- Collections Overview
- Himalayan and Inner Asian Collection
- South Asian Collection
- East Asian Collection
The mission of the Asian Legacy Library is to locate, preserve, and safeguard for all time the exquisite cultural literary wisdom traditions of the East.
Our world sits at a dramatic juncture; there is change afoot in all walks of life. As new fields of scientific knowledge and innovation spring up all around us, we risk losing our sense of personal balance and integrity, as well as our sense of collective moral values and wisdom. As we quest for guidance, the world’s rich contemplative wisdom traditions call to us—religious and non-religious alike—with their thousands of years’ history of developing a broad array of practical applications for achieving human good.
Wisdom lineage holders, intellectuals, artists, and teachers have long offered incisive analyses of the fundamental existential problems of suffering and identity, as well as a rich array of contemplative practices designed to mitigate suffering and build new identities—pathways leading to personal and collective transformation.
To realize the full benefit of this rich legacy for the world, we must go beyond traditional religious boundaries and come to understand how such contemplative practices can be applied in the world around us, across all societies.
Traditionally, cultural heritage is an expression of the various ways of living developed by a society and passed on through generations, including customs, practices, objects, artistic expressions, and values. Cultural heritage is often expressed as either tangible or intangible.
As part of human activity, cultural heritage generally produces tangible representations of its value systems, beliefs, traditions, and lifestyles—such as visual art and architecture—as well as the intangible, which includes voices, values, traditions, oral history, spiritual ceremonies, and storytelling.
ALL strives to preserve and safeguard the intangible along with the tangible. An example is the priceless cultural wisdom traditions of the East which are documented in the rich and varied book culture that has been produced over centuries.
ALL’s emphasis is primarily on the wisdom traditions originating from three specific geographic areas: the Himalaya and Inner Asia, South Asia, and East Asia.
The Asian Legacy Library is home to some of the rarest wisdom literature in the world. We have organized our material based on their origin from three specific geographic regions: the Himalaya and Inner Asia, South Asia, and East Asia.
ALL’s preservation efforts reflect a deep appreciation for the need to understand how text traditions were meaningful to people in the various regions and cultures in which they flourished. It seeks to do this by establishing its preservation centers in places where traditional learning, knowledge systems, and transmission of “timeless wisdom” practices are still taking place.
Over the years, along with our preservation partners, ALL’s primary mission has been the preservation of the cultural wisdom literature of the Himalaya. Surrounded by the highest mountains in the world, this region has enjoyed a cultural threshold in that it is geographically separated from the other powerful cultures of the East. It has been a locus for spiritual practice for millennia. The primary religions practiced here are Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. The Himalayan region eventually provided humankind with an unparalleled documentation of the teachings of the Buddha as they made their way out of India to the rest of the world beginning in the 4th century.
Our most significant effort has been to locate and preserve the Buddhist wisdom tradition texts of the Tibetan plateau and their migration to the Mongolian plain.
South Asia is one of the most linguistically diverse geographic regions in the world. Its communities have given rise historically to an unparalleled diversity of knowledge traditions. First compiled some 1,500 years before the Common Era, these collections were transmitted orally without being committed to writing until the 1st century BCE, when a strong literary tradition began to develop.
The emphasis of ALL’s preservation efforts in South Asia are the collections of Ayurvedic and Sanskrit Buddhist literary traditions.
East Asian Buddhism has the largest number of followers within the global Buddhist population. There are various forms of Buddhism in East Asia, and they are all influenced by Chinese culture and philosophy. The most influential Buddhist traditions in East Asia include Chan (Zen, Sôn, Thiền), Pure Land, Huayan (Kegon, Hwaŏm, Hoa nghiêm), Tiantai (Tendai, Ch’ŏnt’ae, Thiên Thai), and Esoteric Buddhism.
These schools emphasize the study of Mahayana Buddhist scriptures as one of their central practices. The East Asian collection has placed a premium on preserving and expanding its collection of scriptures and treatises included in the Chinese Buddhist Canon, the scriptural canon long used and revered in East Asian countries, such as China, Japan, the Korean Peninsula, and Vietnam.