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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
54 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2014 considered a huge merit-making endeavor in Korea, Japan, and China. That’s the motivation for East Asian Buddhists. It’s not a business model, but it works. BUDDHADHARMA: Is this a critical moment for Buddhist translation? It’s been said, especially in regard to Tibetan translation, that there is concern that certain texts might be lost for good unless action is taken soon. Are we at a critical juncture in this work? SARAH HARDING: In Tibetan Buddhism, there has always been a sense of urgency because of the invasion of Tibet and the loss of so many texts. Also, the Tibetan translation of a Sanskrit text may in many cases be the only translation left of that text. Every generation of Tibetan scholars and monks has been writing prolifically, so there is always a challenge in choosing which texts are most important and most urgent to translate into English. And more and more texts that were believed to be lost are being found all the time. So I don’t see this as a pivotal moment; it’s more like the effort of slowly climbing up a huge mountain slope. Interestingly, it turns out that a lot of Chinese have been publishing Tibetan works as well, so they’re contributing to some preservation at this point. Translating something into (Above) Buddhist manuscript known as a kammavaca, from the Pali Vinaya, mid-late nineteenth century, Burma (Right) A monk practices writing in Pali on mulberry-leaf paper organizing every text it could find. Although the texts are not searchable because they’re scanned rather than digitized, the work is of tremendous value. Every Tibetan Buddhist scholar relies on the TBRC. Being able to search for titles and get outlines completely opened up the field in terms of discovering what texts were available beyond one’s own bookshelf. BUDDHADHARMA: We’ve discussed how the Internet and tech- nology have helped overcome certain translation challenges. What are some of the other key challenges facing translations today? GRIFFITH FOULK: I would say people capable of doing the work. There aren’t a lot of them, and although the field of Buddhist studies is holding its own, I don’t know that we’re producing many new scholars who are able to do high-level translation. SARAH HARDING: In a way, it comes down to funding; it’s not a job market that anyone is training people for. GRIFFITH FOULK: Translating and digitizing the canon is (TOP)SABAIDESIGNSGALLERY