Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center

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Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to seeking out, preserving, organizing, and disseminating Tibetan Buddhist texts and Tibetan literature. Founded in 1999 by E. Gene Smith, TBRC is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts and hosts a digital library of the largest collection of digitized Tibetan texts in the world. [1]

Tibetan Buddhism body of Buddhist religious doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet

Tibetan Buddhism is the form of Buddhist doctrine and institutions named after the lands of Tibet, but also found in the regions surrounding the Himalayas and much of Central Asia. It derives from the latest stages of Indian Buddhism and preserves "the Tantric status quo of eighth-century India." It has been spread outside of Tibet, especially due to the Mongol power of the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), founded by Kublai Khan, that also ruled China.

Tibetan literature generally refers to literature written in the Tibetan language or arising out of Tibetan culture. Historically, Tibetan has served as a trans-regional literary language that has been used, at different times, from Tibet to Mongolia, Russia, and present-day Bhutan, Nepal, India, and Pakistan. Today, the term Tibetan literature can also be applied to any work by an ethnic Tibetan person or arising out of Tibetan folk culture; contemporary Tibetan writers sometimes use Chinese, English, or other languages to compose their work.

E. Gene Smith was a scholar of Tibetology, specifically Tibetan literature and history.


TBRC's Harvard Square headquarters facilitates its ongoing cooperative relationships with Harvard University. TBRC also has international offices in New Delhi, India and Kathmandu, Nepal, and a newly opened scanning and text-preservation center located within the E. Gene Smith Library at Southwest University for Nationalities in Chengdu, China. [2]

Harvard Square area near the center of Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Harvard Square is a triangular plaza at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, Brattle Street, and John F. Kennedy Street, near the center of Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. The term "Harvard Square" is also used to delineate the business district and Harvard University surrounding that intersection, which is the historic center of Cambridge. Adjacent to Harvard Yard, the historic heart of Harvard University, the Square functions as a commercial center for Harvard students, as well as residents of western Cambridge and the inner western and northern suburbs of Boston. These residents use the Harvard station, a major MBTA Red Line subway and bus transportation hub.

Harvard University private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with about 6,700 undergraduate students and about 15,250 post graduate students. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning, and its history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the world's most prestigious universities.

New Delhi Capital city and District in Delhi, India

New Delhi is an urban district of Delhi which serves as the capital of India and seat of all three branches of the Government of India.


To preserve and share the Tibetan literary heritage through the union of technology and scholarship.


Traditional Tibetan Texts Traditional Tibetan Texts.jpg
Traditional Tibetan Texts

In the early 1960s, while working on his PhD. at the University of Washington, E. Gene Smith studied with the Venerable Dezhung Rinpoche. In 1964, Dezhung Rinpoche encouraged Smith to move to India in order to seek out and study Tibetan books more directly. He gave Smith letters of introduction to show to the lamas living among the Tibetan diaspora. [3]

University of Washington public research university in Seattle, Washington, United States

The University of Washington is a public research university in Seattle, Washington.

Dezhung Rinpoche Lama

Dezhung Rinpoche Kunga Tenpai Nyima, born Ngawang Zangpo, (1906–1987) was a Tibetan lama of the Sakya school, one of four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1960 he came to Seattle, Washington in the United States of America, one of the first Tibetan lamas to settle and teach in the United States.

Tibetan diaspora

The Tibetan diaspora is a term used to refer to the communities of Tibetan people living outside their original homeland of Tibet. Tibetan emigration has three separate stages. The first stage was in 1959 following the 14th Dalai Lama's escape to Dharamshala in India, in fear of persecution from the People's Liberation Army. The second stage occurred in the 1980s, when China opened Tibet to foreigners. The third stage began in 1996 and continues today although with less frequency. Not all emigration from Tibet is permanent; today some parents in Tibet send their children to communities in the diaspora to receive a traditional Tibetan education. The 2009 census registered about 128,000 Tibetans in exile, with the most numerous part of the community living in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. However, in 2005 and 2009 there were estimates of up to 150,000 living in exile.

In 1968 the U.S. Library of Congress hired Smith as a field director in New Delhi where he worked on the Food for Peace humanitarian effort Public Law 480. Through the program, Smith began to copy and print thousands of Tibetan texts while keeping a version of each one for his own collection. He moved from India to Indonesia in 1985 and then Egypt, along with his collection of 12,000 volumes of texts. [3]

In 1997 Smith retired from the Library of Congress and began working to implement his vision of making the preserved texts accessible using the new scanning and digitization technologies that were, at that time, just beginning to become available. [4] In 1999 with friends including Harvard professor and fellow Tibetologist Leonard van der Kuijp, he founded the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Smith's texts from India that were digitized at TBRC became the foundation for Tibetan studies in the United States. [5]

Tibetology refers to the study of things related to Tibet, including its history, religion, language, culture, politics and the collection of Tibetan articles of historical, cultural and religious significance. The last may mean a collection of Tibetan statues, shrines, Buddhist icons and holy scripts, Thangka embroideries, paintings and tapestries, jewellery, masks and other objects of fine Tibetan art and craftsmanship.

Leonard W.J. van der Kuijp is a Dutch professor of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies and former chair of the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University.

Cambridge, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and part of the Boston metropolitan area.

In 2002 with the support of Shelley and Donald Rubin, TBRC moved to New York City where Smith became an advisor to the Rubin Museum of Art. Major grants from the Patricia and Peter Gruber Foundation, Khyentse Foundation, and the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation allowed TBRC to acquire a significant number of texts, develop its archiving system, and add more professional staff. Starting as Technical Director in 2001, Jeff Wallman was personally selected by Smith to be Executive Director and was appointed by the Board of Directors in 2009. [6]

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States and thus also in the state of New York. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Rubin Museum of Art Art museum, education center, performance and event venue in Manhattan, New York City

The Rubin Museum of Art is a museum dedicated to the collection, display, and preservation of the art and cultures of the Himalayas, India and neighboring regions, with a permanent collection focused particularly on Tibetan art. It is located at 150 West 17th Street between the Avenue of the Americas and Seventh Avenue in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City.

Gene Smith died on December 16, 2010. TBRC had scanned 7 million pages of Tibetan texts at the time of his death. [1]

TBRC's Work

Tibetan texts on a planetary book scanner next to a microfilm scanner Tibetan texts and a planetary book scanner; microfilm scanner on the bottom.jpg
Tibetan texts on a planetary book scanner next to a microfilm scanner

TBRC seeks out and preserves undiscovered texts, organizes them into a library catalog system, and disseminates the library online and to remote locations on hard drives so anyone can read, print, or share the texts. Tibetan language texts are cataloged by work, genre, subject, person, and place. [7]

Currently, the collection contains more than 7,000 works (17,000 volumes, totaling nearly 9 million pages) of Tibetan texts. [8] Scholars and students are able to study the physical qualities of the texts since the scans are searchable and zoomable. [9]

Over 5,000 users from 66 countries currently access the website per day, up from 815 per day in 2006. Between 500,000 and 1,000,000 pages are added every year. [6]

TBRC's work was recognized by the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje in a letter offering his support, gratitude, and prayers. [10] Gene Smith's life and TBRC were the subject of the 2012 documentary Digital Dharma, directed by Dafna Yachin of Lunchbox Communications. Variety film critic John Anderson described the film as, "A divinely inspired gift... also an affectionate tribute to the late E. Gene Smith, the scholar, librarian and ex-Mormon who waged a 50-year struggle to save the endangered texts of Tibetan Buddhism." [11]

TBRC and Harvard

In summer 2012 TBRC relocated back to Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA, where the staff hand-picked by Smith continues its ongoing mission to preserve and provide access to Tibetan literature.

In cooperation with the Harvard University Open Access Project (HOAP), TBRC is currently working to make its entire library completely open access. [8] TBRC also coordinates internships with graduate students from Harvard Divinity School and the Department of South Asian Studies at Harvard. [12]

Scanning and Text-Preservation in China

In 2007, Gene Smith bequeathed his personal collection of 12,000 Tibetan texts to the Southwest University for Nationalities in Chengdu, China. These texts are now housed in a newly constructed library that bears Smith's name, and which is now China's pre-eminent center for Tibetan literature. [2]

In October 2013, TBRC opened a scanning and text-preservation center at SWUN's E. Gene Smith Library, where four full-time archivists scan, catalog, and digitize Tibetan manuscripts, some centuries old, that are being brought to the library from around the region as news of its existence spreads. Some of these recent additions, now preserved and accessible in TBRC's digital archive, represent the only known versions of ancient texts. [2]

Buddhist Digital Resource Center

TBRC announced the expansion of institutional mission to include the preservation of texts in languages beyond Tibetan, including Sanskrit, Pali and Chinese. To reflect this expansion, they have officially changed organizational name from Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) to Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC). In 2017, BDRC will begin preserving and making accessible texts in languages beyond Tibetan, starting with Pali, Sanskrit, and Chinese. [13]


Executive Director: Jeffrey D. Wallman

Board of Directors

Cangioli K. Che, Patricia Gruber, Janet Gyatso, Leonard van der Kuijp, Derek Kolleeny, Richard Lanier, David Lunsford (emeritus), Michele Martin, Timothy J. McNeill, Tudeng Nima Rinpoche, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche (honorary), Shelley F. Rubin (emeritus), E. Gene Smith (emeritus, in memoriam), Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, Gray Tuttle, Lama Zopa Rinpoche (honorary), Jeffrey D. Wallman

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