The Department of Religion and Culture is a ministry office established under the executive organ of Central Tibetan Administration whose function is to overlook religious and cultural affairs in Tibetan exile community. It has responsibility of supervising works aimed at reviving, preserving, and promotion of Tibetan religious and cultural heritages that is being led to the verge of extinction in Tibet.

It began its operation in exile community as Council for Religious Affairs office on April 27, 1959, established by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and his government in Mussorrie. On 30th May 1960, the Council for Religious Affairs shifted its office to Dharamsala and on September 12, 1960 it became one of the five main departments when His Holiness the Dalai Lama formally established the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).

It is now one of the seven major departments of CTA and a minister heads this office. There have been 14 ministers who have held portfolio for varying tenure. The incumbent and the sixteenth one is Kalon Pema Chhinjor who took office on September 19, 2011 after Tibetan parliament in exile approved his appointment.

About
Introduction

The Department of Religion and Culture is a ministry office established under the executive organ of Central Tibetan Administration whose function is to overlook religious and cultural affairs in Tibetan exile community. It has responsibility of supervising works aimed at reviving, preserving, and promotion of Tibetan religious and cultural heritages that is being led to the verge of extinction in Tibet.

It began its operation in exile community as Council for Religious Affairs office on April 27, 1959, established by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and his government in Mussorrie. On May 30, 1960, the Council for Religious Affairs shifted its office to Dharamsala and on September 12, 1960 it became one of the five main departments when His Holiness the Dalai Lama formally established the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).

It is now one of the seven major departments of CTA and a kalon heads this office. There have been 14 kalons who have held portfolio for varying tenure. The incumbent and the sixteenth one is Kalon Pema Chhinjor who took office on September 19, 2011 after Tibetan parliament in exile approved his appointment.

The Department supervises 262 monasteries and nunneries in India, Nepal, and Bhutan and looks after the welfare of approximately 39,479 monks or clergies living in these institutions.

In addition to above said monastic institutions, several non-monastic centers like Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, Tibet House, the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, the Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies, the Norbulingkha Institute, and Manjushree center of Tibetan culture which are working on preservation of Tibetan religious and cultural heritages fall under the purview of the Department of Religion and Culture.

Aims and Objectives

The primary aim is to preserve and promote Tibetan religion and culture which has suffered and continue to suffer in the hands of Chinese regime in Tibet.

Other objectives are:

  1. To plan and implement religious and cultural policies according to advice of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and Central Tibetan Administration.
  2. To promote unity and harmony amongst Tibetan religious schools.
  3. To give help to the Tibetan monasteries, nunneries, temples, and cultural institutions for preserving and promoting cultural heritage of Tibet.
  4. To organize and participate in conferences and seminars on religion, culture, and Tibetan studies.
  5. To liaise with important religious associations of other faiths and with Tibetan and non-Tibetan Buddha Dharma Centers.
  6. To conduct and sponsor research in the areas of Tibetan and Buddhist studies.
  7. To oversee and assist to support the traditional monastic curricula in the reestablished Tibetan monasteries, nunneries and cultural institutions.
  8. To hold public discourses and teachings for promotion and preservation of unique and rare oral religious transmissions.
  9. To look after the old, sick, and destitute monks and nuns and those who are in retreat.
  10. To organize and perform regular and special religious events and activities.
Affiliated Non-monastic Institutions

1. Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts:

This specializes in the area of Tibetan traditional dances, opera, and other performing arts. It is a school for learning performing arts, which was established in 1959. They carry out range of activities aimed at preserving and promoting traditional performing arts. Further information about the institution and its activities could be found at www.tibetanarts.org

2. Tibet House Society:

This was established in October 1965 in New Delhi. Since then it has been involved in preserving Tibetan religious and cultural artifacts and Tibetan religion and culture. The society runs Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophy classes and organizes special events aimed for creating awareness on Tibetan religion and culture. Check www.tibethousenewdelhi.org for details on their activities.

3. Central University of Tibetan Studies (CUTS):

This Central University was established on August 20, 1967 with funding from Ministry of Culture, Government of India and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. It was a deemed university and caters wide range of services in the field of Tibetan studies.

Originally called Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (CIHTS), it began functioning as a constituent wing of  the Sampurna Nanda Sanskrit University, and  eventually  emerged as an autonomous body in 1977 under  the  Department of Culture of  Ministry of  Education of the Government of  India. The Institute’s unique mode of functioning have been duly recognized, and on the recommendation of the University Grants Commission, the Government of India bestowed upon it the status of  a “Deemed  University”, Under Section 3 of the UGC Act 1956 on the 5th of April, 1988. Ven. Samdhong Rinpoche was the first Director. Following the recommendation of the Society, the nomenclature of the Institute was revised as Central University of Tibetan Studies (Deemed to be University  under  Section 3  of  the U.G.C. Act, 1956) with the approval of the Government of India, which was publicly released by His Holiness  the  Dalai  Lama on 15 January, 2009, and  notification  to this effect was made on 22.7.2009. For more details, check http://cuts.ac.in/.

4. Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA):

It was established in 1971. The library houses rare and valuable collection of Tibetan books, manuscripts, thangkas (scroll paintings), icons, and other artifacts brought from Tibet. It also runs services like Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophical classes for foreigners and modern science workshops for the Tibetan geshes and khenpos. For more details, check www.ltwa.net

5. Norbulingka Institute:

It was established in 1995. This institute has schools for thangka painting, embroidery, metal carving, and an academy for Tibetan culture. For more details, check www.norbulingka.org

6. Manjushree Center of Tibetan Culture:

This was established in 1988 in Darjeeling. It runs services like intensive training on Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophies. For more details, check www.manjushree-culture.org.

Whos Who

Former Kalons and Secretaries:

KALONS

  • Shenkha Gyurmey Sonam Topgyal 1959 – 1961
  • Ta Lama Thupten Norsang 1961 – 1964
  • Kundeling Woesar Gyaltsen 1964 – 1975
  • Phechoe Thupten Nyinchen 1976 – 1979
  • Juchen Thupten Namgyal 1979 – 1987
  • Gyari Lodi Gyaltsen 1987 – 1987
  • Shawo Lobsang Dhargyal 1987 – 1989
  • Kelsang Yeshi 1989 – May 1996
  • Alak Tenzin Pelbar June 1996 – March 1997
  • Kirti Rinpoche Lobsang Tenzin April 1997 – March 1999
  • Kalon Tripa Sonam Topgyal April 1999 – September 1999
  • Tashi Wangdi September 1999 – September 2001
  • Thupten Lungrig September 20, 2001 – March 04, 2005
  • Lobsang Nyima March 5, 2005 – August 14, 2006
  • Ven. Tsering Phuntsok October 07, 2006 – August 07, 2011
  • Pema Chhinjor September 17, 2011 – present

SECRETARIES

  • Ngawang Dhundup Khendrung 1960 – 1963
  • Chogye Trichen Rinpoche 1963 – 1965
  • Ngawang Choesang 1975 – 1979
  • Khamtrul Rinpoche Jamyang Dhundup 1980 – 1985
  • Kelsang Yeshi 1985 – 1989
  • Karma Gelek Yuthok December 5, 1989 – December 13, 1993
  • Lobsang Khedup January 3, 1994 – July 1, 2000
  • Karma Gelek Yuthok October 3, 2000 – April 8, 2002
  • Thupten Tashi Anyetsang April 9, 2002 – October 13, 2004
  • Tashi Norbu November 22, 2004 – February 15, 2006
  • Tsering Dhundup Namey Lakhang February 16, 2006 – August 26, 2008
  • Lobsang Tsultrim Jeshong August 28, 2008 – March 31, 2009
  • Gonpo Phuntsok (On deputation) April 10, 2009 – September 07, 2009
  • Gonpo Phuntsok September 08, 2009 – December 15, 2010
  • Ngawang Choedak Choetri Tengpa December 13, 2011 – September 2013
  • Dhondup Dorjee Gyalling (September 2013 – Present)
Organisational Structure

Department of Religion and Culture was three main sections:

  • Administrative
  • Rituals
  • Archives

The account, scholarship, sponsorship, and research sections come under the supervision of Administrative division. Each sub-section has their own special functions and the concerned persons need to report to an Additional Secretary and the Secretary.

Ritual section has the responsibility to organize and implement religious services and the concerned person has to report to the Secretary. The section is headed by a Joint Secretary.

Archives section function is to file and maintain records of historical significant documents of Central Tibetan Administration after assortment by a special workgroup called history section. An under secretary heads this section and reports directly to the Secretary.

Contact

Mail:

Secretary
Department of Religion & Culture
Central Tibetan Administration
Dharamshala-176215 H.P., INDIA

Tel: +91-1892-222685, 226737
Fax: +91-1892-228037
E-mail: religion@tibet.net

Programs

Programs of the DRCM

1. The Religious Conference: This is primarily a biannual gathering of religious leaders and representatives of four major Tibetan Buddhist schools and Bon religion. Since 1963, the Department organized eleven such gatherings and the last one took place on September 22 , 2011 for three days at Dharamsala.

2. Religious Services: The DRC yearly organizes Chotrul Monlam Chenmo and Guru Bumtsok, conducts special services like “long life prayers” to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and leaders of four major Tibetan Buddhist schools and Bon religion on timely basis, and coordinates other religious services required to be done by community for the security of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and for welfare of Tibetan nation.

3. Research on religious issues: It has to establish and finance research workgroup appointed for special issue concerning religious matter. Since couple of decades a research on finding the possibility of introducing bhikshuni order compatible to the Tibetan Buddhist Vinaya tradition (Mulasarvastivada) is being pursued.

4. Scholarship for Newly escaped monks and nuns: This is support program in which monks and nuns who recently escaped from Tibet and aged between 6 and 25 years. Such a monk or nun is provided with monthly stipend of Rs. 200 for 15 years or until they leave the monasteries and nunneries where they are enrolled. This program was started in 1980s and during the course of its operation the DRC was able to provide support to more than 10000 monks and nuns.

5. Support to unregistered and destitute sangha: This is a support for destitute monks, nuns, and tantric who are not registered to any monasteries and nunneries and faced with difficulty in livelihood.

6. Support to Russian and Mongolian people: It is a scholarship support for Russian and Mongolian (whose country has strong cultural relation with Tibet) enrolled in Tibetan monastic and other learning centers. Each person is given scholarship of Rs. 200 per month for 15 years or until they leave the institution to whom they belong.

7. Salary for Teachers: The DRC provides salary for religious teachers of smaller and financially weaker monasteries and nunneries, including institutions in Himalayan region, and Chinese language teachers of other institutions.

8. Stipend for Temple Chamberlains: Chamberlains or caretakers of temple and monasteries located in several Tibetan settlements are provided with monthly stipend.

9. Supervising and Funding of Dharma Awareness Organizing Committees: The DRC has to provide guidelines and finance the activities of Dharma Awareness Organizing Committees formed in almost every settlements. The role of these committees is to promote learning of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and science amongst laities. It has to organize at least three campaigns in a year.

10. Project Funding: The DRC also provides small grants to projects that are compatible with the aim and objectives of this office, like temple and mural restorations, publication of scriptures, and small-scale religious and cultural awareness campaigns.

Announcements
Kalon's Message

Like any other civilization, the Tibetan people have also evolved with a unique culture, language and spiritual traditions. Our civilization dates back thousands of years and while the origin of our first king is documented being in 127 BC, our indigenous Bon religion’s scriptures mention having many more Kings before the renowned King of Tibetan Nyatri Tsenpo.

The most magnificent part of our history has been the development of a script and grammar by Thomi Sambota and the advent of Buddhism by eminent scholars such as Khenchen Shiwa-Tso, Guru Padmasambava, and Jowo Je Palden Atisha. It’s through the foresight, commitments and arduous efforts of the three great Dharma Kings – Songtsen Gampo, Trisong Deutsen and Tri Ralpa Chen – that we now possess voluminous valuable treasures of spiritual learning and a national culture imbued with a unique way of living highly influenced by the teachings of the Buddha.

The Department of Religion and Culture work entails the preservation and promotion of our rich religious and cultural heritage.

And in my capacity as Kalon, I shall wholeheartedly put forth every effort in accomplishing these goals.

With a focus on improving contacts with affiliated monastic institutions which are the backbone of preservation and promotion,

Bringing greater unity and understanding amongst our religious schools,

Plan & coordinate seminars and workshops for the future generations,

Develop and initiate contact with the other world religions,

And, Last but not the least, work on bringing greater international concern towards our culture which is facing increased genocide and repression in our own land.

May the Buddha Dharma spread far and wide across this world and our Spiritual Leaders live a Long Life for the benefit of Dharma and sentient beings!

With best wishes,

Pema Chonjor

Chorig Kalon