|Global Renaissance Institute/Tibet House|
The Infinity Foundation is pleased to announce its bestowal of a start-up grant in conjunction with Tibet House, in support of the establishment of the Global Renaissance Institute: An Institute for the Advanced Study of the Inner Arts and Sciences in the Modern University
The modern sciences have developed enormously in recent centuries, but they now seem to have reached the outer limits imposed by their chosen ideology of materialism. They have analyzed the world into infinitesimal pieces, and they have no idea how to reassemble them into a humanly meaningful whole. The arts or professions based on them also suffer from this de-spiritualized, de-humanized fragmentation.
The Inner Science traditions, preserved (sometimes nearly invisibly) within most religious institutions, have maintained the profound holistic insight essential to the core of science, and have cultivated ways of integrating all analytical sciences and making them useful to beings through viable arts and professions. Working scientists at modern universities need continuous, long-term access to Inner Sciences and Inner Scientists right on campus. While impact and progress will be remarkable from the very first activities of the Institute, its goal, the Global Renaissance itself, will be achieved during the coming century.
Project Overview: The Tanjur and its Importance
The Tanjur (bstan 'gyur) is a vast collection of classical Indian Sanskrit literature from the first millennium C.E., mostly lost in the original and preserved in Tibetan translation systematically completed by hundreds of teams of Indian and Tibetan translators during the 7th-12th centuries. Its 224 volumes include over 3,600 key master treatises (shastras) by more than 700 authors in all of India's "outer" arts and sciences - including philosophy, logic and epistemology, physics and metaphysics, medicine, astronomy, socio-political theory, ethics, art, poetry and poetic theory, narrative and drama, grammar, linguistics, and lexicography - as well as all of her "inner" arts and sciences - including certain aspects of philosophy and epistemology, psychology and mind science, meditation, yoga, and other models for and techniques of personal transformation. Its comprehensive range of topics makes it difficult to classify the contents of the Tanjur as only "Buddhist" or even only "religious." Indeed, the Tanjur is perhaps best thought of as a textual distillation of a major part of India's classical cultural heritage as preserved in its great medieval Buddhist university libraries (which amassed over one hundred times the holdings of the Library of Alexandria). It bears recollecting that only about 5-10% of its contents are extant in the original Sanskrit, and that while the bulk of the Kanjur (Buddhist scriptures proper) was translated into Chinese, only about 1% of the Tanjur was translated into Chinese. Thus, the vast majority of the Indian shastric literature contained in the Tanjur has been preserved only in this Tibetan collection.
The ambitious goal of the Tanjur Translation Project is to develop and maintain the necessary institutional infrastructure to provide long-term guidance, coordination, and support for international teams of scholars to produce critical editions, comparative and critical studies, and standardized, modern-language translations of every text in the Tibetan Tanjur. An important guiding principle will be that these treasures are to be truly translated, that is, they are to be presented in such a way that their invaluable knowledge will be made accessible and relevant both to scholars (from multiple disciplines) as well as to the general public. These translations can and must benefit humanity at large.
Acknowledging that scholars have managed to translate perhaps only 5% of the Tanjur into any modern language over the past century or so, this project could be assumed to take several more generations to complete. However, it is our hope that given the urgency and rare opportunity of our current circumstances, this important endeavor can now solicit and receive sufficient funding for a coordinated, international team of scholars to realistically translate the bulk of this invaluable corpus over the next generation.
Genesis and History of the Tanjur Translation Project
The scope and goals of the Tanjur Translation Project fit both the broader mandates of the recently established Global Renaissance Institute (GRI) as well as the more narrowly defined mandates of the long-established American Institute of Buddhist Studies (AIBS), formally affiliated with Columbia University's Center for Buddhist Studies (CBS), and of GRI's founding sponsors, the Infinity Foundation (IF) and Tibet House US (THUS). Thus, the proposed Tanjur Translation Project will be a GRI/AIBS/CBS/IF/THUS joint venture.
The Global Renaissance Institute
American Institute of Buddhist
Headed by Prof. Thurman at Geshe Wangyal's request, the AIBS then moved to and remained active in Amherst, Massachusetts from 1976-1988 before finally settling with Prof. Thurman at Columbia University in New York City (1988-present). There he established Columbia's Center for Buddhist Studies (CBS) with the founding directive also to translate key Buddhist texts (Indic shastras as well as other Asian Buddhist texts), and he formally affiliated CBS with AIBS. Collaborative translation work has gradually continued under the joint auspices of these organizations.
Since the founding of AIBS almost three decades ago, Indo-Tibetan scholarship has progressed markedly and a new generation of highly skilled and dedicated scholars has emerged. With improved critical and technological tools, scholars are producing new translations, revising the pioneering works of their predecessors, and sharpening the critical edge of Buddhological, textual, and comparative methodologies. Thus, GRI and AIBS believe that the time is now ripe to bring to fruition the vision of Geshe Wangyal and the mandates of these affiliated institutions. While it is clear that no individual or even small team could hope to translate even a hundredth of the Tanjur, we firmly believe that the necessary resources (human, and soon material) now exist to organize and maintain a structure or framework to guide and direct the completion of this necessary enterprise, the critical translation of the entire Tanjur into English and other modern languages.
GRI Sponsors: The Infinity
Foundation and Tibet House U.S.
Tibet House U.S. was co-founded by Prof. Thurman in New York (1987) at the request of H.H. the Dalai Lama, with the mission to protect and preserve the living cultural tradition of Tibet. This tradition has for centuries traced many of its cultural roots to the "Noble Land" (Aryavarta) of mother India, and thus Tibet House's mandate includes the preservation of the "Indic" traditions in general. While this mandate is clearly related to the mandates of GRI and AIBS, until recently Tibet House (and Prof. Thurman) has had to focus largely on fundraising and other initiatives to protect and preserve the sources (including the people themselves) of these rich traditions. Now that Tibet House has become more firmly established, it is prepared to join forces with GRI and AIBS to embark on the preservation and translation of an important part of India's and Tibet's textual heritage, the Tanjur shastric treasury.
Proposal and Strategies for Tanjur Translation
Conferences on Indic Contributions
Moreover, one important instantiation of this living tradition is of course preserved in the written record, and it is this subset of knowledge that concerns the Tanjur Translation Project. Thus, a key set of related panels and round table discussions will consist of Indian, Tibetan, East Asian, and Western scholars who will evaluate the presentation and representation (i.e., the interpretation) of India's ideas and methodologies as encoded in her rich textual heritage. Scholars will be invited to form working groups in different disciplinary and topic areas. In addition to Indo-Tibetan specialists and translators, non-translators from related Western disciplines (e.g., epistemology, cognitive psychology, etc.) will also be invited. So, for example, we will convene a panel of specialists in Indo-Tibetan epistemology (pramana, tshad ma) and Western traditions of epistemology to begin (1) to develop innovative new conventions for translation in this discipline, and (2) to determine a prioritized list for the translation of the relevant Tanjur texts, to compile all supporting bibliographic information, and to embark on such translations.
(1) Support for Context-Sensitive
Lexical Comparison and Translation
(2) Textual Prioritization,
Bibliographic Support, and Translation
For texts as yet unedited, untranslated, and perhaps little studied, a critical edition will be generated, an English translation will be produced, and supporting critical essays will be written to introduce the text and to place it in its broader historical and theoretical context. In addition, for each text teams will enter into the database chapter outlines (sa bcad or dkar chag) in Sanskrit, Tibetan and English and compose brief content summaries. Tanjur texts for which there are extant critical editions, translations, studies, and so forth will be critically assessed as well; if such a text is in need of revision, such will be debated and carried out (having obtained relevant and necessary permissions). In all such cases of revision the original editor(s) or translator(s) will be honored for their pioneering work, and (if still alive) whenever possible included in the revision process. Moreover, we will interface with other individuals and teams already working on various Tanjur translations to ensure that we avoid duplication of effort, as well as to ensure that the highest level of scholarly standards are being implemented (that all available Sanskrit and Tibetan editions and modern translations are being consulted, that current critical methodologies are being employed, that context-sensitive appraisal of terminology is being developed, and so forth). Finally, we will also encourage and facilitate efforts already begun to translate these classical Indic shastras from Tibetan back into modern Indic languages (scholarly Sanskrit, Hindi) so that Indians might become inspired to acknowledge and proudly reappropriate their invaluable and largely lost "Buddhic" heritage.
Final products produced directly under our auspices will be published through our Institute's publishing label (GRI/AIBS/TH) and will be made available both in traditional paper form as well as in emerging electronic formats for online distribution.
Project Summary to Date
The Tanjur Translation Project itself has begun with funding from foundations such as the IASWR and more recently (through its support of GRI) the Infinity Foundation, from government agencies such as the NEH, and from knowledgeable private donors, whose grants have sponsored activities in research, translation, education, and publication. While it is hard to calculate the cost to society of educating over the last decades the dozens of scholars who will work on the project, we have raised and spent over three million dollars throughout the last 29 years to bring us to this current stage of the project.
Our initial goal will be to target and translate key shastric texts used within the core curriculum of the Indo-Tibetan traditions, before finally progressing on to the remainder of the Tanjur. We currently have the following texts in penultimate draft form ready for imminent publication: Mahayana-sutra-alamkara and its vyakhya by Maitreya/Asanga and Vasubandhu (AIBS team); Yuktishasthika and its vrttii by Nagarjuna and Candrakirti (J. Loizzo); Caryamelapakapradipa and other texts by Aryadeva (C. Wedemeyer); Kalacakra-tantra (ch. II) with Vimalaprabha commentary (Vesna Wallace). In addition, we have the following texts in rough draft form needing further work for publication in the mid-future: Bodhisattvabhumi, Mahayana-samgraha, and Abhidharma-samuccaya by Asanga (Thurman and Cutillo); Mulamadhyamakakarika by Nagarjuna (Thurman); Samdhinirmocana-sutra (Thurman and Cutillo); Kalacakra-tantra (ch. IV) with Vimalaprabha commentary (Vesna Wallace); Kalacakra-tantra (ch. V) with Vimalaprabha commentary (J. Hartzel, V. Wallace); assorted Cakrasamvara-tantra treatises (D. Gray).
Finally, we have completed draft translations of numerous other texts at one time or another. We would now like to interface with other translators who have done work on these same texts to see that reliable and consistent translations and studies of them are produced. Thus, for example, we are prepared to interface and work with other scholars who have done work on Maitreya's Abhisamaya-alamkara, Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakosha, and numerous other treatises.