We translated the Ākāśagarbha Sūtra at the International Buddhist Academy in Kathmandu. This academy is a Sakya school founded by the Sakya master Khenchen Appey Rinpoche. These days it is directed by Khenpo Ngawang Jorden. And one special feature of the school is that it trains translators according to the model of the Pandita Lotsawa, with whom many Sanskrit sūtras were at the time translated into Tibetan. We have, on one hand, Tibetan scholars who have all studied a decade or more in monastic colleges, and have become experts in Buddhist philosophy; and the “lotsawa,” the translators in this case, are westerners, practitioners but also with academic background; who then will work together in the team, this pandita-lotsawa team, in order to produce translations. This is a bit of a presumptuous word, because we are all beginners. But anyway, that was our ideal.
In the case of the Ākāśagarbha Sūtra, we were a team of four. Two Tibetan scholars: Ngawang Tenzin and Jampa Tenzin; and two Western translators, Christian Bernert and myself. And we worked in such a way that we divided the text in half, and one half was translated by Ngawang Tenzin and Christian, and the other one by Jampa Tenzin and myself. And then we switched work and corrected the work of the other team. That was a time-consuming process, but it was necessary. For difficult passages, we asked Khenpo Ngawang Jorden, and he was of enormous help to clarify the difficult passages.
We did not need a Sanskrit expert because there is no extant Sanskrit original for this sūtra. And the Chinese version is so very different that we could not really do a comparative study. So then after the translation, of course we had proofreaders and editors. Ani Kunga Chodron, Pamela White, Vivian Paganuzzi, who all contributed greatly to the end result. We submitted our translation to the 84000 and then we received comments and corrections from the editors of the 84000, also enormously helpful. And we worked at the text and then submitted our final result. This was all, as I said, very long process, but it gave us the confidence that at the end the result would be acceptable.