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Spotlight On The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center

Feb 13th, 2010

Keeping the Tibetan Wisdom Heritage Alive
TBRC Digital Library Makes Major Progress in 2009. Read about the latest developments.

Khyentse Foundation is a major supporter of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center. TBRC’s goal is nothing less than to keep the Tibetan wisdom heritage alive. KF funds the heart of TBRC’s programs, including providing support for digitally preserving its own collection of more than 12,000 volumes of texts. Through the generosity of our sponsors, the Foundation has been supporting TBRC for three years and will continue its support to help complete the entire project by 2012.

2009 was a busy and productive year for TBRC. An experienced team has been assembled and is poised to complete the bulk of TBRC’s work by 2012. The text scanning is done in Noida, India, and in TBRC’s New York offices; the formatting work is done at Parphing, Nepal, at the retreat center of Penor Rinpoche; and the cataloging, editing, and scholarly work is done in New York.

Preserving
The TBRC team surpassed most of the benchmarks they set last year. In fact, between January 1 and September 15, 2009, the organization scanned more than 4,000 volumes—a substantial increase over their projected output of 1,500 volumes for the entire year, thanks to an equipment grant from the Tsadra Foundation.

TBRC has approximately 6,000 unscanned volumes left in its own collection, and the team expects to complete the scanning of those volumes by 2012. However, through acquisitions, partnerships with other institutions, and their continuing commitment to seek out rare and important literature, the total number of volumes in the library will be far greater than 12,000—how much greater is not yet known.

Organizing
TBRC has added three key staff members, bringing the total to eight full-time scholars and librarians entering detailed cataloging records in the Library. This is one of the largest single sources of original Tibetan cataloging of any library in the world. The staff has PhD level and masters’ degree level scholars and librarians. Organizing the breadth and depth of Tibetan literature is a monumental task and one that will create unprecedented access. The Tibetan literary heritage is immense and includes traditional medicine, astrology, astronomy, alchemy, art, history, geography, biography, grammar, folk culture, poetics, and extensive philosophical and religious treatises.

Disseminating
TBRC would like to make the entire library available to all who can use it—scholars, researchers, students, translators, and lineage masters. Just as the preservation process accurately captures the source literature, the formatting process makes each text clear enough for paper printing. In this way, TBRC is creating digital woodblocks so that libraries can be reconstructed from digital scans. Formatting is labor intensive—each individual page is cleaned and prepared for batch printing. Given the total number of pages in the library, somewhere around 20 million, formatting every page would be nearly impossible. Therefore TBRC will select the most important texts from each tradition and format them for printing. Of course, masters of the different traditions can request specific texts to be formatted.

2009 Highlights
• TBRC established a relationship with the Asian Classics Input Project to incorporate into the Library texts preserved at the National Library of Mongolia. This treasure trove contains texts and collections that were thought missing or were simply unknown.
• Implemented a strategy for including Unicode Tibetan texts in the Library. Unicode texts offers exciting possibilities for “quotation-level” searching.
• Embarked on a subject categorization project that will allow users to browse the Library according to a wealth of literary genres, topics, and keywords.
• TBRC is about to announce the second major release of the TBRC Library software (TBRC 2.0). This release will feature multi-language capabilities (initially English, Tibetan, and Chinese); full browse and search capabilities; faster response time; and clearer pathways to the literature.

KF Support for the TBRC Digital Library
“With the [TBRC] Digital Library, no future disaster, whether natural, political, or economic, will destroy these precious Buddhist texts again.”
—Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

Khyentse Foundation has committed $1.2 million to support the TBRC Digital Library over a 5-year period. More than $500,000 has been granted, and we are still raising funds to bring this project to fruition.

For more information, read “Patrons of Buddhism, Part XI; Gene Smith and TBRC.”
You can also visit the TBRC website and click About TBRC; another interesting source of information is the TBRC blog.

“Gene, his colleagues and the team at TBRC have dedicated their lives to saving 1500 years of invaluable teachings — from the medical to the mystical… a chronicle of the advancements of mankind. In so doing, they have provided a model for how to salvage the priceless history and collected wisdom of any ancient culture. Their work is a living guidebook for literary and policy scholars, humanitarians, and technology system developers. This is an achievement that demands to be shared with the world.”
—Pat Gruber, a long-term patron of TBRC, calling for support for “Digital Dharma: One Man’s Mission to Save a Culture,” a documentary in the works on the life and work of Gene Smith.

UPDATE FROM TBRC

The following article is from the TBRC newsletter.

The Board of Directors of Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) is happy to announce that having successfully established a robust organization over the last ten years Gene Smith is now able to step back from the administrative duties as Executive Director and devote his time and energies to the critical scholarly work of TBRC.

We are also very pleased to announce with full confidence the election of Jeff Wallman as TBRC’s new Executive Director and member of the board. Jeff is a long time colleague of Gene’s and has all the skills and technological knowledge to succeed in this role. We are very pleased with the smooth transition and are delighted that this new alignment will ensure that TBRC can fully serve its various communities. Jeff will continue to serve as TBRC’s Director of Technology.

The Board expresses its most sincere gratitude to Gene for his enormous contributions and welcomes his ongoing role as ‘Founder and Senior Research Scholar’ of TBRC.
—The TBRC Board of Directors

“This will be part of the enduring legacy of TBRC—a portal into the complex interconnections that make up the Tibetan worldview.”
—Jeff Wallman, TBRC Executive Director

“The ultimate destination for a user of the library is the meaning of the literature—what a particular text means. While TBRC provides multiple points of access to sources, it is the articulation and expression of the Tibetan worldview, and the translation into other tongues, which will take generations and generations and generations. The gift of TBRC is that this will be possible.”
—Jeff Wallman

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