About us


The Foundation was incorporated and registered with the Charity Commission of England and Wales in 1983.

Since its formation, the Foundation has been working to document, record, archive, and make accessible the living cultural legacy of Tibet and is also continuously supporting education and social welfare in the communities in which this legacy is maintained.


Between 1976 and 1979, Graham Coleman, the Chief Executive of the Foundation, and David Lascelles, the Earl of Harewood and Chairman of the Foundation, and two further founding trustees, Pip Heywood and Robin Broadbank, worked together to produce the internationally acclaimed four-hour, feature documentary, Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy, co-financed by the Arts Council of Great Britain. (See: www.tibetantrilogy.org.uk.)

In the Foundation’s initial years, as kindly agreed between Graham Coleman and David Lascelles, revenues from the distribution of Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy in cinemas throughout the USA, Canada, UK, Australasia, and all other territories worldwide, together with the Trilogy’s revenues from DVD and TV sales have been dedicated in support of the Foundation’s programmes. Graham Coleman has also dedicated revenues from all his publications, see Publications in support of the Foundation’s programmes.


Since its formation Graham Coleman has inspired, guided, and raised all the funding for the Foundation’s diverse and extensive works:

1/ Documenting, Recording, Conserving, and Developing Access to Classical Tibetan Knowledge and Arts Multimedia Documentary Resources:

In 1983, with the support of H.H. the Dalai Lama and eminent lamas and scholars from all the major lineage traditions, the Foundation initiated and began the creation of the first comprehensive database of Tibetan cultural resources, in cooperation with over 500 libraries, universities, museums, monasteries, nunneries, teaching centres, cultural organisations, and publishing companies in Europe, North America, and Asia.

The database includes the first integrated catalogue of over 36,000 hours of oral commentary and discourse by many of Tibet’s greatest 20th century masters, together with a directory of over 600 Tibetan-related organisations worldwide, biographies of eminent 20th century lineage holders, and a glossary of key Tibetan, Buddhist, and Sanskrit terms.

In 1988, the Foundation received its first major grant from the Ford Foundation (India). In 1992, following nine years of research, the Foundation published the database under the title the Tibetan Cultural Resources Database, which was distributed to libraries internationally, and in 1993, the directory and glossary sections of the database were published by Random House under the title A Handbook of Tibetan Culture. (See Publications.)

In 1993, in support of the urgent need to carry out extensive recording of the endangered oral commentarial traditions and ritual arts practices in the monasteries of India and Nepal, with continuing grant support from the Ford Foundation (India), the Foundation established, in an unprecedented extensive documentation programme, the first twenty-four fully equipped multimedia documentation centres and libraries in the major Tibetan monasteries of India.

Concurrently, at the invitation of H.E. Samdhong Rinpoche, Vice Chancellor at that time of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, U.P., the multimedia documentation programme’s central technical and administrative hub and archive were established in the library building of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies.

In 1997, the multimedia documentation programme expanded to include the major monasteries of Nepal and to date the multimedia documentation programme has resulted in the recording and archiving of over 25,500 hours of oral commentary to the key classical texts of Indo-Tibetan culture by many of the greatest masters, scholars, doctors, and artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. In addition, a still image archive of over 19,000 photographs has been created, which includes over 5,500 individual high-definition images of important works of art, and so far over 2000 hours of digital video documentation of the classical arts traditions has been completed.

From the start of the programme in 1993, each partner library established by the Foundation in India and Nepal received analogue master and distribution copies of the documentary records created in their educational institution and each partner library then provided day-to-day access to the documentary materials to their institution’s scholars and students.

In 2007, the Foundation completed the digitization of the entire master analogue collections and in January 2010, the Foundation completed the compression of the entire master digital collections into MP3 format (for audio material), MP4 format (for video material) and JPEG format (for photographic material).

Throughout the development of both the analogue and digital multimedia resource materials the Foundation followed the technical guidelines as set out by the National Sound Archive of the UK, the National Film and Television Archive of the UK, and UNESCO.

In March 2010, copies of the entire oral commentarial archive began to be distributed on hard drives throughout the network of partner monastery and nunnery libraries in both India and Nepal. (See partner list: Partners.) In order to increase the security of the master archival materials, both master analogue and digital copies of the entire archive are now held at the Songtsen Library in Dehradun and the Tibetan Yungdrung Bon Library at Dolanji.

From 1993 to 2013, this documentation programme was supported by a continuing series of grants from the Ford Foundation, together with grants from the Directorate General for Development of the European Commission, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Prince Claus Fund, the Sir Dorabji Tata Trusts and continuously thereafter by the Camellia Foundation.

In April 2010, funded by a kind anonymous donor, the process of creating an internet-based multimedia digital library platform for providing worldwide access to the Foundation’s archival resources began. This digital library platform included the first ever implementation of an integrated Tibetan language multimedia work area for the study, on the same screen, of classical texts together with their related oral commentaries, related video documentation, and related photographic documentation.

Version 1.0 of the online multimedia digital archive was completed and launched in March 2012. (See: www.tibetan-knowledge.org.) New documentary materials are being added to the archive continuously and the online resource is being regularly updated, as new documentary materials are digitally processed and catalogued.

The Classical Tibetan Knowledge Archive and Multimedia Study Resource is now the world's most comprehensive multimedia digital archive and multimedia study resource of classical Indian and Tibetan cultural resources, which is used by over 30,000 scholars and students in the monasteries and nunneries throughout India and Nepal and by scholars and students worldwide.

In 2000, in a parallel component to the Foundation’s documentation programmes in India and Nepal, the Foundation initiated the formation of the Academy of Classical Arts in Chengdu, southwest China, in partnership with the Ford Foundation (Beijing) and with additional funding from the Mountain Institute, the Millepede Foundation, and the Christensen Fund. Between 2000 and 2009, supported and guided by Orient Foundation for Arts and Culture, the academy focused on two main objectives: 1/ the multimedia documentation of the endangered knowledge and skills of two of Tibet’s greatest classical painters, Yeshe Sherab in Lhasa and Shawu Tsering in Repkong, and 2/ on providing support for promising young classical artists, so that they could study in the studios of master artists, as full-time apprentices.

Since 2010, in order to provide a means whereby apprentice artists could study the surviving works of earlier generations of eminent artists, the Foundation has been building partnerships with the major museums, monasteries and private collectors internationally, who hold classical Tibetan art collections. As a result, the most exemplary thangkas, held in over fifty collections worldwide, have either been photographed in situ by Foundation staff or high-resolution photographs have been donated to the archive by the collection holders. Again, with kind support of an anonymous donor, between 2011 and 2012, the Foundation integrated the multimedia documentation carried out by the Academy of Classical Arts in Lhasa and Repkong with the photographic documentation of the thangka collections worldwide, resulting in the creation of the first online training resource for classical Tibetan artists. See: www.tibetan-arts.org.


Beginning in 1995, funded by the Foundation, the Foundation carried out extensive research into the optimum technical strategies for the creation of digital multimedia libraries and archives. Partners in the research included: The British Library, the National Sound Archive of the UK, the National Film and Television Archive of the UK, the BBC, UNESCO, The Joint Technical Symposium, the University of Southampton, Graz University of Technology, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Kodak, SONY, and IBM.

In 1996, the survey was published under the title Strategies for the Creation of Multimedia Archival Libraries and distributed by the Ford Foundation to the many libraries, archives and collection holders internationally funded by the Ford Foundation and distributed by the Orient Foundation to the Foundation’s partner collection holders.

In 1997, at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, the Foundation held a series of workshops at which the benefits of networked, multilingual, multimedia Information Technologies were introduced to the Vice Chancellors of India’s leading universities, the heads of India’s major archives, libraries and museums, and the Foundation’s monastery and nunnery partners in India and Nepal, co-funded by the European Commission and the Ford Foundation.

Since 1997, the Foundation has conducted regular workshops for its network of partner monastery and nunnery libraries. These workshops have focused on providing training in multimedia documentation, archival conservation, and library distribution methods.

Gompa – Tibetan Monastery Services:

In 2014, with the support of H.H. the Dalai Lama and senior lamas of all the major lineage traditions and funding from several very kind individuals, the Foundation launched Gompa - Tibetan Monastery Services, a not-for-profit partnership of charitable organisations with more than eighty participating monasteries, nunneries, and international teaching centres. The primary aims of the Gompa partnership are:

  • To help build a closer connection between the monasteries and nunneries of India and Nepal and their followers worldwide and with all those who have an interest in classical Tibetan knowledge, practice, culture, and arts around the world,
  • To help in the development of educational resources available in the monasteries and nunneries and to help support a range of social welfare and environmental projects both within each partner monastery and nunnery and within the local communities which they serve,
  • To provide for the partner monasteries and nunneries a purpose built, advertising-free, not-for-profit alternative to commercial media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

As of February 2024, Gompa’s online services have raised over GBP £460,000 (USD $600,000) in support for the partner monasteries and nunneries. These funds are helping to support many hundreds of monks and nuns along with playing an ever-increasing role in supporting education, social welfare and environmental projects, both in the partner monasteries and nunneries and the local communities which they serve.

To know more about Gompa - Tibetan Monastery Services, please visit www.gompaservices.com.

Tibetan International Digital Library

In 2017, under the auspices of H.H. the Dalai Lama and the trusteeship of eminent Tibetan lineage holders and scholars, the Foundation began the preparations for the creation of a critically needed Tibetan International Digital Library (TIDL). The primary aim of TIDL is to create integrated access and secure archival conservation for the dispersed and endangered textual and multimedia Tibetan cultural resource collections worldwide. Serving places of learning, the public, and collection holders regionally in India, Nepal, China, throughout Asia, and internationally, based on a ground-breaking, state-of-the-art digital library platform, TIDL is being designed to be financially self-supporting in the medium term, and also to provide enhanced financial sustainability in support of over four hundred collection holders worldwide.

To know more please see: https://www.tidl.org/.

2/ Other Activities

Information Technology Development:

From 2000 to 2004, the Foundation managed a cooperation between the Royal Government of Bhutan and Microsoft Corporation to develop technical tools for the integration of support for Tibetan script computing in the Microsoft Windows operating system and Windows applications, based on the Unicode standard. These technical tools have since been adapted to support Tibetan script computing in the Linux and Apple Mac operating systems. This cooperation was a universal step forward across all areas of Tibetan script computing, bringing the ease of use and interoperability of using Tibetan script in computers, and other devices, to the same level as that for Roman script.

To know more, please see: Information Technology.


In 1993, components of the Tibetan Cultural Resources Database were published by Random House under the title A Handbook of Tibetan Culture.

In 1996, the Foundation published Strategies for the Creation of Multimedia Archival Libraries, funded and co-published by the Ford Foundation.

In 2005 Penguin UK, and in 2006 Penguin USA, published the first complete translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, edited by Graham Coleman with Thupten Jinpa and translated by Gyurme Dorje. This volume has been translated into seven languages.

In 2008 Penguin UK, and in 2009 Penguin USA, published Meditations on Living, Dying and Loss, edited and introduced by Graham Coleman.

To know more, please see: Publications.

Film Production & Distribution:

Since 1983, the Foundation has managed the distribution of the feature documentary Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy in cinemas throughout North America, Europe and Australasia.  In 2005, the Trilogy was digitally re-mastered from its 16mm original and re-released in cinemas in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia. The Trilogy was also released on DVD in North America and the UK in 2005 and made available online, worldwide, in 2013.

To know more, please see: https://tibetantrilogy.org.uk/.