THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

Buddhist Text Translation Society

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Dedicating His Life to Propagating the Buddhadharma:
The Translation of the Buddhist Canon

(Book Fair)

 

The Venerable Kumarajiva translated Sutras for the Seven Buddhas,
rescuing the multitudes from the sea of suffering.
Great Master Hsuan Tsang sought the Dharma on behalf of the people,
enabling living beings to reach the Land of Bliss.

--By the Venerable Master Hua

Today's highly developed material civilization and extravagant material lifestyle are unprecedented in the history of mankind. However, if we contemplate the global picture, we see that the sufferings of living beings have only increased. Wars, famines, droughts, and other manmade and natural disasters are occurring everywhere. The nations of the world invest great amounts of money and employ endless strategies in an attempt to solve these problems, but they can only provide temporary relief. They have no way to remove the ultimate cause of people's suffering. The Venerable Master once said:

Now it can be said that the world has gone bad. The only thing that can save the world is the Buddhadharma. Only if people understand the Buddhadharma can the evil age be turned back. If people don't understand the Buddhadharma, then I am afraid this world will reach the time when it will be destroyed. The Christians say, "The Last Day (Day of Judgment) is not far off!" If we translate the Buddhadharma into English, if everyone understands the Buddhadharma, if everyone knows better than to be lazy, and if people press forward and resolve to cultivate, then the Last Day will be very far away in the future; it will be hard to say how many great eons away. In fact, there won't even be a "Last Day"! Why not? Because as soon as the great Dharma Wheel of the Buddhadharma is set in motion, even the sun will be pulled in and won't be able to set, so there won't be any final day.

The countries of the world have all sought to emulate Western science and technology. And yet, in recent years many Westerners, wishing to regulate the mind, have sought out the Buddhadharma. However, teachers who are grounded in the orthodox Buddhist tradition were hard to find, and there were the barriers of language and culture. Observing the ripening of conditions in the West, the Venerable Master brought the orthodox Dharma to the West and began to solve the problems of the world from the root. The Venerable Master said:

I don't do things for myself. I came here to rescue Americans. Now is the time when Buddhism should be flourishing in America. During the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period, China was in a state of chaos. During those times, Confucius travelled around the states. China gradually became better and its people lived in peace and prosperity. Right now the United States is very chaotic. If Americans don't believe in Buddhism and don't rely on Buddhism to change and reshape the world, the whole society will crumble.

In his youth, the Venerable Master had already begun to study how to make the Buddhist teachings available to all parts of the world in order to save the world. The Venerable Master said:

When I left the home-life, I wanted to find out why such a perfect teaching as Buddhism was studied by so few people in the world. Why were Protestantism and Catholicism so widespread? After looking into it, I discovered that the reason Buddhism has not spread throughout the world is because we, the disciples of the Buddha, have not translated the Buddhist scriptures into the languages of each and every nation. Catholicism and Protestantism, on the other hand, have had the Bible translated into the languages of all countries. The people of every country can read it and immediately understand it. If we can do this with the Buddhist scriptures, translating them into as many languages as we are able, Buddhism will become a universal teaching even without our wishing it. So, I made a vow when I left the home-life that, even though I don't know any other language, as long as I'm alive, I will see to it that the Buddhist scriptures are translated into the languages of all countries. That's my vow. I'm willing to exhaust my abilities to promote this work.

The transmission of the Buddhadharma from India to China was made possible through the valiant and tireless efforts of generations of high Sanghans and Patriarchs to obtain the Sutras and to translate them. Due to their efforts, the people of China have had the opportunity to understand the subtle, wonderful, and inconceivable Buddhadharma. Just as the Venerable Master said:

For everything we understand of this Sutra, we should give great thanks to the translator. If he had never existed, we would be unable to see the Sutra or even to hear its name. If that were the case, how would we be able to cultivate according to the methods prescribed in it? It would be impossible to find its path of cultivation. Therefore, we should thank the person who translated the Sutra, since from that time up to the present moment, every generation has benefited from his compassionate teaching and transforming. The merit of translating Sutras is inconceivable. It is extremely vast. Now it is up to you to translate the Sutras into the languages of the West. The merit derived by the people who take part in this work will be without limit, for it will benefit not only their own lives, but will be cause for the gratitude of generations of people in the West. Everyone can be included in the work of translation; I hope no one will fall behind. You should quickly learn Chinese and translate the Sutras into English. Everyone should be eager to make a contribution to the people of the West.

With his vision for the future, the Venerable Master clearly saw the key to saving the world. That's why he made the vast vow of translating the Buddhist canon. However, the work of translating Sutras is extremely difficult. In the past, the emperors and ministers of China used the country's resources to accomplish this task. Nowadays, there is hardly any government official in the West giving support to Buddhism. The Venerable Master said,

I dare not bring up this matter with anyone, because as soon as I mention it, everyone feels overwhelmed by the immensity of the task. Everyone is frightened, because this is something that has never been done before, something that nobody dares to do. The manpower, financial resources, and various conditions required by this project are not simple matters. No one dares to take on this responsibility. Even among my disciples who have taken refuge with me, there is no one who truly understands the importance of this undertaking.

The Venerable Master, with his great courageous spirit, took this difficult and great task upon himself. He said,

The work of translating the Sutras is sacred work, and it will last for endless generations. We are common people doing the work of sages. Not only is this our duty, it is also very meaningful, for we can benefit others and establish merit. In the past, the kings and emperors used their imperial authority and the strength of the government to carry out the translation of the Sutras. Now we are merely using our strength as ordinary citizens. If we can produce some results, I believe the national leaders will also become involved in this work in the future. Right now, we must first lay a foundation. We must first gather strength among the people.

Even so, the Venerable Master never thought of himself as having initiated some greatly meritorious endeavor. Instead, he humbly said,

I'm just a worker who sweeps the ground and levels the road for everyone. In the future, there will be others who can lay the gravel and pour on the asphalt. Right now, we can do the work that nobody wants to do, the work that no one dares to do. Bit by bit, we will open up this road of the Buddhadharma.

The Venerable Master also told disciples,

We cannot be negligent in doing this work. We must do our best to carry out our real responsibilities. However much we can do, we should do that much. Let's keep pressing forward and working. We should take Buddhism as our own responsibility. The propagation of the Buddhadharma should be our personal duty in life.

The spirit of "renouncing our lives to do the Buddha's work" was the Venerable Master's lifelong attitude. Every act in his life was a genuine manifestation and ultimate realization of that spirit. It all came forth from a compassionate wish to benefit living beings. The Venerable Master said,

We are using everyone's wisdom to translate the Sutras. Even if it takes several decades, we have to do something of value for the people of the future. We want them to be able to study the Buddhadharma and read the Sutras. It won't be like now, when there are only a few Sutras in English and those who want to study the Buddhadharma don't even know where to begin. Let us all translate the Sutras and open the source of wisdom for the people of the West, so that Easterners and Westerners can all come to understand the Buddhadharma. Everyone should make that his or her goal. We shouldn't think on our own behalf; we should think on behalf of the people who live hundreds and thousands of years in the future. We want to make it easy for them to study the Buddhadharma and understand the Buddhadharma. That's our goal. That's why we are making such strenuous efforts and undergoing so much hardship here.

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