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, officially unveiled its new mobile app for iOS and Android on Wednesday.* As part of the launch event, 84000’s Founding Chair Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche spoke with Wisdom Publications CEO Daniel Aitken on the future of Buddhism and its intersection with digital technology.
“This marks the first app to market that presents a dynamic collection of teachings on the mind, straight from the source, for English-language users,” 84000 said in a statement shared with Buddhistdoor Global. “The 84000 app . . . includes narratives, dialogues, stories, and more that expound on the nature of reality and offer solutions that develop the mind’s capacity for equanimity. The app allows users to share their inspirations by easily selecting passages from sutras and sending real Buddha quotes to friends; and it supports offline practice and study allowing those working toward a digital detox, fully functional interactive tools without the noise.”
The app includes:
• A dynamic collection of Buddhist sutras encompassing teachings on everything from meditation techniques to epic and inspirational journeys and narratives; from profound presentations of philosophical logic to short stories illustrating the workings of karma.
• Access to sutra-specific introductions that articulate its key concepts, its narrative frameworks, and its socio-historical context.
• Interactive reading tools such as pop-up definitions of key terms like “samsara” or “non-duality” in a comprehensive trilingual glossary.
• Search function that allow you to look for characters, places, or philosophical concepts such as “Manjushri,” “Varanasi,” and “bodhicitta.”
• The ability to read bilingually or to compare translations with source Tibetan e-Kangyur folios integrated throughout the publications.
• The ability to bookmark favorite verses and to share them on various social media platforms.
84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha is a long-term undertaking that aims 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.
“Almost one in 10 people around the world live with depression, a rate exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and mindfulness—a traditionally Buddhist technique often developed through meditation—has consistently been found to be associated with lower rates of anxiety and depression,” 84000 shared. “The growing interest in mindfulness as a secular practice across the US is an encouraging trend, and 84000’s free provision of the Buddhist scriptures allows practitioners to engage more deeply, and to connect directly with the texts from which these techniques originated, reducing the need to fact-check sources, thereby meeting the private needs of people in the midst of very busy lives.”
The centerpiece of the app launch event on 27 October was a wide-ranging conversation between Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Wisdom Publications CEO Daniel Aitken. This two-hour dialogue touched upon many themes and topics profoundly pertinent to Buddhist practitioners navigating today’s changing world: from the importance and challenges of translating the Buddha’s words, and how we should think about the Buddha’s original teachings, to how modern technology can be integrated with our practice, how Buddhism can guide us through ideas such as ignorance and merit, and the role of technology in learning and teaching the Dharma.
“Buddhism offers an incredible view on our personal lives and on the world in general; Buddhism does not see the world in black and white, Buddhism does not see the world in terms of right and wrong,” Rinpoche shared. “Many times what is meant by ‘ethical’ or ‘moral’ in Buddhism is really different from a lot of other [systems of] thought and philosophies and ways. Buddhism really offers ways and tools and techniques for how to see the world as it is rather than how it appears. So I, as a Buddhist, strongly believe that Buddhism has always had a very, very important role in the world—but more so now than ever. So as a Buddhist I feel that we need to really protect, propagate, preserve the Buddhadharma and this is also something that I have been expected to do by all my masters. . . .”
A video of the full conversation can be accessed by registered members on the Wisdom Publications website.
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.
“84000’s most recent translation of the sutra known as The Stem Array (Gandavyuha Sutra) is also now published and is exclusively available on the free 84000 app until 30 October, when Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche will offer a public teaching on this sutra. It will then be published in 84000’s online Reading Room,” 84000 announced.
“In ancient times, such texts were extraordinarily difficult to access. We need only recall Vairotsana’s and Xuanzang’s arduous trips to India to realize that the search for the Dharma could be life-threatening,” 84000’s executive director, Huang Jing Rui, explained. “Yet until recently, the best formats one could get for translations of the Buddhist suras—a collection akin in both spiritual and historical importance to the Bible—were books of single translations, or PDFs. But even navigating to specific chapters or verses was near impossible. Leveraging technology, our online Reading Room creates all sorts of interesting ways for people to explore the sutras, from interactive glossary features to e-Kangyur integrations, and our mobile app—developed pro bono by XMind—now builds upon that technology to make it even easier for the entire world, from its most far-flung corners, to access the Buddha’s words with the click of a finger.”
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.
* 84000 to Share the Words of the Buddha with a New App for iOS and Android (Buddhistdoor Global)
** 84000 Launches Video Campaign to Mark 10 Years of Preserving the Tibetan Buddhist Canon (Buddhistdoor Global)
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