Tibetan Buddhism Pathfinder

This pathfinder is designed to help anyone interested in Tibetan Buddhism to navigate the multitude of websites on the subject. It is an entrance point rather than a comprehensive survey. The target audience includes people who know nothing about Buddhism or Tibet, as well as scholarly researchers and people looking for spiritual teachers and opportunities to practice.

The sites in this section provide a basic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism.

Background: Tibetan Culture, History, and Political Situation

The study of Tibetan Buddhism requires an understanding of Tibetan culture and history, including China’s invasion of Tibet.

The Dalai Lama

 Many teachers of Tibetan Buddhism outside Tibet left their country as refugees, including His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, who continues to work both for Tibetan liberation and to teach people everywhere about Buddhism.

  • The Dalai Lama is the highest religious leader for Tibetan Buddhists around the world and an international spokesperson for peace. 
  • The Dharma Drum website, dedicated to the work of Chinese Buddhist Master Shang Yen, includes the Dalai Lama’s introduction to Tibetan Buddhism as part of a dialog between the Dalai Lama and Shang Yen. 
  • The Dalai Lama works with the Mind and Life Institute to study Buddhist meditation from a scientific point of view. 

Research Resources: General

When Tibetans adopted Buddhism, scholars such as Marpa Chokyi Lodro translated religious texts from Sanskrit and other languages into Tibetan and wrote commentaries and treatises of their own, creating a vast body of literature on Buddhism in Tibetan.

Because the written Tibetan language uses Tibetan rather than Latin characters, online research databases with Tibetan materials must use Tibetan software and fonts or rely on Latin script transliterations of Tibetan words as search terms. Many of the sites in this pathfinder provide free downloads for Tibetan language software and fonts, as noted in the site descriptions.

  • The Tibetan & Himalayan Digital Library at the University of Virginia, includes valuable databases of bibliographies, texts, audio-visual resources, and other materials on the Himalayan region, including places inside and outside Tibet where Tibetan Buddhism is practiced. You can search across all databases at once using Google. Downloadable Tibetan fonts and software as well as an explanation of Wylie transliteration, a method used by the Library of Congress and others for writing Tibetan using Latin characters. 
  • The website of TDHL’s partner, Digital Himalaya, provides a simpler gateway into some materials on Tibet and the Himalayas organized by collection as well as additional information. 
  • The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center includes a bibliographic database for scholars as well as a browseable collection of materials about persons and places geared toward the novice. 
  • The Tibetan Studies WWW Virtual Library, part of the Asian Studies World-Wide Web Virtual Library maintained by Matthew Ciolek at the Australian National University, is a comprehensive pathfinder on Tibetan studies. Although some links are out of date, it is still a useful tool. 

Research Resources: Library Catalogs

The catalogs of libraries that have major collections on Tibet are valuable research tools. To use them effectively it helps to learn the Wylie transliteration system for writing Tibetan names in Latin script, described above under general research resources.

Research Resources: Texts

  • Nithartha is a project to preserve and digitize Tibetan texts, including the traditional Tibetan books known as pechas. Their website has a list of texts as well as an online English-Tibetan dictionary, a Tibetan calendar, and Tibetan word processing software. Downloadable Tibetan fonts and software. 
  • The Asian Classics Input Project (ACIP) has free downloads of texts in Tibetan and English. Downloadable Tibetan fonts and software. 
  • Lotsawa House has full texts of translations of Tibetan texts and downloadable PDFs of the Tibetan versions. 

Research Resources: Art

In Tibet and the Himalayan region the arts have been used for hundreds of years to instruct and inspire Buddhist practitioners.

  • Himalayan Art Resources is a database of art from Tibet and other Himalayan countries including textiles, sculpture and paintings, most of which have Buddhist themes. 
  • Asian Arts has a database of articles, including many on Tibetan Buddhist art, and lists of galleries, associations, and exhibitions. 

Online Exhibits


Audiovisual Materials

Practice and Study

The sites in this section provide resources for people interested in learning to practice Tibetan Buddhism and meditation.

  • The Shambhala Center, founded by Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, has branches around the world, including several in Colorado. 
  • BuddhaNet.net has a directory of Buddhist practice centers of all traditions around the world, as well as a webzine, audio recordings, a thangka gallery, and other resources. 
  • The website of the His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa, the head of the Kagyu school, lists centers and provides other resources. 
  • Nalandabodhi’s website lists practice centers and teachers in addition to articles, cartoons, Tibetan Buddhist e-cards, and more. 
  • The Nyingma.com website includes a history of the Nyingma tradition as well as texts of teachings and a list of centers. 
  • The sites in BuddhaNet’s pathfinder on women in Buddhism shows how women have moved into prominent positions in 21st century Buddhist studies and practice.