Sutras, сутри and お経

Every once in a while, I get some crazy boondoggle idea in my head, and it won’t let go until I am done.

A photo of a Buddhist sutra (okyō お経 in Japanese, or сутра in Ukrainian). I took this photo from one of my sutra books.

My latest boondoggle project started a couple weeks ago, when out of idle curiosity, I started exploring the Ukrainian-language Wikipedia and I noticed that articles about Japan and Buddhism were very few. The Russian Wikipedia site had a reasonable number of articles to offer, but the Ukrainian-language Wikipedia site had far less. Russian language is far more widely spoken than Ukrainian due to population size and history. As I learned later, Ukrainian people sometimes have to rely on Russian sources for more information, even if it’s not their first language.

Then, after meeting a Ukrainian co-worker who’s greatly interested in both Japanese culture and Buddhism, I decided it was time to try and start posting more content in Ukrainian? Am I fluent in Ukrainian? No. Am I competent in Ukrainian? No. I am just a beginner.

But I was motivated for a few reasons:

  • The current war highlights the fact that Russia is trying to subsume Ukrainian culture and language. This isn’t a new thing either. So, anything I could do to give Ukrainian language more credibility and clout is worth it.
  • Although Ukrainian culture is deeply influenced by its Orthodox roots, I realized through my co-worker that there are plenty of Ukrainians who might also be curious about Japanese culture and/or Buddhism. Since that’s practically the only thing I ever blog about, why not help share that information in their native language?
  • Finally, as someone who has admired Japanese culture since I was a kid in the 80’s, why not share it with other cultures if I can?

So, I started by making updates and edits to the Ukrainian article on the Heart Sutra. I added some photos, cleaned up some text, linked some things, etc. I had to cheat and use Google Translate, but hopefully a native speaker can then clean up what I typed. Better to make mistakes and get the information out there, than not provide any information at all, I figured.

Also, I know just barely enough Ukrainian now that I can kind of tell if the translator was right or not, plus I can check other articles in Ukrainian Wikipedia to make sure spelling and other details are right.

Then, I realized that there’s no chanting guide to the Heart Sutra at all in Ukrainian language. So, I made one. I first made an English language version chanting guide (using Japanese-style liturgy), then changed the chanting phonetic pronunciation to use Cyrillic. Fun fact, I also learned that there is a Cyrillic alphabet equivalent for Japanese romaji (Japanese romanization) called кірідзі (Kiriji).1

Thus, there is now a Ukrainian-language (Українською) chanting guide for the Heart Sutra in Japanese. It’s amateur work, and there’s still no translation of the text itself, but it’s a start.

Finally, this work, and the recent Juseige chanting guide I wrote, is still not great, but it is a growing effort to add more resources.

So, that’s all for now. I still have one more chanting guide I am making, this time to replace the Amitabha Sutra with a better version. Then I can go back to the other 12 projects I have sitting around. 😜

1 Some things are spelled slightly unusual. There’s no letter “j” in Cyrillic, as in “ji”, but apparently you can spell it in Cyrillic as дзі (lit. “dzi”) which is pretty close. Also, “wa” has no equivalent, so it is spelled as ва (lit. “va”).

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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