I gave some more thoughts to the topic of whether we should translate the titles of Sanskrit works.
As you might remember, braodly speaking, many of our US colleagues started translating them and most of our Japanese, Indian and European colleagues just leave the Sanskrit titles as they are.
I basically have two problems with the translations:
- the English titles might be too vague (“Commentary”) or misleading (“Maxims”, suggesting the enunciation of a moral truth, not to speak of “Mirrors”, “Amulets”, “Rising Moons” and the like)
- there is no standardised translation (I know that here some colleagues might suggest to just follow Sheldon Pollock’s one, but even they will have to agree that sūtra is more often translated as “Aphorisms” than as “Maxims”), so that readers of article a, b and c might think that their authors are talking about different texts.
Thus, I see no point in translating titles in case of articles of books targeted at Sanskritists. For a Sanskritist like me, a title like “Versed Commentary” just forces me to wonder what is meant, whether Ślokavārttika immediately rings a bell. Nor do we want to have our PhD students learn English titles instead of Sanskrit ones, I believe, since if they did so they would have more troubles reading actual Sanskrit texts.
However, I also understand the advantage of translating Sanskrit titles in English in articles or books aiming at non-Sanskritists, which at least give some idea (though vague or misleading) and might be more easily memorised by lay readers. Hence, what about the following:
- we use a translation which is slightly more specific, e.g. (Pūrva) Mīmāṃsā Sūtra = “Maxims (or Aphorisms) on Vedic Exegesis” or “Exegetic Maxims (or Aphorisms)”.
- we explain in the first footnote about the texts whose titles should be translated, e.g., PMS and ŚBh, something like “The title Mīmāṃsāsūtra has been differently translated. In general, it states that the text is about Mīmāṃsā, i.e., about an investigation on Vedic texts, and that it is composed in short, syntetic and terse sentences, called sūtras. These are often hardly understandable without an extended commentary, and bhāṣya means indeed ‘extended commentary’. For pragmatic reasons, in the following we will refer to these texts with an English translation, i.e., as “Exegetic Maxims” and “Commentary on the Exegetic Maxims” respectively.”
What do you think?