Reflections From the Students of the IITBT Translation Certificate Program

Reflections From the Students of the IITBT Translation Certificate Program

One of the translation training opportunities that can be found on our website is the Translation Certificate Program: a graduate-level certificate program offered by the International Institute for the Translation of Buddhist Texts (IITBT) in which students at Dharma Realm Buddhist University (DRBU) earn a certificate in Buddhist translation. Students in this program cultivate as scholar-practitioners, pairing the academic study and application of translation theory through the Four Committees of BTTS alongside weekly meditation and evening ceremony. The practice portion of the program opens a path for students to reflect on themselves as well as on the Eight Guidelines for BTTS Translators and Volunteers.

The following are reflections on translation and the Four Committees of BTTS from three translators-in-training who are currently in this yearlong program: Xuan, Thao, and Cindy. 



From left to right: Xuan, Thao, and Cindy’s favorite photograph


My name is Xuan and I am currently a full-time student in the Translation Program at DRBU. I attend my Translation Program classes online via Zoom from my family home in South Florida. I joined this program because I was interested in spending more time at DRBU, especially since I graduated with my Master of Arts in Buddhist Classics from DRBU earlier this year. I found the Translation Program to be the perfect stepping stone for me, especially because I have aspirations in continuing my education in Buddhist studies in the future. My friends and professors that I had in my Master’s program also are the faculty members in the Translation Program. After having a few conversations with them, I was ready to wholeheartedly join this yearlong program.

I would have to say that my favorite class is Translation Workshop, which is a class that I have Monday through Thursday every week. In this class my instructors and cohort all work together in two of the Four Committees of BTTS: Primary Translation and Review. I work mainly in the Review Committee, where I compare the primary translation against the Chinese sutra text and Master Hsuan Hua’s commentary. In collaboration with my teammates, I make adjustments in the English translation to clarify the meaning. With the help of a handy Google Chrome extension, I have been able to recognize and memorize more Chinese characters than ever before in my life; and, the Translation Workshop class has provided a wonderful opportunity for me to be regularly exposed to both Classical and modern Chinese so I can continue improving. Since I majored in English in my undergraduate studies, I am able to use my skill sets and familiarity with it to help carefully incorporate the nuances of the English language into our group translations. I learned Classical Chinese after taking Classical Chinese I through IV during my time in the Master’s program at DRBU.

Translation Workshop is one of the classes that I am able to regularly do hands-on translation work every week, and I am always learning timely teachings that, despite being taught years before I was even born, are extremely relevant in my life. Even on difficult days, being in the company of my cohort and instructors and focusing on translating the Dharma has been the surefire way to cheer me up. I’ve often wondered whether the sutra text and Master Hua are directly speaking to me at times. Whether that be the case or not, I find the whole experience priceless.



My name is Thao. I am a part-time student in the Translation Certificate program. I am currently attending the program via Zoom from Ukiah, California.

I found out about the program through my co-workers at DRBU, and it was perfect timing! I had recently begun to dabble in some translation work, and my interest in the subject matter was growing. The appeal of translation is that it is a bridge for me in being both intellectually invigorating and spiritually inspiring. Transformation is an element that brings me to the certificate program. The various processes involved in translation, from primary translation all the way through publishing and distribution, is a transformational process. Words are transformed, and people are transformed. Transformation is comprised of understanding and practice. I would like to deepen my understanding of Buddhism through translation, and I would like to put that into practice by contributing to the efforts of translating Buddhist texts. The practice of translation is an interpersonal endeavor, whether working on a team or on individual projects. I am also interested in the collaborative aspect of the translation program as I find that a lot of my work thrives in team efforts. My driving force for joining the program is similar to why I work at DRBU: you are part of and work with others on something bigger than just yourself.

My experience with BTTS’s Four Committees comes from working with the 10,000 Buddha Repentance team, which is a hybrid blend of the Review and Editorial Committees. Our team is working on the secondary revision of the repentance text. We review the primary translation and check it against multiple primary sources. If needed, definitions in the source and target language are checked. Simultaneously, we check for language consistency, grammar, and syntax edits. Afterward, we have a simple vote to agree on translation interpretation. Everyone is engaged and participating—it gets quite lively! 

It is the meeting of intellectual vigor and spiritual practice that brings much Dharma joy—and quite honestly, it’s been the most Dharma joy I’ve experienced with any practice so far!



My name is Cindy and I am a full-time student in the Translation Program at DRBU. I live in Virginia and currently attend classes from my home through Zoom. I am a layperson in Avatamsaka Vihara. I have known about the Translation Program for years, and have kept thinking about joining but never had the time to. I like to help Vajra Bodhi Sea with written translation works, which is why I wanted to join the translation class to learn more and improve my translation skills.

In the program, my classmates and I familiarize ourselves with the Four Committees of BTTS. This is what I understand them to be. I think the Primary Translation Committee does the very initial and basic part. The translators in the Review Committee need to have more advanced knowledge and understanding of Buddhist scriptures, plus language skills in the source and target languages. The requirements for the Editorial Committee are even higher than the first two committees; and the Certification Committee should be the highest level. The people who are working on this level should be monastics or scholars who are superior in languages and also have a high degree of understanding in the sutras.

I learned Classical Chinese in my junior and senior high school in Taiwan and from my father. My father was very strict and was extremely focused on our education. In my memory, my siblings and I always had lots of homework to do, not only from school but also from my parents. Especially during the summer break, on top of our other homework, we were asked to read Classic Chinese books and asked to recite it from memory. My father would explain the meaning of the articles to us if we didn’t understand them. We suffered a lot back then but really I appreciate it now. Master Hua’s commentary helps me understand sutras more and I am glad that he left the commentaries for us. Without that, how can we understand the sutras? From the class, I learned more English writing skills from one of the instructors, Justin. He will point out which ways some translation phrasing would confuse English readers, or which way sounds kind of “Chinglish.” This helps me a lot.

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