Saturday, December 09, 2006

Buddhist Resource -- The Berzin Archives

A gentleman named Sean on the Buddhism 101 list-serve recommended this cool resource site for Buddhists -- The Berzin Archives. This site is aimed at those in the Tibetan traditions, but much of the material seems useful for anyone wanting to get a better feel for Buddhist practice (I must say that I am biased here and that a Theravada student might not find much of use).

Here is their explanation of the site's origin and purpose:
The Berzin Archives is the collection of works of the American scholar and author Alexander Berzin, who spent 29 years in India, studying and practicing Tibetan Buddhism. There, he served as translator primarily for his teacher, the late Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche, and occasionally for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Dr. Berzin has taught extensively in universities and Buddhist centers in more than seventy countries since the early 1980s.

With over 30,000 pages of material in English and several other languages, the Berzin Archives contain

  • translations and summaries of Tibetan texts
  • published books and unpublished manuscripts
  • transcripts and teaching outlines for hundreds of courses
  • translations and notes on courses by Berzin's teachers
  • private question sessions with Tibetan Buddhist masters and Islamic scholars
  • reading notes from over a thousand English, German, French, and Russian works
  • short Tibetan-English dictionaries of astrological and Buddhist technical terms
  • journals of Berzin's world travels and reflections

Supported exclusively by user donations and patrons, Berzin Archives aims to provide on the Internet a free multilingual tool for learning about the four Tibetan Buddhist traditions and about Central Asian history and culture. It is sponsored through Berzin Archives e.V., a German non-profit society in the public domain (gemeinn├╝tziger Verein Register Nr. 2423Nz, Berlin).

The pages of the Berzin Archives website focus on

  • explanations of the different Tibetan traditions regarding sutra and tantra
  • Kalachakra, astrology, dzogchen, and mahamudra
  • graded levels for study and practice, including materials for meditation
  • a comparison of the Tibetan approach with that of other Buddhist traditions
  • training programs, such as balanced sensitivity, inspired by Buddhist methods
  • the history of Buddhist-Islamic interaction and the spread of Tibetan Buddhism to Mongolia and Russia

Modeled after the traditional approach, each page is a piece of the puzzle. Hyperlinks suggest a network of ways to fit them together. Access to advanced tantra practice material will be restricted to initiates and will require a password.

Berzin isn't the best writer in the world, but the essays seem factual and useful. He includes the original Tibetan terms in a lot of places for those who want to know such things.

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