Your Tibetan Instructor & Guide

David Curtis founded the Tibetan Language Institute in 1996. Since then he has taught Tibetan language and Buddhism courses full-time, specializing in the development of dharma-centered learning materials and instruction for Western students.

He is motivated by a desire to help others participate in the dharma in more meaningful ways; in puja, in private meditation practice, in meditational retreats, as Tibetan interpreters.

As president and executive director of TLI and Big Sky Mind, David strives to fulfill the TLI mission of helping to preserve the Tibetan language and culture through the teaching of the Tibetan language and instruction in meditation.

A Brief Look at the TLI Timeline

In 1972 David becomes deeply interested in Buddhism, philosophy and languages, and in 1980 he starts studying the Dharma and meditating. He studies Classical languages and philosophy in college while privately perusing his interest in Asian philosophy.

From 1984-present, he attends numerous teachings lead by the Dalai Lama.

From 1986 through 1988 he lives at Dakshang Kagyu Ling in France (a Dharma center founded by the late Kalu Rinpoche). There he studies and helps with the construction of the Temple of 1000 Buddhas.

From 1988 through 1992, David undertakes a Traditional Tibetan 3-Year Retreat under Kalu Rinpoche and Bokar Rinpoche at Naro Ling (Dakshang Kagyu Ling) in France.

In 1992 he completes the traditional three-year retreat at Kagyu Ling in France and is named a Lama.

In 1993-2015 David begins teaching Tibetan in the Los Angeles area. He travels extensively in the U.S. teaching Tibetan language seminars to many hundreds of people.

From 1996, onward he founds the Tibetan Language Institute in Los Angeles, CA and begins to author over 14 manuals for learning Tibetan.

In 2002, TLI, Lama David and family move back to his home state of Montana.

In 2004, Lama David records the Level I Course DVD.

In 2006 he begins teaching meditation classes and Buddhist study groups in Montana.

In 2007, Gochen Tulku Rinpoche of Ewam Montana and Namchak Khenpo Ngawang Gelek appoint David an Acharya (Sanskrit for the Tibetan word Lopön, or master teacher).

In 2007-2020 he begins to teach Tibetan to students from all over the world using distance learning technologies. In this period, TLI has hosts 98 classes and 38 Free “Introduction to Tibetan” lectures via distance learning.

  • 2009: TLI begins a YouTube Channel. As of July 2023, the video of Lama David teaching the Tibetan alphabet has been viewed 145,240 times
  • Lama David has also taught Tibetan weekend seminars more than forty times all over the U.S. This is proved an excellent and efficient way for dharma groups to take their Buddhist practice to the next level.

In 2011, Lama David founds Big Sky Mind, the branch of TLI which focuses on Buddhist study and meditation.

In 2021, David and the TLI team shift to online teaching and begin hosting virtual retreats, meditations, and webinars.

In 2022, the Pandemic Bardo continues.

  • Lama David and the TLI team are now comfortable with online teaching and host virtual retreats, meditations, and webinars.
  • TLI translation/reader class does a deep dive into John Rockwell’s A Primer for Classical Tibetan, Grammar and Jewel Ornament of Liberation.
  • This class also begins using TLI’s much improved Divine Tree Grammar Poem Translation Workbook (expanded and re-edited by Lama David in 2021).
  • In addition to TLI’s free “Introduction to Tibetan” lectures offered several times a year via Zoom, Lama David also teaches free “Bonus Classes” on core Tibetan Buddhist texts (a word-by-word analysis of each Tibetan word in the Refuge and Bodhicitta Prayer, in the Dedication Prayer, and in Verse 11 of the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva). These 3 lectures are uploaded to TLI’s YouTube channel  (see Lama David Curtis on YouTube).

In 2023, the Pandemic Bardo seems to be ending

  • Lama David and the TLI team have a streamlined and effective Classical Tibetan courses via Zoom. Levels I, II, and III Courses are enthusiastically undertaken by dedicated and diligent Dharma students.
  • Lama David guides Monday Night Class in Buddhism (through Big Sky Mind, TLI’s meditation group). In July, we hosted the first hybrid (in-person & Zoom) meditation retreat in Missoula since 2019. Another expected in November.
  • New TLI Translation Workbooks! TLI translation/reader class studied Je Tsongkhapa’s profound Three Principal Aspects of the Path Translation Workbook for 14 weeks and the Tibetan Language Reader, Part II, Translation Workbook for 10 weeks
  • Lama David offered 2 Zoom lectures to students around the world : free “Introduction to Tibetan Language”  (33 countries; 29 US states).
  • Lama David also offered another free Zoom Bonus lecture explicating the Tibetan in a verse of the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas

David and Deanna, his wife, have two sons, Henry and George. They all love living in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Montana, and especially enjoy hiking and camping in the Glacier National Park.

“My own experience in retreat showed me the beauty and profundity of the Tibetan language. I saw how knowledge of Tibetan powerfully enhances study and practice of the Dharma.”

David Curtis, President of TLI and Big Sky Mind