Friday, June 3, 2011

Wittgenstein in Tibetan

I spend a lot of time talking with Tibetan Buddhist monks who have never read any Western philosophy about philosophy. Recently, I wanted to mention a famous Wittgenstein quote to a Geshe I was talking with. It's the final line from his Tractatus:

"Whereof one cannot speak, one must pass over in silence."

in German:

"Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen."

So, I thought I'd try my hand at putting it into Tibetan. Here's what I came up with:


gang la skad cha bshad ma thub//
'di la kha khar sdod dgos yod//

I tried to put into two seven-syllable lines to make it sound more authoritative and authentic. It literally says something like "Of whatever we can't speak, on this we must stay silent." Before I looked it up, I had misremembered the line as being "Whereof one cannot speak clearly, one must pass over in silence." But I must have added that in myself; the 'clearly' is nowhere in the line. Though it still seems to me like the line would make more sense with the 'clearly' added. (Or maybe I'm revealing how little I really know about Wittgenstein!)

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