The Norbulingka Institute's
Academy of Tibetan Culture
October 1997 saw the opening of the Academy of Tibetan Culture, a crucial component of NorbulingkaĚs efforts to promote and preserve Tibetan culture. Tibetan scholarship has a long history. The thousands of volumes of the collected works of many scholars that have been composed over the last thousand years are testimony to the extent and depth of the Tibetan literary tradition
Unfortunately, circumstances in Tibet meant that the recent holders of a unique scholarly and spiritual tradition were almost the last. It was not until Tibetans had been in exile for twenty years that the monasteries and centres of learning were firmly re-established and could begin again to train monks in the way they were trained in Tibet. By then, many of the scholars who had survived the escape from Tibet had passed away. Although traditions have been successfully preserved, the world has changed and it will take still more time for this unique tradition to adapt and move forward.
At present Tibetan culture has reached a cross-roads. Tibetan scholarship in its traditional form is preserved, but only in the monasteries in exile. In Tibet, the many constraints imposed by the Chinese authorities make serious study of Tibetan virtually impossible. Although the majority of young lay people in Tibet are illiterate, a small number in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region have received a Chinese education. The few who, with the tutelage of individual scholars, have a good command of Tibetan, have no prospects or opportunities. Meanwhile, the majority of the exiled lay population is looking towards Western forms of education and so the gap between traditional and modern is growing ever wider.
The idea of creating an Academy of Tibetan Culture grew out of concern for these issues. It is important to encourage the talent of unemployed writers and offer them opportunities, which will stimulate further literary talent to develop. At the same time the essence of the old Tibetan tradition of scholarship must remain alive in the minds of new scholars. They must assimilate it along with the developments of the modern world. Tibetan culture possesses universal values that are essential for building Tibet into a nation of peace and prosperity which, in this global age, will also contribute to the well-being of other nations.
The Academy of Tibetan Culture offers a six-year programme, which endeavours to cover Tibetan philosophy, poetry, history and medical theory. The aim is to give students a firm background in Tibetan scholarship, as well as placing it in the context of the world we live in. Study of English will be undertaken and courses will also be given in world history, art history and geography, the origins of democracy, diplomacy and politics, Buddhist history and art history.
First announcements were made in the Tibet Times of March 15th, 1997. The response was enthusiastic. Within two months, we received one hundred and fifty applications. To begin with, we have only been able to offer places to twenty-four students, but will open a new class every other year. The selection process is based on individual aptitude as assessed by an experienced board of teachers.
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