English Translation Fellows
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"As for the two realities, it is the nature of dualistic appearances to appear like a reflection of the moon in water, which is seeming reality. Ultimate reality means that precisely these mere appearances are naturally free from all reference points. In this way, the two realities are completely free from being the same or different. At the same time, both are just conventional, and neither is independently real. The point of Madhyamaka is to bring every kind of clinging to reality, unreality, entities, and nonentities to an end. In this way, since the seeming is deceiving and illusionlike, it is merely false imagination that appears as the abodes, objects, and bodies of sentient beings, all consisting of the eight consciousnesses. Since these consciousnesses arise in dependence on false imagination, they are not real. But since they originate dependently and appear, they are not totally nonexistent either and thus called ‘other-dependent.’ As for the discriminations and labels on the basis of these other-dependent appearances, they are like a mirage and thus called ‘the imaginary nature,’ since what is nonexistent is imagined as existent. The root of such mistakenness is the stainless dharmadhatu being unaware of itself, but there is nothing in all of this that is really established. When these teachings on the two realities are practiced as the path, they represent the two accumulations, and their fruition is the union of the two kayas.
Therefore, since the stained dharmadhatu as the ‘cause’ of samsara has become pure, there is no problem in calling it ‘nirvana.’ In the collection of reasoning, Rangjung Dorje says, Nagarjuna negates the clinging to characteristics, but he definitely does not refute the teachings on the way of being of the Buddha and the dharma, wisdom, great compassion, or enlightened activity. The Dharmadhatustava is a teaching on the very essence of pure mind, which is stained by apprehender and apprehended in just an adventitious way." —Karl Brunnhölzl, from the chapter, The Third Karmapa and His Commentary on the Dharmadhatustava, from In Praise of Dharmadhatu, Nagarjuna and the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje
Trained and worked as a physician; studied Buddhist Philosophy at Kamalashila Institute, Germany, 1986–1990; continued his training as a translator at Marpa Institute, Kathmandu, and his studies of Tibetology and Sanskrit in Hamburg; from 1989 served as translator for many Tibetan teachers including Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Ontrul Rinpoche, Drupön Kenpo Lodrö Namgyal, and Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen; since 1999 one of the principal translators and faculty at Nitartha Institute in Canada, Germany, and the US; since 2005 one of the principal Western teachers of Nalandabodhi. Tsadra Foundation Grantee 2006–2008 and Fellow since 2009.
Were he to ever abandon his profession of translating, muses Karl Brunnhölzl, he might be tempted to become “a caretaker of little animals.” So far, he has resisted this temptation, and perhaps it’s just as well—few are the animal nurses who are familiar with Yogacara, Shentong, Madhyamaka, and the Abhisamayalamkara. All of these, and more—he is competent in six languages—are familiar territory to the well-studied Karl.
Also, he truly enjoys translating, which he believes “is good for my mind when I am not overdoing it, because it makes my mind focused and undistracted, leaving my worldly troubles behind.” He reports that he leans somewhat toward the literal in his translations, while favoring paraphrases or digests of often arcane Tibetan texts into more fluent English in introductions, footnotes, and appendices. He wants his work to be accessible to different levels of readers, “but not too watered down, because it is insulting to people’s intelligence and basically deprives those who can go deeper of the chance to actually do so.” And depth is an important ingredient considering the texts by, among others, “the Karmapas and other major Kagyu figures,” that Karl assays.
He is grateful to Tsadra Foundation for the opportunity to freely indulge “my time-consuming hobby” of translating and writing: “I get so much more done.”
Previously Published Translations
• The Center of the Sunlit Sky: Madhyamaka in the Kagyu Tradition, Pawo Rinpoche and the Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje
• Straight from the Heart: Buddhist Pith Instructions
• In Praise of Dharmadhatu, Nagarjuna, commentary by the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (partial sponsorship by Tsadra Foundation)
• Luminous Heart: The Third Karmapa on Consciousness, Wisdom, and Buddha Nature
Completed Projects as a Tsadra Foundation Fellow
• Gone Beyond: The Prajñaparamita Sutras, “The Ornament of Clear Realization,” and its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyü Tradition (2 vols.), Maitreya, commentaries by the Fifth Shamarpa and the Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje
• Groundless Paths: The Prajñaparamita Sutras, “The Ornament of Clear Realization,” and its Commentaries in the Tibetan Nyingma Tradition, Maitreya, commentaries by Patrul Rinpoche
• Mining for Wisdom Within Delusion, Maitreya’s Distinction between Phenomena and the Nature of Phenomena, commentaries by Vasubandhu, the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, Gö Lotsawa, and others
• When Clouds Part, Uttaratantrashastra with commentary by Tashi Ozer
• Mahayanasamgraha, Asanga with commentaries
English Translation Program