Only 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.
For 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.