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Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism’

Reincarnation Bank, or How the Transmigration of Souls will change the Banking Industry

In popular economics on July 21, 2009 at 4:58 pm

There is a bank that can manage your assets to make sure you still own them in your next life. Tyler Cowen, co-author of the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution, found out that there is a Reincarnation Bank owned by a certain 2i Limited. Eccentric markets are interesting, even on the level of scholarship. We have here a hybrid of the theory of the transmigration of souls and the theory of banking. The process seems simple: you deposit now, then you can withdraw from the same bank in your next life. Too bad if you’re reborn as a duck or a horse. According to Jorge L. Borges’ knowledge of Buddhism, the probability of a person being reborn as a human being is the probability of a tortoise rising to the surface of the sea and finding a solitary ring, which can float anywhere in the world, around its head.

This bank’s theory of transmigration of souls has three assumptions before the transaction can be complete from deposit to withdrawal:

1. You do not attain Enlightenment (hence you are reborn);

2. You are reborn human; and,

3. You can remember your past lives.

A favorable condition must fulfill all these conditions. Granting metempsychosis fulfills these criteria, this is how Reincarnation Bank proposes to facilitate withdrawals:

As in this life, in the next you will have memories of previous lives. One of these recollections will be of your arrangement with Reincarnation Bank. Whatever version of the internet or data retrieval mechanisms in use at the time of your return, you will renew your contact with Reincarnation Bank and through regression you will recall the details/instructions that you left at the time of making your deposit. A custodian of Reincarnation Bank will open your letter privately in your presence and will ask you to repeat the details contained therein (whilst in regression). Once this has been satisfactorily achieved, funds/property will be handed back to you and the account closed.

Sounds like a passage from a Buddhist science fiction.

The universe of theories can be postulated in the format of a Tree. Each theory does not exist autonomously. The influential ones tend to coalesce and define what’s common sense, practical and enforceable. The whole arrangement sounds like the work of a lunatic, a prankster or a desperate fraudster, but maybe if we develop the theory of metempsychosis to the fullest until it is inscribed as common sense, a Reincarnation Bank wouldn’t sound so bad. The Catholics have done it with the selling of indulgences.

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The Translators of “Tao Te Ching” and Arthur Waley

In book review, critique on July 21, 2009 at 6:01 am

Arthur Waley’s translations of Chinese classics are considered the most readable for modern readers. His abridgement of Wu Cheng-en’s The Journey to the West, certainly one of the Four Great Classical Novels of China and which he retitled as Monkey, is praised by Jorge L. Borges (the greatest writer not to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature) as the product of a translator who is simultaneously a sinologist and a man of letters.

I recently finished a version of Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching by Waley in the book The Way and its Power: A Study of the Tao Te Ching and Its Place in Chinese Thought (1934). The Tao Te Ching is composed of 81 short poems talking about the basic principles of Taoism. I have since loved the book after picking up a copy translated by the scholar Stephen Mitchell, who also translated the last version of Bhagavad Gita that I’ve read. Taken on face value, the book of Tao is full of paradoxes, ironies and contradictions, but once the reader has familiarized himself with the iconoclasm of, say, Buddhism and the Zen sect, he will understand the rationale behind these linguistic features.

Waley’s translation of the book, however, is different from his other projects. He admits that the modern reader wanting to read the ancient text for practical ends must look at the version of Richard Wilhelm.  His Tao Te Ching will not try to achieve what Wilhelm’s version has done for the modern reader. Waley reconstructs the ancient book based on historical context in order to capture how it was received by the people during the time of its initial publication. The position of the text is then interpreted side-by-side with the positions of other schools of thought at that time.

There are two kinds of translation. One is historical, the other (as Waley calls it) scriptural. Waley’s version serves the interest of specialists in Chinese literature and sinology. Wilhelm’s version, perhaps like Mitchell’s, is for readers who want to read the book for modern purposes. I have not seen Wilhelm’s translation but Mitchell’s version is surely more readable than Waley’s, but not necessarily better. A reader-friendly translation is not always equal to an accurate one, and the notion of a “best version” depends on the purpose of the translation.

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