One of the first translators of the Vajrayana and Dzogchen teachings into English, Dr. Herbert Guenther, passed away recently on March 11th. He was well known for his pioneering translations of Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation and Longchenpa’s 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
- Philosophy and Psychology in the Abhidharma (1957)
- sGam-po-pa, Jewel Ornament of Liberation (1959)
- 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 Neclace 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,
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)
- Visionary Journey: The Story of Wildwood Delights: The Story of The Mount Potala Delights, (Shambhala, 1989)
- 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)