The political unrest and unsettling changes in Ukraine are much in the news this spring — all the more reason that Khyentse Foundation is pleased to report a new grant to give Ukrainians unprecedented access to the Dharma in their own language.
ukrainiansUkrainian translators Maria Vasylieva and Yaroslav Litovchenko have been awarded a Khyentse Foundation special grant of US$8,700 to create the first Ukrainian Dharma dictionary. An initial printing of 200 will be made available free of charge.

Ukraine is territorially the largest country in Europe; its population (46 million) is the fifth largest in Europe. Maria and Yaroslav say that a growing number of Ukrainians are becoming interested in the Dharma, and that an increasing number of Buddhist lamas are including Ukraine in their European tours. “Ukrainian Buddhists are engaging more and more in Dharma teachings and practices,” said Maria. “The need and demand for the Dharma to be translated into Ukrainian language is growing accordingly.”

The Dharma in Ukraine is available primarily in Russian. “For the Dharma to really take root, learning and practicing the Dharma in one’s native language, translated directly from the source languages — Tibetan, Sanskrit, and English— is vitally important. Yet as of now there are very few Ukrainian Dharma translations,” said Yaroslav. “Due to the history of prolonged forceful Russification, the majority of Ukrainians these days speak both Ukrainian and Russian. However, Ukrainian is the mother tongue of the majority of the population and it is a more organic, heartfelt language for them than Russian.”ukraine610-1

Maria and Yaroslav are full-time BA students at Rangjung Yeshe Institute (RYI) in Boudha, Nepal. Maria met Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and translated his teachings in Ukraine in May, 2013. During that teaching Rinpoche gave commentaries on the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra. “It blew my mind,” Maria says. “I made a decisive choice to become a qualified Dharma translator from Tibetan and Sanskrit languages.” She is a Karma Kagyu practitioner, serves as a Russian language translator at the annual Kagyu Monlam in Bodhgaya, and translates other teachings of H.H. Gyalwang Karmapa.

In September 2013 she received a scholarship to study Tibetan colloquial and classical languages and Buddhist philosophy at RYI. There she met Yaroslav, a long-time practitioner and student of H.E. Garchen Rinpoche. Since 2000, he has been living for extended periods in Garchen Rinpoche’s retreat center in Arizona, studying and practicing in a series of retreats, and finally entering a traditional 3-year retreat there.

“In order to make the Dharma penetrate deeper into my heart and to help my Dharma friends in Ukraine, I started translating Dharma texts from English into my native Ukrainian language on my own from the year 2001 until I went into the 3-year retreat. Eventually, my Dharma friends in Ukraine started using my translations for their Dharma practice.” Yaroslav also helped Garchen Rinpoche establish his Dharma center in Kiev, Ukraine (Drikung Community Ratnashri Ukraine), and translated for him there. He has now been studying at RYI for 3 years.

“Our meeting has turned into the translation tandem,” says Maria. “Together, we have prepared the Ukrainian edition of the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra (Diamond Sutra) and Bhagavati Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra (Heart Sutra), which I translated and Yaroslav edited. While collaborating on the sutra, we realized the strong need to thoroughly research and compile a Ukrainian dictionary of Dharma terminology. This is quite an ambitious project. However, due to the fact that Yaroslav and I are so far the only Ukrainians who, it seems, have had the necessary causes and conditions to seriously and systematically study Tibetan and Sanskrit Dharma languages with the intention of implementing that knowledge into professional translations, this is our task to bring this project to life.”

“For us, translating the Buddhadharma into Ukrainian is not a lucrative profession but rather a vocation because we feel that our reason to have been born in Ukraine is to help with spreading the precious Buddhadharma teachings there. Both of us knowing from first-hand experience the dire situation with the Dharma translations in Ukraine, we see the real need to work on creating the first-ever Ukrainian dictionary of Dharma terminology. It is a fundamental step in the systematic development of the tradition of translating the Dharma into Ukrainian for the benefit of the growing number of Ukrainian Buddhists who have a natural need to study and practice the Dharma in their native language.”

“Both Yaroslav and I were very happy to find out about the receipt of the grant. Without the precious support of Khyentse Foundation, the project of the Ukrainian Dharma dictionary would take much more time to get started, probably several years. Now it has become part of our lives. For me, Dharma practice, study, and translation is the only thing that gives sense to my life. And I am very happy that I can continue to be of some use in spreading the Dharma.”


Rinpoche talking with Orthodox priests in Kiev, 2013. Photo courtesy of Maria Vasylieva and Yaroslav Litovchenko

Rinpoche talking with Orthodox priests in Kiev, 2013. Photo courtesy of Maria Vasylieva and Yaroslav Litovchenko

How can you help propagate the Dharma for future generations? Applications for scholarships to support translator training the field of Tibetan and Sanskrit canonical literature will be accepted between December 15, 2014 and January 15, 2015. To find out how to apply, go here.

Two videos of Rinpoche teaching in Ukraine: