Removing walls between Tibetan Buddhism and the Chinese population

Removing walls between Tibetan Buddhism and the Chinese population

Removing walls between Tibetan Buddhism and the Chinese population


Dorshi Rinpoche is a prominent Tibetan scholar. His writings have been published in many languages, and particularly in Tibetan and Chinese. Unlike other Tibetan scholars in Tibet, he is very interested in the intersection between modern science and Buddhism. Since 1983, he has been a professor at Northwest University for Nationalities. Dorshi Rinpoche has also founded a private fund for Tibetan university students.

Removing walls between Tibetan Buddhism and the Chinese population
Dorshi Rinpoche

I am pleased to see that a series of my works on Tibetan Buddhism are about to meet a wide audience in Taiwan. I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to friends of Taiwan’s publishing industry who made it easier to publish the book and Ms Yang, whose enthusiasm and hard work contributed to the successful publication of this book.

Buddhism is, in a sense, a heart-purifying agent. Achieving the purification of human society through purification of the heart is the fundamental purpose of Buddhism. To use Buddhist language, if the heart is pure, rubbish is also pure earth; if the heart is not pure, the pure realm of the Buddhas is also rubbish. No matter if you are talking about Mahayana Buddhism or Theravada Buddhism, Esotericism or Tantrism, the authentic Buddhism cannot be separated from this purpose, and any preaching deviating from the purpose of these words and deeds are things that need to be enclosed in quotation marks regardless of how high-sounding you are.

Buddhism has been around for two thousand and five hundred years. During the two thousand years, human society, with the law of impermanence, has experienced numerous vicissitudes, and with the change of human society, human ideas and culture have gone through various changes of alternation and recycling between the old and the new. However, during the continued long river flow of impermanent birth and death, there has never been a Buddhist practitioner who could maintain the vitality of the extraordinary existence.

For Buddhism as an ideology and culture, the form and content cannot escape from the law of negation, and so it experienced numerous constructions and destructions.

Buddhism reveals the life and physical law and moral values, because it complies with objective laws, the ideal realm of life and the requirement of the survival state, and at the same time it contributes to the achievement of permanent life and value. This is why Buddhism has been in the history of mankind for so long, and why it is still rooted in the people’s hearts in modern society. Like a bright pearl shining beyond the boundaries of national borders and ethnic origins, Buddhism has been widely welcomed and supported by everyone.

In order to maintain the purity of Buddhism, and not to be misinterpreted and polluted by fallacies and secular bias,the correct interpretation of the Buddhist teachings is the duty of our Buddhist intellectuals. The research and works I conducted in this regard is for such a purpose.

The biggest obstacle in the interpretation and spread of Buddhist ideology and Buddhist scriptures is the language barrier. Such barrier exists not only between nations with different languages, but also within a single nation with one language.

Regarding the former: Problems between Tibetan Buddhism and other ethnic believers

Tibetan Buddhist scriptures have no difference between the classical and spoken language, and for Tibetans, the only obstacle is the understanding of Buddhist terminology. This is a common phenomenon in all disciplines but there is no obstacle on common words and text.

For other nationals with different languages studying Buddhism, language is the barrier. Many are interested in the study of Tibetan Buddhism, but because of the language barrier, they are shut out. Some people stay in Tibetan areas or spend most of their lives in these areas in order to master the language, but only a few manage to attain native fluency; most therefore have a lot of difficulty understanding the scriptures.

Regarding the latter: Obstacle of classical old speech versus modern Chinese

The classical Chinese used to write and translate Buddhist scriptures during Han and Tang Dynasties was determined by the contemporary social background, and understandable to ancient people of that time. But for modern people, the classical text of Buddhist scripture creates a lot of obstacle to their learning and interpretation. The most effective way to eliminate barriers in different languages is to translate, but there is no way to eliminate the barriers between classical Chinese and the spoken language other than with notes and explanations. In the past, in terms of vernacular translation of Buddhist Sutras with annotation, Buddhists in Taiwan did a lot of work and made an outstanding contribution. However, I afraid that translating all the Buddhist scriptures and the ancient literature into the modern spoken language is not an easy thing to do. Errors in the translation of Buddhist scriptures are an important issue that should be addressed by all the translators.

Originally the basic principles of translation are “faithfulness,” “emotion” and “elegance.” “Faithfulness” is the principle of fidelity to the intent of the original; being “emotional” is to be passionate about conveying the ideas; and “elegance” is about aesthetic requirements. General translations require the first two principles, and poetic verse text must have the third. Some people advocate that Buddhist translations should maintain the classical form of the “archaisms”. To put it bluntly, these people are not only unwilling to dismantle the walls between the Buddhist Sutras and the modern Chinese, but instead seem to want to build a new high wall between Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese language users. Perhaps this is the only way to maintain the pattern of a small number of spiritual nobility.

However, the purpose of translation is to make others understand the original intent and meaning. In my works of translation, I insist on breaking down the old mode of translation of Buddhist scriptures and try to avoid the use of classical phrases, and by using popular plain language, I try to accurately express the original intention and the rhetorical features of Tibetan. This is a characteristic of my translations and writings.

But I do not want to act “enlightened” or as an“achiever”… I only have a drop of the knowledge that I obtained from my diligent study of Tibetan Buddhism in a superior educational environment. In the rest of my life, with all my efforts, I want to inherit and carry forward Buddha’s pure doctrines to contribute some spiritual “green food” to all the beings.

By doing this type of work, the wild mind of some living beings will be blessed with the rain of Buddhist wisdom. This is the greatest happiness in my life.

Thank you to everyone.

Written on March 13th, 2005 at the Northwest Nationalities University
Translated by RebSa