More than 50 of the translators most dedicated to the preservation of the Buddhadharma and 7 incarnate lamas from the major schools of Tibetan Buddhism have resolved to make universally accessible the entire Buddhist literary heritage within the next 100 years. They have named this monumental effort the Buddhist Literary Heritage Project. At the repeated requests of all the conference participants, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche agreed to be the interim leader and caretaker for this historic undertaking. The action begins immediately with the 5- and 25-year goals that were the essence of the conference proceedings.
Khyentse Foundation, which sponsored the conference, was appointed as the interim secretariat to provide administrative support during the planning process and to begin identifying financial partners.
A number of translators have already offered to train more translators, develop the necessary tools and resources, and provide editorial support for the project. And leading translation groups from around the world have pledged to translate particular sections of the Kangyur.
How big is the project?
The first translation of the Buddhist literary heritage from Sanskrit into Tibetan began in the eighth century and required seven generations of effort by teams of Indian and Tibetan translators under the sponsorship of the Tibetan Dharma kings. Their efforts rescued this precious world heritage from the forces that later annihilated Buddhism in India and nearly eradicated the Sanskrit language. During the political turmoil of the 1960s, Tibetans again rescued these precious texts, carrying them to safety in India, where Gene Smith and the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center tracked them down, preserved and published them, and posted them on the Internet. Many of these texts are easily available online today, but they are locked away in the Tibetan language, awaiting translators to share their meaning with the world.
Based on Dr. Phillip Stanley’s decades of research, the core of the Buddhist literary heritage in the Tibetan language (not including the collected works of Tibetan masters, Sungbum) totals about 193,000 pages:
• Sutras and Tantras (Kanjur): 1,118 texts containing 65,500 pages.
• Shastras—commentaries on the sutras written by Indian masters (Tenjur): 3,377 texts containing 127,500 pages.
The Importance of the Buddhist Literary Heritage Project
Here’s what some of the conference patrons and participants have to say about the importance of translating the words of the Buddha.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Translating Buddhist books will make “an invaluable contribution to a deep and lasting understanding of the Buddhist tradition in western lands.”
His Holiness Sakya Trizin: “Presentation of the dharma in non-Tibetan and non-Sanskrit languages will create great merit and through this so many people can attain liberation and enlightenment.”
His Holiness the 17th Karmapa: “Translating the words of the Buddha and commentarial treatises from Tibetan into English is a necessary foundation for the genuine study and practice of the Buddhadharma for English speakers.”
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: “By translating the Buddhist texts into modern languages, you may well be saving a vast swath of Buddhist civilization and culture from global annihilation.”
Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche: “What we are doing here is really serving mankind and the world at large.”
Doboom Tulku Rinpoche emphasized the importance of “a new spirit of objectivity and respect for the indigenous Tibetan Buddhist tradition” (in translation) to ensure the survival of pure Buddhadharma in the modern world.
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.
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche: “Having the Kangyur in Western languages, starting with English, is crucial to establishing a genuine lineage of Western Buddhism.”
Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche reminded the translators that what they are really translating is not just the Buddha’s words but the Buddha’s wisdom, realization, and compassion.
Pema Wangyal Rinpoche: [The words of the Buddha are] “a treasure and heritage of mankind that needs to be preserved and translated into other languages” and that can “bring peace and harmony to the world.”