And if you wish to stop these obstacles,
there is one, and only one, crucial practice for doing so.
You must use kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.
Learn to keep your feelings in balance, whether something feels good
or whether it hurts; whether something is enjoyable, or distasteful…
The Yoga Sutras, verses 32 & 33, by Master Patanjali
Greetings to the entire Asian Legacy Library family!
2021 was a remarkable year for humanity on so many levels. Despite the tremendous challenges brought on by the global COVID pandemic, in addition to the geopolitical, socioeconomic, and environmental challenges we already faced, our resolve to seek insight into the true nature of our reality remained steadfast.
Thanks to you, we at the Asian Legacy Library remained focused on our 35-year mission of digitally preserving and safeguarding the priceless literary wisdom traditions of Asia.
Some of our many achievements included establishing ALL as a 501(c)3 non-profit entity and introducing our new brand to the world. And by extension, we launched our award-winning ALL website and digital library, designed to safeguard and make available tens of thousands of volumes of Tibetan and Sanskrit Buddhist texts, as well as digital images of rare palm leaf manuscripts in the Ayurvedic and Yogic traditions of South India. We are also in the process of building out our East Asian collection, which will be comprised of traditional Chinese Buddhist texts from throughout East and Southeast Asia.
After years of negotiations, we completed the purchase of a local revenue-generating property, which will provide us with enough income to cover the overhead of our U.S. headquarters, as well as the expenses of our sister organizations that share the space with us.
And perhaps most importantly, we achieved a new benchmark in donations that allowed our seven preservation partners to remain healthy, vital, and optimized in their workflow, and in addition allowed us to contribute funds to like-minded organizations who support the “Snow on the Mountain” concept of utilizing our library to keep the wisdom traditions of Asia alive in the world through relevant teachings addressing the daily challenges common to our entire global community.
We are continually grateful to our global team of organizers, managers, input operators, volunteers, and of course our donors—new and old—who are the lifeblood of this extraordinary effort.
We hope our 2021 Annual Report provides you with a bit more insight into the organization that you support so beautifully. Please bookmark asianlegacylibrary.org for continual updates on the work we are all doing in the world together.
Here’s to an even better 2022.
2021 was a milestone year for the Asian Legacy Library. Proof perhaps that in trying times we pivot in search of answers to material challenges that we thought we could answer in conventional terms, only to see that we cannot.
Our new digital library is the flagship destination
and access point for all of the organization’s preservation programs, including the digitizing, cataloging, and archiving of wisdom literature. A safe and enduring home, the ALL library is an important nexus of source material that is used
by scholars, translators, and academics around
Our new work in Nepal
ALL and its partner institution in Kathmandu—the Nagarjuna Institute of Buddhist Studies—are engaged in a combination of projects dedicated to the preservation of texts that form the core of sacred and social life for the Newar Buddhist community of the Kathmandu Valley.
Partners in preservation
The significant preservation work that ALL is leading at the National Library of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar would not be possible without the financial, technical, and scholarly support of two prominent organizations dedicated to the preservation of Buddhist culture: the Buddhist Digital Resource Center and the Khyentse Foundation.
The greater teachers of all time have said, no single time, That the whole point of the trainings is reaching actual attainments.
Take then whatever amount of the teachings you understand so far, And without procrastination, with speed, put them to work in your life.
Epistle on Ethics, by Je Tsongkapa
The Asian Legacy Library currently partners with seven preservation operations located across Mongolia, Nepal, and India. These multi-disciplinary teams contribute a combination of skills within the preservation process, whether it be scanning, inputting, cataloguing, or distributing.
Very often there is cross-over, for example when the scanning that was completed in one center is digitally transferred and input in another. This creates an economy of means for greater efficiency and productivity.
The Bylakuppe Preservation Center employs ten skilled librarians knowledgeable of the Tibetan language and who focus on transcribing challenging and difficult-to-read Tibetan Buddhist classics into machine readable files.
Currently the team is working on the Nartang Tengyur, an important edition of the classic Indian commentaries.
There are both subtle and major differences between Tibetan editions of the Kangyur and Tengyur. As such, there is great benefit in having multiple editions of the Kangyur and Tengyur in the library. This will enable scholars, translators, and researchers to compare information that could be lost if only one edition were preserved.
The Hunsur Preservation Center currently employs eight skilled librarians knowledgeable in the Tibetan language and who focus on transcribing Tibetan Buddhist classics from manuscripts and xylographs into machine readable text files.
Currently, the Hunsor team is working on the Tibetan-Russian-English Dictionary, by Yuri Roerich, a prominent 20th century Tibetologist. Additional classics are input on request.
Palghat (Palakkad), Kerala, India
The Kerala Preservation Center proudly hosts a collection of unique, unpublished manuscripts and rare printed materials in Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, and English. At the heart of the collection are the palm-leaf manuscripts of Sanskrit knowledge systems including medicine (Ayurveda), philosophy, and contemplative practices.
The center is led by world famous Indologist Dr. N.V. Ramachandran and employs six student librarians who catalog, photograph, and digitize manuscripts and rare books held in state and private collections throughout India. This extraordinary digital repository continues to support the work of scholars of Indology from around the globe
TENZIN DICKYI LARSOE (TDL) PRESERVATION CENTER
The TDL center currently employs seven skilled librarians knowledgeable in the Tibetan language and who focus on transcribing Tibetan Buddhist classics from manuscripts and xylographs into machine readable text files. The staff just completed inputting the Blue Annals, a very important book written in 1476 by Go Lotsawa Zhonnu-pel. It is a historical survey focusing on the dissemination of various sectarian spiritual traditions throughout Tibet.
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
ALL’s Varanasi center for Indology is uniquely positioned in a city viewed as sacred by various religions and spiritual seekers for thousands of years. It is the nerve center for all of ALL’s South Asian preservation efforts. Equally dedicated to Hindu and Buddhist Sanskrit materials, the center is engaged in digitizing manuscript archives, as well as printed and manuscript Sanskrit materials throughout northern India.
THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MONGOLIA
The National Library of Mongolia (NLM), founded in 1921, houses text collections representing close to 1,000 years of the accumulated cultural knowledge of greater Mongolia and the Asian Steppe. From the 13th century on, the body of work currently residing at NLM was held in private libraries, homes, and institutions, forming a cultural bedrock in Mongolia. During the period of Soviet occupation, this bedrock was broken apart and nearly destroyed, as scores of books were burned or scattered at the order of central bureaucratic rule in Ulaanbaatar. The books that escaped destruction were consolidated at NLM. What remains there today––over 100,000 volumes in the Tibetan, Mongolian, Chinese, and Manchu languages––is of critical significance. Ranging across topics including grassland and resource management, early medical technology, pharmacology, political science, philosophical and religious systems, and the arts, NLM and its holdings serve as a vital record of history and cultural innovation through much of East and Central Asia.
Since 2001, Asian Legacy Library (ALL) has maintained strong relations with NLM administration, offering its expertise in technology and scholarship. In 2018, ALL and NLM initiated a formal partnership. NLM is eager to complete the preservation of this important collection.
A Mutual Interest
While in Ulaanbaatar renewing ALL’s preservation partnership agreement with the National Library of Mongolia this June, John Brady and Emma Lewis were invited to a meeting with Michael S. Klecheski, the U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia. Also in attendance were the Embassy’s Cultural Affairs Specialist, Erika Baterdene and the Embassy’s Public Affairs Section Chief, John Brown. The meeting focused on the ongoing work of ALL at the National Library of Mongolia, and the value of preserving and making accessible cultural heritage in Mongolia.
Ambassador Klecheski expressed his strong support for the Asian Legacy Library’s efforts in Mongolia, stating, “The partnership between the Asian Legacy Library and the National Library of Mongolia is a great example of our two countries working together to preserve valuable works of literature.” The relationship between ALL and the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia is one of many new relationships forged during the 2022 trip to Ulaanbaatar. As ALL awaits the results of its grant application to the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation in support of project work at the NLM, the ALL team is encouraged by the support of friends and partners on the ground in Ulaanbaatar.
The Gaṇapati-hṛdayā Dhāraṇī
A folio of Gaṇapati-hṛdayā Nāma Dhāraṇī manuscript of ALL-NIBS Dharani Preservation Project
Gaṇeśa or Gaṇapati is one of the most popular Hindu deities. He bestows our wishes and protects us from all obstacles. He is the son of Śiva and Pārvatī. In Mahayana and Tantric Buddhism, the Buddhist pantheon incorporated Gaṇeśa as a protector deity, and within some Buddhist traditions, Gaṇeśa is considered an emanation of Avalokiteśvara, the Buddha of compassion.
The Gaṇapati hṛdaya belongs to the Saptavāra (Seven days) dhāraṇī group. Newar Buddhists recite the dharani of a different deity every day of the week. The tradition of chanting Saptavāra dhāraṇī has existed in the Kathmandu Valley since the 16th century CE. Listed below are the days and names of the deities worshiped throughout the week.
Vasudhārā – Sunday
Vajravidāriṇī – Monday
Gaṇapati (hṛdayā) – Tuesday
Parṇaśavarī – Thursday
NAGARJUNA INSTITUTE OF BUDDHIST STUDIES PRESERVATION CENTER (NIBS)
ALL and its partner institution in Kathmandu, the Nagarjuna Institute of Buddhist Studies (NIBS), are engaged in two projects dedicated to the preservation of texts that form the core of sacred and social life for the Newar Buddhist community of the Kathmandu Valley.
The first focuses on the Nine Sutra (nava-sūtra) collection of Mahayana Buddhist scriptures. Sometimes reverently called the Nine Jewels, these texts heralded the rise of Universal Vehicle (Mahayana) Buddhism in India 2,000 years ago, and today remain central to Mahayana Buddhist theory and practice from northern India to Japan.
Of equal importance is the ALL-NIBS multi-year project to locate, digitize, catalog, and digitally input thousands of pages of dharanis, looked upon by followers of Mahayana Buddhism for the past 2,000 years as records of some of the Buddha’s most profound teachings.
OF JOYFUL EFFORT
Sonam Lhamo, ALL’s South Asian Manager
Sonam began her career with the Asian Legacy Library in 1998 as an input operator, working under the supervision of Geahe Ngawang Rigdol in the first ever input center in Bylakuppe, her hometown. At the time, Sonam was enthralled with the idea that she could actually make a living learning more about her culture of origin, as growing up in India and attending Indian boarding schools had provided limited access to her Tibetan roots.
Since that time she has remained focused and diligent, increasing her knowledge and responsibility so that twenty-five years later Sonam oversees our three South Indian preservation partner centers: Bylakuppe, Hunsor, and Tenzin Dickyi Larsoe (TDL). This is an extraordinary achievement, and it’s a rare occurrence for a woman to work in a monastic environment, which has been directed for centuries almost exclusively by men in a male-dominated culture.
Under Sonam’s direction, the three centers combine to produce an annual output of over 26,000 transliterated pages, primarily focused on the Sungbum, or commentaries of the Tibetan Buddhist canon in the Geluk tradition.
I will perform the perfections of giving and the rest
So they are heightened ever further,
And never give up the greater for the less:
Concentrate on others’ aims.
Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, by Master Shantideva
The Asian Legacy Library is the flagship destination and access point for all of ALL’s preservation programs, including the digitizing, cataloging, and archiving of literature. A safe and enduring home, the ALL library is an important nexus of source literature that is used by scholars, translators, and academics around the world.
The Asian Legacy Library’s digital library platform is the culmination of 35 years of work carried out by dozens of brilliant designers, librarians, scholars, and engineers. The result is a state-of-the-art digital library platform that has brought together all the data from ALL’s preservation projects into a web-accessible resource. These sources include millions of pages of scans, tens of thousands of transliterations, and more than half a million catalog records.
Behind the scenes, the library harnesses the power of a cloud-native architecture for storage connected to an enterprise-grade search and user experience platform. The entire platform and data are modeled according to modern library science standards, with a special eye toward creating interoperable data models and standards so that data can be shared across organizations. The public application interface for the library is a modern web-based framework defining how other organizations or individuals can connect and communicate with ALL’s data directly, and is the same interface used by our own search tool.
Looking to the future, ALL’s technical team will continue to refine its data governance project to create long-term data management policies and search processes, and has started designing the beginnings of a graph data model to scale into as we continue to expand our collections and implement more complex search logic from many different libraries.
Access to the library is free and open to all. Membership is not required. We invite you to join our mailing list to get updated on additions to the library.
The power of quietude allows us to hold our mind unwavering on an object—like a butter lamp standing in a place where there is no waft of wind at all.
Stages of Meditation, Third Version, by Master Kamalashila
The Dharani Project
This past fall, in collaboration with Kathmandu-based Nagarjuna Institute of Buddhist Studies (NIBS), ALL launched a groundbreaking project to preserve thousands of manuscript pages of Sanskrit Buddhist literature known as dharani. Sometimes translated as “spells,” these brief texts are understood by diverse Buddhist communities across vast spans of time and geography to have been taught by Shakyamuni Buddha for two key purposes: first, to provide protection against worldly misfortune and calamity, and second, to distill the essence of the Buddhist teachings, the Dharma.
Under the guidance of NIBS managing director Milan Shakya and University of the West (UWest) assistant professor Miroj Shakya, NIBS scholars are gathering the handwritten documents—some hundreds of years old—from around the Kathmandu Valley for photographing and producing a detailed descriptive catalog. The next step is for NIBS associates to begin the painstaking process of transcribing the texts from the ornate scripts of the original Sanskrit. The fruits of these labors will be annotated e-texts in ALL’s searchable database, each alongside its beautifully illustrated manuscript.
Preserving dharani texts in Nepal
The meaning of dharani is complex and context-sensitive. Dharani literature is one of the least-studied of the Buddhist scriptural traditions, in spite of the importance of practices related to it going back at least two millennia across the full geographic spread of Buddhist traditions in Asia—from India to China and Japan, and from Korea to the Philippines. This oversight is particularly true among the Newar people of Nepal, where manuscripts of these little studied works in the original Sanskrit still abound.
Dharani in practice
As in East Asia, many Newar Buddhist practices involve dharanis contained in texts centered on the incantation itself, its origins and benefits, as well as instructions for its use. One such dharani scripture already digitized and transcribed by the Dharani Project is the Grahamatrika (Mother of Planets), a text that also enjoyed great popularity in North India, Central Asia, and far Western China. The scripture begins with the Buddha located in the mythical city Adakavati, surrounded by an assembly of magical beings and bodhisattvas, together with planets and other astral beings. The Bodhisattva Vajrapani asks the Buddha how beings might be protected from negative influences from the planets. The Buddha then teaches the recitation of a dharani for each of the planets and the construction of a planetary model (mandala), and finally the prayer (mantra) of the Mother of Planets.
The significance of the project
The ALL-NIBS Dharani Project is important on several levels. Locally, this preservation effort holds vital significance for the Newar Buddhist culture of the Kathmandu Valley, for whom dharani texts—as objects of worship and as manuals of ritual instruction—sit as the very heart of sacred and social life.
More broadly, Nepal’s dharani inheritance is an invaluable resource for the study of the history of ideas and culture across time and space. This is especially true of the historical movement of Buddhism from South Asia and the Himalayas to China, Korea, and Japan, where ritual practices based on dharani have flourished.
Finally, and most importantly, with respect to the pursuit of wisdom and human flourishing, dharanis and their associated practices provide untapped insight into the construction and maintenance of sacred objects and spaces for thousands of years across Buddhist Asia. It remains important and compelling for all who would seek to transform themselves and their world according to spiritual principles of kindness and caring for others. If dharani is indeed a “spell” that works to bring about wellbeing, we would do well to seek to understand the ecology of practices necessary for its effectiveness.
The ethical life is water that
cleans the stink of bad deeds away;
It’s light from the moon that dissipates
the tormenting heat of bad thoughts.
It stands majestic like Mount Supreme
at the center of millions of beings;
Its power makes all living kind bow
at your feet, with never a threat.
An Epistle to Ngawang Drakpa on the Occasion of the Ordination of the First Monks of Gyalrong, by Je Tsongkapa
May I think of every living being
As more precious than a wish-giving gem
For reaching the ultimate goal,
And so always hold them dear.
Eight Verses for Developing the Good Heart, by the Kadampa geshe named Diamond Lion, from the Plains of Langri
The Asian Legacy Library is a 501(c)3 non-profit headquartered in Sedona, Arizona. Our global staff, located in five countries, is comprised of operational managers, input operators, academics, technologists, and financial, fundraising, and marketing specialists… and of course volunteers.
Over 35 years, ALL has grown from a purely grassroots organization to one that is able to now embrace and employ a mix of specialists and professionals across a wide array of disciplines coming together to fulfill its mission.
Please feel free to contact us at asianlegacylibrary.org if the vision of the Asian Legacy Library appeals to you.
By this virtue may all beings gather the masses of merit and wisdom.
May they achieve the ultimate two that merit and wisdom produce.
Sixty Verses on Reasoning, by Arya Nagarjuna