Khyentse Foundation grant recipient Dr. Alexander Berzin is the driving force behind the Berzin Archives. Here is his report.
Khyentse Foundation grant recipient Dr. Alexander Berzin is the driving force behind the Berzin Archives (www.berzinarchives.com). In 2008, nearly half a million people visited the site, accessing more than 1.5 million written and audio items. The website, which is free of charge, is a major multilingual educational tool that presents extensive glossaries of Buddhist terms, as well as information about the four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and much more. In March of 2009, Dr. Berzin attended the Khyentse Foundation Translation Conference, “Translating the Words of the Buddha,” in Bir, India.
From my 28 years of experience of translating for Lamas and teaching Buddhism in more than 300 universities and Buddhist centers in over 70 countries, I have seen that the major source of confusion and misunderstanding about Buddhism has been imprecise and misleading translation terms. The confusion has become compounded when misleading English terms have been translated into other Western and colloquial Asian languages.
Another serious problem is that many translators translate the same Tibetan terms differently. It is virtually impossible to get all translators and teachers to agree on one set of translation terms. It is also an extremely difficult task to compile all the variant translations of each technical term used by all authors in all Western and colloquial Asian languages. The only feasible solution is to provide in translations and books the original Tibetan and, in some cases Sanskrit, for the main technical terms, as I have done on my website.
To meet this need, I have developed a comprehensive system of translation terms that correspond to their Tibetan definitions. The [Khyentse Foundation] grant will help in adding more references. It will also help to finance the writing of computer programs to extend the data management system that generates the website to enable it to handle larger amounts of data for larger glossary files. If enough translators follow this example, students will be able to use the Berzin Archives glossaries as a reference tool for putting together what they have read in various books by various authors and for getting precise definitions of the Tibetan terms. Also, for future translators and academics studying and teaching Tibetan language and Buddhism at universities, using the glossaries may help them to avoid perpetuating the confusion. Moreover, by providing the glossaries free of charge and online, they will reach the largest audience.
This work, focusing on the English section of the website, provides the basis for parallel work to be done on Tibetan-Sanskrit glossaries for the other languages of the website—German, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Polish, and French and Chinese, which are actively being prepared. This means not only translating and standardizing the technical terms and text titles for these languages, but also translating into these languages the English definitions of all the terms. This is a vast undertaking and especially important in the case of the Russian section, which has the potential to play an important role in the revival of Tibetan Buddhism in the Buryat Mongol, Kalmyk Mongol, and Tuvinian Turkic Republics of Russia.