The International Shang Shung Institute for Tibetan Studies
The International Shang Shung Institute for Tibetan Studies (SSI) is an international non-profit organisation that seeks to broaden the world’s understanding of traditional Tibetan culture. At this moment in history preservation of this rich and exceptional culture is of utmost importance, as it is in real danger of being lost.
The mission of the Shang Shung Institute is to deepen the knowledge and the understanding of the Tibet’s cultural traditions in its religious, historical, philosophical, artistic, medical, and social aspects in order to contribute to the survival and preservation of this culture.
Its purpose is to encourage cooperation among interested groups and individuals, thus keeping alive the essential values of these traditions.
The Shang Shung Institute was founded in Italy in 1989 by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, and inaugurated in 1990 by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
Other branches of the SSI have since been established in North America, Austria, UK, Russia, and Argentina which work together as one promoting all initiatives to this end.
The SSI develops and supports projects in various countries including: translation, publication, and archiving of Tibetan texts; organisation and presentation of international cultural and educational events to share and preserve the Tibetan heritage, and formal courses of study in the Tibetan arts and sciences.
“The Shang Shung Institute exists for the preservation of Tibetan Culture and to translate Tibetan books into Western languages. Through the Shang Shung Institute we are trying to do something to maintain the survival of Tibetan Culture and understanding. Shang Shung, the name of the Institute, reflects the source of Tibetan culture and history – it was known as a great empire throughout the
Orient and the study of Shang Shung is extremely important if we are to understand the great antiquity, the unique nature and the universal importance of Tibetan Culture, past and present.” Prof. Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, Founder of the Shang Shung Institute.
The preservation and development of a large multimedia archive is one main focus of the Shang Shung Institute in Italy. The archive of the SSI contains a vast library of Tibetan language books, as well as a recording of every teaching or lecture that Chogyal Namkhai Norbu has given since 1976.
The library of more than 4,000 Tibetan books and manuscripts is one the most important specialist libraries in the West.
The Italian branch of the Shang Shung Institute also makes Chogyal Namkhai Norbu’s teachings available through live internet-based webcasts.
School of Tibetan Medicine
The study of traditional Tibetan Medicine, one of the oldest continuously practised healing systems on earth, is the main focus of the Shang Shung Institute in North America, founded in 1994.
It’s achievements include: an extensive library of educational resources on Tibetan culture, an onsite and online bookstore full of materials on Tibetan Culture and the Dzogchen Teachings of Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, and many public programs and courses on Tibetan Culture & Art.
The most extensive project of the school to date is its four-year English-language programme of Tibetan medicine, based on the curriculum of the traditional medical schools of Tibet. The first of its kind in the West, this course takes place in Conway, Massachusetts, and culminates in a final internship at Qinghai University Tibetan Medicine College in Xining, China.
The “4-year Traditional Tibetan Medicine program” aims to educate doctors in the ancient tradition of Tibetan Medicine according to Tibetan standards.
The importance and the potential of the 4-year programme is also reflected in another Institute objective: formal application steps to make the “4-year Traditional Tibetan Medicine Program” compliant with official licensing regulations as per the State of Massachusetts Board of Education. In other words, completion of the application process will allow us to operate as a “post secondary proprietary school”. Once this licence is obtained, the appeal of the 4-year course will radically change: it will not only respond to students’personal interest, but bring them much closer to a real legitimate professional career.
Ka-ter Translation Project
The “Ka-ter translation project” (Ka-ter is short for Kama (bka’ ma), the unbroken Master to disciple texual tradition, and Terma (gter ma) the tradition of rediscovered texts) is the main focus of the Shang Shung Institute in Austria. Its goal is to study and research into the Tibetan language. This project includes a special training for translators from Tibetan, as well as an initiative to translate ancient Dzogchen texts into Western languages. The aim of this unique project is to guarantee correctand precise translations of Dzogchen texts so that future generations may have access to their unique wisdom.
About the Ka-Ter translation project Chogyal Namkhai Norbu said: “In order to become familiar with the unique knowledge of the ancient masters of Tibet, one must comprehend their scriptures and precious texts and make them available for future generations in Western language in a precise and correct translation. The Ka-ter Translation Project is an important step in that direction. I really hope that all of you who are interested in this area will support this project, directly or indirectly, and collaborate with its various aspects. You are really welcome to collaborate on this project!”
Cultural and Educational
The Shang Shung Institute regularly organises courses, seminars, and events related to all aspects of Tibetan culture. Our formal courses of study train students in the ancient Tibetan arts and sciences, including art, language, and traditional Tibetan medicine. We also promote informal events with the aim of introducing the general public to Tibetan culture. Our cultural and educational events have been promoted all over the world, primarily in North America and Europe.
Shang Shung Publications
Shang Shung Publications (Shang Shung Edizioni) was founded in Italy in 1983 with the mission of publishing the teachings of Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche and of other Masters belonging to the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition. In 2006 the publishing house merged with the International Shang Shung Institute for Tibetan Studies.
The editorial activity covers both the translation of Tibetan texts by qualified translators, ensuring precise correspondence to the original meaning, and the transcription and translation of oral teachings given by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche in the international centers of the Dzogchen Community and elsewhere. This activity produces publications of great interest for both Dharma practitioners and the general public, along with a series of texts dedicated to the specific methods of Dzogchen, meant only for practitioners.
Shang Shung Publications, in collaboration with the International Publication Committee (IPC) of the Dzogchen Community, routinely checks all translations of the works of Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche in various languages. Together, the Shang Shung Institute, the Publishing House and the IPC guarantee that all publications meet the required standards and ensure the protection of all aspects of copyright at the international level.
Chogyal Namkhai Norbu said about translations: “If you want to have an understanding of Dzogchen, then we need the original books. And particularly, if in the future you want to teach and keep that transmission, you must study and apply the original texts. It is not sufficient that you follow a teacher and listen what he says, although that might be good for you if you practice, for your realization. However, if you are a practitioner, you must also think about tomorrow and of other people. In fact, when we do practice we say from the beginning that we practice to benefit all beings. But how do we benefit them if we don’t teach and do not preserve the Teachings for the future? So that’s why we also need to know about the original books of Dzogchen. That is very important.”
The Shang Shung Institute also publishes The Mirror, the bi-monthly newspaper of the International Dzogchen Community. Recently, Shang Shung Publications has expanded to include locations in Argentina and Russia.
The “Rainbow Body” (ja’ lus) is the transmutation of the physical constituents of the body into the essence of the five elements of which it is composed: the five lights. Thus an immaterial body, invisible to the physical eye, continues to live, actively working for the benefit of all sentient beings.