What’s in a Word? Conveying Judeo-Christian Guilt into Tibetan Language

Episode 144 January 19, 2024 00:15:02
What’s in a Word? Conveying Judeo-Christian Guilt into Tibetan Language
Localization Today
What’s in a Word? Conveying Judeo-Christian Guilt into Tibetan Language

Jan 19 2024 | 00:15:02


Hosted By

Marjolein Groot Nibbelink Nico Palomo Eddie Arrieta

Show Notes

The notion that a person can feel guilt, like someone can feel joy or sadness, is foreign to the Tibetan psyche. Also foreign to the Tibetan worldview is the concept of victimhood as a fixed identity status. Kubota considers what we can learn from these perspectives in dealing with Western criminal justice systems.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:06] Speaker A: This is localization today, a podcast from multilingual media covering the most relevant daily news in the language industry. [00:00:16] Speaker B: What's, in a word? Conveying Judeo Christian guilt into tibetan language by Vanessa Kuboda the word guilt does not exist in the tibetan language, at. [00:00:29] Speaker C: Least not in the way we use it in English. [00:00:32] Speaker B: Nor is there a tibetan word for victim. [00:00:36] Speaker C: Many people find this surprising. [00:00:38] Speaker D: How can two concepts so fundamental to our criminal justice system and to our. [00:00:43] Speaker C: Western worldview simply be absent? The nonexistence of these words says a lot. [00:00:49] Speaker D: It reveals alternative perspectives on moral and social culpability. [00:00:54] Speaker C: The notion that a person can feel. [00:00:55] Speaker D: Guilt or self loathing like someone can. [00:00:58] Speaker C: Feel joy or sadness, is foreign to the tibetan psyche. [00:01:02] Speaker D: Also foreign to the tibetan worldview is the concept of victimhood as a fixed identity status. What can we learn from these perspectives in dealing with our criminal justice system. [00:01:13] Speaker B: And the people ensnared within it? Causation and self blame I was interpreting. [00:01:20] Speaker D: In Europe for a health and wellness conference when a french psychologist asked a llama on the panel about his patients who suffer from guilt and shame, particularly. [00:01:29] Speaker B: When those feelings stem from early childhood trauma. [00:01:32] Speaker C: I tried to explain the concepts of. [00:01:34] Speaker D: Guilt and shame through examples and metaphors, using phrases such as self effacing fixation on feelings of regret after being forced into demeaning conditions, or self blame for. [00:01:46] Speaker C: The transgressions and abuses inflicted on one by others. [00:01:49] Speaker B: The llama paused for a long time, then asked the psychologist, why torture yourself. [00:01:55] Speaker C: For something over which you had no control? The simplicity of that question elicited a. [00:02:00] Speaker D: Wave of smiles and a few chuckles. [00:02:02] Speaker B: From the audience, but the psychologist's furrowed. [00:02:06] Speaker D: Brow belied some skepticism. Then why, he pressed on, do so many westerners feel guilt and shame even. [00:02:14] Speaker B: Though they have no control over what happened to them? [00:02:17] Speaker D: Why are there so many suicides? [00:02:20] Speaker C: Why are so many people imprisoned by these feelings? [00:02:23] Speaker B: The llama took another long pause, then replied, because the human mind is powerful. [00:02:30] Speaker C: And when misdirected, it can become self destructive. The psychologist's eyes began to soften into a faint smile. Then the llama continued, and sometimes you. [00:02:41] Speaker D: Westerners have a little trouble letting go. [00:02:43] Speaker B: Of your self hatred. That did it. The audience loved him. They were at once charmed and chagrined. [00:02:51] Speaker D: The frankness of the llama's response could have been construed as offensive or tone. [00:02:55] Speaker B: Deaf, but it revealed a sagacity and. [00:02:59] Speaker D: An innocence that could only come from someone who hailed from a different world. [00:03:03] Speaker C: Someone with no exposure to the western neurosis. [00:03:06] Speaker D: Some audience members later told me that those simple words unburdened them of years, even decades, of guilt and shame over past traumas. [00:03:16] Speaker C: The llama's words they confessed seemed to carry a wisdom that transcended cultural and geographic barriers. [00:03:23] Speaker B: I wanted to explain that these were. [00:03:25] Speaker D: Not just mystical shangri la riddles or zen coons, although kudos if they served that purpose. These were windows into a different sociolinguistic. [00:03:33] Speaker C: Framework for relating with our reality. Perhaps they were also models for a holistic and more humane approach to criminal justice. [00:03:43] Speaker B: No perpetual victim like the word for guilt? [00:03:47] Speaker D: A similar challenge is presented when we try to convey the word victim. [00:03:51] Speaker B: In Tibetan, there is no exact translation. [00:03:56] Speaker C: In law, victim is a legal fiction. [00:03:59] Speaker D: Or status affording certain rights to individuals. [00:04:02] Speaker B: Against whom a criminal offense has been committed. [00:04:05] Speaker D: In common parlance, the words victim is. [00:04:08] Speaker B: Laden with connotations, many unfavorable one. [00:04:12] Speaker C: Such connotation is weakness or passivity. For that reason, Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Judith. [00:04:18] Speaker D: Herman prefers to refer to victims of sexual assault as survivors. [00:04:23] Speaker C: A survivor is a victor, someone who. [00:04:26] Speaker B: Has triumphed over adversity. There is a word for that in Tibetan. It's called argil ba, and it's also the word for Buddha. In Tibetan, a victim is denoted through acts. [00:04:41] Speaker C: If someone is murdered, she is called. [00:04:43] Speaker D: Chi los dos ma, or decedent. But to reveal her identity as a homicide victim, one must nominalize the verb sad pa, to kill and render it in its accusative form, sad bayai yol. [00:04:56] Speaker B: Bora object of murder when reviewing a. [00:04:59] Speaker D: Draft of this article, a cognitive linguist friend recently noted with a mischievous grin the irony of conveying victim in the. [00:05:07] Speaker B: Accusative form to denote a victim of. [00:05:10] Speaker D: Harm requires a similar configuration. Changing the infinitive nod paw to harm into its accusative direct object form. [00:05:19] Speaker C: So the word becomes nod baya, or object of harm. [00:05:23] Speaker D: After nominalizing the verb to harm into a noun, the one who was harmed. That noun can then be conjugated into its instrumental case, becoming an agent of the act. [00:05:34] Speaker C: The one who was harmed said x, and so forth. Here, a person's identity or status is. [00:05:40] Speaker B: Tied to the act of harm. [00:05:42] Speaker D: In English, the words victim can stand. [00:05:45] Speaker C: Alone in a sentence without including the verb to harm. But in Tibetan, you cannot have a. [00:05:51] Speaker D: Victim without declaring that a harm has occurred. In other words, a victim does not exist without the act of harm. [00:05:58] Speaker B: Also articulated, this is a grammatical acknowledgement. [00:06:01] Speaker C: That a wrong has been inflicted on the person. This grammatical structure serves as the basis for healing because it validates that injustice has occurred. As Dr. Herman has observed in her. [00:06:13] Speaker D: Research on sexual assault victims for truth and repair. How trauma survivors envision justice the first principle of survivors justice is the desire. [00:06:22] Speaker C: For community acknowledgment that a wrong has been done. [00:06:27] Speaker B: Identity and fluidity of personhood euphemistically, crime. [00:06:31] Speaker D: Victims, especially victims of violent crimes, are. [00:06:35] Speaker C: Sometimes addressed as snying rji yol, or objects of compassion. [00:06:40] Speaker D: Surprising to the western minds, that descriptor appears in tibetan literature less often toward innocent crime victims who have already experienced suffering, and far more often toward criminal aggressors who have created future suffering for themselves. [00:06:55] Speaker C: Compassion for offenders sounds a lot like. [00:06:57] Speaker D: The rhetoric of the criminal justice reform movement. Founded in part on critical legal theory. [00:07:03] Speaker C: Its adherents seek to contextualize violent crimes. [00:07:07] Speaker D: By shifting the blame from the individual. [00:07:08] Speaker C: Aggressor to the aggressor's environment. They blame crime on systemic inequality and. [00:07:14] Speaker D: A colonialist system defined by binary categories. [00:07:17] Speaker C: Of oppressor and oppressed. [00:07:19] Speaker D: That marxist perspective subsumes all guilt and causality to one abstract and digital cause, systemic injustice and power imbalance. Rather than acknowledging an individual's agency and free will and condemning that person's criminal actions. Some scholars argue that this disempowers offenders because it treats them as passive instruments of fate rather than as agents capable. [00:07:42] Speaker C: Of choosing right from wrong despite their circumstances. [00:07:46] Speaker D: Professor Marcus Dubber writes of this in the right to be punished. Autonomy and its demise in modern penal. [00:07:53] Speaker B: Thought the tibetan worldview is more nuanced. [00:07:57] Speaker D: In tibetan philosophy, the victim offender paradigm. [00:08:00] Speaker C: Is not a zero sum game. Tibetans acknowledge that violence is a symptom. [00:08:05] Speaker D: Of systemic inequality in the sense that all beings are caught in a web of karma and delusion, leading people to mistreat one another in their misguided pursuit of happiness. [00:08:15] Speaker C: But Tibetans also recognize individual responsibility and agency and the moral value of humane punishment. Excusing wrongdoers by placating violence or rationalizing. [00:08:27] Speaker D: Abuse is, to paraphrase ju jamgan mifam Rinposh seminal treatise on buddhist ethics, distinguishing. [00:08:33] Speaker C: Virtue from immorality ultimately harmful to the. [00:08:36] Speaker D: Wrongdoer because it allows him to believe. [00:08:38] Speaker C: He is not accountable for his crimes. And it telegraphs a message to others. [00:08:43] Speaker D: That societal harm is acceptable. In fact, Tibetans believe we are accountable for our mental, verbal, and physical actions, and that inflicting harm on others, especially innocent civilians, is a grave malfeasance that. [00:08:58] Speaker C: Sows for the perpetrator unimaginable suffering after death. Even so, punishment is never administered with. [00:09:05] Speaker B: A vengeful mind to punish a wrongdoer out of anger. [00:09:08] Speaker D: According to the poet and Gulcher Thagand in the 37 practices of the bodhisattva is worse than the crime itself, for. [00:09:16] Speaker C: Anger is worse of an enemy than any external adversary. [00:09:20] Speaker D: At the same time, Tibetans do not repress feelings of anger and instead learn. [00:09:24] Speaker C: To recognize anger, feel it, and let it go. Tibetans believe that all beings suffer from. [00:09:31] Speaker D: Systemic injustice, but they do not blame. [00:09:33] Speaker C: A single class or race of people as oppressors. This is true even though Tibetans lost. [00:09:39] Speaker D: Their land and autonomy during the chinese. [00:09:41] Speaker C: Cultural Revolution in the early 1960s. [00:09:45] Speaker D: Instead, from the perspective of digital causality. [00:09:48] Speaker C: Tibetans blame all societal ills on our. [00:09:51] Speaker D: Inner demons of greed, arrogance, jealousy, ignorance, and hate, which they classify as the. [00:09:57] Speaker C: Five toxic mental states known as dug some in Tibetan. That is why Tibetans encourage mercy and compassion for offenders. They believe that all beings are influenced by toxic mental states which compel them to perpetuate harm. But this attitude of compassion is never confused with indulgence or leniency. Tibetans believe in a sort of rawlzian. [00:10:21] Speaker D: Universe where we reincarnate in many forms, exchanging roles in successive lifetimes, trading bodies. [00:10:27] Speaker C: As oppressor and oppressed, aggressor and victim. [00:10:31] Speaker D: The slave owner might be reborn in a future life as a slave, forced. [00:10:35] Speaker C: To suffer the same treatment he once inflicted on another. The fisherman is reborn as the fish, the abuser as the victim, and so on. There is, in the tibetan cultural linguistic framework, no fixed ontological form. The very nature of the world is. [00:10:53] Speaker B: Ephemeral, unalusary, according to Tibetan's identity in. [00:10:57] Speaker D: The tibetan cultural linguistic framework is not fixed. [00:11:00] Speaker C: It is formed and dismantled through action. [00:11:03] Speaker D: That is why a victim is identified in relation to the act of harm. [00:11:07] Speaker C: Rather than as a separate entity. [00:11:10] Speaker B: The act or verb creates the person. [00:11:13] Speaker C: In the theory of karma, you become what you do. [00:11:17] Speaker B: Evil creates ugliness, patience creates beauty. [00:11:22] Speaker C: The grammatical structure supports the tibetan buddhist. [00:11:25] Speaker D: Theory that our previous actions create our experiential world. Because Tibetans believe in the law of karma, tibetan society is founded on the. [00:11:34] Speaker C: Buddhist ideals of mutual respect, nonviolence, and kindness. A somewhat tangential aside, while Tibetans do. [00:11:42] Speaker D: Not believe in intrinsic identities, it is easier to convey gender dysmorphia and gender fluidity. [00:11:48] Speaker B: In Tibetan, the idea that a person. [00:11:51] Speaker D: Assigned male at birth might feel more like a female, for example, is not blasphemous or shocking to a culture that sees all beings as fluid, mutable, and constantly changing bodies, roles, identities, and life. [00:12:05] Speaker C: Narratives in an endless cycle of death and rebirth. [00:12:08] Speaker B: But that is the topic for a future article. The tibetan buddhist philosophy reflected in the. [00:12:15] Speaker D: Sino tibetan linguistic framework holds that the ultimate wrongdoer is the unlocatable self, the myth that we exist as independent, singular, permanent selves who must defend against threats. [00:12:27] Speaker C: From an equally illusory, objective other. And while tibetan language lacks precise terminology. [00:12:33] Speaker D: For the western senses of guilt, shame, and victimhood, it has over 20 different terms expressing prelapsarian states of awareness. Likewise, there are five different words for compassion, ten different categories of joy, and separate terms for every stage of meditation. [00:12:51] Speaker C: To render these words from tibetan to. [00:12:53] Speaker B: English presents a converse challenge. [00:12:55] Speaker D: English lacks such terminology, so a translator. [00:12:59] Speaker B: Must explain these words descriptively. [00:13:01] Speaker D: This requires first understanding and experiencing these states and then seeking phrases or expressions that convey that same felt experience. [00:13:10] Speaker C: But subjective experience is generally difficult to convey objectively. To paraphrase a beloved tibetan meditator, a. [00:13:18] Speaker D: Finger points to the moon, but the finger is not the moon. [00:13:22] Speaker C: Words express the ineffable but are not the ineffable. As both an attorney and an interpreter. [00:13:28] Speaker D: I find these conundrums delicious. [00:13:31] Speaker C: It is the ethics of translation and. [00:13:33] Speaker D: Interpreting, the challenge of conveying the source, author's expression and implied meaning without losing. [00:13:38] Speaker C: The beauty, wit, unspoken connotations, and poetic illusions. That reminds me, lawyers are also interpreters. A lawyer must convey the arcane and. [00:13:49] Speaker D: Sometimes cumbersome language of the law into the language of consequence while staying privy to the diverse backgrounds and social views. [00:13:57] Speaker C: Accompanying the parties, witnesses, fact finders, and the court. The recognition that a single word means. [00:14:04] Speaker D: One thing to one person and can. [00:14:06] Speaker C: Have an entirely different resonance to another. [00:14:08] Speaker D: Human being allows us as lawyers and officers of the court, as translators of the law, to infuse our use of language with empathy for our audience and with awareness of the greater impact of. [00:14:20] Speaker C: Every word we choose. This article was written by Vanessa Kubota. [00:14:25] Speaker D: An assistant United States attorney in Arizona who previously served as the chief translator and interpreter for Llama Chadrak Yatso Nuppa, former deputy secretary of the Dalai Lama and originally published in multilingual magazine, issue. [00:14:40] Speaker C: 223, January 11, 2024. [00:14:45] Speaker A: Thank you for listening to localization today. To subscribe to multilingual magazine, go to multilingual.com. Subscribe.

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