The Tibetan Cultural Institute of Arkansas is dedicated to helping the Tibetan people preserve their culture within the emerging global village. We are convinced that the preservation of Tibetan culture is more than an act of historical preservation. The Tibetan voice has proven itself over the millennia to be a vital voice, and one whose counsel and vision should be a major component of our attempts to solve the unique problems that confront us as we enter the 21st century. The Institute pursues its objectives through education and cultural activities; through philanthropic activities that support Tibetans living in exile; and by developing and fostering a thriving community (sangha) of individuals who draw inspiration from Tibetan culture and philosophy, and who practice those values in their daily lives.
TCIA was founded in 2006 by Professor Sidney Burris, Professor of English and Director of the Fulbright College Honors Program and the Religious Studies Program at the University of Arkansas, and Ven. Geshe Thupten Dorjee, an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk, holder of the advanced geshe lharampa and geshe ngarampa degrees, and instructor at the University of Arkansas. The Institute is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
The Institute provides assistance and support to faculty members at the University of Arkansas engaged in teaching courses related to Tibetan culture, philosophy, and non-violence. The University of Arkansas TEXT (Tibetans in Exile Today) program, which travels to India to record and preserve the life histories of Tibetan refugees in India, was founded by TCIA founders Sidney Burris and Geshe Thupten Dorjee. Leaders of TCIA are actively engaged in providing lectures and cultural demonstrations to local universities, colleges, public schools, and the community at large.The Institute often sponsors visiting scholars and performers to the area, to showcase one of the world’s oldest and most comprehensive civilizations.
A one-week course entitled “The Preservation of Tibetan Culture in Exile” is being developed by Geshe Dorjee with support from the Institute. Designed for Tibetan children living in exile, this course focuses on traditional educational topics such as the Five Sciences of Tibetan Culture (philosophy, logic, grammar, medicine, and the arts) and includes explorations of the Four Noble Truths, the Six Paramitas, and the Sixteen Guidelines of King Songtsen Gampo, all of which are central to a grounding in Tibetan Buddhism.
Geshe Dorjee and Professor Burris were instrumental in bringing His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to Northwest Arkansas in May, 2011. The Institute was very active in assisting their efforts and in planning a number of community events designed around the visit of His Holiness.
The Institute provides financial support and other assistance to a number of programs important to the preservation of Tibetan culture and the support of Tibetans living in exile. For example: The Tutors for Tibetans Project helps to provide tutors, classrooms, and basic school supplies as well as clean water and nutritious meals to the Tibetan children who currently live in the nine refugee camps around Drepung Loseling Monastery in Mundgod, South India.
The Institute sponsors regular Dharma and meditation instruction to the Northwest Arkansas community. The Land of Infinite Bliss Retreat Center is currently under construction in Madison County, Arkansas. When completed, the Center will provide a safe and peaceful area for private meditation retreats and other activities.
Geshe Dorjee is available for private spiritual advising, blessings and consecrations, public lectures and teachings, and Tibetan cultural demonstrations.Geshe Dorjee and other leaders of the Institute are licensed by the State of Arkansas to perform marriages, for those couples who desire a Buddhist or non-traditional wedding ceremony.
Geshe Thupten Dorjee comes to us from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in South India. A member of the Gelugpa lineage, Geshe-la embodies the rich educational tradition that is the primary heritage of that tradition; and his work in the classroom has been exemplary.
Geshe is offering four courses per year at the University of Arkansas, ranging from seminars on Tibetan culture to larger classes on Buddhist philosophy. His courses have been overwhelmingly popular, and we are currently working to expand our curriculum; we are designing a specialized course, for example, on the theory and practice of the Tibetan sand mandala.
In 2008, Geshe received the prestigious University of Arkansas Outstanding Faculty Award from the U of A Associated Student Government and the Arkansas Alumni Association. The award is typically won by faculty members at Arkansas who have been teaching for 10-20 years. However, Geshe received the honor after only 18 months of service to the University. In their letters of nomination, Geshe’s students reported that he was the most extraordinary teacher that they had ever had, and that he had changed the very way they think about their lives and what they might do with their lives in the future.