Want to read Buddhist religious, philosophical, ritual meditation, and historical texts in their original TIBETAN? Two courses are offered Fall1999.

Do you know that since the 8th century the Tibetan was the language of high religious culture from Beijing to St Petersburg? That its traditions of scholarship and practice are still alive today?

The collections of canonical Buddhist scriptures include 4,500 separate works (all in the Rice Library; check out the beautiful orange volumes at BQ, 4th floor Fondren), and there are thousands of others as well. Less t han 1/10 of 1% of all Tibetan literature has been translated into any Western language. It probably won't reach more than 5% in your lifetime!!

Through knowing this language you gain access to materials relevant for:

  • Religious Studies (especially Buddhist-Christian Dialogue).
  • Philosophy: fascinating accounts of the process of perception, the limits of conceptual thought, the possibility of "yogic" insight
  • History: of Central Asia (Tibet, China, Persia)
  • Art: the famous artistry of paintings, tapestries, statues drawn from India and China as well as Persia to form their own unique synthesis
  • Medicine: based primarily on Indian Sanskrit sources, Tibet developed its own descriptions of the body, the movement of energies (chi'i, prana) through it in life and in death, its own system of acupuncture, and detailed classification of herbal plant s and flowers found throughout the Himalayas.
  • Astrology: read ancient understandings of the workings of stars and planets and their potential effect on living beings.

Enter this world through the study of ancient texts that will introduce you to the world of Buddhist logic, mysticsm, and cultural reflection! You will also have access to ten centuries of Buddhist Sanskrit texts which were meticulously translated into Tibetan before being, for the most part, lost or destroyed when Buddhism disappeared from India in the 11th Century.

Buddhism came to Tibet from India starting in the 8th century.This was the last major migration of Buddhist traditions from the land of their birth, India. China had ceased looking to India for Buddhist materials by about the 6th century. Sri Lanka, Th ailand and their neighbors received their Buddhist traditions mainly from only the first four centuries of Indian Buddhist literature and practice.This means that to Tibet went the most complete set of textual, artistic, meditative, and philosophical Budd hist traditions. Its libraries, now increasingly available to us, hold treasures for exploration that, in opening windows to Tibetan culture, open them as well to the riches of ancient India, China, Mongolia, and Central Asia, and trace a cultural heritag ae as far west as Russia.

RELI 330/532 is taught in two levels:


You will be introduced to the beautiful Tibetan script and language, where almost each syllable carries a meaning in itself.

We will begin with the alphabet and take you through to recognizing and understanding basic sentences of the classical Tibetan language. At the same time, this will introduce you to the basics of Buddhist philosophy. Can you imagine that learning vocab ulary will introduce you into a world of philosophy? You will learn that the two syllables 'to disintegrate' and 'receptacle' are together the word for the external world -- 'the receptacle that disintegrates' - - or, you will learn that the syllables 'cleansed, awakened' and 'to spread' are together the word for Buddha!

Towards the end of the course we will read from "The Jewel Ornament of Liberation" -- in original Tibetan! It is an exposition of the Bodhisattva path to enlightenment, laying out the fundamentals of Buddhist faith and philosophy. It was composed by th e famous Gampopa (1079-1153).

So -- be courageous! Join us in the adventure of discovering a new language, an old philosophy, an ancient world, a modern religion!

Time: 11:00 a.m. -12:20 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays

Location: Sewall Hall Room 278

Instructor: Sigrid Pietsch


Intermediate Level

We will read and translate a Buddhist philosophical text composed by the Tibetan scholar Gampopa (1079-1153). This text is an exposition of the Bodhisattva path to enlightenment, laying out the fundamentals of Buddhist faith and philosophy. The issues treated are, among others, mind and consciousness, nonself of persons and phenomena, and the path to enlightenment. Additionally, the companion textbook will be used to learn grammar and vocabulary.

Time: 1:00-2:20 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays

Location: Sewall Hall Room 278

Instructor: Sigrid Pietsch

Sigrid Pietsch is a Lecturer in the Religious Studies department and a visiting scholar from

the Institute for the Culture and History of India and Tibet of the University of Hamburg, Germany. 



For further information, e-mail sigrid@ruf.rice.edu or reli@rice.edu.