By Phuntshok Rabten
Professor Todd Lewis of Holy Cross University (Worchester, Massachusetts) and Subarna Man Tuladar of Nepal Bhasa Institute recently received the first Khyentse Foundation Prize for Outstanding Translation for their translation from Newari into English of Sugata Saurabha: An Epic Poem from Nepal on the Life of the Buddha by the Nepali poet Chittadhar Hridaya (Oxford University Press, 2010). Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Professor Peter Skilling presented the award in Bodhgaya, India.
This translation prize is another Khyentse Foundation program to honor and invigorate excellence in translations that make the Buddhist heritage universally accessible.
The Sugata Saurabha tells the life of the Buddha in nineteen cantos of Newari verse. Chittadhar Hridaya (1906-1982), a prominent literary figure, composed much of the work while serving a five-year prison sentence for publishing a poem in his native language, and completed it after his release from prison. It was originally published in Kolkata in 1949.
In addition to the clear and elegant translation of the poem itself, the book offers background information about the literary, cultural, and religious context of the text.
The translated poem is not simply a window into another culture; it is an aesthetic experience that moves the reader to an enhanced understanding of the life of the Buddha. The spirit of the translation lives up to the request of the poet, who shortly before his death in 1982 expressed his desire that the poem should “read well in English, so that the reader can understand the beauty [of] the original.”
The work was awarded the Toshihide Numata Book Prize in 2011. And in 2012, the translators became the first recipients of the Khyentse Foundation Prize for Outstanding Translation.
About the KF Prize
Initiated by KF advisor Prof. Peter Skilling, the scope of the KF Prize for Outstanding Translation encompasses all Buddhist traditions without exception. Translations from all Buddhist source languages such as Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese into English are eligible to receive the prize, which aims to recognize works that expand the accessibility of the vast Buddhist heritage to the entire world.
The selection committee for the prize is composed of five eminent scholars, who select from sutras, commentaries, treatises, biographies, histories, liturgies, practice manuals, and any associated works published within the previous two years.