Tibetan Translation Issues Discussed at Recent Conference
Buddhist luminaries, clustered in eastern Tibet in the nineteenth-century, composed numerous short texts of advice that are lively in their use of language and poignant in their pith instructions. In order to explore issues of translation in a range of such texts, Holly Gayley of CU Boulder and Josh Schapiro of Fordham University organized Translating Buddhist Luminaries: A Conference on Ecumenism and Tibetan Translation. The conference was held at CU Boulder on April 18-20, 2013.
The conference launched with a public panel on "Ecumenism in Tibet" on Thursday, April 18. Each of the four panelists presented different perspectives on how to define ecumenism in Buddhism broadly speaking, in Tibetan religious history, and among a group of nineteenth-century luminaries in eastern Tibet. Keynote speaker, Ringu Tulku, began the panel discussion by illuminating the inherently ecumenical stance of Buddhism, as understood by Tibetans, based in the notion of skillful means and the presentation of nine vehicles or yānas.
Panelists then went on to discuss historical reasons for an ecumenical impulse among nineteenth-century luminaries to collect and preserve the teachings of diverse practice lineages as well as the continued importance of ecumenism for Tibetans today, particularly for forging unity in exile. The others panelists were Sarah Harding of Naropa University, Michael Sheehy of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, and Douglas Duckworth of East Tennessee State University. The panel was moderated by Holly Gayley in the Department of Religious Studies at CU Boulder.
Convening a group of fifteen scholars and translators, Translating Buddhist Luminaries stimulated an animated discussion about the ways in which to approach authorial voice and literary style in translating Tibetan texts. On Friday, April 19, the group spent the day reading a set of translations circulated in advance by contributing participants. The featured translations were based on pithy texts of advice by nineteenth-century luminaries such as Patrul Rinpoche, Dudjom Lingpa, Adzom Drukpa, Bampa Tubden Gelek, Zhangton Tenpa Gyatso, and Mipham the Great. Tibetan Studies faculty and graduate students from CU Boulder and Naropa attended these sessions as observers, joined by area translators and Tsadra fellows and staff.
The conference ended with an open house and brunch hosted by the Tsadra Foundation at the new location for their Research Center in Boulder. At the open house, Tsadra announced a large-scale translation conference they are planning for October 2014.
Translating Buddhist Luminaries was co-sponsored by the Tsadra Foundation and the Center for Asian Studies with additional support from the Center for Humanities & the Arts and the Department of Religious Studies at CU Boulder.
Thanks to Marv Ross for photos of the panel on "Ecumenism in Tibet" and Spaff Ackerly for the photo of the conference workshop session.