Iroha is an older Japanese poem with deep connections to Japanese culture and religion. There are a number of different versions – the original cannot be read by the vast majority of modern Japanese readers. It has been translated in a number of languages but the translations lose much of the nuance and meaning.
Although its scent still lingers on
the form of a flower has scattered away
For whom will the glory
of this world remain unchanged?
Arriving today at the yonder side
of the deep mountains of evanescent existence
We shall never allow ourselves to drift away
intoxicated, in the world of shallow dreams.
Studying this text is difficult to do without bias(es) possibly coming into play. Here are some examples of possible biases:
- A Japanese person immediately dismissing the English version simply because it is not the Japanese original
- A historian looking at the poem to see if it confirms his / her view arguments about Japanese history
- A different translator viewing certain translation language choices in particular ways due to personal preferences in translating Japanese
- A Buddhism reader focusing primarily on religious elements of the text and minimizing other aspects of it.
- A non-religious reader focusing primarily on cultural / linguistics elements of the text and minimizing the religious aspect of it
- A teacher who is dismissive of reader-response theory not being very accepting of a student’s non-traditional interpretation of the text
- How a student studying the poem for an assessment versus a student reading it for personal interest could view it differently.