An Inspiring Project to Rescue and Share the Texts of Ancient Tibetan Buddhism
The Asian Classics Input Project is dedicated to the classification and digitalization of thousands of documents of ancient Buddhism —a witness to the survival of ancient wisdom.
More than any jewel or artwork from some remote past, humanity’s greatest treasures are made of words. This is the case with all the ancient writings which have survived the passage of time. Be they documents whose permanence has given us the epics of ancient cultures, poems, historical records, or books of magic and mysticism, they not only fill the imagination with wisdom and beauty, but they remind us, too, of what we are.
Among the many projects dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of these records of the past, one stands out for the sheer value and majesty of the works being saved. The Asian Classics Input Project (ACIP) is dedicated to the collection, translation, and preservation of religious and mystical texts from multiple Asian cultures. Most of the documents are from monasteries, libraries, and private collections. Some are up to 2,500 years old. Two digitization and preservation centers for the project, one in Mongolia, and one in India, employ people from their own communities as a way of bringing them closer to the richness of their own cultures through preservation.
But this work is also a race against time, as many of the books and codices have already been lost, and those which survive are fragile or even near fatally damaged. Thus, the classification and digitization are both urgent and valuable. Their contents are, in the end, made available free of charge to scholars, translators, teachers, and practitioners from all over the world through the non-profit project’s website.
In the years since the ACIP’s founding in 1988, the organization has cataloged thousands of the ancient texts of Tibetan Buddhism. With the support of the Khyentse Foundation, dedicated to the study and practice of Buddhist traditions, the ACIP picked up a task that had begun in 2006. It included the cataloging, ordering, and digitization of an enormous number of printed wooden tablets, including unknown Tibetan Buddhist texts, from the Mongolian National Library in Ulan Bator. The library contains one of the most important collections of Buddhist works anywhere in the world. Alongside the Buddhist Digital Resource Center, translations of the texts are made with the help of professionals and native speakers of the Tibetan language.
The project also includes a public awareness campaign for Tibetan residents of today, to familiarize them with the collection, and to further its goals, as well as to offer training for the preservation of its cultural legacy. The ACIP also created the Tibetan Language Channel on YouTube to carry a series of online materials for teaching people to read, speak, and translate the Tibetan language.
Beyond all the admirable tasks of the ACIP – more than two million pages digitally preserved – and the generosity of making available all of the texts which would otherwise be reserved for but a few, the ACIP’s task is exciting: it promises thousands of texts for the discovery of one of the world’s most magnificent mystical traditions.
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