The Gem Set in Gold
The Gem Set in Gold
9th December, 2022
Publishing VRP title The Gem Set in Gold is an example of a project that started off with a simple idea but became quite an intricate undertaking. Rebecca Lemov wrote an article in 2006 to celebrate its release, after it had been a decade in the making. The Gem Set in Gold displays English translations of the Pāli and Hindi chanting by S.N. Goenka from a ten-day Vipassana meditation course—from the opening night to the end of the course, including each day's morning chanting and all other chantings.
We touched base with Rick Crutcher and were astonished about the amount of effort we learned had gone into the whole translating process. Rebecca mentions in her article that for the Hindi dohas the initial translation by Bill Hart was used. For the Pāli this was different. The Pāli suttas that are heard during the morning chanting each day have various sources. Several of the daily “suttas” are not actually found in the canonical Pāli Tipiṭaka. They are traditional parittas, or protective chantings, that have been preserved for centuries and have become a standard part of daily practice in the Theravāda countries. This paritta tradition is a very old one; it dates back to the time of the Buddha himself. For some parittas, verses were taken from the canonical literature, but often an introductory verse was composed and added. Other parittas are compilations of inspirational verses that refer to events or suttas from the Pāli canon. There are examples of all of these types among the morning chanting collection in The Gem Set in Gold.
Pāli passages that only existed as a recording first had to be transcribed even before the translation work began. Evie Chaunchey, a Vipassana teacher from British Columbia, took the lead; the team of volunteers was an international mix, with people participating from Europe, India, and the USA. The Pāli course in India turned out to be a great source of volunteers, which lead to Klaus Nothnagel from Europe as well as several Indian editors and the personal secretary from Goenkaji taking part, besides many others. Translators sent their versions via email to Rick and everyone checked each others' work, step by step 'honing it down' to English translations, to 'text that we can recognize', as Rick put it.
As in 2006 print on demand (POD) was not yet available, an investment was always needed to fund a first print run. To limit those cost, a limited page count was generally aimed for, which in this case had some consequences for how the book was made up. Repeat chantings are not included, and one needs to be somewhat scholarly to fully understand the structure. Currently, Pariyatti is working on a second version that will show all chantings and translations in chronological order, as they appear in the course. Stay tuned for that!