The Long-life Prayers of sMin gling gTer chen ‘Gyur med rdo rje

José Cabezón’s brief study of long-life prayers (or zhab brtan) in Tibet (“Firm Feet and Long Lives: The Zhabs brtan Literature of Tibetan Buddhism”), which appeared in Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre in 1996, makes the claim that “the zhabs brtan [genre] seems to have developed almost exclusively within the dGe lugs school until very recent times.” In a note, he goes on to say that he “searched, in vain, for examples of zhabs brtan in the works of Taranatha (b.1575), ‘Brug pa Pad ma dkar po (1526-1592), Jaya Pandita (b.1642) and ‘Ju Mi pham rgya mtsho (1846-1914).” Well, with the benefit of the TBRC database, we can now say that plenty of zhabs brtan prayers do appear in the writings of sMin gling gter chen ‘Gyur med rdo rje (1646-1714), an important figure in the rNying ma school.

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Setting the Wheels in Motion

Tengyur ConferenceOnly a short distance from the glorious Dhamek stupa, marking the scene of Buddha’s first ever teaching, Sarnath’s Central University of Tibetan Studies provided an auspicious backdrop for the latest major conference on Tibetan Buddhist translation. The four-day event, organized jointly by the Central University and Columbia University’s American Institute of Buddhist Studies, focused on the Tengyur, the collection of ‘translated treatises’ (or shastras in Sanskrit) composed by the learned and accomplished masters of India and compiled in Tibet as the counterpart to the Kangyur, the ‘translated Word of the Buddha’. With the participation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, the Ganden Tripa and many other Tibetan lamas, as well as leading scholars and translators from around the world, this gathering marked another important milestone on the road towards the eventual goal of translating the entire Tibetan Buddhist canon into English and other languages.

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Outrageously Large Numbers

I have recently been reading the new translation of Mipham Rinpoche’s byang chub sems dpa’ chen po nye ba’i sras brgyad kyi rtogs brjod nor bu’i phreng ba by Lama Yeshe Gyamtso (A Garland of Jewels, Woodstock: KTD Publications, 2008). As the (Tibetan) name suggests, the text offers accounts of the lives and careers of the eight great bodhisattvas, also known as the ‘eight close sons’, compiled from canonical sources, mainly the sūtras. Not surprisingly perhaps, Mipham devotes considerably more space to Mañjuśrī than he does to the other bodhisattvas.

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Methodology Guidelines from Padmakara Translation Group

In this season of lotsawa conferences, there is a lot of reflection and discussion about how lotsawas do their thing, all of it tying in quite neatly with the purpose of this site. In the spirit of this atmosphere of introspection, here is a set of guidelines laid out by the excellent Padmakara Translation Group on their burgeoning new site:

  • Start by receiving transmission and explanation of the text from a qualified teacher
  • Careful, painstaking translation of the meaning, with extensive research and study where necessary
  • Submission of difficult points and doubts to competent teachers with a good knowledge of the text
  • Double-checking of the draft translation by at least one other translator
  • Careful editing and rewriting to produce a clear, readable style
  • Final text proof-read and approved by a person who knows the subject and has a good command of the final language

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Returning to the Source: Report on Translating the Words of the Buddha Conference

408af-translatingwordsofbuddhalogoFor five days in March, several lamas and many of the world’s leading Tibetan Buddhist translators came together at the splendid Deer Park Institute in the Himalayan foothills of Northern India for Translating the Words of the Buddha, an impeccably organized conference that was several years in the planning. The aim was to discuss the current state and future direction of Tibetan Buddhist translation, but as we arrived few of us had any idea what to expect.

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Finding the Proper Register

“One of the major challenges facing a translator today is to find the proper register in English, neither too formal and stylized nor too breezy and colloquial—language that is fresh and urgent and passionate, and at the same time dignified.”

From Chana Bloch & Ariel Bloch, The Song of Songs