Library of Congress

Lodi Gyari, Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Dr. James Billington, Librarian of Congress (Jigme Page/ICT)

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has donated three items to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., building on an established and historic Tibetan collection that includes gifts from the 13th Dalai Lama to the American diplomat and scholar, William Rockhill, at the beginning of the last century. The Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States and the largest library in the world. It also serves as the research arm of the U.S. Congress.

The items from the 14th Dalai Lama were presented to Dr. James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, by Lodi Gyari, Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, at a special July 17 event at the Library. The Dalai Lama had announced his intention to make such a gift in February 2010 when he was at the Library of Congress to receive the Democracy Service Medal from the National Endowment for Democracy.

On receiving the items from Lodi Gyari, Dr. Billington said: “Taken together, they remind me of the Library’s core mission, to offer the light of wisdom and learning tot he world through preserving a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for furture generations. This, of course, includes our richly appreciated Tibetan collection consisting of nearly 13,000 volumes, which is availablet to scholars worldwide.”

The first item from the 14th Dalai Lama is a rare 18th century thangka depicting Buddha with his prominent disciples. It was commissioned by Tibetan Buddhist scholar and Geluk master Phurchok Ngawang Jampa (1682-1762), and painted in the Menri tradition.

The second item is a gold-plated Tibetan Buddhist mandala offering set used in making an offering to a spiritual teacher in request for a teaching, the conferring of a set of vows, or for the conferring of a tantric empowerment. This set consists of a bowl, four concentric rings, an ornamental diadem, and a bag of semi-precious stones to fill the circles in forming the mandala.

The third item is a golden Tibetan butter lamp. Butter lamps are a common item in Tibetan Buddhist temples, representing the illumination of wisdom.

Dr. Billington concluded his remark, saying: “I thank His Holiness for these profound gifts, symbolic of our friendship, and I welcome His Holiness to visit again and again.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has visited the Library of Congress three times including on his first ever visit to Washington, D.C. in 1979. During his February 2010 visit, he viewed items from the Rockhill Collection, named for William Woodville Rockhill who was the U.S. Minister to China in 1908 and met with His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama at the sacred Wu T’ai Shan (five peaked mountain range), in Shansi province. The 13th Dalai Lama had several warm and friendly meetings with Rockhill, described in Rockhill’s communications with President Theodore Roosevelt. The 13th Dalai Lama presented Rockhill with a number of important Tibetan religious items, many of which are in the Library’s collection.

Library of Congress

Lodi Gyari, Dr. Billington and Susan Meinheit, curator of the Library of Congress’ Tibetan collection (Jigme Page/ICT)