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Unprecedented Translation Project from the IBD

July 15, 2010

Ben Dunant
The Tibet Post International
July 12, 2010

Dharamshala -- A bold new initiative of McLeod
Ganj's Institute of Buddhist Dialectics is a
project to translate the teachings of His
Holiness the Dalai Lama into different Tibetan
regional dialects, in an effort to reach out to
the broader Tibetan community from all three
provinces, many of whom cannot understand
standard Tibetan and are thereby denied the
wisdom and guidance of His Holiness. So far they
have produced a thirty minute film in the Amdo
dialect, featuring a 2006 teaching of His
Holiness to several thousand youth at the Tibetan
Children's Village, McLeod Ganj. Another recent
achievement is a documentary on astronomy, The
Planets, translated from English into Tibetan.

On Wednesday Sangay Dorjee, correspondent for The
Tibet Post International, interviewed the
Assistant Director of the Institute of Buddhist
Dialectics, Ven Kelsang Damdul. He explained how,
although His Holiness' teachings cover a broad
sweep of issues from religion to politics to
education, they are conventionally delivered only
in the Lhasa dialect that goes for ‘standard
Tibetan'. So, the Institute felt that, only if
they could translate them into the broad spectrum
of Tibetan regional dialects, his teachings could
address the Tibetan community as a whole. First
they attempted translations into the Amdo dialect
because, a certain Mr. Dranak Tsondue, who
studied at the Institute before moving on to
America, independently came up with the idea
specifically with the Amdo dialect in mind - and
it was he, in collaboration with the Institute,
that created the aforementioned video of the 2006 teaching.

The film was very much an ensemble effort, with
many eminent Tibetans contributing both advice
and practical help. But the project wasn't easy,
Damdul explained, because they had to remain
utterly faithful to both His Holiness' speech and
performance: matching all the highs and lows of
his cadence, the pauses and crescendos, the hand
gestures, the spontaneous chuckles - everything
which makes him such a distinctive, energetic,
inspiring teacher. Recently Mr. Tsundue came to
Dharamshala and they worked together for almost
ten hours straight, the result of which was a film of only half an hour.

Next The Tibet Post International asked him, do
you have any plans to translate his teachings
into the Khampa dialect? Like the people of Amdo,
many from Kham struggle with the Lhasa dialect.
He said, of course, but first we want to gauge
the success of the Amdo video. Next he explained
how they are in the process of translating
scientific documentaries, on subjects ranging
from biology to physics, from English into
Tibetan for distribution to schools, monasteries
and other learning centres. It is inestimably
helpful, he said, to have such fundamental
scientific knowledge open to Tibetan speakers.

The Institute of Buddhist Dialectics has
contributed immeasurably to the preservation of
the Tibetan linguistic heritage, alongside the
promotion of the Tibetan literary and
philosophical tradition - something which,
despite the experience of exile, is flourishing
in such cultural centres as McLeod Ganj and
beyond. Since its foundation in the 1970s it has
striven to develop the higher education of exiled
Tibetans, so that they might contribute
effectively to their society in exile, and be
fully equipped to return to Tibet as well
qualified and conscientious citizens, and achieve
positions of responsibility and moral authority within their homeland.
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