The inventory of religious materials accessible through CRL includes a significant collection of Tibetan religious texts, estimated at 2,500 titles, most of which are preserved in the traditional oblong sadhana format. CRL’s holdings were acquired through the Special Foreign Currency Program for libraries, popularly known as Public Law 480 (see sidebar), over a 20-year period starting in 1969.
The vast majority of CRL’s Tibetan language items focus on Tibetan Buddhism, also referred to as Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism, and encompass the broad spectrum of Buddhist thought ranging from cosmology and physics, to ethics, logic, medicine, art, karma, and reincarnation. Holdings consist of materials in three formats—books, oversize volumes, and sadhana texts—and are derived primarily from the four major lineages of Tibetan Buddhism: Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Geluk. However, the collection includes numerous materials on the religious traditions and practices of the indigenous Bon culture and Tibetan versions of classical Buddhist texts, treatises, and commentaries from India and beyond.
Symbolic depiction of perfect wisdom, from Bla ma’i rnal ’byor byin rlabs nin byed, a Tibetan monograph on guru yoga practice. From CRL collections.
CRL’s collection is comprised entirely of Public Law 480 reproductions and photographic copies, many of which were produced under the auspices of the Library of Congress and local publishing houses in India, as noted in English on flyleaf pages throughout the collection. Many rare items, such as an astrological work by Sans Rgyas Mtsho, Sde Srid (1653–1705), were reproduced from tracings of the original wood-blocks that were held in a personal library at the time.
Some examples of CRL Tibetan language materials
- Rare holdings of the writings of Acharya Nāgārjuna, arguably the most influential Buddhist thinker after Buddha, including letters, treatises, and medical tracts.
- Biographies of revered Tibetan Buddhist spiritual masters such as the Dalai Lama, Karmapa, Panchen Lama, and lesser known and obscure saints and spiritual luminaries such as Padmasambhava, Tsongkhapa, Karma Lingpa, and many others.
- Dol-po Tshal-Mkha, an 11-volume Bonpo canonical work.
- Encyclopedia Tibetica—a 137 volume, oversize opus with a table of contents in Tibetan and English.