Dharamsala: With luminaries from Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, language and literature, Tibetan art and culture, and museology, the first plenary session of the Five Fifty Forum on Resilience sparked an important and urgent conversation on sustaining the Tibetan culture and language in the diaspora community.
The rich panel of experts include Geshe Lhakdor, Director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Ven Lobsang Dechen, Central Executive Member, Tibetan Nuns Project, prominent Tibetan historian Tashi Tsering Josayma, Academic Director of Amnye Machen Institute and Tibetan Centre for Advanced Studies, Dharamsala, Dr Emma Mzartin, Lecturer in Museology at University of Manchester and Senior Curator for National Museums Liverpool (NML) and Mansher Lodoe, Principal and Tibetan History Lecturer at The Academy of Tibetan Culture, Norbulingka Institute and the Vice President of PEN Centre.
While the experts deliberated on a broad range of topics in the hourlong session, the overarching theme of the discussion was Tibetan Buddhism and language and how to incorporate the two in our education, institutions and society as a means to sustain it.
The panel agreed that only by restoring people’s appreciation for its culture, history and traditional knowledge, will a society be able to sustain and preserve its past.
To achieve this, the panels called for a vigorous re-thinking of our cultural and educational policies and to find a space where we can groom our youths to become leaders of the world and ambassadors of Tibetan Buddhist values and principles.
The experts also identified that there could be an opportunity to strengthen the Tibetan culture in diaspora by supporting the growth and activities of existing cultural institutions such as the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, the Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies, the Norbulingkha Institute, Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute (TMAI) and others.
On preserving and promoting Tibetan language, the speakers argued that the onus lies on the Tibetan exile leadership, schools and teachers as the main actors.
“Experts and scholars in Tibetan field including language, culture and history currently in our community should be identified and given due recognition for their work. The Tibetan Administration should initiate a collaboration with these experts to educate and train Tibetan youths,” said Geshe Lhakdor, Director of LTWA.
Tashi Tsering, prominent Tibetan scholar and historian suggested that a committee of veteran teachers, particularly of Tibetan language, can be formed to assess the Tibetan education policy of last 50 years.
“A serious assessment of our education and cultural policy of the last fifty years should be in place in order to effectively plan our next fifty,” he said.
Addressing the lack of appreciation for one’s language in the youth, Tashi Tsering pointed that Tibetan youths are more and more immersed in western environment and culture. “From early on, they are not familiarised with the Tibetan way of living and culture. Even in our kitchens, we cook and dine in western style. The onus is on us, not the youths, to create conducive environments for imbibing one’s culture.
He also stressed on reviving traditional Tibetan style of learning through spelling (སྦྱོར་ཀློག་).
Mansher Lodoe, Principal and Tibetan History Lecturer at The Academy of Tibetan Culture, Norbulingka Institute and the Vice President of PEN Centre gave an interesting presentation on sustaining Tibetan Culture through Arts
Through his critical reflection on art and culture, Lodoe discussed how art gives an insight into the cultural heritage of the people and can contribute to the understanding of the past and present.
In its final segment, the panel discussed the importance of museum, museum professionalisation and quality cataloging of collection in Tibetan museums.
Dr Emma Mzartin, Lecturer in Museology at University of Manchester and Senior Curator for National Museums Liverpool (NML) observed that the Tibetan museums can have a better quality representation if the staff are trained in the field of museology either in academic or vocational training.
Dr Mzartin is also acting as curatorial consultant to the CTA’s new Tibet Museum.
“Through the new Tibet Museum, Tibet will also be seen as a living breathing culture and not just a relic of the past. The opening of the new Tibet Museum is just the start. This means supporting and actively encouraging the exile Tibetan community to participate in the production of CTA’s collections, museum education programs, policies and exhibitions.
With multiple voices and perspectives discouraged in China’s museums, she said, the Tibetan museum can be proud host to open democratic space for cultural representation in the exile community.
The plenary session was moderated by Ven Geshe Ngawang Samten, Vice-Chancellor of Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, Varanasi.