On the 27th of February, marking the first day of Losar or the Tibetan New Year, 84000 and Siddhartha’s Intent hosted a global online “resounding” of the recently translated 84000 sūtras from the Tibetan Buddhist Kangyur.
Nearly 1,000 people from 37 towns and cities in 20 different countries across multiple time zones met online to recite the words of the Buddha at the same time through the conference call platform, Zoom. Another 11,000 people tuned into the resounding via live-streaming from an additional 52 countries.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Chair of 84000, led the online gathering from a private home in Singapore at 6:30am, declaring how happy he was to begin the Year of the Fire Bird with the “very special activity of reading the sūtras.” (See full transcript of Khyentse Rinpoche’s Opening and Closing speeches below.)
Traditionally, a resounding involves monastics reading out loud the entire Kangyur, the written record of the spoken words of the Buddha, over the course of weeks or months. Each monastic reads aloud a specific volume, sūtra, or section of a sūtra as their fellow participants read aloud a specific text or segment—resulting in a clamorous jumble of holy words. The idea behind this Buddhist practice is that it serves as a means of becoming acquainted with the speech of the Buddha, which, in the words of Khyentse Rinpoche, is “really like getting acquainted with the Buddha in a way that is direct, raw, and live…” Furthermore, the sound of the Buddha’s words is said to benefit all those beings who have the good fortune of hearing them.
In the same vein, though lasting thirty minutes rather than weeks or months, participants in the online global resounding were asked to read words from seven of 84000’s recently translated sūtras, namely:
It is very likely that this occasion was the first time that these texts were read aloud in English. While participants were encouraged to read these newly translated texts, they were also welcome to read sūtras of their choosing in their language of preference.
Khyentse Rinpoche prefaced the resounding by asking participants to remember and praise the qualities of the Buddha through listening to the Pali chanting of Jaya Mangala Gatha (the Stanzas of Victory and Blessing). For the resounding itself, he recited The Illuminating Appearance of All Things Distinctly Without Their Departing from their Essential Nature, Emptiness in Tibetan, which, he explained, describes that everything functions in an orderly way while simultaneously being inherently non-existent. Khyentse Rinpoche reminded all the participants that “the sūtra that you are holding, whatever it is, the sūtra that you are reading—each line, each verse, each word has profound meaning that really brings us closer and closer to the truth.”
Just before the resounding began, Khyentse Rinpoche expressed cautious joy at the success of 84000 in having been able to provide translations for such an occasion: “I am happy that the 84000 endeavor has created this opportunity—much more than I personally expected or assumed. Of course, we still have a very long way to go. But even to have this kind of opportunity, it is already worthy of celebration!”
Technology allowed the inclusion of participants from 72 countries, either directly through the online conference call platform or indirectly through live-streaming. Groups ranging in size from five to 65 gathered via the Zoom Platform in designated cities; individuals (and perhaps groups) joined from numerous other locales via live-streaming on YouTube and Tencent. The 2017 Global Resounding boasts participation from the following countries (bold participated via Zoom, and are therefore captured in images below): Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo (Republic), Costa Rica, Croatia, Czechia (Czech Republic), Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jersey, Kazakhstan, Laos, Macau, Macedonia (FYROM), Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Korea, Norway, Palestine, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Réunion, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.
Animated and enthusiastic participation from the over forty feeds appeared on two different screens and emanated a variety of sounds, sometimes highlighting the voices of individuals and at others capturing the many voices within the groups. After thirty minutes of resounding, Khyentse Rinpoche expressed his admiration for the Buddha’s teachings, declaring them “the only source of liberation,” and “the only cause and condition that can be trusted.” He continued by warning that the dharma could only be kept alive if the dharma is practiced:
The longevity and prosperity of the dharma is of utmost importance. In order to keep the dharma alive, the dharma needs to be practiced; the dharma needs to be contemplated; and we need to read, hear, and get acquainted with the dharma. And, to do that, again and again, we need to get in touch with the dharma. And one of the most effective ways to get in touch with the dharma is by reading and hearing the words of the dharma.
The resounding ended with Khyentse Rinpoche offering his thanks and appreciation for the translators and all those who support 84000 as well as to everyone from around the world for joining online to recite the words of the Buddha.
*Thanks to Lee Kwang Boon for his contribution to this article.
As we end the Year of the Monkey, I’m happy that this New Year is beginning with the very special activity of reading the sūtras. It is believed by Tibetans that whatever one does on the first day of the New Year will have an impact on the rest of the year. And hopefully this is what will happen—if not for our whole lives, then at least for the rest of this year—that we will put as much time and energy as possible towards connecting with the dharma.
The body of the Buddha: how fortunate were those who were able to encounter the Buddha in person (I’m talking about Shakyamuni Buddha), to actually have met him more than 2,500 years ago! The rest of us, we have to be happy with the representation of the image of the Buddha.
The mind of the Buddha: we need to actualize this through practice. I’m sure it is happening to so many great practitioners even as we speak!
For common people like you and me, the only thing that we can really get acquainted with, directly, is the speech of the Buddha. Resounding the sūtras is really like getting acquainted with the Buddha in a way that is direct, raw, and live, because of the lineage of the teachings that have been kept alive by our great masters until today. This is why resounding and reciting any dharma teaching—especially the words of the Buddha—is the most important thing to do.
I am happy that the 84000 endeavor has created this opportunity—much more than I personally expected or assumed. Of course, we still have a very long way to go. But even to have this kind of opportunity, it is already worthy of celebration! As some of you know, translating any kind of text is very painful and time consuming. It’s not so visible; it’s not an activity that easily satisfies. So, it is really a daunting task. Nevertheless, by the blessing of the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha, and by the power of the little merit that we followers of the Buddha have, and because of the generosity of a lot of people and the dedication of the translators and the 84000 organizers, we have managed to accomplish much more than I expected. So this is a cause for rejoicing.
Before we start this very important act on this special occasion, I want to begin by praising the Buddha with a Pali chant: I think it’s called Jaya Mangala Gatha. Everyone just think about the glory and the quality of the Buddha: his form, his speech, his mind, his quality, his activity. Whatever comes to mind, just think about the Buddha again and again as you hear this chant.
[Break for chant listening.]
So now we will begin to resound the sūtras. Myself, I am going to resound the Arya Dharma Svabhawa Shunyata Atsala Prati Sarva Aloka [The Illuminating Appearance of All Things Distinctly Without Their Departing from their Essential Nature, Emptiness] sūtra. As in all the Buddha’s teachings, every single word is so profound and vast. The one I am reading is about how everything is illusory, is emptiness, is inherently non-existent, but at the same time everything is also orderly, everything is not chaotic, everything works, everything functions. While everything functions and makes sense, while everything is orderly and not chaotic, this does not prove, however, that things are truly existing, solidly existing, that they are permanent, independent, and uncontrived. Even as we see things functioning—see that things are orderly and that they make sense—they are empty by nature.
I just wanted to share with you that the sūtra that you are holding, whatever it is, the sūtra that you are reading—each line, each verse, each word has profound meaning that really brings us closer and closer to the truth. So, with this, we will read with a mind of joy, and rejoice in what the Buddha taught. Let us read.[Resounding]
The only source of liberation and happiness of sentient beings—the only cause and condition that can be trusted—is the teaching of the Buddha. The longevity and prosperity of the dharma is of utmost importance. In order to keep the dharma alive, the dharma needs to be practiced; the dharma needs to be contemplated; and we need to read, hear, and get acquainted with the dharma. And, to do that, again and again, we need to get in touch with the dharma. And one of the most effective ways to get in touch with the dharma is by reading and hearing the words of the dharma. I hope and I have aspiration that we, the followers of the Buddha, will continue to read, contemplate, and then practice the dharma, which is like nectar that can quench our thirst and release us from all kinds of suffering. So, we will now dedicate the merit that we have just accumulated through resounding these words of wisdom and compassion.
I think I am having too many words. Nevertheless, as I said earlier, translating is so difficult. And of course, translating the words of the sublime beings by us deluded beings is even more difficult! But we have the aspiration for the benefit of sentient beings to liberate ourselves from this bondage. We have the aspiration to translate the words of the Buddha as much as we can within our capacity and ability.
Once again, I would like to thank everyone who is so devoted and dedicated to 84000, putting so much effort into doing this. I think this is the best thing we can do. As I said right at the beginning, translating the Words of the Buddha, this project, is not the most colorful and appealing project, because you don’t really see any kind of glittering result; it’s not so visible or glamourous. You know, we human beings are so used to things that are tangible and visible and measurable, and things that strike us instantly. So, it is a very difficult endeavor, especially for the translators, and proofreaders, and editors. It’s a really painful job; and it is ongoing and endless. So, I personally appreciate everybody’s effort, and everyone should join me in rejoicing in how far we’ve come! And we will always keep in our minds, humbly, that we can only try our best. We cannot claim that we are doing a perfect job. We can just continue to aspire and do our best.
So please help us, please wish us well. To wish us well in this endeavor—I would consider this to be an act of bodhicitta. After all, making the words of the Buddha available means making available the only non-deceiving, totally trustable source of happiness and liberation for all of us. Thank you for so many of you being here today.
Read more about the 2017 Global Resounding in Buddhist Door’s online magazine.