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Buddhadharma : Fall 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 09 34 Technology is also making it easier for translators to access texts. “I’ve spent weeks and weeks looking for texts, but these days I can download them in minutes from the TBRC web- site,” Martin said. A tech enthusiast, she led the discussions about online collaboration. Elizabeth Napper, co-director of the Tibetan Nuns Project, noted that it’s not just about accessing online tools and texts; it’s also about conversation forums. “You can go back and forth with people about your questions—you don’t actually have to leave America or France and come to India or Nepal to ask your questions.” Many of the ideas about how to collaborate and support each other had their genesis last September when 130 transla- tors met in Boulder, Colorado, at a conference organized by the Light of Berotsana Translation Group. There, the idea of forming an international translators’ guild arose, with senior translators acting as mentors for apprentices. Historically, the Tibetan translators who trekked over the mountains to India worked in tandem with a Sanskrit scholar from India. In the same way, the translators in Bir appealed to the lamas present to provide Tibetan experts to help them. Ultimately, they hoped, a Tibetan partner would be available for anyone who signed on to do translation. With two days remaining before the close of the confer- ence, one major issue seemed to be tugging the project away from the singular goal of translating the Kangyur: some scholars (at Columbia University, for example) have already been working on its companion, the Tengyur. It contains more than 4,000 treatises and commentaries by Indian and Tibetan masters on philosophy, science, medicine, and other topics. Together, the Kangyur and Tengyur form the complete Tibetan Buddhist canon. Perhaps the best-known elements of the Tengyur are the commentaries written by the seventeen great Indian sages of Nalanda University, among them the masters known as the Six Ornaments—Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Dignaga, Dharma- kirti, Asanga, and Vasubandhu. The work of these sages is so important to Tibetan Buddhism that the Dalai Lama often has said that Tibetan Buddhism is the Nalanda tradition. In the end, the translators opted to bring those working on the Tengyur into the project’s fold, under the interim name “The Buddhist Literary Heritage Project.” They adopted a resolution laying out its goals: One-hundred-year vision: Translate and make uni- versally accessible the Buddhist literary heritage. [By not using the word “Tibetan,” the translators wanted to con- vey the aim of eventually including Buddhist texts from other traditions and languages, too.] Twenty-five-year goal: To translate and make accessi- ble all of the Kangyur and many volumes of the Tengyur and Tibetan commentaries. Five-year goal: To translate and publish a represen- tative sample of the Kangyur, Tengyur, and Tibetan commentaries, and to establish the infrastructure and resources necessary to accomplish the long-term vision. Eventually, they’d like to publish both the Kangyur and Tengyur under one umbrella, with the texts available as a bound set similar to the Encyclopedia Britannica and in a searchable electronic format. And though they’d like to receive credit for their work, they don’t want to publish the words of the Buddha and other great masters under a restrictive copyright. Rather, they’ll probably publish the translations under what’s known as a Creative Commons license, which will allow anybody to use the work in the future, as long as they credit the people who did the original work. The translators elected Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche as interim leader of the newly formed group. A preliminary ver- sion of the group’s resolution included the language: “We resolve that interim director Khyentse Rinpoche will be empowered to select, in consultation with project participants, the leaders and members of the working committees.” Thurman chided his colleagues for wording that made Professor Robert Thurman, president of Tibet House U.S. This has been a very exciting, historic conference. I’ve been doing this for thirty, thirty-five years, and you can really feel that this is a turning point. —Thomas Yarnall coREykohnMaThIEuRIcaRd