To meet the man named Vello Väärtnõu is to encounter a personal force with a steady burn of passion and strong sense of mission and duty to his religious calling. In decades past, he was a former Freedom Fighter on the Estonian front against Russian occupation and over time has transformed into a Dharma Fighter in new and different ways. On the one hand, he strives to broaden Buddhism in Australia from his base in western Australia. He hosts annual conferences to bring Buddhist communities together in academic and cultural exchange.(http://www.buddhismandaustralia.com/)
And on the other, even more ambitious, is a manifestation of his driving force in the emerging Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia project which he leads in his advancing years as a monk, scholar, artist and promoter of dharma. He wishes to make Buddhist information available to all online in Chinese and English. Given the breadth of Internet offerings already today, his project is massive in scope and unity to bring all the data together in one cohesive and logical common source.(http://www.chinabuddhismencyclopedia.com/).
Since early 2012, Väärtnõu has been tirelessly pursuing his goal of creating this online Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia. In December 2012 he presented his project outline at the Pacific Neighborhood Consortium (PNC) conference in Berkeley, CA entitled: “New Horizons: Information Technology Connecting Culture, Community, Time, and Place”. Each conference appearance continues to help raise awareness of the project and express his intentions to benefit those seeking Buddhist knowledge.
He travels around the globe garnering both support and skepticism along the way. But even so, Vello Väärtnõu is devoted to his mission and one cannot help but admire his sheer determination and energy for coordinating the pieces. This story is a long way from complete fruition, and the plucky efforts continue to gain momentum and endorsements for the project. Stay tuned for more.
Please see quotes below (from the CBE website) and additional links for further information outlining this man’s grand visions.
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A key function for the CBE is cultural preservation. In these rapidly changing times, where computers and the internet pose a great threat to traditional forms of Buddhist learning, it is necessary to gather all available materials, translate them and digitize them.
It is important for the founders that well-educated, senior Buddhist monastics and academics would be involved in the project to provide assistance, ideas, advice and “quality- control”. They will help ensure the Buddhist view and essence of the materials presented will not lose their religious (Buddhist) value, and that published materials will not insult anyone’s religious beliefs or values.
It is important for the CBE team to stay independent from any personal, political, or dogmatic views.
The CBE project can be divided into 3 major activates
1. Collecting and editing all useful and qualified materials, which have already been digitized and are available
There is huge amount of materials available in the internet about various aspects of Buddhism. This is great opportunity, but also a great threat as everyone can add comments and write, so the true treasures get lost in the pile of opinions and low-quality works.
The first level of development for the CBE project is to collect all available digitized materials, sort out the good materials, copy them and edit them to our Encyclopedia (with references to original sources). This will be done by team of editors .
We will ask permission to copy articles from the authors for all the edited articles.
This is a lifelong work, as there are more and more small and medium sized Buddhist organizations and individuals who post very useful materials in the internet.
The work of copying and editing will be done by team of hired editors and volunteers. Every editor will have a determined topic and sources of materials.
The editors will be supervised by educated scholars, monks and academics, who will do quality control and strategic planning for content development.
2. Translating texts ( sutras, tantras, commentaries, chronicles, etc.)from ancient form to English and Chinese
There is great need to translate ancient Buddhist text and materials into modern languages. And it has to be done NOW!!!!!!!!, while there is still few educated Buddhists left, who understand the ancient Buddhist language and thought forms, and more importantly, are able to assist in translating large volumes of sophisticated materials. If translations are done without proper supervision, it can be damaging.
The problem modern young people have with Buddhism is that the language and symbols in linguistics are changing very fast and it is very difficult for young people to penetrate the meaning and idea of the words of the ancients. Therefore, it is vital and necessary to translate such materials into modern language without losing any or much of the original meaning. This truly is a task that requires skilful means, great Wisdom and harmonious team work between many different people.
For us to reach the stage of starting translating ourselves might take a few years, but we have already started co-operation with several Buddhist translating organizations to publish their translations.
3. Using and developing IT & software usage for/in Buddhist studies
The potential of IT, computers and internet goes beyond our imagination. We are living in the age of Information Technology. Buddhist MUST start implementing all available hard- and software solutions to develop Buddha teachings according to tools and technology available in the 21th century.
Buddhist texts used to be written on leaves. It was revolution to start using paper and later print. This change took hundreds of years to happen.
IT was developed only few decades ago and it is developing with explosive speed.
Stage 3 of the project is to use all IT and software solutions available. For example:
§ we will collect and post all movie and documentaries about Buddhism on our website
§ we will create an online Buddhist Photo Gallery, where people can view thousands of photos about Buddhism in structured and simple form.
We are open to all new technological solutions, which can be implemented for the use of developing and spreading Buddhism in modern times.
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Video interview with Vello Väärtnõu:
December 2012 PNC Conference presentation (for file download):
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia website: http://www.chinabuddhismencyclopedia.com/
Buddhism & Australia Conference 2012: