The Treasury of Lives uses a standard that was developed in conjunction with the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC). Michael Sheehy of TBRC and Alex Gardner of the Treasury used an extensive spreadsheet created by David Kittlestrom at Wisdom Publications to create the standards. These standards are designed to render Tibetan names in simple American English. For this reason, to avoid mispronunciation, the Tibetan letters ta and tha are both rendered "t", and pa and pha are both rendered "p". Ka and kha are both preserved, as these result in no mispronunciation. We use no diacritical marks such as umlauts or accents, even while this occasionally creates some confusion: Guge and Dorje are the standards for gu ge and rdo rje, not Gugé and Dorjé. And, while Sönam might be desired for bsod nams, we use Sonam.
Throughout the Treasury, Wylie transliterations are never capitalized, while Tibetan names are capitalized according to English standards: "bsod nams rdo rje" but Sonam Dorje.
We recognize that there are multiple phonetic systems and conventions, and our search capability is designed to deliver results from different spellings. Thus, if one searches for "Dorjay Gyaltsan" one should be directed to Dorje Gyeltsen.
There are several different ways to locate biographies within the Treasury. These may be used individually or combined to specifically target the biographies of interest.
The most general way to locate biographies within the Treasury is to search by keyword. Keywords can pertain to anything - a name, a location, a literary work, etc. A keyword search can be run from anywhere in the site. Just use the field in the upper-right corner of the screen.
Once you've received your results, if you find they're too broad, you can continue to refine them using the options on the left-hand side of your screen. You can apply additional keywords or narrow your results relative to any of the facets shown (facets are explained below). Given the comprehensive range of personages in the Treasury of Lives, not all lamas currently have published biographies. If you wish to exclude these pending records without biographies from your search results, you can do that as well.
To the right of the "Search Results" heading is a dropdown which will resort your results accordingly. If your search is driven by a keyword, you will see an additional option for "Keyword Relevance" in which results are sorted according to the relevance of the keywords. The most relevant entries will be at the top of the results, and special relevance is assigned to keywords that constitute part of the person's name.
Tibetan Buddhism has a rich artistic tradition. The paintings (tangkas) used for ritual or devotional purposes frequently depict revered teachers related to a given lineage or practice. We've recently created a Paintings section of the site where these images are cataloged, and a list of the depicted figures is provided. When navigating to a biography in this way, you will also see a Paintings tab on the biography itself. This will list all of the paintings in our database that are related to the given lama.
Facets correspond to general categories that are applicable to the biographies in the Treasury. For example, a given lama may be associated with one or more traditions, lived or taught in a given area (Geography), and may have founded a monastery or consecrated a monument (Corporation). Historical Period indicates when the lama was alive. The purpose of categorizing all of the biographies within the Treasury according to these four facets is to implicitly determine relationships between one lama and another. The biographies become nodes in a tree which describe the sacred geography and history of Tibetan Buddhism.
There are many different features on the Biography View page. In brief, the biography is presented along with the primary name of the given lama. Alternate names or alternate spellings of names are shown underneath the primary name. A series of tabs are shown with the "Essay" tab displayed by default. Each of these has a special function.
- Essay - The Essay tab shows the essay constituting the actual biography of the selected lama.
- Teachers & Students - This tab shows the teachers and students of the selected lama. In the case where either a teacher or student has a biography within the Treasury, then the name will be hyperlinked. Individuals without a biography often do not have a phonetically adapted name and, in that case, will be presented using Wylie only.
- Incarnations - The Incarnations tab shows the immediately preceding and immediately subsequent incarnations for the given lama in the case where the lama is a tulku.
- Offices Held - This tab shows the offices held by the lama, as well as the place where the office was held and when. The lama is highlighted within a longer list of office holders to show his place within the succession lineage.
- Paintings - This tab displays conditionally and will only show when viewing a lama that is depicted in one or more of the paintings saved in the Treasury. All of the relevant paintings are listed here.
All biographies support user comments. You can post a comment either as a registered user or by simply providing an email address and nickname. All comments are moderated and will not show up immediately. To post a comment, either click the button at the top right of the biography, or scroll down to the bottom of the page.
In the left-hand column, biographies related to the one being viewed are listed. Five biographies from each facet matching the biography being viewed are presented.
If you have registered a user account with the Treasury, you have the ability to save a biography to your profile for later review. Assuming you're logged in to your account when viewing the site, you will see a small "Add" button to the left of any biography in your search results that you have not already saved. If you have saved the biography, the button will read "Delete" instead.
On the actual biography page, in the upper-right corner, you will see a button reading "Add to My Bios" if you haven't already saved the biography. If you have already saved the biography, then the button will read "Delete This Bio".
The My Treasury portion of the site is a work in progress. We'd like to offer our users a place to personalize their experience and to interact with one another. On the homepage of the My Treasury section are links to the features described below. In addition, you can review the five biographies you viewed most recently and the three latest biographies entered into the Treasury.
We have organized the discussion forums into three main sections - a general discussion area for biographies, an area for discussion related to the traditional eight transmission lineages, and finally an area for suggestions. The discussion forums are moderated, so please try to remain on topic.
All of the biographies you have saved while browsing the site are located here. If you wish to delete one of these, simply click the "Delete" button to the left of the lama's name.
We have several ideas for enhancing this section.
- Saved Searches - We've discussed allowing users to save their search criteria and perhaps receive notifications that would communicate when a new biography has been published that fits the criteria.
- My Comments - This section would collect all of your comments together in one, easy-to-find listing. You wouldn't have to save your email notifications about replies (assuming you pick that option when entering a comment) or try to remember the biographies to which you've added comments.
- Latest News - News constitutes new feature announcements, new featured content or anything else deemed important enough to let our user community know about. Again, we could potentially create a feed to push this information to you.
We're interested in hearing from you. As you use and become familiar with the Treasury of Lives, please let us know how we can make the experience better for you.
We are fortunate to have affiliates like the following that support the Treasury of Lives with new ideas and essential information services.
Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (tbrc.org)
The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC.org) is dedicated to the preservation, organization and dissemination of Tibetan literature. Using the latest digital technologies, TBRC is ensuring that the treasures of this incredible body of literature will never be lost. Founded in 1999 by E. Gene Smith, TBRC specializes in digital preservation that is based on the internet, so that Tibetan masters, scholars, translators, and all interested readers, wherever they are located, have access to the full range of Tibetan literature. The heart of TBRC's mission is to seek out texts and gather them in a single place. The Tibetan literary heritage is immense and includes traditional medicine, astrology, astronomy, alchemy, art, history, geography, biography, grammar, folk culture, poetics, and extensive philosophical and religious treatises. TBRC estimates that it holds 80 percent of the best-known texts, which is perhaps only 25 percent of the total writings by Tibetan masters. As lost libraries are unearthed, TBRC receives and preserves them, in an effort to make whole an immense body of literature.
Himalayan Art Resources (himalayanart.org)
The mission of the Himalayan Art Resources website is to create a comprehensive education and research database, in essence a virtual museum. The website exhibits images of art from museum, university and private collections throughout the world, documenting all Himalayan style art objects that are known through past or present collections or publications. At present there are over 40,000 images displayed and described, from some 150 public institutions and private collections. HAR is the premier tool for curators, scholars and educators working in Himalayan Art, contributing an ever-expanding body of original research, analysis and explanation of the international community's vast collection of Himalayan style art. Much of these collections have remained unstudied and in storage for decades. In the absence of trained curators familiar with Himalayan style art, HAR identifies subjects, historical figures and regional styles, dates the individual works, and situates each in the larger context of Himalayan art history. Its unparalleled database also allows it to serve as the medium to reunite multi-painting and multi-sculpture sets that have become separated and dispersed around the world.