January 2020

Bringing Us Closer to the Buddha’s Words

Online Publication of the First Sutra of the Kumarajiva Project


Every single word spoken by the Buddha is excellent and precious.

— Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche


May the year of the rat be prosperous and joyous for all!


On the first day of the Chinese New Year, Khyentse Foundation is delighted to announce the online publication of the Sūtra of the Questions of Brahmā, the first Tibetan-to-Chinese translation completed by the Kumarajiva Project. Also, we are very pleased to share the progress of the eight translations that the Kumarajiva Project will be working on in the coming year.

The Kumarajiva Project
Today, more than half of the 500 million Buddhists in the world are Chinese. However, many Buddhist teachings and commentaries by Indian masters have not yet been translated into Chinese. The Tibetan Tripitaka, for example, contains important commentaries by Indian masters explaining Buddhist sutras and tantras, including the works of Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, and others, but more than 65% of them have not been translated into Chinese. These commentaries are particularly important for understanding the doctrines of Buddhism. Similarly, many important texts are preserved only in the Pali Buddhist canon and Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures, and each collection is a precious treasury containing the wisdom of the Buddha.

Therefore, under the guidance of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, in the summer of 2019 Khyentse Foundation launched the Kumarajiva Project. This decades-long endeavor  will enrich the Chinese collection of the teachings of the Buddha by translating into Chinese all the Buddhist texts from Tibetan, Sanskrit,  and Pali. Before the official launch, Khyentse Foundation implemented a two-year pilot program to ensure the feasibility of the endeavor. During the pilot program, 19 texts were translated into Chinese, amounting to 189 Tibetan pages. (For related reports, refer to the KF Focus August 2018 and July 2019 issues.) Translators and reviewers worked closely together, and Buddhist scholars and readers of varying  backgrounds were invited to provide feedback on the trial translations, striving to ensure the authenticity and readability of the translated work. The Sūtra of the Questions of Brahmā is one of the 19 translated texts. 


About the Sūtra of the Questions of Brahmā

This sutra has often been cited by the great masters of Tibetan Buddhism, such as Gampopa of the Kagyu School in his Jewel Ornament of Liberation, Sheja Künrig of the Sakya School, Longchenpa of the Nyingma school, and Gungthang Tenpe Drönme of the Gelug school. 

The story opens with Buddha meditating in the Markata-hrada Monastery near the city of Vaiśālī, during which time he enters the state of samādhi (one-pointed concentration) and emits a great light. Upon seeing this, Lord Brahma, lord of the Sahā world, approaches the Buddha to request teachings. The first question asked by Lord Brahma is, “Which Dharma practice must a Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva perfect in order to rapidly attain complete and unsurpassed Bodhi?” The Buddha replies that by having mindfulness of the body, one can engage in a number of practices, such as cutting off the ten evil deeds and striving to continuously maintain the six perfections, until one reaches the point where one perceives all phenomena as being devoid of substance. One may then enter into the supreme view by retreating to a quiet place and practicing śamatha. The entire scripture is exquisite in depth rich in meaning, and contains very clear instructions.

Sūtra of the Questions of Brahmā Online Text

We offer two versions of the translations of the sutra: a modern version and one that emulates the traditional Buddhist scriptural style. The modern version is available in both traditional and simplified Chinese. We also provide a Tibetan and Chinese aligned version. You can download your preferred version from the Kumarajiva Project website. 

Traditional Sutra Style Chinese Cover

Modern Chinese Cover

We welcome our Chinese readers to send us feedback and suggestions. Your comments and opinions will help us understand our readership and continue to improve the quality of translation. Please send your comments (no more than 500 words) to our Reader’s Feedback page.

Please note that our volunteer resources are limited, and we may not be able to respond to your comments individually

Eight Buddhist Scriptures to Be Translated in 2020

Since the official launch of the program, we have received 15 applications from translators based in China, Taiwan, the United States, and Germany. After two months of careful evaluation by the review committee, we decided to invite one translator to translate one sutra and ten others to translate seven Indian commentaries from the Tibetan Buddhist canon.

The following texts are ordered according to the catalogue of the Derge edition of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon produced by Tohoku University.

  1. Ārya-mahāyānaprasādaprabhāvanā-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra(144) Translator: Hsieh Hsien-yi
  2. Pañcaviśatisāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā(3790) Translator: Lee You-lou
  3. Āryāṣṭasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitāvyākhyānābhisamayālakārāloka-nāma (verse) (3791)
    Translators: Hsiao Chin-sung and Chao Shu-hua
  4. Pañcaskandhaprakaraa (3866) Translator: Chang Chia-ming
  5. Bodhicaryāvatārapañjikā (3872) Translator: Cao Xian-shun
  6. Bodhyāpattideśanā-vtti (4005) Translator: Sherab Chen
  7. Madhyamālakāropadeśa(4085) Translator: Daisy Sze Yui Cheung
  8. Abhidharmakośaīkā, Chapter 1 (4092) Translators: Liao Ben-sheng, Shi Xiu-hua, Wu Wan-chen

For a summary of the translations, visit our website.

While this year’s projects are mostly translations of commentaries from the Tengyur, we encourage interested and future translators to translate texts from the Kangyur.


Once All Conditions Are Met,

Great Aspirations Can Be Accomplished

Preserving and translating Buddhist texts has always been a high priority for Khyentse Foundation. Our friend and supporter Judy Cole, deeply inspired by these efforts, has the following words to share with us.

In my opinion, there is nothing more sacred in the universe than the words of Buddha. If these words do not exist, then Buddhism does not exist. In the sutra Total Annihilation of the Dharma, it is written that Buddhism will vanish when the scriptures cease to exist.

Khyentse Foundation has initiated many historical projects to preserve and translate Buddha’s words. The Kumarajiva Project will be the first non-government endeavour to enrich the Chinese collection of Buddhist texts by translating existing canons of every tradition, including Tibetan, Pali and Sanskrit.

The Avatamsaka Sutra states, “The Tathagata Vairocana of the Saha-world, who from the beginning, when He made an earnest wish (for obtaining Buddhahood, in order to deliver all beings) and having made the exquisite advance by unremittingly skillful exertion, and sacrificed His lives and bodies, in unutterable and countless number, for the sake of alms-giving. He stripped off His own skin for parchment, used His own blood for ink and His bones for writing-instruments. Thus the scriptures have been written in bulk as great as Mount Sumeru.”

As a Buddhist disciple, I aspire to follow the precedent set by the Tathagata Vairocana. I have listed Khyentse Foundation as an important beneficiary in my will. I think that no matter how big or small, we should all support this historical project in order to benefit all future generations.

The Kumarajiva Project is a major decades-long, much-needed translation project intended to ensure the longevity and survival of numerous Buddhist texts. For Buddhist practitioners, supporting such a project can serve as a means of gathering merit. Khyentse Foundation and the Kumarajiva Project team thank their many dharma friends from all over the world for supporting this project.

We appreciate any level of support and hope that you will continue to spread the word. For example, one can sponsor, one line of translation for US$30 or an entire page for US$250. We hope that together we can accomplish this important endeavor to make the Buddha’s words available to the Chinese-speaking world.

The featured rat illustration at the top of this post is offered by Chidambara from China.
Chidambara is 10 years old, and he is a student of Rinpoche.