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]

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]


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


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]

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]

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]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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

External links[edit]