CLASSICAL TIBETAN LANGUAGE STUDIES AT MAITRIPA COLLEGE
Maitripa College encourages all students to develop skills in reading, understanding and working with a wide range of classical texts in the Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Studying texts in their original language is a core of traditional religious studies, and to that end, Maitripa College is committed to developing a program of excellence in Tibetan language.
Beginning from the alphabet, with an early emphasis on pronunciation and reading aloud, students will progress to foundations of grammar, all while building fluency with vocabulary drawn from the texts and traditions studied in philosophy and meditation courses. Students in the MA program will have the ability to refer directly to sources written in Classical Tibetan, and will have familiarity with philosophical, historical, and literary genres. Students also have the opportunity to master the fundamentals of translation methodology, and to work closely in translation seminars with Yangsi Rinpoche.
Classical Tibetan language study is foundational for the dharma practitioner wishing to engage in prayers, rituals and meditations in the original languages, for the student and scholar preparing for graduate work or research, for those interested in meeting the growing need for translators of the canon and commentaries, and those with an interest in the entirety of Tibetan studies from philosophy and ritual to medicine, literature, history and culture.
A minimum of one year of classical Tibetan study at Maitripa is required in the MA degree curriculum, and is encouraged for MDiv students. Tibetan language classes are also open to Continuing Education students.
>>>Please see the course catalogue for all Tibetan course descriptions.
>>>Click here for FALL 2014 program application information.
Tibet’s Literary and Textual Traditions
Tibetan language texts date back at least as early as the eighth century, when teams of scholar-translators secured the importation and adoption of Buddhism from India through their translation of key Sanskrit texts. In fact, Tibet has, in these translations, preserved ancient Indian Buddhist knowledge subsequently lost in the Buddha’s homeland.
Tibetan Buddhist culture highly values physical texts as symbolic of the words of the Buddha himself, as well as the venerated commentaries and collected speech of lineages of teachers. Tibet’s centuries-old printing press technology, still employed today (alongside digital projects), entails carving texts in mirror-image script into woodblocks, which are then inked and pressed onto handmade paper. Folios of loose pages are held together wrapped in cloths, as you can see in the Maitripa Jokhang and Library. Woodblocks were stored in regional and local printing presses which are treated just like temples, and printed texts are sacred and essential components of practice places from hermitage shrines to monastic assembly halls.
The Tibetan literary corpus features extensive philosophical treatises and meditation practice scriptures, but also includes copious works in the fields of history, medicine, astrology, biography, grammar, poetics, geography and folk culture songs, epics and tales. It is impossible today to know what percentage of Tibetan texts have been permanently lost to the tragedies of the 20th century, but it is estimated that less than ten percent of extant Tibetan texts have been translated into Western languages!