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07july201030Dharamshala: A bold new initiative of McLeod Ganj's Institute of Buddhist Dialectics is a project to translate the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama into different Tibetan regional dialects, in an effort to reach out to the broader Tibetan community from all three provinces, many of whom cannot understand standard Tibetan and are thereby denied the wisdom and guidance of His Holiness. So far they have produced a thirty minute film in the Amdo dialect, featuring a 2006 teaching of His Holiness to several thousand youth at the Tibetan Children's Village, McLeod Ganj. Another recent achievement is a documentary on astronomy, The Planets, translated from English into Tibetan.

On Wednesday Sangay Dorjee, correspondent for The Tibet Post International, interviewed the Assistant Director of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, Ven Kelsang Damdul. He explained how, although His Holiness' teachings cover a broad sweep of issues from religion to politics to education, they are conventionally delivered only in the Lhasa dialect that goes for ‘standard Tibetan'. So, the Institute felt that, only if they could translate them into the broad spectrum of Tibetan regional dialects, his teachings could address the Tibetan community as a whole. First they attempted translations into the Amdo dialect because, a certain Mr. Dranak Tsondue, who studied at the Institute before moving on to America, independently came up with the idea specifically with the Amdo dialect in mind - and it was he, in collaboration with the Institute, that created the aforementioned video of the 2006 teaching.

The film was very much an ensemble effort, with many eminent Tibetans contributing both advice and practical help. But the project wasn't easy, Damdul explained, because they had to remain utterly faithful to both His Holiness' speech and performance: matching all the highs and lows of his cadence, the pauses and crescendos, the hand gestures, the spontaneous chuckles - everything which makes him such a distinctive, energetic, inspiring teacher. Recently Mr. Tsundue came to Dharamshala and they worked together for almost ten hours straight, the result of which was a film of only half an hour.

Next The Tibet Post International asked him, do you have any plans to translate his teachings into the Khampa dialect? Like the people of Amdo, many from Kham struggle with the Lhasa dialect. He said, of course, but first we want to gauge the success of the Amdo video. Next he explained how they are in the process of translating scientific documentaries, on subjects ranging from biology to physics, from English into Tibetan for distribution to schools, monasteries and other learning centres. It is inestimably helpful, he said, to have such fundamental scientific knowledge open to Tibetan speakers.

The Institute of Buddhist Dialectics has contributed immeasurably to the preservation of the Tibetan linguistic heritage, alongside the promotion of the Tibetan literary and philosophical tradition - something which, despite the experience of exile, is flourishing in such cultural centres as McLeod Ganj and beyond. Since its foundation in the 1970s it has striven to develop the higher education of exiled Tibetans, so that they might contribute effectively to their society in exile, and be fully equipped to return to Tibet as well qualified and conscientious citizens, and achieve positions of responsibility and moral authority within their homeland.

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E-mail: editor@thetibetpost.com