Not Nine; but Rising Ten

Birthdays are almost always welcome times of reflection, reminding us to be grateful for what we have and from where we’ve come; reminding us to check our motivations; and that for every grey hair that’s sprouted, we are one year nearer our 100-year goal. And next year is our first big birthday: We’re turning 10!

Participants at the Bir Conference 2009

Almost ten years ago, in the remote foothills of the Indian Himalaya, a landmark conference was held to map out a plan for the preservation of the 231,800 pages of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon. Until that meeting, only 5% of these pages had ever been translated into a language spoken today, and with ever-dwindling expertise in Classical Tibetan, the world was at risk of forever losing this incredible archive of wisdom.

Robert Thurman and Gene E. Smith at the Bir Conference 2009

As the conference host and convenor, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche noted in his powerful keynote address: “The stakes are high. It’s our generation who will shoulder the responsibility for ensuring that the Buddhadharma continues to flourish in the world. We need to make a thorough and effective plan for the future, and we must put it into action.”

Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche, Tulku Pema Wangyal, and Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche at the Bir Conference 2009

And in addressing the spread of Buddhism around the world, Dzogchen Pönlop Rinpoche, the conference chair, in his speech reminded us that: “It would be quite ironic to claim to be a Buddhist but have no idea what the Buddha taught.” It is therefore crucial, he said, that western Buddhists have access to the words of the Buddha.” He added, that: “A comprehensive English compilation of the Buddha’s words will serve as an authoritative bedrock for a living tradition.”

Dzogchen Penlop Rinpoche at the Bir Conference 2009

The founder-director of Lotsawa House, Adam S. Pearcey, who has a number of seminal translation publications to his name, wrote an inspiring first-hand account of this conference on his site that we would highly recommend to those with whom these excerpts resonate.

Since this historic gathering of great minds, translators, and patrons, 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha has translated, or has in-translation, over 40% of the Kangyur.

As we approach our 10th anniversary, we are reflecting on our translation progress, and also placing effort on simultaneously developing the second element of our dual mandate: making the words of the Buddha available to all, for free.

So, in addition to continuing to support 47 teams comprised of 297 translators, editors, proofreaders, and consultants, 84000 is leveraging technology to innovate the ways in which these ancient texts of wisdom are read, studied, and accessed around the world.

John Canti, Director of Padmakara Translation Group, speaks at the Bir Conference 2009. John is now also 84000’s Editorial Director.

We are continually developing the end-user experience on our website, and in our state-of-the-art Reading Room with its integrated comprehension tools; we are building responsive and collaborative platforms to link our network of virtual ‘offices’ and translators with tools for efficiency and for more accurate and effective editorial management; and, we have exciting work in progress with the global community at the intersection of technology, translation memory, and open access initiatives.

For those ready to celebrate with us throughout the 2020 year, we would like to start with our origins: we have video footage of that seminal 5-day event in 2009 and a list of conference participants, conference documentation and resolutions, and the dedicated communiqué that Khyentse Foundation—co-hosts of the conference—shared with their audience.

Here’s to those who conceived, nurtured, and incubated us to independence. Here’s to the open-mindedness of our wise teachers and the collaborative spirit of all those involved. Here’s to the modern-day patrons of the Buddhadharma, and all the sponsors who are helping us to ensure the words of the Buddha live on for future generations. And finally, here’s to resetting our intentions as we look forward to celebrating our tenth anniversary with you!

Some participants from the Bir Conference 2009

Posted: 27 Nov 2019