Translating the Words of the Buddha

by Pawo Choyning Dorji, Khyentse Foundation, March 11, 2009

Landmark translation conference aims to make Buddha’s teachings accessible to millions

Nalanda, India -- Many of the world’s leading Tibetan-English translators are gathering next week in the tiny Indian village of Bir in northern India to map the future of Dharma translation for generations to come. What they decide could help make the Buddha’s core teachings available to millions worldwide.

Titled “Translating the Words of the Buddha,” the meeting is hosted by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and sponsored by Khyentse Foundation at Deer Park Institute, and has been blessed and supported by leaders of all four Tibetan Buddhist lineages, including the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa, and Sakya Trizin.

Six Rinpoches (incarnate lamas), and top translators from all four lineages and the major Tibetan-English translation houses around the world, along with publishers and patrons—50 key participants in all—will discuss the future of Dharma translation from March 15-20.

On their ambitious agenda are topics like initiating the full translation of the entire Buddhist canon, including the 108-volume Kangyur—the Buddha’s direct teachings that include many sutras never before translated into English. Translating those teachings from Sanskrit to Tibetan over1,000 years ago took nearly 100 years under Tibetan royal patronage. This gathering is intended to generate the collaboration among translators required to realize this vision in the west.

According to the conference chair, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche:

“I have arrived at the conviction that we cannot have a goal to make ‘Tibetan Buddhism’ a Western institution. For the Buddha’s teachings to truly thrive in our cultures and take root in our hearts, we must have a genuine Western Buddhism. For this genuine tradition to flourish and become fully integrated in the West, we must, in my view, have the words of the Buddha in English. A comprehensive English compilation of the Buddha’s words will serve as an authoritative bedrock for a living tradition.”

The conference host and convenor, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche says:

"My main reason for convening this conference is that I believe it's entirely possible that the survival of the Buddhadharma could depend on it being translated into other languages. I also believe that by translating and making available the Tibetan Buddhist texts to modern people, a vast swathe of Buddhist civilization and culture may be saved from global annihilation. It's clear we need to act quickly, and I believe the only way we can accomplish this monumental endeavour is by working together—pooling our skills, resources, experience and energy and coming up with a plan for translating the Buddhadharma. We must decide where we want this process to be in 10 years, 25 years, 50 years and 100 years."

For more information, please contact Pawo Dorji at or by phone at 91 (India)-9816-677-878

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