Learning Programs

Tibetan for Practitioners


Acquire basic Tibetan language skills so you can better engage with your daily recitations and visualizations!

Samye Institute’s Tibetan for Practitioners home study program is designed for practitioners who wish to be able to read their practice texts directly in Tibetan, pronounce them correctly, and acquire some general knowledge of the language as well as key dharmic vocabulary.

Many Tibetan lamas, including Phakchok Rinpoche, encourage their students to chant their practice texts in Tibetan. However, this can sometimes be difficult and alienating when one has no knowledge of the language. The focus of this course is therefore on helping you to acquire a basic level of comfort with Tibetan texts, as well as to develop a feel for the language and its rich dharmic context.

We know that learning a new language can feel quite technical at times, which is why each topic of this course is set in the context of its relevance and utility to your study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism. With the objective of making you feel more at home among Tibetan texts and rituals, throughout the course you will be introduced to all of the basic features of the Tibetan pecha texts that have held the Dharma for over a millenium. In addition to the Tibetan alphabet and spelling rules, you will be introduced to layout, punctuation, numbers, and some general etymology. The course will also teach you how to read and write mantras and seed syllables, a skill essential to visualization in sādhana practices.

At the end of the Tibetan for Practitioners course, you should have gained familiarity with the Tibetan script, be able to use Tibetan pecha format texts, and have acquired some basic dharmic vocabulary and an understanding of the structure of Tibetan words. If some of you are inspired to pursue further Tibetan studies, you will thus have gained a strong foundation for taking that next step into learning the grammar that forms the structure of the language as a whole.

Course Organization

The course is divided into 13 Lessons with 53 individual units. Although you have access to all the units at the same time, we suggest that you thoroughly review each unit and complete the exercises in the downloadable textbook that pertain to each unit. You might wish to spend at least a week working with each unit, allowing the time to develop confidence and proficiency in reading and writing. You can work through the course at your own pace but we recommend that you spend time with each unit until you feel you have mastered it before moving on.

We’ve deliberately worked to keep the units short so that you can make progress in small chunks as you learn the language. This way even if you are pressed for time, you can keep up the continuity by simply reviewing the pronunciation of certain letters, or by reading one exercise in your textbook after watching the explanatory video.

Many exercises include some writing practice. Although you might think that you have no need to write Tibetan, the act of copying the letters helps you to memorize and internalize the language. Each of us learns differently, but it is helpful to mix up the styles of listening, reading, and writing in order to engage all parts of our brain in the language learning process. This alternation of hearing, reading, and writing also keeps things fresh and us engaged as we memorize new sounds and images.

We thank you for your interest, and welcome you to an exciting introduction to the Tibetan language!

Course Curriculum

Welcome to Tibetan for Practitioners 00:00:00
What is Classical Tibetan? 00:00:00
Drawing the Letter A 00:00:00
Resources 00:00:00
The first five lines of the alphabet 00:00:00
Drawing the consonants (part 1) 00:00:00
The remaining consonants 00:00:00
Drawing the consonants (part 2) 00:00:00
Pronouncing the 30 consonants 00:00:00
The vowels 00:00:00
Pronouncing the vowels 00:00:00
Superscribed letters 00:00:00
Pronouncing the superscribed letters 00:00:00
Vocabulary 00:00:00
Vocabulary pronunciation 00:00:00
Subscribed letters – the yatak 00:00:00
Yatak pronunciation 00:00:00
Subscribed letters – the rata 00:00:00
Ratak pronunciation 00:00:00
Subscribed letters – the labta and wasur 00:00:00
Latak pronunciation 00:00:00
Wasur pronunciation 00:00:00
Vocabulary 00:00:00
Suffixes 00:00:00
Pronouncing the suffixes 00:00:00
Pronouncing the suffixes 00:00:00
Vocabulary 00:00:00
Post-suffixes 00:00:00
Pronouncing the post-suffixes 00:00:00
Vocabulary 00:00:00
Prefixes 00:00:00
Pronouncing the prefixes 00:00:00
Pronunciation 00:00:00
Prefixes – Special Cases 00:00:00
Pronouncing special cases 00:00:00
Prefixes – Practice 00:00:00
Vocabulary 00:00:00
Identifying the Root Letter 00:00:00
Vowel special cases 00:00:00
Punctuation – The Letterhead (Yingo) 00:00:00
Vocabulary and etymology: The Three Jewels 00:00:00
The syllable dot 00:00:00
Special markers 00:00:00
Punctuation: The shay 00:00:00
Sanskrit Transliteration – Vowels 00:00:00
Sanskrit Transliteration – Extra Consonant Sounds 00:00:00
Pronouncing special consonants 00:00:00
Pronouncing the Ali Kali Mantra, slow 00:00:00
Pronouncing the Ali Kali Mantra, fast 00:00:00
Reading Mantras 00:00:00
Pronouncing the 12 manifestations mantra 00:00:00
The Düsum Sangyé prayer 00:00:00
Numbers 1-19 00:00:00
Numbers over 20 00:00:00
Important Numbers and Ordinal Numbers 00:00:00

Program Details

270 Students Enrolled

Duration: Lifetime Access

Price: $49.00

Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.