by Huang Jing Rui
“If you ask the Buddha which one is more important–the Buddha’s form, speech, mind, quality and activity? I think it is the Buddha’s speech. Because, even from a very mundane point of view, if you think of Shakyamuni Buddha as a form, that he has come and gone, and that it’s been almost 2,500 years and something, we can’t really see him. The mind of the Buddha is beyond our reach. The speech of the Buddha, what he taught, is actually readable.”
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Chair, BLHP
The vision of the Buddhist Literary Heritage Project (BLHP) is to make the precious teachings of the Buddha universally available through translation.
History has shown us that in order for the Dharma to take root in a society, it is imperative that the Dharma be made available in languages that its people could comprehend. The various movements to translate the Buddha’s teachings into world languages, which subsequently formed the Pali Canon, the Chinese Mahayana Tripitaka, the Tibetan Kangyur and Tengyur, and the many non-canonical collections, all led to the revival and growth of Buddhism in different parts of the world. In particular, the Tibetan Kangyur and Tengyur form the largest surviving collection of Buddhist texts, after the massive destruction of Buddhist texts in Sanskrit and other Indic languages in India in the 11th and 12th centuries. While Buddhism was almost wiped out in India, that it flourished in Tibet was in large part due to the availability of translations in Tibetan.
Over the past few decades, the Tibetan Buddhist community has sadly seen the loss of many of the most learned and accomplished Buddhist masters, and most of those who remain are in their old age. Their knowledge of the texts, handed down over the generations in a living tradition going back to the great masters of the past and to the Buddha himself, is an essential part of every Dharma translator’s work. With only less than 5% of the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist literary heritage translated into modern languages, the world faces the imminent risk of losing access to the profound messages and meaning contained within this precious heritage.
At the same time, there is growing curiosity towards and demand for the teachings of the Buddha in Western societies today, as well as a revival of interest among English-reading Asians. However, the lack of material available in modern languages has set considerable limits on what is possible in terms of study, research, and personal advancement.
It was with these perspectives in mind that the BLHP was subsequently formed in January 2010, and has since worked progressively towards the establishment of an organizational framework and infrastructure to support its long-term vision. Six months since its inception, the Buddhist Literary Heritage Project (BLHP) has already funded 27 pilot translations, and will soon be providing more translation grants to support translators in their important mission to translate texts of the Kangyur.
Dzongsar Khyenste Rinpoche addressing BHLP 2010 Photo from Huang Jing Rui
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“So, yes, it is a daunting task, but as followers of the Buddha, it is our practice, it is our path, and, if you are a Mahayana practitioner, it is also our act of benefiting sentient beings. It is serving the Buddha, therefore, it is also serving all sentient beings. So we do realise that this is quite an important task that we can’t afford to ignore.”
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche