Tibetan as World Literature
Spanning a broad spectrum of subjects across genres and literary forms, Tibetan literature is vast and splendid. A list of only a few topics on which Tibetan authors wrote includes: subtle theories of perception, medical treatises, poetry and songs of experience, astrology, spiritual biographies, rituals, and meditation instructions for transforming one’s mind. Shaped through centuries of exegesis and commentary, the literature is refined on so many levels that any reader can find something suitable to their needs and frame of reference.
Along with Sanskrit and Chinese, Tibetan is one of the three original written languages for the Mahayana Buddhist canon. The early, systematic translations of Sanskrit Buddhist literature into Tibetan were made possible through royal patronage and the work of highly learned scholars. The Tibetan translations of the great scriptural canons in Sanskrit are so accurate, not only in vocabulary but in syntax, that they have been used to translate texts back into Sanskrit when originals were lost. Thus, Tibetan literature is a treasure of its own historical, cultural, and spiritual traditions, and those of India as well.
The influence of Tibetan literature spans the Himalayan and Inner Asian cultural world. It has impacted the exchange of knowledge throughout the region, across the Himalayan ranges of Nepal, Bhutan and India, to China and Mongolia, to Turkestan and as far west as modern-day Iran. In this way, the literature of Tibet serves as a magnificent corpus of great civilizations, forming a vital part of our world literary heritage.
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