Global non-profit initiative 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, founded by the renowned Bhutanese lama, author, and filmmaker Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, has reached a major landmark of 10 years of intensive scholarship, translating and preserving the sacred Tibetan Buddhist Canon. To celebrate the occasion and to raise awareness of the profound significance of this ongoing mission, 84000 is today launching a video and social media campaign featuring the voices of Chinese singer-songwriter Leah Dou and British actress Joanna Lumley.
Ten years ago, 84000 set out on a long and winding path to translate into modern languages and publish all surviving canonical texts preserved in the Classical Tibetan language—a literary archive of immeasurable wisdom that is on the brink of being lost to the world forever. 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. This long-term labor of love aims to translate some 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 teachings) in 100 years.
“I can barely believe we are already celebrating 10 years of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha,” said 84000’s executive director, Huang Jing Rui, who has steered the organization since its inception in 2010. “These 10 years have been a litmus test for our vision, and not without their challenges. But with deep respect for the tradition of translation—and the historical precedents set throughout the centuries by Dharma kings and faithful patrons whose dedication has ensured its survival thus far—we can confidently report that 84000 is successfully leading the world’s only long-term, collaborative, and non-sectarian effort to preserve and expand access to the Tibetan Buddhist Canon—the Kangyur and Tengyur.”
To commemorate 10 years of trailblazing progress on this mammoth undertaking, with the intention of building on the momentum that the initiative has already gained, 84000 has today launched a unique video campaign to raise awareness of one of the world’s largest, oldest, and most profound collections of writings: a three-minute animated short, narrated in English by the award-winning British actress Joanna Lumley, and in Chinese by Chinese singer-songwriter Leah Dou (daughter of Hong Kong-born singer and actress Faye Wong).
84000 is also marking the occasion, which coincides with Saga Dawa, the Tibetan festival commemorating Shakyamuni Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana, by announcing the launch of its newly revamped online Reading Room for the translated texts, along with the release of 10 newly translated Tibetan Buddhist texts, marking significant progress in the organization’s ambitious aspirations.
The anniversary video launch is accompanied by a “Like and Share” social media campaign running from 5 June (5 a.m. EST/ 5 p.m. HKT) to 7 June (5 p.m. EST) / 8 June (5 a.m. HKT), and aims to achieve 10,000 shares over the Saga Dawa weekend
Since its founding, 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.
“The number of scholars who are both proficient in Classical Tibetan and trained to interpret this profound philosophy, is fast-fading. If we don’t act now, imagine how much wisdom might be lost forever, locked within this ancient language,” Huang explained. “84000 relies on the support of individual donors and we appreciate every donation, no matter the size—a drop in the ocean is no less important than the wave.”
84000 will continue their 10-year anniversary program into next week by releasing one sutra each day for 10 days (#10daysofwisdom) from 8–17 June. The program will then conclude with a sutra resounding on 18 June, co-hosted by Siddhartha’s Intent, in combined honor of Saga Dawa and the birthday of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche.
“It’s entirely possible that the survival of the Buddhadharma could depend on it being translated into other languages,” observed 84000’s founding chair, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, who has attained renown for his vision and innovation in a field of study and practice that still highly values conservatism. “By translating and making available the Tibetan Buddhist texts to modern people, a vast swath of Buddhist civilization and culture may be saved from annihilation.”
Born in Bhutan and now based in Himachal Pradesh, India, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche gives teachings all over the world. He 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 (1820–92), founder of the Khyentse lineage, and the immediate incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö (1893–1959). In addition to 84000, Rinpoche’s projects include the 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.