Apologies for the poor quality of the video, I did it myself on my laptop webcam, there are English sub-titles available for those whose first language is not English. I have also published the transcript for those who prefer to read, rather than listen.
-The importance of motivation, personal connection, experience and empowerments with the texts
-The corporatisation of Dharma translations, publications or ‘Dharma Translations Inc.’
-The sexism and double standards towards female scholars and translators, particularly so-called ‘difficult’ women who have written about challenging topics
-Wanting to make interesting and precious academic research available to a wider, non-academic, audience
-Wanting to provide Dharma texts and translations for free but also to an academic standard
-Providing an example and inspiration to other female scholars, translators and practitioners facing obstacles or lack of support
For more on the issue of the blocking, ignoring and overlooking of ‘difficult’ women in Buddhism, see my previous article on that
Also launching my new haircut and colour, which like samsara and mental obscurations is temporary ha ha ha ha
TRANSCRIPT OF YOUTUBE TALK
Hello, my name is Adele Tomlin. For those of you who don’t know who I am, I’m the founder of the Dakini Translations and Publications website and the sole translator. My biographical information can be found on the website, which I’ve put the link to below this.
Now, I don’t really enjoy speaking about myself too much, verbally or on video, but I have had a few requests from people who follow the website who really enjoy it, who’ve asked me to say a little bit more personally about myself about the philosophy behind the website, and maybe even give a few teachings about my work. So, I thought I should make this kind of short video introduction, and explain a little bit about my own personal philosophy on Dharma translation, and some of the reasons why I created Dakini Translations. Also, I really wanted to thank everyone who’s been following the website, who writes to me and gives donations and says how much they appreciate it and the benefit they get from that. So, I also wanted to thank people for that. So, I’ll say a little bit more about that later on.
Now, this is also kind of the launch of a new YouTube channel. I’ve been thinking to put some kind of video bite-sized chunks related to some of the work that I’ve done, and I am doing. And my friend suggested, I call it Dakini Orations, which I thought was quite amusing and quite funny, and a little bit tongue in cheek.
The name Dakini Translations
So that’s what I’d like to start this introduction off with, just talking about the name of the website. So, for some that was actually also a little bit controversial. Some people took issue with it and questioned, why I used the word dakini for the name, and they sort of felt that I was suggesting that I’m a Dakini. Of course, I am not. And I have said this on the website itself. I don’t think I am a Dakini, and I think I’m actually quite ordinary and not particularly special. But what I do have is a great love for the Dharma. I really just wanted to use some of my skills and knowledge to make the Dharma accessible and free to people, which I’ll talk a little bit more about as well later. But you know, the word ‘Dakini; obviously I also wanted it to have that little bit of a humorous side to it, which not everyone will get the sort of funny side of that, Also, I wanted it to have this kind of very feminine feel to the website. Obviously, the word Dakini has a very kind of feminine principle to it. So that was the reason I chose the name.
Now, of course, there are other translations websites out there who have been set up by men and predominantly run by men where they use the word wisdom and Lotsawa. And of course, they don’t face those sorts of accusations such as ‘are you saying that you have wisdom’ and, and so on. In any case, it doesn’t really matter. I guess it just also kind of proves my point a little bit that there is this kind of sexism within the Dharma translation world. I think that the fact that I face this sort of accusation kind of actually shows that. Also, I prefer to obviously let my work speak for itself and not really put myself out there. That’s another reason I use the name Dakini Translations, not to give it my own personal name, you know, with a personal website name and so on. Now, that’s the name.
PHILOSOPHY AND VISION
Role Model – Marpa the Translator
So, in terms of moving on to the kind of philosophy, or let’s say or the thinking behind the website. Well, first of all, I think I should mention, who I see as one of the greatest translators coming out of Tibet was Marpa, the great translator and Kagyu forefather. I see him as a great role model and inspiration for many reasons. Of course, first of which is that he was a layperson, like myself. Also, he was not very popular in some ways, many people disliked him. And they felt that he was someone who was bad tempered and very ordinary. However, in hindsight, as we now know, he’s considered to be one of the greatest Dharma translators ever to come out of Tibet. His work is, of course, incredibly valuable. I also think Marpa shows us as an example with his life of a great Dharma translator as someone who’s had that kind of motivation, you know, that even if people don’t praise them or reward them, or like them, they don’t get any money for it, you know, he’s still made all that effort to go to India to travel there, to raise the money to do that raise the money to give to these Indian masters and masters so that he can pay them, literally plowing his own money and time into it. I find these sorts of things very inspiring, as I know many others do.
However, I’m not so sure this is so prevalent these days in the Dharma translation world any more. So, this comes on to my second point of why I created the Dakini Translations was that I felt that in the last 20 or 30 years, for example, not only has there been much more male domination of, there’s been a male domination of what goes on in Dharma translation, but the kind of corporatization if you like of it, you know, what you could call sort of like Dharma translation, Inc, or something, you know, big name publishers, profit-making publishers. These days, more and more big funded translation projects with lots of editorial boards, lots of advisory boards, and lots of committees and so on, but not necessarily that much content. So, you know, they have a lot of money ploughed into them. For me, and I think for others, the question is whether some of these people who are on these projects would actually be doing that work if they weren’t getting paid for it. And I think that’s a valid question to ask. Now, that’s not to say necessarily that having lots of editorial people in committee boards, there’s no reason for that at all. Of course, they’re trying to maintain a good standard of translation. But my own personal experience of these sorts of boards and committees is that sometimes, you know, they often take a lot of time, and they can actually be a real waste of time, frankly. For example, Marpa himself never had those kinds of things happening with his work. Now, I’ve had my work go through these kinds of review process, and they did end up published but it took months and months. Honestly, I can’t really say that much really changed in terms of what I’d written. I mean, there was some debate over words here and there. But there was nothing really substantial, occasionally, maybe something which I’d missed, but nothing really much changed. And it took a very long time to do that. So that’s actually, you know, another reason why I wanted to provide something like this website, which wasn’t full of all these boards and committee members, and just very straightforward and very simple. Where I took kind of the sole ownership of it.
Interesting academic research made available to a wider audience
So, so the other reason was the fact that I have been in the academic world and had two books published, based on my own postgraduate research. But there’s so much work in the academic world, such as in PhDs and academic articles, which are extraordinary, extremely interesting. Much of it is kind of lost to the general public, because most people will not have the time or inclination to look at sort of heavy, dense, long PhD publications or academic articles, right. So even myself, you know, I struggle with that sometimes. So, I also wanted to provide a forum, a place for bringing out this kind of really interesting research and translation, but present it in a more accessible way, an easy to access way with images with music, and so on, and allow people to access it in a way which is not so demanding of them mentally on their time, but also making it more accurate, attractive and accessible at the same time. So that was another motivation for doing it.
Dharma texts freely available
Now, the other reason was, I actually do think all Dharma texts and translations should be free. I don’t think people should have to pay for them. And I don’t think any profit, monetary or commercial profit should really be made from them. And so particularly sadhana texts. I think a sadhana text should be free, and the only restriction on a sadhana text should be really if the person has the relevant empowerment, and so on. So, this is another personal philosophy of mine. And I’ve seen places where they do sell Sadhana texts and other texts, and of course, there are websites that don’t. There’s Lotsawa House, for example, which is a very, very useful resource. And there’s Dharma E-books as well, which is the main online publishing of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa.
Personal connection, transmission and non-monetary connections to the texts
So, these resources are there, and they’re excellent, which is great. But on the other hand, I also wanted to provide a Dharma translations website, which also contains research background information on the texts as well, and my own connection to the text. For example, do I have the empowerment? Do I have the transmission and who did I get them from, and so on, and these things are sometimes lacking on the other websites. So, you know, you see the translator’s name, but you don’t have that background information of their own personal interest or background in the text. And again, that kind of comes back to the sort of corporatization issue which is, you know, are people doing this because they’re really connected and feel, you know, personally connected to the text or the teacher? Or are they doing it because they’re actually getting paid to do it?
The difference between career translator/scholar and an amateur/passionate translator
And, you know, I sort of never forget, someone said to me once, you know, ‘I’m a professional translator,’ and were sort of suggesting, of course, that I wasn’t, which, you know, was quite funny. I was actually kind of quite pleased that they said that, because I don’t think the Dharma translator is a profession. I don’t see it as a career. I see it absolutely as a kind of a personal vocation and a passion. I remember interviewing someone recently about a photographic exhibition that he’d done. And he said that he sees himself as an amateur. And an amateur means someone who really loves what they do. Right. Soto be an amateur, perhaps is better in this context, rather than to be a professional and see oneself as a professional, you know, because I don’t see Dharma transition as like a job or a career.
Now, and this is where I think, again, coming back to the example of Marpa is a very important one. And I think it is actually really important to really try as much as possible to emulate him. And to show you that, I think, you know, that’s why it’s important to show those kinds of connections to the text of the teacher, and to the practice. Now, of course, one can translate a text without that, there are many people who have done that, and do that, certainly, in the academic world, many commentaries and texts are translated without any connection with the lineage or without empowerments with historical texts. Of course, that’s not such a big issue. But if you’re talking about Vajrayana or practice texts, or commentaries on practices, then I think that’s more problematic. And I do think that work and those translations, they do actually lack something, it’s like an invisible something, which is that kind of personal blessing of the lineage of the practice of your own personal experience of it. And, and so again, I think that’s, that’s something I wanted to put out there with Dakini Translations was to provide something that really had sort of a more personal connection with the text as well.
Barriers faced by ‘difficult’ women
And then the other reason is because as a woman, as many of you know, and I also have written about, there are lots of gatekeepers to these translation projects and publishing. Especially if you’re a woman like myself, who has actually been labeled difficult and challenging, because I’ve written what some people perceive as very challenging things, about things that are happening within Tibetan Buddhism, happening to women in particular, such as my own experience. So, you know, in certain circles, you know, I’ve had definitely had obstacles put in my way because of that, and been blocked from attending conferences, or being on PhD courses, or having work published, for example. So that was another reason I created this website, it was I really felt one of the only ways around that to get my work out there and to provide it for people was to have a website like this as a resource to circumvent all of that. It’s not actually just, so called difficult women who have had barriers put in their way. Of course, we all know that even women who are accepted in the field, who have professorships or whatever in the field, they report they still face these kinds of barriers, that their work is often overlooked or diminished, and often overlooked for much less kind of thorough or scholarly work being produced by men. I’ve certainly seen that. I know other women have reported that to me and others. So, in that respect, I felt that this was actually a necessity, not only just for me to do this for my own sort of work, but also for other female scholars and translators who were facing maybe similar barriers, or wondering if they would ever be able to get those opportunities to say, to see a woman doing this from her own initiative, and being successful at it. Now, this comes to the sort of final point, which is obviously, the success of the work and the website is, you know, it’s of course, dependent on the people who use it and read it. I’ve had many, many amazing, beautiful emails and donations from the general public and practitioners, but also, you know, from scholars and translators, some of whom are quite well known, who told me how much they loved the website, how much they follow it. So, in that respect, I’m very happy that it’s been successful in that respect to have brought a much broader audience but including the academic audience, to these topics, and to this to this kind of forum.
Now, to finish, as I said, some people have requested that I also give some kind of teachings on some of the things that I’ve written. I don’t see myself as a teacher or lama at all. I don’t think I’m qualified. But I thought that as people have been asking me, then perhaps it might be suitable to provide some kind of very short teachings on video, but also maybe to talk and do maybe a short course on my book on Taranatha’s commentary on the Heart Sutra, which is a Shentong, empty-of-other commentary on the Heart Sutra. And, of course, that in itself is also a bit controversial, because many people think that the Heart Sutra and the Prajnaparamita Sutras are the empty-of-other view, as I said, and that they are teachings on the empty-of-self, the Rangtong view, that they are teachings of what they call the second wheel of Dharma and not the first, sorry, the third wheel of Dharma, the definitive view. So, in a way, Taranatha’s has also actually been very provocative at that time. I think it did most definitely provoke people, if you look at the history around that time. So, I think that’s a very interesting text anyway to discuss not just from a philosophical point of view, but from an intellectual and historical point of view. So, if I do that, I will certainly announce it on the website. So, thanks again for supporting the website and for your very, very kind and generous comments and donations, and a big namaste to all of you and all the best to you. Thank you so much.