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Around 700 AD, over 1200 years after the time of the Buddha, the Tibetans
undertook a monumental task: to translate thousands of pages of Buddhist
literature from Sanskrit into Tibetan. It took them 700 years to complete
translations of the kangyur (the word of the Buddha) and the tengyur (the Indian
Now, as Buddhism has been making a big push westward, our aim is to complete
an even larger task: to translate hundreds of thousands of pages of Buddhist
literature into modern languages. Since the blossoming of Buddhism in Tibet, no
less than 200,000 pages of brilliant commentary have been composed by masters
and scholars in the Tibetan language.!
Geshe Michael Roach: international teacher, Buddhist scholar and master
translator, founded this project with a vision to translate 10,000 ancient classics in
the next 150 years.!
The aim of our project is to create and guide a team of young translators to translate
these great classics. We’re beginning by translating into English and from there, the
work can be easily translated into modern Chinese, Spanish, German, Russian and
many other languages. We have teams around the world already translating our
During the loss of Tibet and subsequent Cultural Revolution, over 5,000 libraries in
the country were destroyed. Books became scarce and, early in his monastic
studies, Geshe Michael often had to share a single textbook with dozens of
classmates. At this point, in 1987, the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae was just going
strong at Princeton University, with the help of Geshe Michael’s Sanskrit teacher,
Prof. Samuel Atkins. This was a project spearheaded by Dr. David Packard Jr, son of
one of the founders of Hewlett-Packard Computer Corporation, which succeeded
in digitalizing the entire ancient literature of Greece. Dr. Packard in fact helped
develop the first CD-ROM in order to store this data. !
Geshe Michael immediately saw a chance to help save what was left of ancient
Tibetan literature, including the Sanskrit originals. He wrote a proposal for the
Asian Classics Input Project and presented it to Dr. Packard, who issued a grant
from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for the first ACIP input center,
located within a Tibetan refugee camp. Ancient Tibetan literature is carved onto
woodblocks, which means that to be stored in a searchable way it must be typed
into a computer. ACIP began to train, pay, and equip dozens of Tibetan refugees to
type in the several hundred thousand spiritual classics of Tibet, using innovative
software developed by the Project. !
23 years later, this work continues, mostly by refugee Tibetan women in India who
as non-citizens cannot find any other employment. To date, some 14,414 ancient
texts have been typed in and the verified versions posted on the web for free
download by anyone in the world. It is estimated that at the current rate the project
will require over 100 more years to complete. !
Millions of dollars have been raised for the project, originally through Andin
Diamond and in recent years by director John Brady and other domestic ACIP staff,
all working as volunteers. ACIP has also received a number of major grants from
the US National Endowment for the Humanities, and corporations worldwide. Its
work has been described in Wired magazine and in documentaries by Xerox
Corporation and by Walter Cronkite & Ward TV for The Learning Channel. In 2007,
Geshe Michael helped found Global Family, a program for adopting ACIP input
operators and their families. !
To preserve the last remaining copies of many texts, Geshe Michael in 1993
concluded agreements with the University of St Petersburg and the St Petersburg
Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences to catalog their extensive collections of
ancient Asian texts. This catalog was completed by a team of Tibetan monks, under
the supervision project directors Dr. Lev Serafimovich Savitsky, John Brady,
Ngawang Kheatsun, and Geshe Michael, after 15 years of work. It contains details
of 134,327 ancient manuscripts and is one of the largest Asian catalogs in the world. !
In 1988, Geshe Michael turned to the task of helping republish hundreds of missing
Tibetan books from ACIP´s data. He first worked with Steven Bruzgulis to create
TTPS (Tibetan Text Processing System), the world´s first Tibetan word processor,
and with Geshe Ngawang Rigdol then organized a publishing arm of Sera Mey
Monastery to print lost textbooks. Geshe Michael was then assigned by the
monastery as the primary editor for Sera Mey´s textbook series, including
correcting the final Tibetan versions of the ancient texts, a post which he filled for
almost ten years. !
In 1989, Geshe Michael was engaged by the United States Library of Congress to
help design their ongoing acquisitions program for ancient Tibetan texts, and after
consulting with 120 Tibetan institutions created a catalog of over a thousand target
works. In 1995 he was appointed a Research Fellow of the Institute for the
Advanced Studies of World Religions. !
On this site, you’ll find a description of the latest round of texts that we’re
translating and an introduction to the translators on our team. The translations of
these texts are still in progress and are available for your eyes and thoughts as we
go. As we value the opinions of our fellow Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan
enthusiasts, our work is posted together with the original Tibetan language and is
enabled to receive your comments. !