Building a Repository of Wisdom
Nitartha international was established to help preserve the rare texts and art of Asia, with a primary focus on Tibet. Our aim is not only to save these treasures, but also to make the living traditions of wisdom they embody available to the world community. Nitartha was established in 1996, and our goal has always been to develop a library to house the precious texts of the Tibetan traditions, particularly the Nyingma and Kagyu lineages, as well as other important texts from Asia. With the acquisition of Nalanda West, a five building complex in Northwest Seattle, Nitartha's goal of a library is fast becoming a reality.
Most Tibetan texts are very old and, if copies can be found at all, they are usually in a state of decay. Tibetan texts are published in "pecha format," on long, rectangular pages, unbound and printed on both sides. The front of one page and back of the next are usually read together, as in the picture at left. Pechas are often printed on rice paper or other poor quality materials, and are inadequately maintained due to a lack of facilities and poor economic conditions. The few texts which have been saved since the upheavals of the last few decades were themselves prepared in India using inexpensive non-acid-free paper or handmade rice paper. The print on the front of the page is often visible on the back side of the page, making it very difficult to read the text on either side. Yet, even this quality of printing is very difficult to obtain; many important texts exist only in traditional "woodblock" form.
The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Nitartha's president, personally has assembled one of the finest collections of Tibetan texts in existence. Mathew Kapstein, University of Chicago (Associate Professor, Department of South Asian Languages &Civilizations; Numata Visiting Professor, Divinity School) and a Nitartha director, has indicated that he will bequest his Tibetan text collection to Nitartha. Nitartha also maintains ties to many important persons involved in the identification and preservation of important endangered Tibetan texts.
Nitartha international is a collecting institution provisionally chartered as such by the New York Board of Regents. Nitartha is by charter tasked with the responsibility to conserve texts pursuant to its collections policy, which insures the preservation of texts under optimal conditions. Through the Tibetan Education Support Program, we are gathering the principle literature of the Tibetan educational system, with a special focus on important or endangered texts of the Nyingma and Kagyu schools. Nitartha is continuously working with many Tibetan organizations to gather and preserve these rare texts.
The Nalanda West library houses the collection assembled by The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and also provides a library of modern English and other language publications in areas of interest. An expansion program is contemplated for the future. The library will eventually provide access to scholars to one of the most thorough collection of Tibetan texts in the Nyingma and Kagyu tradition. The libary will be a great resource to Asian studies and educational development of these precious traditions.
This initial library development is just a beginning of the establishment of a full featured library for the preservation of the Wisdom of Tibet and Asia, and to create a support vehicle for the transmission of the living wisdom into the culture of North America.
In addition to the collection of traditional Tibetan texts, commonly referred to as pechas, Nitartha's library will also contains other collections in digital and similar formats which will increase the resources available to scholars at the library. multifold. Indeed, Nitartha has specialized in preserving key texts in the Kagyu and Nyingma canons, and have been able to preserve hundreds of thousands of pages worth of precious wisdom in digital form. A catalog of our extensive digital collection is available at this site.
In addition to textual materials, Nitartha international also believes that unique requirements of the Tibetan educational system require the preservation of the extensive oral commentarial materials which explains the meaning of Tibetan texts. Thus we are developing an extensive collection of oral teachings by notable scholars from the Tibetan educational system
To supplement our specialized collections that are unique to Nitartha, we maintain a number of valuable scholarly resources. This includes, a reproduction of an edition of the Tangyur, and the extensive P.L. 480 collection on microfiche.
A number of libraries own some form of the PL-480 collection, which was a federally funded program instituted in in early 1960's. The collection is searchable online courtesy of the The Toyo Bunko (Oriental Library), a collecting institution located in Japan (search available in English can search by key word using Wylie transcription system for Tibetan characters).