Khyentse Foundation, a nonprofit founded by the renowned Bhutanese lama, filmmaker, and author Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, announced that it has awarded this year’s Khyentse Foundation Prize for Outstanding Translation to Prof. Luis Gómez and Prof. Paul Harrison for their work on the English-language translation of the classic Sanskrit text Vimalakirtinirdesa: The Teaching of Vimalakirti.
A Sanskrit version of the influential Mahayana text Vimalakirtinirdesa was discovered in the Potala Palace, in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, by scholars from Japan’s Taisho University in 1999. Earlier English-language renderings of this classic Buddhist text had been based on Chinese or Tibetan translations rather than the original Sanskrit, which was long thought to be lost. The results of years of careful and scholarly work by Prof. Gómez (1943–2017) and Prof. Harrison since 2010 has resulted the this landmark English translation.
“The long collaboration between the two scholars in bringing this important work to fruition is a touching story of mutual trust and respect, confidence, and devotion in a lifelong friendship,” Khyentse Foundation stated in an announcement shared with BDG. (Khyentse Foundation)
Scholar of Buddhist studies Dr. Jan Nattier, who is this year’s nominating member on the committee for the KF Prize for Outstanding Translation, said of the translation of Vimalakirtinirdesa:
When word of the discovery of a Sanskrit manuscript of the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa began to circulate in the early 2000s, it sent shock waves throughout the Buddhist Studies world. Long known only in its Chinese and Tibetan translations, leaving scholars to guess what its original Indian terminology might have been, this highly influential text could now be consulted in an original Indic-language version.
The news that Paul Harrison and the late Luis Gómez had embarked on a project to translate the newly discovered Sanskrit text was thus greeted with widespread enthusiasm. These two scholars, both leading figures in the field of Mahayana sutra literature, were uniquely qualified to produce a translation of this important text. The two worked on the translation over a period of several years, discussing and debating the rendition of every term. After Luis’s passing, Paul brought the project to completion, and the fruits of their joint labors are now available in print.(Khyentse Foundation)
The Khyentse Foundation Prize for Outstanding Buddhist Translation was established in 2011 to recognize and encourage excellence in the field of translation that contributes to the accessibility of Buddhist wisdom and literature in the public domain. To qualify for the prize, works must have been published in the two years preceding the award, and can include translations into English from any of the classical languages of Buddhism: Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese.
Recalling his long collaboration with Prof. Gómez in translating this major work from Sanskrit, Prof. Harrison shared:
When I set out in the field of Buddhist Studies, Luis Gómez was a respected senior colleague, whom I regarded as far above my level. He even interviewed me once for a job (which I didn’t get!). Over the years I got to know him better, and our relationship became one of colleagues. It is Vimalakīrti, however, whom I have to thank for making us friends. Working on this translation together with Luis was one of the most satisfying and enjoyable intellectual experiences of my life, in part because I got to know him so well. In the introduction to the book I say quite a lot about how our collaboration worked, since I found it so interesting in itself, but it is hard to convey in words the joy of working alongside someone with a great mind and a great heart. Or the regret when it is no longer possible.(Khyentse Foundation)
Prof. Paul Harrison, the George Edwin Burnell Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University, is scheduled to give a lecture on Vimalakirtinirdesa: The Teaching of Vimalakirti as part of Khyentse Foundation’s Goodman Lecture series on 17 September: “What Can We Learn From the Teaching of Vimalakirti?” Click here to register.
Khyentse Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in 2001. Its aim is to promote the Buddha’s teaching and support all traditions of Buddhist study and practice. The foundation’s activities include major text preservation and translation projects, support for monastic colleges in Asia, a worldwide scholarship and awards program, and development of Buddhist studies at major universities, alongside training and development for Buddhist teachers and developing new modes of Dharma-inspired education for children.
Khyentse Foundation’s achievements over the last 20 years include: more than 15 million pages of Buddhist texts preserved and made available online; education provided for the children of more than 1,000 families; support for Buddhist studies at more than 35 major universities through endowed chairs and professorships, graduate support, and the establishment of Buddhist studies centers; more than US$1 million in sponsorship for Buddhist teacher-training granted; sacred Buddhist texts translated into more than 15 languages, thanks to the efforts of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, the Kumarajiva Project, and the Khyentse Vision Project; over US$1.8 million in funding granted to uphold Buddhism in its mother countries, including grassroots partnerships to revitalize interest in Buddhism in India; more than 2,000 scholarships and awards in recognition of excellence in Buddhist study and practice; support for over 3,000 monks and nuns to maintain the tradition of Buddhist scholarship in a monastic setting; and more than 120 open-access Ashoka and Trisong grants distributed to support Dharma and well-being programs.
Gómez, Luis, and Paul Harrison, trans. 2022. Vimalakīrtinirdeśa: The Teaching of Vimalakīrti.Berkeley: Mangalam Press.
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