84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, a global nonprofit initiative to translate and share the Tibetan Buddhist Canon founded by the renowned Bhutanese lama, author, and filmmaker Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, has announced the English-speaking world’s first complete catalog of the Tengyur—the collected Tibetan translations of treatises by the great Indian Buddhist masters explaining and elaborating on the words of the Buddha.
“These works cover a vast range of knowledge. Some of the best known are commentaries and philosophical works based on the sutras and tantras, but there are texts on practically everything—from monasticism to medicine, liturgy to linguistics, and politics to poetics,” John Canti, editorial co-director for 84000, said in an announcement shared with BDG. “For anyone interested in exploring the full background and implications of Buddhist thought and practice, the Tengyur is an inexhaustible resource—but until now even its contents list has only been available to specialist scholars with the right language skills. Just to skim these titles in [84000’s] Reading Room gives a fascinating glimpse of what there is in the Tengyur to be explored.”
Traditional Tengyur section divisions include the commentaries on the Perfection of Wisdom sutras; treatises by Aryadeva, Buddhapalita, Candrakirti, Nagarjuna, Shantideva, and other Indian masters on the Madhyamaka (Middle Way) philosophical system; as well as treatises by Asanga, Maitreya, Vasubandhu, and others on Yogacara-Cittamatra themes, buddha-nature, and other topics.
“The Tengyur also includes important commentaries and treatises on the canonical Vinaya texts, parts of the early Sarvastivadin Abhidharma canon and the treatises and commentaries on it; texts on Indian Buddhist epistemology, logic, and reasoning by Dharmakirti, Dignaga, and others; a collection of texts in the form of verses of praise; a very extensive section on tantric thought and practice with many subdivisions corresponding to the different levels of tantra; advice from the great Indian Buddhist masters in the form of letters written to rulers; the literature recounting stories of the Buddha’s previous lives known as Jataka; and sections on the traditional sciences, including medicine, linguistics, the arts, technology, and even politics,” said 84000.
84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha is a long-term undertaking to translate and publish all surviving canonical texts preserved in the Classical Tibetan language—70,000 pages of the Kangyur (the translated words of the Buddha) in 25 years and 161,800 pages of the Tengyur (the translated commentaries on the Buddha’s teachings) in 100 years. According to 84000, less than 5 per cent of the canon had hitherto been translated into a modern language, and due to the rapid decline in the knowledge of Classical Tibetan and in the number of qualified scholars, the world is in danger of losing an irreplaceable cultural and spiritual wisdom legacy.
“While in 2009, it had been estimated that only 5 per cent of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon . . . had ever been translated into a language spoken today, 84000 has raised that figure to 12 per cent in just over a decade.”* 84000 explained. “The organization is on track to reach its 2035 target for the complete translation and publication of the Kangyur’s 70,000 pages. The remaining 75 years of this 100-year project will be dedicated to the complete translation and online publication of the 161,800 pages of the Tengyur.”
Since its founding some 10 years ago,* 84000—named for the number of teachings the Buddha is said to have given—has awarded more than US$6 million in grants to teams of translators around the world, including Tibetan scholars and Western academics—from UCSB, Oxford, and the University of Vienna, to Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Nepal. In just 10 years, with the endorsement of all four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, 84000 has already translated more than 30 per cent of the sutras, and continues to strive forward, supported by some of the most learned living teachers of the Vajrayana tradition.
“When people think about Buddhism with its various philosophies and complex meditative practices, the references for many of those ideas are the texts found in the Tengyur, and yet so many of those texts remain unexplored for the most part,” Dr. Paul Hackett, who worked on this project as a translator, said in 84000’s announcement. “Thus, 84000 has done an immense service not only to Buddhist scholars and practitioners around the globe, but also to the general public in the English-speaking world by enabling and encouraging them to begin to appreciate this collection and its place within the global history of ideas within our shared human civilization.”
Born in Bhutan in 1961, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche is the son of Thinley Norbu Rinpoche and was a close student of the Nyingma master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910–91). He is recognized as the third incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, founder of the Khyentse lineage, and the immediate incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö (1893–1959).
In addition to 84000, Rinpoche’s projects include Khyentse Foundation, established in 2001 to promote the Buddha’s teaching and support all traditions of Buddhist study and practice; Siddhartha’s Intent, which organizes, distributes, and archives his teachings; Lotus Outreach, which directs a wide range of projects to help refugees; and The Lhomon Society, which promotes sustainable development in Bhutan through education.
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