English Translation Fellows
Completed three-year retreat at Kagyu Ling, France, 1976–1980; served as translator at Kagyu Shenpen Kunkyab, Santa Fe, 1980–1992; founding member of Kalu Rinpoche’s International Translation Group, 1987; created a Tibetan language correspondence course (now on-line); faculty member at Naropa University since 1992. Tsadra Foundation Fellow since 2000.
Vajrayana is definitely Sarah Harding’s home territory, both as translator and practitioner. Yet she tends to think that Mahayana and Theravada may prove to be the “happening” lineages for Buddhism in the West. For one thing, Vajrayana practices are challenging to fully comprehend: “I think that the theoretical underpinnings of Vajrayana are very mysterious and need to be understood,” she declares. Thus she is happy to devote much of her energy to translating Tibetan practice commentaries: “the explanations of practice and why you do it.”
In addition, Sarah regards historical and especially biographical material as extremely valuable for inspiring Vajrayana meditators. Since such biographies usually don’t transfer well into English, she believes we will need to consider a broad range of approaches, and has even toyed with writing a novel about the great Shangpa Kagyu Wisdom Dakini, Niguma.
Shangpa master Kalu Rinpoche is Sarah’s principal teacher, and she was initially moved to learn Tibetan in order to be able to converse with him directly. Not surprisingly, Milarepa remains one of her lifelong inspirations. Her children are also a great motivation.
Her translation work, moreover, provides inherent encouragement: “It is almost more of a practice for me than meditation.” Sarah aims to clearly convey the meaning of Tibetan scriptures while at the same time remaining strictly faithful to the letter of the texts.
"Esoteric Buddhism is the precious crown jewel of spiritual practice in Tibet, a land once distinguished as a repository of all levels and approaches of Buddhism. The multi-layered complex of philosophical and contemplative practice opens up into a distinct spiritual path for everyone. This vast wealth of eclectic knowledge is the context that supports the profound teachings of tantra, or esoteric Buddhism. These teachings are said to offer a quick and easy way to discover one’s own nature through a variety of curiously effective techniques. The esoteric or secret quality of the tantras, however, is only revealed by direct contact with masters who embody an awakened state of mind. Then the practitioner sees directly the living teaching, and is in turn seen by the guru in his or her unique capacities and needs. It is this relationship that powers the development of spiritual growth. For that reason the direct instructions transmitted within such relationships are the most prized of all the Buddha’s doctrines. Although the immediacy of these directives in the intimate situation of guru and disciple carries the real impact, the most precious of the esoteric instructions from the greatest of the masters have been recorded and passed down through successions of teachers, who have further imbued these enduring teachings with the power of their own realizations. It is the records of such teachings that are described in this volume.
... perhaps the best use of this book, Esoteric Instructions, would be to bring it to one’s teacher and ask for instructions. It can also function as a survey of one’s particular lineage in which to find good ideas, since a practitioner is often unaware of what to request. Those already engaged in a particular Buddhist path could enhance their knowledge of their approach by reading the pertinent chapter, and they will find much of it familiar from previous experience. In general, it is suggested that a person will do better by following one particular tradition." —Sarah Harding, from the Introduction to The Treasury of Knowledge: Book VIII, Part 4; Esoteric Instructions, Jamgön Kongtrul
Previously Published Translations
• Creation and Completion: Essential Points of Tantric Meditation, Jamgön Kongtrul
• Lion’s Gaze: The Special Teaching of the Wise and Glorious Sovereign, Patrul Rinpoche
• The Life and Revelations of Pema Lingpa, the Eighth Sungtrul Rinpoche
Completed Projects as a Tsadra Foundation Fellow
• Machik’s Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chöd, Machik Lapdrön
• The Treasury of Knowledge: Book VIII, Part 4; Esoteric Instructions, Jamgön Kongtrul
• Niguma: Lady of Illusion, Niguma
• The Treasury of Instructions: Essential Teachings of the Eight Lineage Practice of Tibetan Buddhism, Vol. 14 - Severance Tradition, Jamgön Kongtrul
Current Projects as a Tsadra Foundation Fellow
• The Treasury of Instructions: Essential Teachings of the Eight Practice Lineages of the Tibetan Buddhism, Vol. 13 - Pacification Tradition, Jamgön Kongtrul
English Translation Program