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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
50 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2014 UDDHADHARMA: The landscape of American Bud- dhism has changed considerably in the last forty years, and Buddhist translators have played a signifi- cant role in that process. Forty years ago, Buddhist books in English were hard to find, and today there are probably more translations than most of us can read in one lifetime. In your respective traditions, what has that shift looked like? SARAH HARDING: Until about 2000, many translation efforts were random, often begun when a lama asked for a text in his lineage to be translated or when academics would find good PhD projects to undertake. Now a number of organizations are working in a more cohesive fashion. I work for the Tsadra Foundation, which has focused on some of the big anthologies of the nineteenth century. We started with one, now published, called The Treasury of Knowledge, which has ten volumes. We’re currently working on another anthology that will run a huge number of volumes and will probably only be pub- lished digitally. The project started by the Khyentse Founda- tion, 84,000, is translating the Kangyur, or canonical texts, and another group is working on the Tengyur, commentarial material sourced from India. BHIKKHU BODHI: By the late 1960s, when I first became a monk, translations of the four main Nikayas, the collections of early Buddhist teachings, were available from the Pali Text Society. But these translations were often written in a rather archaic style, as though the translators were trying to emulate the King James Version of the Bible. That made me realize there was a need for new translations, which then became my major B project. There is still a significant need for translation, particu- larly of the Pali commentaries and subcommentaries. BUDDHADHARMA: Griffith, what are your impressions of how far things have come in the world of Zen translation? GRIFFITH FOULK: American Buddhism came belatedly to the idea that we ought to be looking at original texts. I was first exposed to Zen Buddhist scholarship through the works of D.T. Suzuki. A number of people who became scholars of East Asian Buddhism, some of them also translators, started out as practitioners and wanted to be able to break through the secondary scholarship and get their hands on primary mate- rial. Although translation wasn’t considered very important at the outset, attitudes have changed a great deal. The classical Chinese canon of East Asian Buddhism, encompassing China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, is vast. Really, there are at least twenty different editions of the Chi- nese canon. They include not just sutras but also the sayings of Chinese masters and commentarial literature, as well as letters and miscellaneous writings. There are old stories about Chinese Buddhist monks who had read the entire canon, but the idea that anyone could read it all is absurd. I doubt that all the material will ever be translated. Of the vast body of Buddhist literature in Chinese, I would say perhaps 1 to 2 percent has been translated into English. In the Rinzai Zen tradition, the Record of Linji (Rinzai) and many of the recorded discourses of famous figures in the Chan lineage have been translated, as have some collec- tions of monastic codes. In the Soto school, Dogen’s Shobo- genzo (written in classical Japanese) has been translated in its (LEFT—RIGHT):SARAHHARDING,SARAHJ.HORTON,UNKNOWN SARAH HARDING is currently working on textual translations and research as a fellow of the Tsadra Foundation. Her recent publications include Creation and Completion and Machik’s Complete Explanation. T. GRIFFITH FOULK is coeditor-in- chief of the Soto Zen Text Project. He has published a number of monographs on textual, ritual, and institutional aspects of the history of Chinese and Japanese Zen Buddhism. BHIKKHU BODHI is former president of the Buddhist Publication Society and the translator of numerous Pali texts, including the complete numerical, connected, and middle-length discourses of the Buddha.