Sent to the Khyentse Foundation on the occasion of their 2010 Strategic Planning Meeting.

I see a great deal of progress and a lot to celebrate. The Buddhist Studies in Universities project is more focused and mature, although there is still a lot to learn and a lot to do. The KF Awards for Excellence in Buddhist Studies are a success. Especially meaningful for me is the Buddhist Literary Heritage Project, and I am delighted to see it moving along. We are groping toward the golden mean between the excessive restrictions of scholarship and excessively free indulgence in easy solutions. How can our translations have depth and transparency at the same time?

Perhaps we should adopt the four resorts as our motto:

Rely on the meaning, not on the letter.

Rely on the Dharma, not on the individual.

Rely on insight, not on cognition.

Rely on sutras of explicit meaning, not on sutras that require interpretation.


—Mahavyutpatti, § LXXVII

Or should I call them the four reliances, or the four refuges, or the four recourses? As a translator, I often find it difficult to agree even with myself, let alone with others, and I try to remember that:


The statement that is meaningful

That is relevant to the practice of dharma

That destroys the defilements of the three realms

And that reveals the advantages of Peace (Nirvana):

That is the Sage’s statement.

Anything else is not.

—Maitreya, Ratnagotravibhaga 5.18 (p. 117)

Peter Skilling is the founder of the Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation (Bangkok), a project dedicated to the preservation, study, and publication of the Buddhist literature of Southeast Asia. He is an advisor to Khyentse Foundation and is actively involved in a range of KF projects.