Holding degrees from Tashi Lhunpo in Tibet, Sanskrit University in India, and Columbia University in the USA, Dr. Lozang Jamspal has been translating and training translators since the late 1960’s. Currently a professor at International Buddhist College in Thailand, he made time to talk with us about what he is now doing for 84000, sharing his own path to becoming a translator and offering inspiration for the coming generation of translators.
Dr. Lozang Jamspal received an Acharya degree in Sanskrit, Hindi, and Buddhist and Indian philosophy at Sanskrit University, Benares. At the university, he served as a librarian and Tibetan language instructor, and helped to establish the Central Institute of Tibetan Studies where he later worked as lecturer. He also worked as a lecturer of Sanskrit and classical Tibetan language at the University of Delhi. After moving to the U.S. in 1974, he taught at the Bslab gsum bshad grub gling in New Jersey. In 1991, he earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University, where he taught classical Tibetan. Currently he is a regular professor at the International Buddhist College.
This is his background
I was born in Ladakh, which is in India. Naturally, I say I am a Tibetan; nationality: Indian. I was born in 1933. Then, I went to Likir Monastery [where I spent] six years memorizing, chanting all the texts. Then in 1949, I went to Tibet. I was in Tashilhunpo Monastery and there I had sort of a feeling that I should study Tibetan culture and language. Because the situation in Tibet was not good, I went to study Sanskrit in Benares Sanskrit University. I worked there for six years… No, nine years! Then I got a teaching job in Delhi, then in 1974, I came to America to translate. I went to Columbia University, [and] in 1991, I got a PhD [in] Buddhism.
Why did you devote your life to translating the Dharma?
It is my habit. Initially I translated into Hindi—I translated two or three times for His Holiness Dalai Lama’s public teaching into Hindi. Then, at that time, of course I was not so good, but there weren’t many Tibetans who knew Hindi. Only I [could] do that. When the Tibetan Institute opened there [in India], the inauguration speech for His Holiness Dalai Lama—I had to translate that. That’s [when I began] translating from Tibetan into other languages. That’s [how] I [gained] more sure knowledge of the Dharma. Even [though] I read in Tibetan, translating [made my knowledge] more sure. Translating and teaching [are the] same [in that way], I think.