English Translation Fellows
"Although the explanation lineage of the Bodhicharyavatara reaching back to Ngok Loden Sherab and beyond was never severed in Tibet, by the nineteenth century, the knowledge and study of Shantideva’s text had almost fallen into abeyance, being confined to the scholarly environment of a small number of monastic colleges. It seems that even copies of the text had become a rare commodity. This was a situation that Patrul Rinpoche was to change almost single-handedly. He devoted his life to the practice and propagation of the Bodhicharyavatara. Traveling all over the east of Tibet, he is said to have expounded it more than one hundred times, sometimes in detailed courses lasting many months. It was he, more than anyone else, who restored Shantideva’s teaching to the important position it now occupies in the sutra teachings of all schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
The strength of Patrul Rinpoche’s influence, and the reverence in which he was held, derived not only from his great erudition and skills as a teacher, but also from the power of his personality and the purity of his own example. Indeed, a profound knowledge of the Bodhicharyavatara and a lifelong dedication to the implementation of its teachings could not fail to produce an unusual personality. He seems in many ways to have been like another great monk and yogi, Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol, an elder contemporary whom he much admired but never met. Like Shabkar, Patrul Rinpoche combined the practice of the Great Perfection with a tireless implementation of the Mahayana teachings on wisdom and compassion so powerfully advocated in Shantideva’s verses and the mind-training instructions of Atisha and the Kadampas. Temperamentally too they were very similar, untainted by religious and social conventions, and both were renowned for their compassion toward human beings and animals alike." —Wulstan Fletcher and Helena Blankleder, from the Translators’ Introduction to The Nectar of Manjushri’s Speech, Kunzang Pelden
Degrees in Modern Languages and Theology (Oxford and Rome); teacher of modern languages; completed three-year retreat at Chanteloube, France, 1986–1989; member of the Padmakara Translation Group, Dordogne, France. Tsadra Foundation Fellow since 2001.
Wulstan Fletcher, who has always taken a keen interest in languages, feels that “if you want to read a foreign literature, especially one that you consider important, it is best to learn the language and read it in the original.” He grants, however, that learning a language as difficult as Tibetan is not a viable option for many Western Buddhists. And since “the Buddha-dharma is supremely precious,” he approaches his translation work “as an act of service” to those unable to delve into Eastern languages, so that such people will have “access to teachings that can transform their lives.”
To that end, Wulstan explores translation theory as a means to understand “what actually happens when you transfer a text from one language into another.” In addition, he strongly believes that “skill in the target language is as important as competence in the source language,” noting that “English is a wonderfully rich and flexible instrument, and translators can only benefit from familiarity with its literature and traditions (including its traditions of translation).” He hopes that this interest will help people from a western cultural background to absorb easily the very different messages of the Buddhadharma.
As for the vision behind his work, “I would like to be able to show … that Buddhism is not a religion, that Buddhism is more fundamental, actually more important: it’s a critique of religion, it’s a critique of philosophy and it’s something that transcends both.”
Completed Projects as a Tsadra Foundation Fellow (with Helena Blankleder)
• Treasury of Precious Qualities (Sutra Section), Jigme Lingpa, commentary by Longchen Yeshe Dorje, Kangyur Rinpoche
• Counsels from My Heart, Dudjom Rinpoche
• Introduction to the Middle Way, Chandrakirti, commentary by Jamgön Mipham
• The Adornment of the Middle Way, Shantarakshita, commentary by Jamgön Mipham
• Food of Bodhisattvas: Buddhist Teachings on Abstaining from Meat, Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol
• The Way of the Bodhisattva, Shantideva (rev. ed.)
• The Nectar of Manjushri’s Speech: A Detailed Commentary on Shantideva’s “Way of the Bodhisattva,” Kunzang Pelden
• The Root Stanzas on the Middle Way, Nagarjuna
• White Lotus: An Explanation of the Seven-line Prayer to Guru Padmasambhava, Jamgön Mipham
• Treasury of Precious Qualities (Tantra Section), Jigme Lingpa, commentary by Longchen
Yeshe Dorje, Kangyur Rinpoche
• The Purifying Jewel and Light of the Day Star by Mipham Rinpoche
English Translation Program