Dharamshala: Marking a watershed moment in history, Sikyong Penpa Tsering of the Central Tibetan Administration launched the programme “Strengthening Cultural Resilience of Tibetan Communities” helmed by the Department of Religion and Culture (DoRC) and funded by the USAID, on 3 November 2023 at the Kashag Secretariat.
In attendance were Secretary Chime Tseyang, the Department of Religion and Culture; Dr. Poonam Smith Sreen, Deputy Director of General Development Office of USAID; Additional Secretary Kunga Gyaltsen, the Department of Religion and Culture; Geshe Lobsang Monlam, the founder of Monlam Tibetan IT Research Center; and staff from Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence.
The 3 year-long programme is an ambitious project seeking to preserve and promote Tibetan religion, culture, and language, and to further elevate the distinct cultural identity at the international platform. The creation of a digital library becomes one of the most important projects under this programme. The Department of Religion and Culture in collaboration with Wadhwani AI and Monlam ITRC worked to bring this project to fruition. The Department of Religion and Culture co-ordinates with monasteries, nunneries and libraries to solicit the rare/important manuscripts, thangkas and artifacts under their possession and digitise it. While the DoRC’s role is to solicit all the documents, the tech prime of this project Wadhwani AI and their subgrant Monlam ITRC will develop the digital repository.
In his inaugural address, Sikyong apprised the gathering of the broad scope of the programme and its significance, especially given its connection to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s vision. Furthermore, he underscored the need for preservation of the precious manuscripts by digitising them in keeping with the times. The day also marked the inaugural of the women’s empowerment conference in the morning and an event on artificial intelligence later in the evening which prompted the Sikyong to recognise its historic significance. Speaking on the topic of preservation of sacred Tibetan texts, Sikyong recollected the great contribution of the Late E. Gene Smith, founder of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC).
Dr. Poonam Smith Sreen, Deputy Director of General Development Office of USAID, acknowledged the Tibetan people’s notable efforts for the preservation of their cultural identity in exile over the course of 70 years under the leadership and guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama while urging them to continue their efforts and briefed them on the importance of the project of maintaining a digital library.
Additional Secretary Kunga Gyaltsen of the Department of Religion and Culture addressed the gathering briefly on the project’s background.
Social and Resource Development Fund (SARD) staff Tenzin Norsang delivered the vote of thanks.