FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Learn more about the Tibetan Aid Project. Here are answers to some of the questions we are often asked:
- Is the Tibetan Aid Project a political organization?
- Is the Tibetan Aid Project affiliated with the Dalai Lama?
- How is this text preservation project different from those of other organizations?
- Why don't the Tibetans print their own books?
- How much of Tibetan Aid Project’s program services goes toward meeting the Tibetans' basic needs, such as food, clothing, medical care, and primary education?
- Can you tell me more about Tarthang Tulku, Tibetan Aid Project’s founder?
- Why does the Tibetan Aid Project focus on Tibetans in exile? What about the people of Tibet?
- Does Tibetan Aid Project work with other organizations such as Bay Area Friends of Tibet, the Tibetan Nuns Project, or the International Campaign for Tibet?
No. The Tibetan Aid Project’s mission is to preserve Tibet’s cultural and spiritual heritage. We focus all our energy towards this mission. We do not campaign for political change or take political stances.
Is the Tibetan Aid Project affiliated with the Dalai Lama?
No. The Dalai Lama is the head of the Gelugpa school, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and is also the political leader of all Tibetans. The Tibetan Aid Project was founded by Tarthang Tulku, a teacher trained in the Nyingma school. All of our work is completely non-political. Of course, we do share many of the same goals, and are deeply grateful for the work His Holiness has accomplished on behalf of the Tibetan people.
How is this text preservation project different from those of other organizations?
The Tibetan Aid Project is committed to restoring the entire range of Tibetan Buddhist teachings to the Tibetan people, on a scale that will make it possible for all Tibetans to renew their connection to their heritage. The works currently being produced are the foundational texts for all Tibetan Buddhist traditions.
Projects that aim to provide a wide range of texts in digital format are important initiatives, complementary to the work of the Tibetan Aid Project. However, most Tibetans do not have access to such texts. The Tibetan Aid Project has helped distribute traditional texts that have reached some of the most remote villages in the Himalayas. These books are a uniquely Tibetan resource that Tibetans trained in traditional ways can accept and honor.
Why don't the Tibetans print their own books?
Most of the Tibetan refugees live in India or Nepal, which are developing countries. Though Tibetans have made great strides, they do not have the means to support their monasteries as they did in their own country. The monasteries, where the printing projects traditionally took place, are struggling to maintain basic support for their members.
Because we coordinate our programs with affiliated organizations (Yeshe De Project and Dharma Publishing), the Tibetan Aid Project is able to take advantage of nearly forty years of printing experience. Although small-scale printing of texts has been done among the Tibetan exile communities (and to some extent in China), it will be some time before they can do the kinds of large-scale, high quality projects that the Tibetan Aid Project supports.
How much of the Tibetan Aid Project's program services meet the basic needs of Tibetans, such as food, clothing, medical care, and primary education?
In the early years, the Tibetan Aid Project focused on these basic needs. As the Tibetan exiles adapted to their new homes, they were able to handle some of these needs themselves. In addition, a number of other organizations were subsequently founded in the West to meet the basic needs of Tibetans. As a result, the Tibetan Aid Project now focuses on cultural preservation and higher education, as this is the greater need.
Can you tell me more about Tarthang Tulku, the founder of the Tibetan Aid Project?
Tarthang Tulku is one of the last remaining high lamas to have received a complete education in pre-1959 Tibet. After teaching at Sanskrit University in India for several years, he settled in Berkeley in 1969, where he founded Tibetan Aid Project, Dharma Publishing, and the Nyingma Institute. For many years, Tarthang Tulku taught and wrote extensively. Now he is focusing intensively on the editorial and publishing work required to produce the vast number of books that are made each year to send to Tibetans, and on the creation of Odiyan Buddhist Center in northern California, a foundation for establishing the Dharma in the West. He continues to guide our activities as a member of the board of directors.
Why does the Tibetan Aid Project focus on Tibetans in exile? What about the people of Tibet?
Ever since 1959, and especially starting in the mid-1960s, Tibetans were barred from transmitting their own heritage in their native country. Under these circumstances, we devoted our efforts to the exile communities. As soon as conditions improved in Tibet, we began exploring ways to support Tibetan culture there. Over the past few decades, the Tibetan Aid Project has been able to give limited support to a number of centers in Tibet. We have heard repeatedly from travelers in Tibet that our texts can be found in even the most remote regions. However, distribution of books and art in Tibet is currently impossible.
Does the Tibetan Aid Project work with other organizations such as Bay Area Friends of Tibet, the Tibetan Nuns Project, or the International Campaign for Tibet?
No. The Tibetan Aid Project is committed to supporting the culture of Tibet and the precious heritage of wisdom and compassion it transmits. Many other groups support these goals indirectly, but in most cases their main focus lies elsewhere - for example, working for political change in Tibet, for the preservation or restoration of a particular monastery or nunnery, or on behalf of a particular teacher.
In the Nyingma school, lamas traditionally work independently. Each teacher has his or her own vision for the Dharma, and acts to fulfill it. That is the model that Nyingma has followed in the West. However, Tibetan Aid Project and the other Nyingma organizations do cooperate with other organizations on projects in India, Nepal, and Tibet. The World Peace Ceremony is a good example of a project that was initiated by Tarthang Tulku and then developed extensively in cooperation with dozens of other centers. And of course, Tibetan Aid Project offers financial support to centers belonging to all schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
The text preservation project has distributed over 2.5 million Tibetan books. Is there still a need for more books?
The Tibetan tradition has an incredible wealth of teachings. In the Nyingma tradition alone, more than 80,000 texts have been identified. So despite the work done so far, there is still a lot of work to be done. Just imagine how many textbooks are required for the students at a large university every year, and you will begin to get a sense of the scale at which text production and distribution must take place for a successful transmission of the living heritage of Tibet to occur.
In addition, the Yeshe De Project is continuing to do research that leads to the discovery of more texts. Now that Buddhism can be more openly practiced in the remote regions of Tibet, rare texts previously thought to be lost are coming to light. As long as there are important texts to preserve and pass on, the work will continue.