We are very sad to share the news that we have lost an important translator Elio Guarisco, who passed away from covid on November 27, 2020.
Elio was born in Como, Italy in 1954. In the early 1970s he met and studied with major exponents of the Theravada tradition in India. He then studied Buddhist philosophy at a monastery of the Tibetan tradition for ten years, following which he was invited by Kalu Rinpoche to Sonada, India to work as a translator. While engaged in his projects there, he met his main teacher Chogyal Namkhai Norbu and became an active member of the Dzogchen Community.
Elio co-translated two volumes of Jamgon Kongtrul's Treasury of Knowledge, the ten volumes in English that stand out as an unparalleled, encyclopedic masterpiece embodying the entire range of Buddhist teachings as it was preserved in Tibet.
The first was the volume on Systems of Buddhist Tantra (Book Six, Part Four).
An excerpt from this volume can be found here.
The great Bokar Rinpoche had this to say about this work:
This book brings together, in their depth and breadth, the essential points of the four sets of tantra comprised by the indestructible way of secret mantra. It describes the classification of practices, the initiations that provide entry, the vows and commitments, the two phases of practice, the forms of conduct, and the standard and special attainments.
First, by appreciating and understanding just what is contained here, you will, so to speak, have an eye that sees the profound significance of the tantras of secret mantra. Then, you will be inspired by faith and appreciation for the indestructible way. Through study you come to understand the nature of being. Through reflection you find conviction in that understanding. Through meditation, you initially cultivate a similitude of that understanding, and finally, by joining direct understanding and cultivation, you have actual experience of how things are. You then traverse the paths and levels to attain the awakened state of Vajradhara.
This is why this translation is both necessary and worthwhile. Everyone interested in these matters should study and practice what is in it. Through the virtuous activities of those who translated the text and those who provided financial support, may all beings together attain the awakened state of Vajradhara.
The second volume he worked on was on The Elements of Tantric Practice (Book Eight, Part Three). The section of the Treasury concerns the meditative processes of the inner system of secret mantra—that of highest yoga tantra—and is based primarily on tantric sources. The author introduces the subject by describing the path of tantra and its underlying principles. The main body of the book deals with two major elements essential to all highest yoga tantras: the practice of the creation phase and that of the completion phase. For the first phase, Kongtrül describes the visualization sequences in which ordinary perceptions are transformed into the forms of awakening and explains how these practices purify the stages of cyclic existence—life, death, and rebirth. The creation phase prepares the practitioner for the techniques of the completion phase, which entail focusing directly on the channels, winds, and vital essences that form the subtle body. Kongtrül presents the key elements of a variety of tantras, including the Guhyasamaja and Yamari, belonging to the class of father tantras and the Kalachakra Hevajra Chakrasamvara Mahamaya Buddhakapala and Tara mother tantras. All these tantras share a common goal: to make manifest the pristine awareness that is the union of emptiness and bliss.
Elio translated many other works, in both Italian and English. Here is a profile of him on the Tsadra Foundation's website.
His recent biography on Togden Shakya Shri (published by our friends at Shang Shung) is an extraordinary work. We had been talking to him about publishing another biography he was working on.
We put our hands together for Elio's incredible contribution the wider Vajrayana community.
Here he is talking about translation with Buddhist Door: