In about 30 years, a lot of our jobs will be done by artificial intelligence. So we are getting closer and closer to becoming irrelevant. When that day happens, I think the teachings that are written in the sutras will become so much more relevant. Your children, 30 to 40 years from now, will appreciate that you have done this.
— Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, October 2020, “Return to Normal”
This September issue brings you updates from the Kumarajiva Project, now in its third year of operation. Read about the project’s new focus on translator training, glimpse the profundity of our recent translations, and learn about the available workshops that emulate the method and spirit of the great translator Kumarajiva. Finally, we invite you to discover (if you haven’t already) how the Kumarajiva Project is using art and music to further connect our readers with newly translated Buddhist texts.
Translator Training is Key
Kumarajiva Project Shifts Focus
Early in 2021, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, chair of the Kumarajiva Project, met with the project team. He emphasized the historic importance of the Chinese people and culture to the survival of Buddhism.
“As much as I always emphasize that culture and dharma are different, these two influence each other. Culture is so important. The Chinese culture is a Buddhism-influenced culture. So many of the monasteries were built and supported by the Chinese diaspora, by the “Chinese-speaking world.” It doesn’t matter whether it came from the Kuala Lumpur Chinese or the Sydney Chinese. The Buddhism that exists in the Chinese language is very important. It’s the source of the fire. When we are trying to keep this source alive, we know we can make more fire from here. So that is the sort of motivation we must have to keep this fire alive.”
Calling the Kumarajiva Project a “motivation practice,” Rinpoche said that, despite the immensity of the project, it must be done for the sake of the dharma.
“We know it is very challenging. But we are Buddhists, and if we don’t do this, it will be so heart-breaking to have forgotten these sutras. So we have to do it.”
Rinpoche reaffirmed his support for the project in its ambitious mission to translate Buddhist texts into both classical and modern Chinese. However, he also expressed concern about the lack of qualified Tibetan-to-Chinese translators available to do the work required and suggested prioritizing the training of translators.
“Due to the severe shortage of qualified translators, the long-term success of translating the Tibetan canon into Chinese will depend on our effort to cultivate the next generation of translators in the coming years. We need to shift our emphasis from actual translations to translator training.”
Recruiting Trainees to the
New Intensive Training Program
As a result of this new focus, the Kumarajiva Project has developed an intensive 6-year comprehensive online training course, which is custom-made for potential translators of the project. The program includes training in Tibetan and Chinese languages, basic translation principles and theories, and Buddhist philosophy. As of March 2021, we had 17 aspiring translators from different parts of the world training to be translators, editors, and reviewers for the project. For more information, please visit the website.
The Translation Workshop
In further support of translator training, the Kumarajiva Project offers ongoing online translation workshops that follow in the tradition of the great translator Kumarajiva, who, while translating, also held workshops expounding on the text that he was translating.
In September and October, Khenpo Chöying Dorjee, the former abbot of Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö Institute, will give teachings on three Mahayana sutras (in Tibetan with Chinese interpretation). Register here to attend.
- September 14, 2021: Toh 212, The Sūtra on Dependent Arising
- September 16, 2021: Toh 249, The Sūtra Teaching the Four Factors
- October 19, 2021: Toh 144, Cultivating Trust in the Great Vehicle (click for the English text translated by 84000.)