The problem of translation of the Buddhist philosophical terminology with a general meaning «consciousness»
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Buddhism, consciousness, mind, thinking, citta, vijñāna, manas

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Strelkova, A. (2020). The problem of translation of the Buddhist philosophical terminology with a general meaning «consciousness». Multiversum. Philosophical Almanac, 2(1), 156-170.


This article deals with elaboration of approaches to the translation into Ukrainian of the terms of Buddhist philosophical tradition associated with the notion of “consciousness”. For the sake of absence of a precise analog for the Western notion of “consciousness” in Buddhism the author examines the most approximated group of Buddhist terms to be translated as “consciousness/mind/thinking/thought etc.”: “thinking-citta” (Ch. xin), “consciousness-vijñāna” (Ch. shi), “mind-manas” (Ch. yi). The triple term “thinking-consciousness-mind” is also considered. For this purpose the the canonical Buddhist texts in Chinese, Sanskrit and Pali (Chinese traslations of Mahāvibhāṣā and other Abhidharma treatises, Pali Dhammapada, Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakośa and texts of Chinese tradition) are used to find out their meaning and the specifics of their relations to each other. The problem is considered from different poins of view including the Buddhist theory of dharmas of different schools. The analisis of usage of these three terms in the texts of Buddhist Canon demonstrates that the meaning of each of them depends on the context and can be both positive as well as negative. Moreover, each of this terms in a certain determined context can play a role of a general notion for all the rest (citta can include both manas and vijñāna, manas can include citta and vijñāna, vijñāna can include citta and manas). In the process of translation in most cases the most convenient is to render the terms vijñāna and citta using the word “consciousness”, the terms manas and citta using the word “mind”, and to translate the term citta using the words “consciousness”, “mind” or “thinking”. Being the last variant “thinking” the most semantically adequate, because it referes to the thinking in the most comprehensive understanding, which is in accordance with the Buddhist usage of this term.
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