TARAB LING INSTITUTE - Introduction and background

TARAB LING INSTITUTE - An education and research institute

In 1959 when Tarab Tulku was forced into exile leaving Tibet and his studies at the Drepung Monastic University he was already himself a teacher and had several students. After arriving at Buxa refugee camp in North India, an old English prison camp, he and his teacher, Pahra Pema Gyaltsen, the head of Drepung Monastery, wanted to re-establish the academic tradition from Tibet in India as they did not know if it would be possible to return to Tibet.

To understand the importance of this for the Tibetans as well as for the greater public, it must be noticed that Drepung Monastery in Lhasa was then the foremost academic institution of the old Tibet and that, as the only place in the world the Buddhist tradition of Tibet was carrying the full academic tradition from the original Indian tradition and was still very much alive and practiced.

On top of being a master in the Buddhist academic tradition Tarab Tulku was on a personal level very inquisitive about his own tradition and as he was confronted with the modern world in India he realized it was of great importance to connect the Buddhist knowledge to the modern scientific tradition and that the merging of the two traditions could bring great benefits for both as well as for mankind. In this regard he was often referring to a Tibetan scholar from the 20th century – Gendyn Chopel – who after extensive travels to India and Sri Lanka realized the urgent importance of combining the ancient knowledge from India with modern science.

Tarab Tulku's work in the refugee camp came to an end after Dalai Lamas office had asked him three times to go to the West and use his skills as an eminent scholar there. The third time he was requested, his teacher Pema Gyaltsen, said that he could not refuse anymore and thus he came to work at the Royal Library of Copenhagen in Denmark.
After a couple of years in Denmark Tarab Tulku returned to India to take up the job as Director of Tibet House in New Delhi. Here he worked for a couple of years, but it became clear to him that in order to fully transfer the core of the Buddhist tradition of Tibet into a modern context, it was necessary for him to live and experience the full impact of modern life. Thus he returned to Denmark and took up the work at the Royal Library as well as teaching at the University of Copenhagen and living a normal family life.

During his life in the West Tarab Tulku worked on his core project to 'translate' the old Buddhist tradition into a modern context and gradually he developed the concept of 'Unity in Duality'’ and the connected training program. He had an extensive teaching program in the West and in the 90ties he thought the time was ripe for him to introduce his findings for his own countrymen in India and for this use he deemed it necessary to establish an institute there.

After receiving a larger sum of money he decided to pass this sum on for the purpose of establishing the institute – Tarab Ling Institute – in India. In 1999 he went to India to look for a suitable place in the Himalayan region. As a result it was decided to purchase land in the vicinity of Dehradun and an association was formed there to own and run the institute on the basis of Unity in Duality. In 2001 a beautiful piece of land was acquired 11 km outside Dehradun by the Baldi River overlooking the foothills of the Himalayas.

It was Tarab Tulku's vision that he himself would teach senior Tibetan scholars at Tarab Ling Institute and that the institute also should facilitate the U.D. training program for people from all over the world, individual studies as well as conferences connecting to modern science.

Tarab Tulku had in principle begun this work when he was invited to teach in 21 different Tibetan institutes in India through a lecture program arranged by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2003. This was very successful, but unfortunately he became terminal ill the following year and died in September 2004. At his death bed he entrusted his principal student and cofounder of the Unity in Duality program, Lene Handberg, to continue his work both in the West and in India. Somewhat reluctant she accepted this task as it seemed to be very challenging to say the least. But she promised Tarab Tulku to do her best and in that spirit the work has progressed even in India in spite of her being a blue eyed woman from the West.


Tarab Ling main building east facade

Constructing Tarab Ling Institute

 The actual construction work started in 2010. Prior to this a seemingly endless number of obstacles appeared, but surprising to many of the people involved all obstacles have been overcome. Inauguration of the main part of Tarab Ling Institute was held in November 2014 and a remaining guest house and staff facilities was completed in 2015.

The first phase of the construction consisting of the main building and 2 guesthouses started in April 2010 . At a ceremony attended by our team, the villagers, Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, laid down the foundation stone for the project. Samdhong Rinpoche is member of the board of directors of Tarab Ling Association in Dehradun and was a friend of Tarab Tulku as well as a fellow student from Drepung University Monastery in Tibet.