Address by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

Address to the BLHP Working Committee and Guests

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, chair, BLHP
Kathmandu, December 7, 2010

Rinpoche spoke in Tibetan, with English translation by Erik Pema Kunsang.

Welcome, all of you. I’m very happy you could all join here. Speaking as the temporary, fleeting, and just-passing-through chairman of the BLHP committee, I have trust that both our aims and what we have set out to do here are not any ordinary task or ordinary work, but something unique and very unusual.

Appreciation for the lamas’ actual involvement

I’d like to thank especially Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, and also Tulku Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche and Tulku Pema Wangyal Rinpoche, for working with the BLHP and giving special support and guidance.

The reason I want to extend special thanks to Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche and the other Rinpoches is that I am in some doubt about whether or not this translating the words of the Buddha will be successful. And I have become aware that many other lamas also doubt whether this task will be successful.

When I tell other masters about this task of translating the words of the Buddha, they always reply, “Excellent, very excellent!” They have to say that! Because it is about translating the words of the Buddha. However, something more is needed than just saying “excellent. ” There needs to be more support and help. Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche, and Tulku Pema Wangyal are actually doing something; their support and work please me deeply.

Importance of translating the Kangyur

The Kangyur is a body of scripture that must be translated. Because unless the Kangyur is translated, it will be like having a tree without roots. Whoever hears and whoever wants to follow the Buddha and the Buddha’s teachings must have the Buddha’s teachings available. And also, for the study of the Dharma, it should be possible to know what the Buddha said, and to have that as the basis. The most important thing is to consult the words of the Buddha.

Without the translation of the Kangyur, Buddhism and the Tibetan tradition will become nothing more than lamaism, and not the Buddha’s words. If we don’t translate the Buddha’s words, it is possible that someone else will do it. We can’t prevent that, because there is freedom of choice of human beings in this world.

The Buddha’s words should be translated, and it should be done fast. As a matter of fact, we are already way behind. Why? Because needless to say, the people who are informed about the Dharma, the number of people who know proper Tibetan, are getting fewer and fewer. The big problems for BLHP are not behind us; they lie ahead of us. It’s a vast task, and our resources are few.

Challenges we face

1. Scarcity of Funds and Resources

Generally speaking, Buddhism has a scarcity of resources. Compared to all the other religions in this world, Buddhism is the poorest. And among the Buddhist traditions, probably the Tibetan traditions are the poorest.

For instance, if the Indian government were to decide, “This is our heritage. These are our scriptures. Translate them. We support this whole project,” it would be different. It is possible, but frankly speaking, we can’t count on it.

2. Scarcity of Translators

Not only are funds and resources scarce, there are very few translators. We are at a point where we have to pull resources from all directions. Wherever they exist, we have to pull them in and add them together. When we try to pull in resources, large and small, human resources and everything from all different places, we are also pulling in complications.

3. Complications arising from the need to involve different communities––devotees, academics and lamas

First of all, we need to bring together only those who have trust and faith in the Buddha’s teachings––devoted people. There are very few of those. And among devoted people, there are very few who are devoted to the Tibetan Buddhist teachings. When we try to attract devoted people who will be interested in this task, we also have to bow to their likes and dislikes.

I see that people give great importance to the universities. I also feel it is very important. Academic studies attract lots of bright young people these days. I feel it’s of great importance to work together with academic institutions. On one hand, you can say that the aims and methodologies of the universities are excellent. I pretend to be a devoted follower of the Buddha, and I have studied out of blind, unquestioning faith that whatever the Buddha said is true. I also attended Oxford University, and I learnt a big lesson from the teachers and students there. If someone doubted that Nagarjuna was a Buddhist, it would be very hard for me to prove that he was one. Also, it would be very hard for me to support any claim that the Buddhist view is one of nonduality, not just nonduality but transcending all four limitations. To think about these things is very important. So we somehow have to attune ourselves with the orientation and perspectives that are prevalent at academic institutions.

Another problem is that we have to bow to the likes and dislikes of all the different lamas. First of all, the lamas are so busy these days with all their projects. I’m one of them. Even though I’m not a great master, I’m so busy. Most of my time is consumed with being worried about my monastery, my projects, and my students. There is almost no extra energy to be concerned about the overall welfare of the Buddhist literature. But it is so important, it is essential to be concerned with preserving the Buddhist literature, the heritage of the Buddha’s words. So it’s very, very important that when we communicate about these projects, and when we ask for people’s help to raise funds, we do it very skilfully and using the right words.

Some Concerns

1. Not misusing gifts

From the perspective of the Dharma, any gift that has been offered out of devotion should never be wasted or misused. We need to be concerned about that, especially me, I should be worried about it.

2. Accuracy of translation

Also, when translating the Buddha’s words, we need to be concerned about the words and their meaning. Translating the words correctly, the meaning correctly, how the sentences fit together, the grammar, the whole thing—we need to be very concerned about accuracy. In the past, there was a great Dharma king, Trisong Deutsen, and when he issued a command, everyone listened. These days there isn’t such a Dharma king. Even if there were, it would be quite unlikely that everyone would listen.

3. How to involve everyone

Also it’s very hard for me to categorically say that someone is unsuitable in how they go about the translation. It’s very hard to say “You’re not worthy to be part of this, ” especially if someone wants to join with very pure motivation. But it would be very, very difficult to allow everyone to participate, whoever wants to. I feel that after a few years, we will have gathered a lot of experience. From 2, 3, 4 years in the future, when we look back, we will see that we’ve gathered a lot of experience. We will be much better versed about how the whole procedure should be, and then we can expand much more. At that time, you, who are here today, will be extremely important.

Posted: 26 Feb 2011