Herbert V. Guenther

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Dr. Herbert Guenther (1917-2006) was one of the first translators of the Vajrayana and Dzogchen teachings into English. He was well known for his pioneering translations of Gampopa's Jewel Ornament of Liberation and Longchenpa's ངལ་གསོ་སྐོར་གསུམ་, ngal gso skor sgum, which was published as a trilogy under the title Kindly Bent to Ease Us.

He was born in Bremen, Germany, in 1917. He studied in Munich and Vienna, and then taught at Vienna University from 1943 to 1950. He then lived and taught in India, at Lucknow University from 1950 to 1958, and the Sanskrit University in Varanasi from 1958 to 1963. He then went to the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, where his students included Leslie Kawamura, Kennard Lipman, Steven Goodman and James Valby.

According to Steven Goodman, Guenther used to say that a good translator must do two things: 1) translate Tibetan terms based on the genre and approach in which they are being used, and 2) continually refine one's translation choices.

Guenther had many admirers and although many of his translation choices never caught on, his work did have a clear and undeniable influence on many translators.

Translations of H.V. Guenther

  • Concept of Mind in Buddhist Tantrism, (1956), CMBT
  • Philosophy and Psychology in the Abhidharma (1957)
  • Levels of Understanding in Buddhism, (1958), LUB
  • sGam-po-pa, Jewel Ornament of Liberation (1959), JOL
  • The Philosophical Background of Buddhist Tantrism, (1959-60), PBBT
  • Life and Teaching of Naropa (Oxford 1963)
  • Royal Song of Saraha: A Study in the History of Buddhist Thought (University of Washington, 1969)
  • Mind in Buddhist Psychology: A Translation of Ye-shes rgyal-mtshan's "The Necklace of Clear Understanding", co-translated by Leslie S. Kawamura, (Dharma 1975)
  • Klong-chen rab-'byams-pa, Kindly Bent to Ease Us (Ngal-gso skor-gsum) in three volumes, KBEU
  1. Mind (Dharma Press, 1975)
  2. Meditation (Dharma Press, 1976)
  3. Wonderment (Dharma Press, 1976)
  • Tibetan Buddhism without Mystification: The Buddhist Way from Original Tibetan Sources, Brill 1966. Reprinted as Treasures on the Tibetan Middle Way, (Shambhala, 1976)
  • Klong-chen rab-'byams pa Looking Deeper: A Swan's Questions and Answers (Ngang pa'i dris lan sprin gyi snyng po) (Timeless Books, 1983), LD
  • Visionary Journey: The Story of Wildwood Delights: The Story of The Mount Potala Delights, (Shambhala, 1989)
  • Some Aspects of rDzogs-chen Thought in Tibetan Buddhism: Reason and Revelation, (1992), SADT
  • Meditation Differently—Phenomenological-psychological Aspects of Tibetan Buddhist (Mahāmudrā and sNying-thig) Practices from Original Tibetan Sources, (1992), MD
  • Ecstatic Spontaneity: Saraha's Three Cycles of Doha (Asian Humanities Press, 1993)
  • Wholeness Lost and Wholeness Regained: Forgotten Tales of Individuation from Ancient Tibet, (SUNY, 1994)

Further Reading

  • Kennard Lipman, Secret Teachings of Padmasambhava: Essential Instructions on Mastering the Energies of Life, Boston: Shambhala, 2010 (Includes essay "H. V. Guenther's Approach to Translation")

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