Tib Shelf www.tibshelf.org is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to help preserve Tibetan literature in all its guises through translating and presenting our publications on our open-access website.
Tib Shelf has, at least for me, two sources of inspiration. The first is that anyone connected to Rinpoche will have witnessed first-hand his herculean efforts to help preserve, present, and educate the world on Tibet’s incredibly unique history and culture in all its forms. The second came about whilst at the University of Oxford studying for a Masters in Tibetan and Himalayan studies. My fellow two founders of Tib Shelf, Ryan and Tenzin, discovered that there is so much roughly or partly translated material languishing on people’s hard drives, never to see the light of day. This included fellow students, Tibetologists, and translators who were unable to find an open-source platform in which to share their work. On this basis, we made a commitment to developing such a platform where Tibetan translators can share their work. The key to our initiative is that we do not discriminate based on the topic, school, works, or lineage—it can be anything, so long as the original Tibetan material can be accurately identified.
As the discussions continued, the name Tib Shelf arose somewhat miraculously. When we were driving to visit Gomde, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche’s centre in the UK, right in the middle of discussing what we might call ourselves, a sign arose on the side of the motorway. I wish I could write that it was an omen of divine inspiration, but it was an actual road sign pointing to a small village called Tibshelf in the county of Derbyshire. It was a wonderful, if not humorous, moment in which we thought, ‘Why don’t we call ourselves Tib Shelf and play on the idea of a bookshelf filled with translated Tibetan texts?’ As we further explored other names and iterations, we continued to return to the name Tib Shelf, and thus the name was born.
Since this auspicious beginning, we have developed a well-received website to house and disseminate a growing array of translated material. Current published material includes biographies, governmental documents, modern poetry, cosmogony, prayers and aspirations, institutional information, and much more besides.
In our first year we have become a registered non-profit organisation and published 37 texts with 10 external submissions. We have been allocated an ISSN number, which allows people to publish with us and use our links for academic articles. We were awarded an Ashoka grant from the Khyentse Foundation that has allowed us to translate the biography of Losal Drölma (1802–1861), a great Dzogchen master and the half-sister and spiritual companion of Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (1800–1866), which is in the final polishing stages.
Of particular interest to the Dzogchen community might be a short biography on Tamdrin Lhamo, Changchub Dorje’s daughter, which demonstrates how she achieved rainbow body amongst other incredible details: www.tibshelf.org/a-biography-of-tamdrin-lhamo. Additionally, we have a seal designed by Drukpa Zhabdrung, Ngawang Namgyal (1616–1651), founder of Bhutan and whom Rinpoche was considered the mind-stream emanation. It is a powerful read and testimony to the independence of the Bhutanese people: www.tibshelf.org/sixteen-self-assertions. We have also translated the biography of Kunga Palden (1878–1944/1950), written by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991). Kunga Palden enjoyed a wonderful teacher-student relationship with Khyentse Chökyi Wangchuk (1909–1963), Rinpoche’s uncle: www.tibshelf.org/kunga-pelden-biography.
At the heart of what we want to achieve is to work and collaborate with other organisations rather than remaining a silo of independent translations. The more we can integrate and collaborate with other organisations, the more information will be readily available on a myriad of topics. To date, we have already published or collaborated with Lotsawa house www.lotsawahouse.org, The Treasury of Lives www.treasuryoflives.org, Easy Tibetan www.easytibetan.org, and are currently working with the Khyentse Vision Project www.khyentsevision.org in assisting the translation of the collected works of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820–1892). We are also in the process of making our work accessible to those who are visually impaired or want to listen to recorded audio narrations of our publications.
In our next year, we want to build on what we have already achieved. We plan to translate a more extensive biography of Tamdrin Lhamo, Changchubs Dorje’s daughter, with the wider aim of publishing collected works of biographies focussing on great female Buddhist masters. We hope to create discussion around the importance of women and their place in the development of Tibetan Buddhism. We plan to reach out to more translators to submit their translations and to slowly and surely build the platform into a vast and rich resource. We want to begin to make short videos of some of the more compelling translations adding a new layer of interaction. We have plans to utilise our publications to become a vital source of material for aspiring Tibetan translators where they can hone their skills. Finally and most importantly, we will continue to publish more texts over time on a wide array of topics.
It only remains for me to write that we are always available for paid translation services and on the lookout for anyone to send us their translations for publication. We also are seeking people who feel at all inspired in our endeavours to assist us in any way they can. Everything we are doing is done in our own time, and any support can be invaluable, no matter big or small. This assistance could be anything from those with skills in digital knowledge, marketing, graphic design, and video, or through financial www.tibshelf.org/donate. If you might be interested in assisting in some way, please do reach out and drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together we are legion.
We hope you enjoy or find some of our publications useful, and we encourage you to sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch with what we do.
Tom Greensmith, Tenzin Choephel, and Ryan Jacobson