A translation of the Tibetan part of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche’s message to the Khyentse Foundation Translation Conference - Translating the Words of the Buddha, March, 2009.
Tashi delek to all of you present here.
Incomparable protectors of the Buddhadharma and sentient beings, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Pema Wangyal Rinpoche, Jigmey Khyentse Rinpoche, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, Doobum Rinpoche, and other incarnated lamas here;
Precious khenpos whose nature is abundant in the wealth of the three trainings, masters of explaining the statements and insights;
Translators, who have arrived from every direction out of deep trust in and appreciation for the Buddha’s teachings – formerly known as “bilinguals” but these days there are many who are well versed in even four or up to eights languages;
Especially I send my warmest greetings to all of you for regarding this conference as important and making the effort to participate.
I regard this conference, motivated out of the wish to benefit the Buddhadharma and sentient beings as of extreme importance. Already I offered you a brief letter translated into English. But since Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche phoned me and asked that I give speech, there are a few more words to add.
First, as I reflected on the letter I sent, perhaps I was too presumptuous and bold. Nevertheless, we are at a time when the Buddhadharma hangs by a thin thread.
It was the outcome of the combined and noble efforts of the Tibetan kings, ministers and great lamas, and also the common people, that in the this world as a whole, but in the snowy ranges of Tibet in particular, that the great Kangyur containing our gracious Buddha’s words, was translated from Sanskrit and other languages into Tibetan, and consists of more than one hundred large volumes. The authentic treatises explaining their intent and meaning fill more than two hundred volumes. These translated collections still exist.
Not only are they available, but they were translated from Sanskrit and other Indian scriptures without distortion, with precise attention to detail, so as to ensure the highest possible degree of quality.
The existence of the Buddha’s Words in this world is thanks to the former Dharma kings, the panditas, translators and people. I feel deep gratitude for their kindness.
At the occasion of this conference, I reflect on what our most important wealth is—for Buddhists in general and especially for Tibetan Buddhist. It comes down the Dharma spoken by our gracious Buddha. I believe we all share this understanding. There is no need for me to elaborate on this, no more than raising a lamp while the sun has risen, as a Tibetan saying goes.
We see these days a growing interest in the Buddhadharma in all parts of the world. And the source of the Buddhist teachings, everywhere, is the words personally spoken by the Buddha.
These spoken words were recorded and preserved in various languages—Pali and Sanskrit, Chinese, and many others. But for the most part, the largest amount is in Tibetan. We have the general vehicles, the paramita vehicle, and especially the vajra vehicle of Secret Mantra consisting of the four sections of tantra. The Dharma preserved in the Tibetan language is the most complete and of a consistent high quality.
Not only were this great body of scriptures translated, but the lineages of empowerment, of reading transmission, and of explanation, together with the pith instructions, are still alive and being given.
In the past there have been an untold number of accomplished and learned masters, and many live this very day.
I mentioned that we live in a time when the Buddhadharma hangs by a thin thread. Many of these masters also fled when I left Tibet and most of them are no longer. Imagine how it would be if Khunu Lama was still alive! Or Deshung Rinpoche, Bomta Khen Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro! Likewise, how would it be if our lord of refuge Dudjom Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche were still among us! Or Kyabje Tri Rinpoche who recently passed on. These and many other masters, both learned and realized, are no longer alive. When thinking of this I feel a deep loss and sadness.
It is for these reasons I feel strongly that we must commence the task of translating the great Kangyur as soon as possible. First of all into English and then into the other languages. This is of utmost importance. I believe that all of you at this conference share this wish.
To our great fortune, the Dalai Lama is still alive and well. Below him we have the throne holding masters of the four major schools. We have authentic masters well versed in all the importance topics, both sutra and tantra. They can resolve our questions. They can advice. It is therefore important to translate as soon as possible.
For the translation tasks, first make a solid plan and agree on it. There is a need for patrons to provide the means living and the equipment—the paper and ink of today. And also the page layout and book design.
Please understand that this task is to translate the wealth we share in common. There is no need for “them” and “us”. We should therefore all make effort. Since we all work to assist the Buddhadharma and sentient beings—and there is no greater way to serve than this translation work. We should all fill our hearts with courage and appreciation for this task.
Foremost are you, the Rinpoches, the translators from around the globe., and the benefactors who assist you. Many of you have arrived for this conference.
I believe that you have already shared ideas, discussion and advice, and probably have a certain level of success. This fills me with tremendous joy and I rejoice from the core of my heart.
Now, don’t procrastinate for months and years. As soon as you begin, the carry through so you complete the task of planning and agreement as soon as you can. Then bring news of the outcome to the Dalai Lama and the main throne holders of the four schools, and request them to give further advice.
Here in Nepal, we have a translation committee with just a few translators, and even though I am an unimportant person, we will contribute out of pure motivation. We will sincerely cooperate in translating the Words of the Buddha, giving this work high priority.
I know that we are all involved in our various projects. Here we are in the middle of translating the 13 Major Treatises, and many others. While continuing with these on the side, we now shift our focus to the Kangyur, the Great Translated Words of the Conqueror.
We must also consider how to divide up the various parts of the Kangyur. It may be easier to translate some, while the tantras may be more complex. We should especially work together on the most difficult and consult the various masters who are still available. This will make the translations firm and dependable for future generations. I know this may sound a little too audacious, but I have a great wish to have some of the tantras translated. Our translators presently go through the same curriculum as the monks in our shedra and try their best to be well educated.
I would also suggest that we receive advice from all the masters of the various traditions. When it comes to accomplish an important goal, we must, as the Tibetan saying goes, agree on a common plan. This is no small task, and to ensure success, everyone should be consulted, be allowed to reflect, so that we all agree on one goal and a single strategy.
Let’s give our innermost to the Three Jewels, completely, so that we have an auspicious beginning, middle and end. To ensure that, the main foundation is harmony, mutual cooperation and the understanding that we share the same goal.
We Tibetans regard all the thousands of volumes of scriptures written by the learned and realized masters of Tibet, as the heart in our chests, the eyes in our heads, as wishfulfilling jewels. Why? They are the Buddhadharma.
Trijang Rinpoche once told me that he was involved in the work of making a catalogue of the books in the Potala Library, as ordered by the 13th Dalai Lama. I was in Lhasa at the time, as was the Ta Lama. “There are thousands upon thousands of books,” he exclaimed, “there is surely no end to this job.” It took many months to complete it. I believe these books are still there. These were books only written by Tibetan masters.
There were many others written by the Indian masters, and they form the basis for the Tengyur. But the foundation for them all is the Kangyur, the Translated Words.
We regard these Words as the most important validator. A valid text has to accord with the Buddha’s words, the statements of the noble masters, evident facts, and our guru’s instructions. We all know these three or four ways of validating. So the first, the Buddha’s Word, is extremely important.
Please discuss which parts of the Kangyur are most important and how to translate them, and among them, how to translate the tantras. When translating, discuss the need to receive empowerment, reading transmission and oral instructions.
Discuss how to translate the Vinaya. Would it be better to have ordained sangha members make the translations?
In other words, I feel all of this requires a lot of advice, reflection and discussion.
I am neither personally capable or daring enough to outline the best strategy. Yesterday I received the phone call from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and also had some words with Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. And they asked me to add some spoken words to the bold letter I previously sent. They expressed their delight at my pretentiousness. I know I am an unimportant person, honestly. But still, I feel strongly that unless we begin this most vital undertaking, it will be extremely difficult to accomplish in the future. That’s for sure.
So please don’t delay for months and years! Agree on a plan as soon as you can. That’s what I wanted to say.
Headed by you Rinpoches, I offer tashi delek to you. May your lives be firm and may your activities expand, so that the Buddhadharma may shine like broad daylight.
I pray that the Kangyur may be translated as the primary goal and in the future also the Tengyur will follow. And then the major works of the Tibetan masters, like for instance the writings of the early Kadampa spiritual teachers. Khenchen Apey Rinpoche recently told me, “The Kadampa writings are completely connected with the major scriptures.” That is one reason to give them a high priority.
Among the Nyingma masters, Longchen Rabjam was an outstanding siddha and his works and incredible. Khunu Rinpoche told me, “there are people who question whether his writings are connected with the major scriptures, such as Madhyamika, Pramana or Abhidharma.” These days, we receive some of his writings on these topics.
Let’s pay attention not only to the teachings from the Tibetan masters of all lineages, without partisanism, but also to the writings existent in Pali, Sanskrit and Chinese. We should translate original scriptures if they which do not exist in Tibetan, for instance the bye drag shes mdzod chen mo, which seems to have been omitted. The great 13th and also the 14th Dalai Lama gave it special attention.
You all know that the Kangyur is presently the Buddha’s primary representative, in both body, speech and mind. Foremost, one must listen and learn, reflect and practice. It is said that before these, ethical conduct is important, so at least one needs to be a Buddhist layperson who has accepted the Three Jewels. Second is to hear the Dharma. Third to gain certainty through reflection, and finally to assimilate the meaning through training. That is vital.
Now this insignificant person was forced to and succeeded in speaking many presumptuous words. Please be tolerant.