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Trent Walker Wins Khyentse Foundation’s 2024 Award for Outstanding Translation

Prof. Trent Walker. Image courtesy of Khyentse Foundation

Khyentse Foundation, a nonprofit founded by the revered 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. Trent Walker, for his book Until Nirvana’s Time: Buddhist Songs from Cambodia (Shambhala Publications, 2022).*

Until Nirvana’s Time, the first collection of traditional Khmer Buddhist poetry available in English, presents translations of 45 Khmer Dharma songs whose soaring melodies have inspired Cambodian Buddhist communities for generations,” Khyentse Foundation said in an announcement shared with BDG. “Grounded in 15 years of research on oral and written traditions in Cambodia, the book centers on a corpus of poems from the 16th–20th centuries that are still chanted today in daily prayers or all-night rituals.”

A specialist in Southeast Asian Buddhist music, literature, and manuscripts, Walker is assistant professor of Southeast Asian studies and Thai Professor of Theravada Buddhism in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. Prof. Walker has published on Khmer, Lao, Pali, Thai, and Vietnamese Buddhist texts and recitation practices.

“Many of these texts were transcribed by the translator from cassette tapes or bark-paper manuscripts, and appear in print for the first time in this volume,” Khyentse Foundation added. “Essays and notes that situate these local compositions within a broader Buddhist context accompany the translations.”


Prof. Walker was nominated for the award Natalie Gummer, professor of religious studies at Beloit College in Wisconsin, and her choice unanimously approved by Khyentse Foundation’s five-member selection committee. 

Until Nirvana’s Time is a groundbreaking translation,” Prof. Gummer observed. “Not only does it make a fascinating part of Cambodian Buddhist literature widely available for the first time in English, but it also renders the vocal qualities of these songs, in consonance with their composition and use, and offers rich context for their Buddhist background and their ritual recitation. Trent Walker sets a new standard for translations that aim to capture the power of performative texts.”

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.


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.

* Book Review: Until Nirvana’s Time: Buddhist Songs from Cambodia (BDG)


Walker, Trent. 2022. Until Nirvana’s Time: Buddhist Songs from Cambodia. Boulder, CO. Shambhala Publications.

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Khyentse Foundation

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