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Buddhadharma : Fall 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 09 32 to benefit others—was an essential factor. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s opinion was typical of those I heard: “Whatever they’re doing, whether they’re translating one word, one shloka (verse), one page, every time they hold a pen or are about to press a computer key, it’s important that they start by thinking, ‘May this help all sentient beings.’ I think that will always lead us to something good.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama, speaking to the translators a couple of days later, also drove home the point that the translator’s motivation is key. The idea of working on a project of such massive impor- tance for Buddhism in the West created a buzz among those attending, and an unprecedented enthusiasm for collaboration. Most of the brainstorming happened outside the main con- ference hall. Excited to meet like-minded translation enthusi- asts, the men and women exchanged ideas and email addresses over Indian chai and apple strudel. And then there were the translation jokes. After Catherine Dalton of the Rangjung Yeshe Institute introduced herself to me, a man sitting across the table added, “And I’m Christian Wedemeyer of rangjung namshe.” I stared blankly. “Rangjung yeshe means ‘spontaneously arisen wisdom,’ ” explained a smiling Wedemeyer, who was actually from the University of Chicago Divinity School. “Rangjung namshe means ‘spontaneously arisen ordinary awareness.’ ” Right. Well ... If only I could speak Tibetan, I’m sure I would have laughed. Clearly I was out of my element. “Once you start making jokes in Tibetan, you know you’ve really gone over to the dark side,” Dalton teased. The atmosphere at the conference was quite collegial, even chummy. The translators’ work environment hasn’t always been so social, though. Theirs has historically been a solitary, isolated pursuit. Jeffrey Hopkins, unable to attend because of health prob- lems, sent a video letter. “I’m tremendously enthused by the very fact of the weeklong seminar of translators,” he said in the message. “It’s a great move forward, as so many of us have worked individually. Such seminars and conferences are ways for us to get together and learn, exchange terms, methods, and find out what other people are doing.” There’s a general perception that translators don’t like to work with each other. How do I know this? Because transla- tors at the conference told me so again and again. One thing that may have contributed to some mutual ill will is not giving credit to those who had created earlier versions of transla- tions. The group acknowledged the problem, and had decided before playing Hopkins’ video that credit should be given to everyone who’d worked on a text, as Tibetans do. Hopkins underscored the point in his message, saying, “I’m asking the younger people gathered there in Bir not to do this to me. Don’t view your work as replacing what I have done, but add- ing onto it.” And the kicker got a laugh out of the crowd: “In other words, treat me the way I have not treated others.” Jakob Leschly of Siddhartha’s Intent and the Khyentse Foundation responds to a question during a press conference. To the right are Wulstan Fletcher of the Padmakara Translation Group, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, and Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. We’re trying to establish a Western Buddhism lineage. But without the original words of the Buddha, how can we claim to be a Western Buddhist order? —Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche johnsoloMonpETERaRonson