddhapalita, that text wasn’t translated into Tibetan. That was a slip of the tongue. What I had meant was that particular manuscript, that particular edition had not been translated into Tibetan. The general statement that the Buddhapalita text had not been translated into Tibetan is not correct. You might remember that I said that Je Tsongkhapa studied that text and gained his realization in terms of that. You should have checked up on me and asked questions, because that is the way that procedures are done. Sometimes, like this, mistakes occur.

For instance, the other day the first time when I presented the Prasangika and Chittamatra schools, I said correctly that in the Sautrantika School you have the set of three synonymous words for deepest true phenomena: conditioned phenomena, objective entities, and nonstatic phenomena. I also said you have another set of synonyms for conventional true phenomena: unconditioned phenomena, metaphysical entities, and static phenomena. I went on to say that in the Chittamatra school, you have the presentation of other-powered, thoroughly established and totally imaginary phenomena. In that system, totally imaginary phenomena are devoid of having truly established, unimputed existence. Yesterday, when I reviewed the material, although it wasn’t translated that way – the translator had corrected it himself – I corrected myself because I’d reversed the assignment of the sets of synonyms for the two types of true phenomena according to Sautrantika. In this way, it is very easy to make a slip of the tongue.

You should always check up absolutely everything that you see, hear, read and do. Even as the one who teaches, after I have given a teaching, I go back and review what I said and check to see if I have made any mistakes. Likewise, it should be the same with the listeners to the teaching.