TRANSLATING BUDDHISM FROM TIBETAN
Over the course of five centuries, from the seventh through twelfth centuries, a canon of 300+ volumes of Buddhist teachings were produced containing texts faithfully translated from Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Chinese. These were then supplemented by another seven centuries of careful commentary and exegesis by the scholar-yogis of Tibet. In commenting on current translation activities in the West, His Holiness, the present Dalai Lama, has emphasized that would-be translators should exercise the greatest level of care in producing accurate and informative translations at the same level or even greater than those original translations from Sanskrit into Tibetan while taking advantage of the rich intellectual history that Tibet has to offer to make these Buddhist teachings on personal liberation and societal transformation available to people around the world.
At Dharma Farm, we are committed to studying and translating this literature, which may constitute the largest body of untranslated religious and philosophical texts in the world, and to producing resources for and providing free instruction to others who wish to do so as well.
Our language instruction stems from and carries on the language training that the faculty of Dharma Farm received at the University of Virginia in the acclaimed translator Jeffrey Hopkins's program of studies in Tibetan language and culture focussed on the translation of Tibetan texts into English. Those of us who have embarked upon a study of this material can testify to its transformative influence and intellectual content that inspires and enlivens the mind.
Central to the Dharma Farm approach to language instruction is a core emphasis on a correct understanding of the grammar of literary Tibetan. Consequently, the foundation of our courses is a rigorous primer in grammatical principles and sentence paradigm memorization.
Acceptance criteria for students at the Dharma Farm involves demonstration of a commitment to linguistic precision coupled with the humility to recognize that the ability to access some Tibetan texts may lie beyond one’s ability for a few years and perhaps even require input from the living tradition to fully appreciate a text's depth of meaning.
At the present time, roughly half of our current students are monastics – nuns and monks from all over the world. The others are students of religion, language, and culture who share our dedication to making the best possible translated texts available to anyone, anywhere, now and in the future.
Our classes in Tibetan and Sanskrit language, history, and philosophy are all conducted via Zoom, tuition-free.