I am currently working my way through In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon by Bhikkhu Bodhi, which I am enjoying immensely and can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who wants to get as close to the original Buddhist canon as possible without leaving the comfort of the English language.
Blissfully reading page after page, my concentration was shattered when a legacy of my youth culture burst through the prose and reminded me that no matter where I go or what I study, I cannot escape the fact that I spent a considerable part of my formative years watching Beavis & Butthead on MTV.
The passage in question:
Even those affluent householders — rich, with great wealth and property, with abundant gold and silver, abundant treasures and commodities, abundant wealth and grain — because they have been born, are not free from aging and death. Even those monks who are arahants, whose taints are destroyed, who have lived the holy life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached their own goal, utterly destroyed the fetters of existence, and are completely liberated through final knowledge: even for them this body is subject to breaking up, subject to being laid down.
The reality is that word has two very different meanings, and while I encounter the adjectival negative from time to time, none of the forms are routinely present within the English vocabulary demanded by life in China.
The circumstances under which one first encounters a word during language learning have lasting impact!
As a very young lad I came home from school one day and asked my father what “prick” meant. He expressed his surprise that I had heard that word and then patiently explained how it was an impolite euphemism for penis and one of those words generally not to be repeated.
This linguistically correct explanation left me thoroughly confused as I struggled to visualize what sort of interplay would be required between Sleeping Beauty’s finger and a penis in order to trigger her enchanted slumber..!
There is no solution to this problem save for studying a language where every word has exactly one meaning and I have yet to hear of one.
The best we can do is persevere, hoping that when the time comes, that when our spiritual development is strong enough, that we succeed in destroying the correct type of taint!