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Lotsāwa (Tib. ལོ་ཙཱ་བ་, Wyl. lo tsA ba) — title used for the native Tibetan translators who worked together with Indian scholars (or panditas) to translate the major Buddhist texts into Tibetan from Sanskrit and other Asian languages. From Skt. locchava, literally ‘bilingual’ or ‘eyes of the world’ (Skt. lokacakṣuḥ).

Sogyal Rinpoche says:

In Tibet, 1200 years ago when the teachings of Indian Buddhism were being transplanted, there were exceptional Indian masters and Tibetan translators present to inspire the full integration of the teachings in a Tibetan setting, and to strike the right balance between maintaining the integrity of the teachings and channelling them into the bedrock of Tibetan culture and the Tibetan psyche. I sometimes wonder whether we today have the same qualities as they did!
Even the title ‘translator’ (lotsawa) had a much deeper significance then than it does now, and was a term of great respect, implying a profound understanding; Milarepa’s master Marpa, for example, was called ‘Marpa the translator’. This is what we need too—authentic scholars, like those Indian panditas and great Tibetan translators, who have the discernment, in making the translation, to create an appropriate form, but without ever losing the essence. To put it simply: to make changes we need an extremely clear understanding of the teachings; it’s a question of a very subtle, profound translation.[1]


  1. From a keynote address given by Sogyal Rinpoche at the 'Buddhism in America' conference in America, in May 1998. It was later published in The Future of Buddhism, Rider, 2002. This excerpt can be found on pages 9-10.

Teachings Given to the Rigpa Sangha

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