Conference: Reconsidering Asian Material Texts (East, Southeastand South Asia), University of Pennsylvania, PhiladelphiaApril 19-20, 2013Reconsidering Asian Material Texts

April 19-20, 2013

This symposium invites a reconsideration of the place and meaning of the
‘material text’ in East and South Asia.  Some of the questions that will be
addressed in the presentations and study sessions include:  How do we evaluate
sutras, manuscripts, printed books, magazines, and even fakes as ‘material
texts’?  How did these materials bear meaning in their contexts, and what can
they reveal to us today, in form, content and reception?  What can we learn
about reading and representation through these material texts?  How has the
history of the material text in Asia been written and what place does the text
have, in the pre-modern, modern and contemporary world? What methods are useful
for our engagement (and what may be less so)? By asking these questions and
others, the symposium aims to bring forward new approaches to the history of
the material text in Asia.

The program will feature presentations as well as opportunities for viewing
material texts selected from the Penn Museum and the University of Pennsylvania
Libraries.  The symposium is open to the public, but due to space availability,
the number of participants is limited and advance registration is required:

Sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies, the Reading Asian Manuscripts
Faculty Working Group, and the Department of the History of Art


Friday, April 19  12:30 pm. Registration

David Rittenhouse Laboratory Bldg., A7

Coffee and cookies

1:00 p.m.  Opening Remarks:  Julie Davis, University of Pennsylvania

Panel I:  Materials and Materiality  1:05-2:50 p.m.

Panel Chair:  Ramya Sreenivasan, University of Pennsylvania

Justin McDaniel, University of Pennsylvania:  “Manuscripts and Material Culture
in Southeast Asia: Examples from the Penn Collection and Beyond”

Adam Smith, University of Pennsylvania:  “Text production and Reproduction in
Early China”

Max Moerman, Barnard College:  “Materializing Mount Sumeru: Manuscripts, Maps,
and Machines”

Viewing Session I ? 3:00-5:00 p.m.

For registered workshop participants:  Penn Museum, Classroom II

Keynote Lecture:  5:30 p.m. in DRL A7

Cynthia Brokaw, Brown University:  “‘The Scent of Books?: Print Technology and
the Material Book in Late Imperial China”

Saturday, April 20

Coffee:  9:30 a.m.

Panel II:  Inscriptions and the Object  10:00-11:45 a.m. in DRL A7

Panel Chair:  Linda Chance, University of Pennsylvania

Jinping Wang, University of Pennsylvania:  “Steles as a Medium for Social Power
in Medieval China”

Tomoko Sakomura, Swarthmore College:  “The Place of Poetry in the Inscription
Culture of Late-Sixteenth-Century Japan”

Felice Fischer, Philadelphia Museum of Art: “Ike Taiga: Word and Image”

Lunch Break:  11:45 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Panel III:  Trade and Texts  1:00-2:45 p.m. in DRL A7

Panel Chair:  Julie Davis, University of Pennsylvania

Brian Vivier, University of Pennsylvania:  “Carrying Books across Borders in
Northeast Asia, 960-1276”

Ann Sherif, Oberlin College:  “Print Matters and Journals in Japan”

Projit Mukharji, University of Pennsylvania:  “Finding Fakes: Manuscript
Markets, Forgeries and Truth Technologies in South Asia”

Viewing Session II ? 3:00-5:00 p.m.

For registered workshop participants:  Fine Arts Library, Davis Seminar Room

Closing remarks and reception:  5:00 p.m.  All participants welcome

Special Collections, Van Pelt Library 6th Floor


ICBS Conference — The Chinese Buddhist Canon in the Age of Printing: An East Asian Perspective 刻本時代的漢文大藏經與東亞佛教 ******************************************************************

Dear Colleagues,

ICBS(the Institute of Chinese Buddhist Studies) cordially invite you to
attend The Second International Conference on the Chinese Buddhist Canon
第二屆漢文大藏經國際會議—-The Chinese Buddhist Canon in the Age of Printing: An East
Asian Perspective刻本時代的漢文大藏經與東亞佛教 at the University of the West from March
18-20, 2013.

Please find  the detail information and schedule of the conference as

The 2nd International Conference on the Chinese Buddhist Canon

Theme: The Chinese Buddhist Canon in the Age of Printing: An East Asian
Perspective 刻本時代的漢文大藏經與東亞佛教

Date:March 18-20, 2013

Location: Room AD208, University of the West,
1409 Walnut Grove Ave. Rosemead, CA, 91770


Monday, March 18, 2013

•          11:00am: Press Conference
•          15:30pm-16:00pm: Registration
•          16:00pm-16:30pm:  Opening Ceremony
•          17:00pm-19:30pm: Welcome banquet

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

•          9:30am -11:30am: Panel I

Panel I  Ideology and Canonicity in Canon Formation

Imagining Tripitaka: Legends about the Buddhist Canon in Chinese Sources
—- Jiang Wu 吳疆, Associate Professor, Department of East Asian Studies,
University of Arizona, U.S.A.

The Unique Philosophy and Innovative System of Classification in the
Compilation of  Foguang Buddhist Canon
—- Yi Kung 依空, Professor of Chinese literature, Department of Literature,
Nanhua University, Taiwan

Manuscripts, Printed Canon and Extra-canonical Sources: A Case Study Based
on one Biography from Xu Gaoseng Zhuan
—- Jinhua Chen 陳金華, Department of Asian Studies, University of British
Columbia, Canada

Discussant: Marcus Bingenheimer, Temple University

•          11:30pm – 1:30pm: Lunch Break

•          13:30pm-15:30pm: Panel II
Panel II Methods of Cataloging and Collation

Looking for Lost Buddhist Canons: With Special Reference to the Da Yuan
Zhiyuan fabao kantong zhonglu 大元至元法寶勘同總錄
—- Dewei Zhang 張德偉, Postdoctoral researcher, Department of Religious
Studies, McMaster University, Canada

Collation Strategies for the Buddhist Canon – Past, Present and Future:
Frequency and Impact of Character Variance in Canonical Editions of the
Song Gaoseng Zhuan 宋高僧傳 (T.2061)
—-Marcus Bingenheimer 馬德偉, Department of Religion Faculty, Temple
University, U.S.A.

Diamond Sūtra and Sacred Book Culture
—-Chunghui Tsui 崔中慧, Teaching Consultant, Centre of Buddhist Studies,
The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

The Secret Scriptures in the Qisha Edition of Buddhist Canon and Puning
Edition of Buddhist Canon
—- Jining Li 李際寧, Researcher of Rare Books Section, Chinese National
Library, China

Discussant: Darui Long, University of the West

•          15:30pm-15:45pm: Tea Break

•          15:45pm – 17:45pm: Panel III
Panel III  Patronage, Dissemination, and Preservation

Development of the Earliest Image of Buddha Preaching Dharma  – Chinese
Buddhist Canon (Tang Dynasty) of Dunhuang
—- Irene Wai Ying Lok 駱慧瑛, Honorary Research Fellow, Centre of Buddhist
Studies, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Venerable Jingwan and Huisi: Sponsors of Fangshan Stone Canon
—- Aimin Zhang 張愛民, Researcher, Cultural Relics Department of Yunju
Monastery, China

Yongle Northern Canon and Its Donors
—- Darui Long 龍達瑞, Professor of Chinese Religions, Department of
Religious Studies, University of the West, U.S.A.

Locating Buddhist Revival in Modern China through the Advancement of
Jinling Buddhist Press
—- Jue Ji 覺繼, Director of the Institute of Chinese Buddhist Studies,
University of the West, U.S.A.

Discussant: Jinhua Chen, University of British Columbia

•          18:00pm- 20:00pm Dinner

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
•          9:00am – 10:30am: Panel IV
Panel IV New discovery and research in Korea and Japan

The First Edition Tripitaka Koreana in the Context of East Asian Buddhist
Canons – Based on Recent Research Findings
—- Eun-su Cho趙恩秀, Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Seoul
National University, South Korea

The Politics of the Tripitaka Koreana (Goryeo Canon) in Colonial Korea
—- Hwansoo Kim, Assistant Professor of Religion, Duke University, U.S.A.

How Printing the Buddhist Canon Transformed Early Modern Japan
—- William Bodiford, Professor of Buddhist Studies and Japanese
Religions, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, University of
California, Los Angeles, U.S.A.

The Buddhist Canon as a ritual object in Japan
—- Gregory E. Wilkinson, Visiting Assistant Professor of Japanese
Religions, University of Arizona, U.S.A.

Discussant: Jiang Wu, University of Arizona

•          10:30am – 10:45am: Tea Break

•          10:45am – 11:30pm: Keynote speech
The Editing of East Asian Buddhist Canons
—-Robert E. Buswell, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Buddhist
Studies of Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, founding director of
Center for Buddhist Studies and Center for Korean Studies, University of
California, Los Angeles, U.S.A.

•          11:30am-12:00pm: Roundtable discussion

About the conference:

In order to promote academic research on Chinese Buddhism, the Second
International Conference on the Chinese Buddhist Canon, entitled “The
Chinese Buddhist Canon in the Age of Printing: An East Asian Perspective,”
is going to be held at the University of the West on March 18-20, 2013,
following the first conference held in Tucson, Arizona in 2011. Funded by
Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange and
supported by University of the West, this conference is sponsored by the
Institute of Chinese Buddhist Studies (ICBS) at University of the West and
co-sponsored by the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of
Arizona. Dr. Ven. Jueji, director of ICBS and Jiang Wu, Associate Professor
of Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Arizona are the
organizers.  Scholars from the world are invited to discuss and explore the
study of the Chinese Buddhist canon. Sixteen scholars coming from the
United States, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea will gather
together to present their most recent research on the subject. It is
expected that this conference will become a great academic event on the
West Coast and open a new chapter for the study of the Chinese Buddhist

Conference Sponsored by:

Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange蔣經國國際學術交流基金會

Conference Principal Organizer:

Dr. Jue Ji, Director, Institute of Chinese Buddhist Studies, University of
the West

Conference Co-organizer:

Dr. Jiang Wu, Associate Professor, Department of Asian Studies, University
of Arizona

Conference Coordinator:

Jacqueline Jingjing Zhu, Institute of Chinese Buddhist Studies, University
of the West


Best regards,

Jacqueline Jingjing Zhu
Institute of Chinese Buddhist Studies
University of the West
1409 N. Walnut Grove Avenue, Rosemead, CA 91770Dear Colleagues,

Asian Literature and Translation (ALT): A Journal of Religion and Culture ISSN: 2051-5863

Asian Literature and Translation (ALT) is an open access, peer-reviewed, online journal established by the Centre for the History of Religion in Asia (CHRA), Cardiff University. The main objective of the journal is to publish research papers, translations, and reviews in the field of Asian religious literature (construed in the widest sense) in a form that makes them quickly and easily accessible to the international academic community, to professionals in related fields, such as theatre and storytelling, and to the general public.

The scope of the journal covers the cultural, historical, and religious literature of South, Southeast, East and Central Asia in the relevant languages (e.g. Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese, et al.). We particularly welcome literary translations, including extracts from longer works in progress, manuscript reports and commentarial material, new adaptations of classic texts, archive stories and debate pieces, and the discussion of new approaches to translation. Book and performance reviews, including visual material, and letters to the editor, including responses to published material, are also solicited.

As an open access online publication, ALT (Online) can be more flexible and creative than a standard print journal. The texts are in pdf-format and can be published and downloaded at virtually no cost. To increase the speed with which material can be accessed and disseminated, all contributions are issued individually in numerical order.

Contributions are welcome on a wide range of topics in the research area as defined above. All contributions should be sent electronically to The covering email should have two copies of the submission attached, one as a word.doc and one as a pdf. A short abstract of the piece must also be included. For further information, see <>


Dr Naomi Appleton
Chancellor’s Fellow in Religious Studies
School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

Conference on “Manuscript and Xylograph Traditions in the Tibetan Cultural Sphere: Regional and Periodical Characteristics”

May 2013, University of Hamburg

Organisers: Dorji Wangchuk, The Khyentse Center for Tibetan Buddhist Textual Scholarship (KC-TBTS) and Orna Almogi, the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Asia-Africa Institute

Textual culture, including the culture of the book, has a long and rich history throughout the Tibetan cultural sphere, and since the development of the Tibetan script—according to traditional sources sometime in the 7th century—thousands of texts, be they of Indic origin or autochthonous Tibetan, have been written down on Tibetan soil either in the form of manuscripts or xylographs and subsequently further reproduced and transmitted. In recent years we are witnessing a growing interest in the Tibetan textual culture and culture of the book that goes beyond the mere textual aspects, looking into various codicological issues including material and stylistic matters.

With the conviction that a better understanding of these aspects will advance and enhance Tibetan textual studies as a whole, the KC-TBTS is organising—in cooperation with Orna Almogi, Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Asian-Africa Institute—a conference on “Manuscript and Xylograph Traditions in the Tibetan Cultural Sphere: Regional and Periodical Characteristics,” to be held at the University of Hamburg in May 2013. As the title suggests, the conference aims at identifying regional and periodical characteristics of the various manuscript and xylograph traditions within the Tibetan cultural sphere, touching upon a variety of issues including material and format, ornamentation and art, palaeography and special symbols, production and binding, and paratexts and compilation. Apart from looking into the individual characteristics from regional and periodical perspectives, the conference also seeks to determine whether social, economical or other factors had influences on the development of specific manuscript and xylograph traditions in a specific region or period.

Details of the exact dates and location as well of the program will be announced soon.

Symposium on “Cross-Cultural Transmission of Buddhist Texts: Theories and Practices of Translation”

July 23–25, 2012, University of HamburgSince the Buddhist intellectual history and culture of Tibet have been shaped by an enormous bulk of translated literature, namely, the so-called bKa’ ’gyur (“Words [of Buddha] in Translation”) and bsTan ’gyur (“Treatises in Translation”), one of the main concerns and interest of those of us involved in Tibetan Buddhist Textual Scholarship is theories and practices of translation, that is, mainly from Sanskrit (or other Indic languages) to Tibetan, but also, to a much lesser extend, from Chinese and Central-Asian languages such as Khotanese.The state-funded translation projects of ancient Tibet are known to be unprecedented in the history of mankind, both in terms of quality and scale. Another major translation project of Buddhist materials has been that into Chinese, by way of which Buddhism reached also Korea and Japan. Apart of having to deal with the outcome of these translation projects of the past, modern Buddhologists spend a great part of their time translating Buddhist material to modern languages.As one of its activities for the year 2012, the KC-TBTS is organizing a three-day symposium on “Cross-Cultural Transmission of Buddhist Texts: Theories and Practices of Translation.” The symposium is to take place at the University of Hamburg on July 23–25, 2012, and will be funded by the KC-TBTS and the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung für Wissenschaftsförderung. Twenty-two invited speakers are expected to present their papers on various issues related to the topic.


January 25th, 2011 | Author: 
Tengyur Translation Conference Banner

The crowd on the opening day of the conference in Atisha Hall

The “Tengyur Translation Conference: In the Tradition of the 17 Pandits of Nalanda,” was held at the Central University of Tibetan Studies (CUTS, formerly CIHTS) in Sarnath, India, with the support and attendance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Scholars, teachers, translators and Tibetan Lamas from many traditions attended the four day affair in the unusually cold January weather, which made Atisha Hall a large refrigerator throughout the proceedings. Despite the need to speak at the podium wearing North Face jackets and scarves, participants gave some excellent presentations and many lively discussions marked this important scholarly venture. Jointly held by CUTS and AIBS (American Institute of Buddhist Studies, Columbia, New York), the conference was to be a meeting of some of the best minds in Buddhist studies on the project of translating the entire Tengyur section of the Tibetan Canon. Such a project presents many organizational, theoretical, philological and economic problems, some of which were touched upon by various presenters. In fact, a key purpose for the conference was the assessment and discussion of such issues amongst a learned body of scholars.

Dr. Robert Thurman

The conference came together in large part due to the efforts of Robert Thurman’s “crew” at AIBS and the University of Columbia, Annie Bien and Tom Yarnall, and on the CUTS side, Shrikant Bahulkar and Ven. Ngawang Samten. Hats off to all those seen and unseen who provided for all the participants and laid the ground for the conference.

Dr. Thurman made a point to note that this conference was really the third in a set of conferences he felt built on one another, the first being the translator conference in Boulder and the second the Khyentse Foundation conference in Bir. This and other comments may have led some participants to wonder about the relationship between the organizations involved in each of these conferences, organizations which are in fact quite distinct. Although the stated projects and goals of each conference were somewhat different, probably the most important thing that links each of these conferences is the opportunity they provide for an ongoing dialog among translators and scholars who work with Tibetan texts. This, I think, is the most important outcome of these conferences and I hope it can continue. Regardless of the various organizations, politics and attempts at institution building, the translators, scholars and scholar-practitioners who attend these conferences benefit greatly from the time they share together. Every person I asked about the conference responded as most do at the conferences I have attended over the past few years: The most important aspect of the conference is the time outside of the scheduled events where they meet with colleagues and discuss finer points or are introduced to new people and ideas. However ephemeral and unquantifiable, it appears that the unchaperoned times are the real reason to attend such a conference.

One of the more concrete outcomes of the conference was the reports that were made on the state of translating Buddhist texts into a whole host of languages. Participants arrived from many countries to discuss translations of primarily Tibetan texts into English, Sanskrit, Hindi, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Nepali, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, and other European languages. It was an impressive list really and particularly interesting to hear about the efforts of Nepali and Hindi translators. There were a number of calls from the audience to place more focus on the importance of translating Buddhist texts into the modern languages of India, as this was where the Buddha’s teaching originated. Ngawang Samten noted that at the Central University of Tibetan Studies about 60 texts have been translated into Hindi so that key commentaries are available to Indian peoples. Although it was a little difficult to piece together a clear picture of the state of Tengyur text translation around the world, the picture painted seemed to indicate that quite a lot of work is currently underway. While some presenters described the long history of translation efforts into their mother tongues (German, French, English), others decried a sad state of affairs (Spanish, Hindi). Although there appears to be work happening around the world, compared to the mountain of texts that exist as a part of the several known Tengyur catalogs, the world’s Tibetan translators still have a long way to go. One important point that was made by quite a number of delegates at the conference was that the key factor in translating texts into their language was not seen to be money or support, but expertise and training. There simply are not enough well-trained translators capable of working on what are some of the most difficult texts in Buddhist literature. Translating Tengyur texts is not just a matter of gathering together a group of people who are excited about the project and who know a little Tibetan. Time and again scholars at the conference noted the importance of establishing schools or finding other ways to support the development of truly qualified translators. The lack of qualified translators is felt not only in Spanish or Hindi or Russian, but in every language. What to do about it is certainly a problem that needs to be addressed by any organizational body wanting to tackle such an ambitious project.

Betsy Napper, who gave some of the most practical advice, suggested that a training program could be developed in which the younger generation of translators worked on draft translations of texts and then handed off their work to elder translators. Before any actual translation work should be done, however, she suggested the project be taken on in a modular way, first developing online and bibliographic tools, then creating groups to develop critical editions of texts, and so forth.

Alexander Berzin also presented practical advice for tackling the immense project by discussing lessons learned developing his “Berzin Archives” website. Truly an amazing accomplishment, the large network of translators, transcribers, editors, proofreaders, and other specialists that Dr. Berzin has developed provides a constantly evolving archive of translations and teachings on Buddhism in many languages worldwide. Dr. Berzin was therefore able to give specific advice about the development of tools for managing work-flow, tools for managing translation in many disparate languages – such as a wiki that all translators could log into – interlinked glossaries that allow standardization of terminology, separate online glossaries for readers, and so on.

The Dalai Lama himself also offered some interesting advice: Collect all the texts from the Asian canons (Chinese, Korean, Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan) and make sure that the texts missing from one are included in another. Once a “complete” canon is available, then translate that into modern western languages.

It remains to be seen what advice will be taken to heart as various projects to translate the Kangyur and Tengyur develop around the world. Robert Thurman’s American Institute of Buddhist Studies was the driving force behind this conference and they have been working on the project of translating texts from the Tengyur for some time. Their mission statement, as reported by Dr. Thurman at the opening of the conference, is “To create and support the necessary institutional framework within which to produce critical, readable, contemporary translations of the 3,600+ classical source texts of the “liberating arts and sciences” of the Indo-Tibetan civilization.” This is truly a massive undertaking and one that will need the support of many scholars and translators world-wide if it is to even begin to make headway. It will be very interesting to see what comes out of this exciting project in the coming years.

A seat waits for His Holiness the Dalai Lama


October 2nd, 2008 | Author: 

༄༅། མ་ནམ་མཁའ་དང་མཉམ་པའི་སེམས་ཅན་ཐམས་ཅད་དང་།















བསྟན་པ་དང་འགྲོ་དོན་ནམ་མཁའ་དང་མཉམ་པ་འབྱུང་བར་བྱིན་གྱིས་བརླབ་པར་མཛད་དུ་གསོལ།།  །།


English Translation of the Buddhist Canon and Publication Project

The English translation project of the Buddhist Canon began in January 1982, when Rev. Dr. Yehan Numata, the founder of BDK (Society for the Promotion of Buddhism), established the Editorial Committee of the EnglishTripiṭaka Translation Project.

The Buddhist scriptures known as “sutras” constitute a part of the Tripiṭaka. “Tripiṭaka” (three collections) is comprised of the Sutra Pitaka, the Discipline Pitaka, and the Commentary Piṭaka. “Piṭaka” in “Tripiṭaka” means “collection.”

The Collection of Sutras refers to the teachings taught by the Buddha, the Collection of Discipline refers to the regulations of the lives of monks and nuns, and the Collection of Commentaries refers to the commentaries on the first two collections. The Tripiṭaka of southern Buddhism, in such places as Sri Lanka and Thailand, is referred to as the Pāli Tipiṭaka.

In China, Indian scriptures from the early period and the later Mahāyāna scriptures were transmitted without distinction between the two. These were, then, translated into Chinese from the Later Han to the Northern Song periods (148 -1129). These were, then, combined with the works of Chinese commentators to produce what came to be known as the “Buddhist Canon.” In Tibet, the translated scriptures were divided into the words of the Buddha (Kanjur) and their commentaries (Tenjur). These two sections were brought together to comprise the Tibetan Canon.

Among these various these canons the Sino-Japanese Canon is the largest in volume. Today, the standard version of Sino-Japanese Canon is the Taishō Canon in 100 volumes, which also includes the works of Japanese Buddhism. The Taishō Canon is comprised of 3,360 works, totaling 11,970 chapters.

For the purpose of transmitting the Buddhist teachings to the English-speaking world, we felt it necessary to translate the entire Taishō Buddhist Canon. Realizing the extreme difficulty of translating the voluminous Taishō Buddhist Canon in a short period of time, the Editorial Committee selected for 139 works the first stage of its project, which amounted to one-tenth of the entire canon. And in order to facilitate this prodigious project, the Publication Committee was established at the Numata Center for Translation and Research in Berkeley, California in the United States.

As of today, 69 works have been translated in 41 volumes to make up the “English Buddhist Canon.” The remaining works are being translated by Buddhist scholars in over ten countries throughout the world. We are making every effort to complete the first stage of the project at the earliest possible time.


Charting the Future of Buddhist Translation

In March 2009, more than fifty of the world’s leading Tibetan–English translators, Buddhist scholars, and lamas met in Bir, India, to work out a plan for translating the Tibetan Buddhist canon. In this article originally published in the Fall 2009 issue of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, Peter Aronson reports on the conference and how it promises to shape the future of Dharma translation in the West.

Iwas just about to get up from the breakfast table and introduce myself to Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche when Robert Thurman bounded up and intercepted him. Thurman was talking enthusiastically about some project, but I couldn’t catch the details.

Buddhadharma Fall 2009 cover

Click image for larger view

We were at Deer Park Institute, a Dharma center belonging to Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in the quiet Tibetan settlement of Bir in India’s Himalayan foothills. It was March, and more than fifty prominent translators, scholars, and lamas had gathered for a five-day conference on “Translating the Words of the Buddha.”

Thurman later told me what he’d been saying: Now that he’s semi-retired from his post as chair of Buddhist studies at Columbia University, he plans to devote the coming years to translating into English the 100,000-stanza Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. Most of us have read the Heart Sutra, which is a concise summary, but have never seen the full version.

As anglophone Tibetan Buddhists, we hear so much about what the Buddha taught, but often don’t get to read the teachings themselves. Why? One reason is that Tibetans, unlike those in most other Buddhist nations, tend not to emphasize the sutras. They prefer to rely on summaries, commentaries, and treatises by the great Indian teachers and Tibetan lineage lamas. The more important reason, though, is that the sutras remain largely untranslated into English.

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, chair of the conference and founder and director of Nalandabodhi, said that without those sutras, the migration of Buddhism to the West is incomplete.

“We’re trying to establish a Western Buddhism lineage,” he said. “But without the original words of the Buddha, how can we claim to be a Western Buddhist order?” He was referring primarily to the collection of texts known in Tibetan as the Kangyur—more than 500 sutras and (in most editions) 1,100 tantras, most of which were translated from Sanskrit.
“We can have lots of lamas teaching, and Zen roshis and Theravadin monks, but these are all secondary,” he said.

The conference was organized by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and sponsored by his foundation. Dzongsar Khyentse—also known as filmmaker Khyentse Norbu, director of The Cup and Travellers and Magicians—is a lama from Bhutan who was recognized at age seven as the incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangmo, a founder of the Rimé school of Tibetan Buddhism.

‘Without the original words of the Buddha, how can we claim
to be a Western Buddhist order?’The most ambitious aim of the conference was to lay the groundwork for translating the entire Kangyur. “When I learned that Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche wanted to translate the Kangyur into English, I was very encouraged,” Dzongsar Khyentse said in his opening remarks, adding, “It’s a massive task.” He stressed that although “it’s not the sole purpose of this conference,” it is a critical need that can no longer be ignored.

Translating the Kangyur is a feat that even the most optimistic observers estimate would take a dedicated team twenty-five years, with many saying it would take at least twice that—if not longer. But Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche emphasized the urgency of starting right away. “Those in the Tibetan community who are still able to understand and communicate in classical Tibetan are rare,” he said. “In about a hundred years there will be almost no Tibetans who can read the words of the Kangyur and understand their meaning, and very soon it will be too late to do anything about it.”

So these leaders in the field of Tibetan Buddhist translation met to hash out how to accomplish the task of translating the complete collection. In the end, they would draft ambitious plans for the next five, twenty-five, and one hundred years that go beyond even the translation of the Kangyur.

How much English is too much?

First, though, the group spent a lot of time tackling nitty-gritty questions that translators have been wrestling with for years. One key issue was how much of the Buddhist terminology should be translated into English, and how much can be left in the original language. In one heated discussion, the translators debated whether they’d be short-changing anglophones by leaving in too many foreign words, particularly from Sanskrit.

When the Tibetans imported the sutras, tantras, and philosophical treatises from India, they left hardly any Sanskrit words untranslated. Pema Wangyal Rinpoche, a Nyingma lama who lives in France, said English translators should emulate that example. “We have to really find the right word in our target language,” he said. “We must not keep Sanskrit!” Posted at:

Tibetan Buddhist translation project “84000″ launches “Reading Room”

“84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha,” the Tibetan canonical translation project headed up by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, has officially opened the 84000 Reading Room — a project of the organization, in collaboration with the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) — at The Reading Room offers translations for reading online and download in various formats. It also features Tibetan, Sanskrit, and English glossaries and a subject classification system for the convenience of readers.

You can read our past posts about the project here. Posted at:

Translating the Words of the Buddha: Historic translator gathering vows to translate all Buddha’s words within 25 years

[Deer Park Institute, Bir, India. 20 March, 2009] In what is being hailed as a landmark event in Buddhist history, 50 of the world’s top translators and six incarnate lamas today pledged to translate all the Buddha’s words into English within a generation. That, says Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, who convened the gathering, may well preserve Buddhism from “global annihilation”.

Chögyam Trungpa on the KangyurVideo: A talk by Chögyam Trungpa on the occasion of the Installation of the Kangyur in Boulder, Co., 1983

Meeting in the tiny village of Bir in northern India, leading Tibetan Buddhist teachers and representatives from major translation groups this week hammered out a 100-year vision to translate and make universally accessible the entire Buddhist literary heritage. They also produced concrete five and 25-year plans to accomplish what they agree is a monumental collaborative task. On Saturday, the translators presented these plans to the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. [The Chronicles will post information on this meeting with His Holiness as it becomes available.]

Already, enthusiastic expressions of support have been received from all parts of the world, with more than 11,000 signing a letter of appreciation to the translators. They wrote: “Without you, we couldn’t practice or study the Dharma, so we are hugely grateful for your incredible gift to us! May your current deliberations in Bir, India, bring the Buddha’s words and teachings to countless beings.”

Among the specific pledges made today in Bir are the following:

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche pledged his Nitartha Translation Network to work with Khyentse Rinpoche to translate, as a starting point, 10 volumes of the sutra section of the Buddhist Tripitaka.
Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche pledged his Dharmachakra translation house to translate all the Buddhist tantras – 22 volumes
Pema Wangyal Rinpoche pledged the Padmakara translation group to translate the entire Prajñaparamita – the Buddha’s famous teachings on emptiness, and Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen pledged Tsechen Kunchab Ling to translate the 25,000 verses of Prajñaparamita. Those two commitments together comprise more than one-fifth of the entire Kangyur (the Buddha’s own words).
Khyentse Foundation, which hosted the gathering, will support the initial planning of the massive project, and Khyentse Rinpoche agreed to act as its interim leader – at the urging of the assembled translators and lamas.
The translators also made plans to train more qualified translators, improve their tools and resources, and strengthen collaboration between western translators and Tibetan lamas and teachers.

“What we are doing here is really serving mankind and the world at large,” Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche told the assembled translators. Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche called the Kangyur, which the translators aspire to translate within 25 years, “the most precious of all the scriptures” because they are accepted by all Buddhist schools. And Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche noted that translating the Kangyur “is crucial to establishing a genuine lineage of western Buddhism.”

Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche reminded the translators that what they are really translating is the Buddha’s wisdom, realisation, and compassion, and that the biggest obscurations to good translation are ignorance and pride. Emphasizing that the words of the Buddha are a “heritage of mankind” that can “bring peace and harmony to the world,” Pema Wangyal Rinpoche urged their translation into French, Spanish, Arabic, and many other languages after English.