DDM Global News

​DDM Sangha Paid Tribute to Thomas Cleary, Translator of Buddhist Classics

Thomas Cleary, one of the most prolific translators of Asian texts in the 20th century, died on June 20, 2021. In commemoration of Cleary's devotion to the translation of Buddhist classics, Nikko Odiseos, the President of Shambhala Publications, decided to make a short film of selections read from Cleary' translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra, published as The Flower Ornament Scripture, which is widely regarded as his magnum opus. As the one-month anniversary of Cleary's passing was approaching, Odiseos invited those connected with Shambhala or East Asian Mahayana Buddhism and who had benefitted from Cleary's translation works, to take part in this project.

In 2008, Richard Reoch, the former President of Shambhala Publications, visited Master Sheng Yen, founder of Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM), to promote Buddhist academic exchanges with DDM. In addition, many of the Master's English books are published by Shambhala Publications, including The Method of No-Method: The Chan Practice of Silent Illumination, Complete Enlightenment, Things Pertaining to Bodhi: The Thirty-seven Aids to Enlightenment, etc. As a result of these connections, DDM Sangha was invited to join the project. On behalf of the DDM Sangha and the Abbot President of DDM, Ven. Guo Huei, Ven. Chang Wu, the director of the Dharma Drum Vancouver Center, recorded a video of her reading the opening of The Flower Ornament Scripture, thus paying tribute to this great contemporary translator of Buddhist texts.

Throughout his life, Mr. Cleary translated more than 80 texts related to Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Islam. He translated Buddhist texts of different schools and traditions such as the Chan School, Tian-tai School, Theravada Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism, Hua-yen School, etc. His first work was a collection of the recorded sayings of the Chan School, "Blue Cliff Record", done in collaboration with his brother, J.C. Cleary. Millions of copies of his works have been sold, and his books have been translated into more than 20 languages. The American scholar of Tibetan Buddhism, Robert Thurman, wrote on his Facebook page, "There is no doubt in my mind that Thomas Cleary is the greatest translator of Buddhist texts … Single-handedly he has gone a long way toward building the beginnings of a Buddhist canon in English." He believes that Thomas Cleary will still be known by grateful Buddhist practitioners and scholars in future centuries for his devotion to the art of translation

Text: Dharma Drum Mountain
Dharma Drum Mountain
Translation: Hsiao Chen-an
Editing: Yeh Shu-jen (葉姝蓁), Keith Brown