Building a generation of Buddhist Interpreters: 2019 North America BLIA YAD interpreting Workshop

The North America Young Adult Division (YAD) held its inaugural “2019 North American BLIA YAD Interpreting Workshop” at Hsi Lai Temple from 11/22 to 11/24. 40 future interpreters from various YADs streamed in, where they were joined by Venerables from different regions and temples. This workshop is primarily led by Venerable Miao Guang, with Jenny Chen as the organizing director. The workshop officially kicked off with an opening ceremony; in Venerable Yi Shan’s, director of Hsi Lai Temple, opening remarks, she expressed encouragement for the youth to take up the task of interpreting in order to help propagate Buddhism and spread the Dharma joy.

Venerable Hui Chuan, chief executive of BLIA Young Adult Division, gave his kind words of inspiration in a letter “Propagating Buddhism Through the Translation of Buddhist Classics” for the workshop participants where he drew examples from early Buddhist translators, and the need to build on their efforts to share the wisdom of Mahayana Buddhism with the rest of the world through translation. The opening ceremony concluded with a performance of the workshop’s theme song “Bringing Dharma to You” composed by Jenny Chen, in which the lyrics encapsulate the essence of the workshop objectives - translate, interpret and propagate. On the first day, YADs practiced sight translation of the “Ten Great Vows of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva”, and listening skills by shadowing Venerable Yong Gu’s talk. Venerable Miao Guang taught different methods such as transliteration, reformulation, shadowing, and transcription, and the students applied them. Venerable Zhi Tong also shared preparation techniques and tips during and after the event. Some of the participants were surprised when they were able to interpret the content after a few practices run.

The second day started with memory training, as Venerable Miao Guang demonstrated and introduced the “Anabhoga Way” using chunking and mnemonic device - these helped them recite the Buddha Light Verse, Medicine Buddha Mantra from memory (both Mandarin and Sanskrit!). When attempting to memorize a passage, “Prescription for the Heart” by Master Wuji, Alex Tran from NY YAD creatively made use of his pocket items as a mnemonic to remember items listed in the passage. The participants then split into groups based on their regions, and practiced interpretation using all the techniques taught during the workshop, as well as various online tools and references shared by Venerable Zhi Tong. During the evening session, Roxanna Pang from London, shared her experiences on starting fortnightly group practice meeting after Venerable Miao Guang conducted a workshop in London last year. In addition to the skills taught by Venerable Miao Guang, Roxanna shared that the London team also learned Buddhist terminology through creative presentations. The formulation of a team built to support and confidence for all the members in the team as they start to interpret during Dharma services and other events. Before the end of the day, Dr. Lewis Lancaster, Professor (Emeritus) Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, UC Berkeley made a special visit - he emphasized on the importance of human experience in our ever-changing world, and the crucial role of interpretation in passing on the shared experience across different generations. Dr. Lancaster further implored the need to always update ourselves to make ourselves always relevant. On the last day, during the discussion panel, the panelists shared their thoughts regarding the significance of interpretation - Roxanna Pang, from London Fo Guang Shan (FGS) reminded participants not to belittle themselves, for any translation is better than no translation. On taking YAD’s responsibilities, both Selene Chew and Julia Shih encouraged the participants to be fearless and to cherish these opportunities as they come, for they help YAD learn and grow. With that, the groups presented their plans to follow-up on establishing interpretation classes in their respective regions, many of them pledged to hold a fortnightly meet up. An online learning platform was also being revealed which contains exercises, tools and translation materials for the potential interpreters. In the closing speech by Venerable Hui Dong, Abbot of Hsi Lai Temple, he explained that the translation process incorporates the “Three Trainings”, and encouraged everyone to actively take part in interpretation; as he hoped through translation YAD can propagate Humanistic Buddhism to all around the world.

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