His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche, the head of the Drikung Kagyu lineage, is currently heading two 84000 translation teams: Ratnaśrī Translation Group and Vikramashila Translation House. In an interview with 84000, he discusses the importance of translating the sūtras into English and reading them.
What do you think about translating the Buddhist canon into English?
Translating the Buddhist canon into English is a very important task. Why is this so? Now in the 21st century, Buddhism is already globalized. More and more people wish to know what the Buddha actually said. In the past, Tibetan Buddhism was limited to Tibet, and so it was okay for each sect to be taught within Tibet. But today, Tibetan Buddhism has already become globalized, and more people know about the actual Buddhist sūtras. Honestly, this is really very important.
In addition, a lot of people say that in 50 years, English will be the international language. If this is the case, the buddhadharma needs to be internationalized. To cater to this development, it is necessary to have English translation. So this [translation] is an extremely important issue.
I have also heard since the beginning of this [translation project], Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse, and many Rinpoches have been involved, and that many masters of the four schools are also giving their guidance. This is very important and can benefit more people.
Rinpoche and his friends in between meetings at the Swiss Mission to the UN and the Lesotho Mission to the UN. Photo: Dr. Hun Lye
Why is it important to read sūtras?
In terms of dharma practice, it has been mentioned in the sūtras that even by hearing the name of a Buddha, by writing and reading the sūtras, we will purify our karmic obscurations. Therefore [reading sūtras] is beneficial for our dharma practice; it has great powers of blessing and can remove our karmic obscurations. Also, this is one of the best methods to accumulate merits.
Why are you supportive of 84000?
Buddhist sūtras are very vast. It is usually said that there are 84,000 methods. Why are there 84,000 methods? Because we sentient beings have 84,000 different kinds of afflictive emotions.
The Buddha is like a doctor, dharma is like medicine, and the practitioner is like a patient. The Buddha prescribes different medicine for different people [according to their needs]. Therefore, we need 84,000 methods. However, sometimes we think that because the dharma teachings [in the Buddhist canon] are too vast, and that many people cannot finish reading them. The last time when I was in Ladakh, I mentioned that if I were to die before I finish reading all these 84,000 teachings, I would be deeply regretful and very disappointed. Therefore, we must read the Buddhist canon now.
Now that you all are translating the sūtras, the 84,000 methods, from Tibetan into English, this, to me, is very precious. As we are now in the 21st century, Buddhism has already gone global, if our dharma propagation methods were confined to Tibet, like what we did before, it would be impractical.
So last year, I made a decision that when I go outside to teach, I will share the actual words of the Buddha, the actual teachings of the Buddha. So what you have given me is extremely precious. So now as I travel around the world, whenever there is an opportunity, I will share these teachings. Thank you very much.
(This interview was conducted in Mandarin, and then translated into English.)
Photo: Dr. Hun Lye
For a full biography of His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, visit the Drikung Kagyu website.Start Slide Show with PicLens Lite