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Apr 03
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Fulfilling His Aspirations: The Root Texts Project

The first book published in the Root Text Project

The first book published in the Root Text Project

Early in 1981, I became the chief editor at Vajradhatu (now Shambhala), replacing Judy Lief. Judy was leaving to become the dean of Naropa Institute, the equivalent of the president of that institution today. On her way out the door, she gave me several transmissions about editing the Vidyadhara’s work, and she handed me a box containing many small pieces of paper with type on them. “This is the Conscripts project,” she said. “Trungpa Rinpoche wants us to make books out of the Seminary Transcripts. Barbara Blouin and I have been working on this for a couple of years. It’s all here.” Judy had been literally cutting up the various transcripts and pasting together various versions of a topic, as the first step in this massive editing project. When I saw what was in the box, I just nodded my head and put the whole thing on a shelf. The project languished for some years.

Then, in the mid-1980s Rinpoche asked another senior student, Jim Green, to take on the task of editing the seminary transcripts into a book. Just as the cut-up fragments approach had proved too much for the Vajradhatu Editorial Department, Jim was not successful laboring in the wilderness without much support.

For many years, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche wanted the talks he was giving at the Vajradhatu Seminaries to become the basis for a series of scholarly books. His presentations often were based on teachings in Jamgon Kongtrul’s Treasury of Knowledge, and he wanted this material to be broadly available to students and teachers of dharma in North America and beyond. He spoke with Lady Diana and the Sawang about this, with his publisher Samuel Bercholz, with Judy Lief, and also with me and others. However, during Rinpoche’s lifetime, we were not able to fulfill his wishes.

In the last years of the millennium, Judy, now Acharya Lief, picked up the project again. The sophistication of computer technologies and software made the prospect of compiling and editing the transcripts much more doable. Judy coined a new name for the project: The Root Text Project. She began working with the material from the hinayana volumes and enlisted the support of Ellen Kearney, who was then the Managing Editor at Shambhala Media. They decided to work on several smaller, thematic volumes as a way of getting into the material as a whole. The first fruits of their work can be seen in The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation, which has just been published by Shambhala Publications, in association with Vajradhatu Publications. An excerpt from the book was featured in the launch of the Shambhala Times.

Editor of the Root Text Project, Acharya Judy Lief

Editor of the Root Text Project, Acharya Judy Lief

Judy and Ellen are now hard at work on the three-volume series that will present The Root Texts of Chogyam Trungpa. There will be a large volume for each yana, the fruits of the compilation and condensation of the original transcripts. The vajrayana volume will be edited to present material appropriate for a public audience. This is being done because the standard for secrecy has changed considerably since these talks were first given. You can now find a great deal of detail about vajrayana Buddhism by googling on the internet.

In addition to the printed books – published by Shambhala Publications in association with Vajradhatu Publications – another new version of the Seminary Transcripts is being prepared. Ellen Kearney, on behalf of Shambhala Media, is working on a series of DVDs that will provide the original printed transcripts in a searchable form. The vajrayana DVD will be available only to tantrikas in our community. The originals are being corrected, and additional material will be added to the DVDs, including photographs and several essays by Acharya Lief and others. Many of us can’t wait to have a searchable version of the Seminary Transcripts.

Editor of the Root Text Project, Ellen Kearney with her daughters

Editor of the Root Text Project, Ellen Kearney with her daughters

The members of the Nalanda Translation Committee have been reviewing drafts of the hinayana manuscript. I reached Ellen Kearney in Vermont, where she has spent the winter working with Acharya Lief on this project. Ellen told me that “The Nalanda Translation Committee has provided invaluable assistance in vetting the manuscript for doctrinal questions, in correcting use and spelling of Tibetan and Sanskrit terms, and in giving general feedback.” Ellen also noted that many volunteers have been helping review the existing transcripts for the DVD. Every recorded talk of every seminary is being listened to and checked against the transcripts for accuracy. Barbara Blouin – who was involved at the very beginning of the project in the 1980s — has been volunteering many hours. “Barbara continues to work tirelessly on this project,” Ellen remarked. She also mentioned that Nick Wright and Howard Moore have provided significant volunteer help.

In addition to financial support from Shambhala Publications, the Shambhala Trust, and many private donors, Shambhala Media is also supporting this project. Members of the sangha can help by purchasing their copy of The Truth of Suffering from Shambhala Media, and all proceeds will go to The Root Text Project. Order from the Shambhala Shop, and help this longstanding aspiration of the Vidyadhara, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, to be fulfilled. Both the DVDs and the three-volume set will be completed in 2012, the year of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his Parinirvana.

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