Sanskrit Summer Program at UC Berkeley

Summer Program: Words of Wisdom: Toward a Western Terminology for Buddhist Texts Berkeley, CA, USA. June 14-July 2, 2010 Presented by the Mangalam Research Center for Buddhist Languages, Berkeley, and co-sponsored by the Center for Buddhist Studies, University of California at Berkeley and the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies, Stanford University.

Core Faculty: Luis Gomez, Michael Hahn Associate
Faculty: Alex von Rospatt, Paul Harrison, Carmen Dragonetti, Fernando Tola

Putting the Dharma into the words of a new culture is a task that has traditionally unfolded over several generations. In the West, where the languages of educated discourse are sophisticated and rich with layers of meaning, the challenges of being able to convey the Buddhist teachings as faithfully as possible are especially daunting.

This intensive three-week program, intended primarily for graduate students in Buddhism, Indology, or allied fields, is a small step toward a clear and consistent terminology or (more modestly) developing skills and strategies for finding the best translation equivalents in contemporary English. The text for the program is the_Vimalakīrtinirdeśa Sūtra_. We will read the Sanskrit together with the Tibetan and Chinese translations. This close reading will address problems of interpretation, as well as the technical and stylistic challenges faced by the translator of classical Buddhist texts. Students should have facility in Sanskrit; knowledge of Tibetan or Chinese will be helpful.

Format and Facilities

Guided by distinguished faculty, students will meet 5 hours a day, five days a week to work with the challenges posed by the text. Sessions will be held 9:30 am – 12:30 pm and 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm. Meals are provided, and housing is an easy walk. Students will have access to the libraries of the Mangalam Research Center and the University of California (a 15-minute walk). Rapid Transit to San Francisco is half-a-block away.


The focus will be on key terms of the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa in the context of
the profound Mahāyāna vision it sets forth. We will examine vocabulary
choices in both source and target languages, sensitive to subtle shifts in
meaning between languages with different philosophical underpinnings. Among
the topics to be explored and skills to be honed:

  • Sanskrit roots, etymology, and the relation of Buddhist Sanskrit to other forms of Sanskrit
  • issues of context and intertexuality.
  • comparison with the Tibetan and Chinese, with reference to commentaries.
  • stylistic choices and terminology in existing translations in both canonical and modern languages
  • general issues in the theory and practice of translation as they arise in rendering a classic Buddhist text into a modern idiom.

Tuition: $1,200 (includes lunch daily). Food and lodging: $1,350. Total
cost: $2,550.


The program is intended for advanced graduate students, but applications from all qualified candidates will be considered. Please submit an application by March 15, 2010 to Include a short statement of purpose, a description of language skills and how acquired, and a 1–2 paragraph letter of endorsement from your principal adviser. Students completing the program will receive a certificate from the University of California Buddhist Studies program indicating that this program carries the equivalent of 8 semester units. Maximum number of participants is 15. Applicants will be notified by April 10, 2010.