Tibetan at the University of Toronto
Tibetan, both in its spoken forms and as in its literary articulations, is one of the most important languages for the study of Buddhism. It has been the medium of Buddhist learning, ritual, and everyday life and an idiom in which one of the largest bodies of literature in the Buddhist world has been composed and transmitted. Whether you are interested in royal documents from Dunhuang, the songs of Milarepa, the epic adventures of Gesar, the verses of Sakya Pandita, the intricacies of Tantric liturgy, or to engage in participant observation throughout the Tibetan cultural sphere, – Tibetan is the language to know. Other than Buddhism, Tibetan additionally opens up lesser-known religious traditions of the Tibetan world such as Bon and Islam. While the language has a long history that keeps spanning much of Central Asia, including Mongolia, Russia, and large parts of China, contemporary South Asian nation states such as Bhutan, India, and Nepal extend into the Tibetan cultural sphere, making Tibetan a language that links vast parts of Asia right up to the present day. Beyond state boundaries, it is the language of a highly mobile and engaged Buddhist diaspora that has found its home in places all around the world, including Canada and Toronto. For students of Buddhism, the knowledge of Tibetan is key for participating in the rich religious lives of contemporary Tibetans, exploring the unique texts, images, and artifacts produced by Tibetans, as well as the vast body of South Asian Buddhist literature in Sanskrit transmitted and partially preserved only in this language.
The UofT faculty working on sources in Tibetan and conducting Tibetan reading courses is Frances Garrett, who specializes in Tibetan Buddhist medical literature, historiography, auto/biography, and food studies.
At UofT, Tibetan can be studied at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced level at the Department for the Study of Religion on the St. George campus.