English Translation Fellows
"This splendid volume gathers the collective wisdom of three of the greatest masters of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism—Zurchung Sherab Trakpa (1014–1074), Shechen Gyaltsap Rinpoche (1871–1926), and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910–1991). The focal point is Zurchung Sherab Trakpa’s work ‘Eighty Chapters of Personal Advice,’ which consists of nearly 580 maxims distilled from his own experience and deep study of the Buddha Dharma. These pithy statements, based on orally transmitted teachings, cover the entire approach of Dzogchen—from faith and discipline to concentration and the flowering of wisdom.
Many of Zurchungpa’s highly condensed sayings are intelligible only thanks to Shechen Gyaltsap Rinpoche’s remarkable annotations, and they are further illuminated by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who was as famous for his spiritual attainment as for his profound learning and great compassion. Dilgo Rinpoche says this about Zurchungpa’s work: ‘... if we practice in accordance with the meaning of this, his final testament, it will greatly help us in the future. The way to do so is gradually, day after day, to reflect and meditate one by one on each of the pieces of advice in this series he has given us. Then they will be like flowers, which emerge as shoots in spring and grow day after day, finally coming into full bloom in summer.'" —from page 12 of Zurchungpa’s Testament, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Masters Degree in Veterinary Medicine from Cambridge University, England; practicing veterinarian 1975–1980; completed two three-year retreats, 1980–1984 and 1985–1988 at Chanteloube, France; professional translator; member of the Padmakara Translation Group, Dordogne, France. Tsadra Foundation Fellow since 2002.
When a student at Cambridge University, Stephen Gethin happened to attend an unusual lecture: “We have a chap coming today who doesn’t have a head.” This was Douglas Harding, a British Zen teacher. Stephen had, by virtue of a journey to the Himalayas, already begun to acquire a new perspective to his youthful religious bent. Subsequent to the lecture, he began to practice meditation; the die was cast. Soon he was back in India, meeting a remarkable array of Tibetan masters including Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Dudjom Rinpoche, and Kangyur Rinpoche along with his sons.
Inevitably, he found himself in retreat, but, faced with untranslated Tibetan chants, he yearned to know what the texts said. Thus he became a translator, and remains so to this day, pointing out that among its many benefits, “it is a marvelous way of studying.”
His main objective, however, is to assist in transmitting a pure and undiluted Dharma to the Western Buddhist community, where, unfortunately, “there’s a certain amount of attenuation going on.” So Stephen is rigorous about his work, although charmingly modest, admitting that he can write “in clear English that isn’t too boring.”
He feels most at home translating shastras, for which he has considerable personal enthusiasm, noting that they often tend to be more directly informative than sutras. His dedication is such that “a day without translation is almost a dead day for me.”
Previously Published Translations
• A Guide to “The Words of My Perfect Teacher,” Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang (in collaboration with others)
Completed Projects as a Tsadra Foundation Fellow
• Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend, Nagarjuna, commentary by Khyabje Kangyur Rinpoche
• Zurchungpa’s Testament, Zurchungpa, commentary by Shechen Gyaltsap and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
• Garland of Views, Guru Rinpoche, commentary by Jamgön Mipham
Current Projects as a Tsadra Foundation Fellow
• Mahayana-Sutralankara, Maitreya-Asanga, commentary by Jamgön Mipham
• Commentary on the Khandro Nyingthig Preliminaries, Dudjom Rinpoche
English Translation Program