Dharma Realm Buddhist University (DRBU) has announced the launch of the first graduate certificate program in Buddhist translation in the United States, which will begin in late 2021. Student applications for this year’s course and subsequent programs are now being accepted.
“The two-semester program offers students the rare opportunity to immerse themselves in ancient Eastern languages at the graduate level, with a curriculum that integrates translation of Buddhist texts with study, practice, and service in a monastic setting,” DRBU shared. “Ten students earned the Graduate Certificate after a two-year pilot of the one-year program. Prospective students can apply through 18 June 2021 for the program beginning Fall 2021, or submit an application for future rolling admissions.”
Based in Ukiah in Northern California, DRBU is a private, non-profit university and community established in 1976 and dedicated to liberal education in the broad Buddhist tradition. The university runs two degree programs centered around classical primary texts: a BA in Liberal Arts, which combines 10 distinct strands: Buddhist Classics, Western Classics, Chinese Classics, Indian Classics, Language, Mathematics, Natural Science, Rhetoric and Writing, Music, and Capstone; and an MA in Buddhist Classics, which focuses on Buddhism through reading and analysis of its primary sources: sutras, Abhidharma texts and shastras, and shila texts.
The new graduate certificate program in Buddhist translation was developed by DRBU’s founding director, Bhikshuni Heng Yi, who holds a PhD in Buddhist studies from the University of California Los Angeles, and Bhikshuni Heng Yin, assistant director and an experienced translator with an MA in Asian studies from the University of California Berkeley.
“Grounded in Buddhist practice, students will gain an understanding and appreciation of Buddhist texts through close reading and translation practice,” Ven. Heng Yi explained. “The program offers the unique opportunity to engage in ancient translation traditions. Through a self-transformative process integrating contemplative exercises with shared inquiry, students strive to understand the original texts and interpret them into a modern language.”
The program, which focuses on reading and discussing classical primary texts, with an emphasis on self-transformation, was created “in the spirit of DRBU’s founder, Venerable Master Hua, who vowed to bring Buddhadharma to the West and translate the Buddhist canon into the languages of the world,” DRBU observed.
“When I first read Ven. Master Hua’s books, a very strong sense of calling enveloped me and I knew I had to do something to realize his vision, said Ven. Heng Yi. “I hope to help bring back the type of translation institute that once thrived, when talents from all directions gathered together to engage in Buddhist translation, under the guidance of Masters Xuanzang and Kumarajiva. The certificate program is our first step in that endeavor.”
The program is made up of five courses:
1. An introduction to translation theory and practice past and present;
2. Methods and theories of interpretation;
3. A seminar focusing on appreciation of Buddhist, Chinese, and Western classics;
4. A Buddhist Chinese course;
5. A hands-on translation workshop.
“For over 2,000 years, translation has been an indispensable part of the history and transmission of Buddhism,” DRBU said. “When Buddhism first came to China from India, one of the most important tasks was the translation of the Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Chinese. This work was often conducted in large assemblies, such as when National Master Kumarajiva led an assembly of over 800 people for more than a decade in translating dozens of texts in hundreds of scrolls. Emulating the translation assemblies of ancient times, the Graduate Certificate Program in Buddhist Translation brings together talented individuals in a collaborative endeavor to study and translate Buddhist texts.”
DRBU added: “The Buddhist canon presents itself as a vehicle to wisdom and liberation, a set of tools for self-transformation. Approaching the texts in this spirit, the Graduate Certificate in Buddhist Translation regards translating them as an opportunity to delve deeply into their meaning and develop understanding in an engaged, interactive way.”
DRBU collaborates closely with the Buddhist Text Translation Society, which is dedicated to making the principles of the Buddhadharma available to Western readers in forms that can be directly applied in practice. It is also affiliated with the Institute for World Religions, which was established with the intention of working toward harmony among all religions as a prerequisite for a just and peaceful world.
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