The Tibetan Studies Society

The Tibetan Studies Society was founded in 1972 by students at Columbia University “to further the study of Tibetan religion and culture, and promote the cause of a free Tibet”. It established a comprehensive Tibetan studies program which transcended the boundaries of academia, providing students with direct contact with the living masters of Tibet, while at the same time maintaining a solid foundation in academic discipline. The Society pursued a unique, non-sectarian approach, inviting great Lamas of all four Tibetan Buddhist orders to teach at Columbia. As noted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his letter of support: “I am particularly impressed by (TSS’s) non-sectarian policy. A society such as this seems all the more important when there is so much misunderstanding about the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism in the West today.”

During the 1970s, TSS invited many of Tibet’s greatest living lamas to teach in the U.S., and created the first Tibetan visiting scholar program at Columbia University. During this time, the Society began its first fundraising activities on behalf of the Tibetan monasteries in exile, including Nechung, Namgyal, Tashi Lhunpo, Dorje Trak, Drepung, and Ganden Jangtse Monasteries. At this same time, TSS expanded beyond the University setting, establishing a series of residential and teaching centers in New York City. It also initiated a translation program, sponsoring lamas to come to Columbia and to learn English, in order to enable them to become translators both of written material and for lectures and teachings.

In the mid-1970s, the Society became one of the founders of the Tibetan freedom movement, and held the first March 10th commemoration in the West, at Columbia University on March 10, 1976. Following this groundbreaking demonstration, TSS founder/president Philip A. Hemley joined with Office of Tibet representativeTenzin Tethong to create the U.S. Tibet Committee, to further these political activities on a national level and to expand the public’s awareness of the Tibetan issue.

The TSS has also initiated the Rangzen Project, to further publicize the plight of Tibet through art, music, and design, and maintains an office in the Visionary Gallery at 47 East 3rd Street in New York City. Land in Woodstock, NY, has recently been donated to the TSS for the establishment of a retreat center focusing on the practice of the Kalachakra tantra, the highest yoga tantra which is common to all four sects of Tibetan Buddhism. Most recently the Ganden Shartse Monks visited from May 4th to May 13th, offered a sand mandala, a performance of Tibetan sacred music and dance, and teachings at the Tibetan Studies Society Upstairs Gallery at 54C Tinker Street, Woodstock.

With these ongoing programs, as well as events such as the teachings by the Ganden monks, the TSS continues its nonsectarian tradition, promoting Tibet’s religion, art and culture, and working for a Free Tibet.

To visit Tibetan Liberation Theatre website, click here!