Reading & Translating in Tibetan


Completing the Level II Course, students are empowered to delve deeper into their study of Tibetan using various TLI reader/translation workbooks. As with previous courses, the group reads and studies a Classical Tibetan text such as the Heart Sutra in conjunction with the study of The Divine Tree Grammar Poem and Commentary. With Lama David as your experienced guide, we will study in an integrated manner to learn more about Tibetan grammar and vocabulary, as well as about Tibetan Buddhism.


Reading & Translating in Tibetan

Heart Sutra and Grammar Reading Course, Part II

A 10-Week Continuation Course by Zoom starting Thursday, April 18, 2024

The 14th Dalai Lama has called the Heart Sutra “the essence of the essence of the Dharma.”

Now you have the opportunity to study and/or review this beautiful and often-taught Buddhist text in Tibetan with Lama David Curtis. This is a text which becomes richer with each reading. Our text will aid you in your journey to more fully understand the teachings of the Buddha by reading the Dharma in the original Classical Literary Tibetan.

We aim to help demystify Tibetan for Dharma students in order for them to enrich their practice. Our task in this 10-week continuation course is to learn about and gain experience in reading classical literary Tibetan–the language of the sacred texts of all lineages for more than a millennium. This course is open to anyone who has taken our Level II Course.

Goals of the Course: Understanding the text, expanding grammar and vocabulary

The workbook for this course is Lama David’s newly re-edited Heart Sutra Translation Workbook, Third Edition (available end-December 2023).

  • The new edition has both a student-friendly parsed text and more challenging unparsed text set up for students to work on.
  • With its glossary, there is a good opportunity to learn some of the most commonly occurring vocabulary of Buddhist texts.
    • The glossary included in our reader has nearly 190 vocabulary words and particles from the Heart Sutra.
    • In the definitions Lama David has tried to provide not just the translation of the terms relevant to reading the passage from which the vocabulary entry is drawn, but to expand our understanding of the word in general.
  • We’ll also be able to learn a lot about grammar by analyzing the verses closely and making frequent reference to the Divine Tree Grammar Poem and Commentary and John Rockwell’s A Primer for Classical Literary Tibetan.
  • Lama David will also share some of the Dharma teachings woven into this text.

Required Texts: 

  • TLI’s The Heart Sutra Translation Workbook, Third Edition (available end-December 2023)
  • TLI’s The Heart Sutra Translation Workbook, Part II. Will have the last part of the text parsed, including the Repelling Verses. Not yet available for purchase.
  • TLI’s Divine Tree Grammar Poem and Commentary, 2021 edition (found in the Level II Package).
  • John Rockwell’s excellent A Primer for Classical Literary Tibetan: selections from the Grammar in Volume I.

Student Goal: to study 30 minutes of Tibetan per day.

Class Start Date: Thursday, April 18, 2024.

Time: 4:00-5:45 pm US Pacific Time

Duration: 10 Weeks

Hosted on: Zoom

Video recordings of classes (including part 1 of the Winter Course) and student folders on Dropbox: Available to students until September 3, 2024.


Additional information


Tibetan Language Institute

How This Course Works

  1. Add this course to your cart.
  2. Purchase your study materials. See Required & Recommended Materials.
  3. Check out and pay. You will receive a confirmation of your purchase, and then shortly before the class start date, a personal welcome email with course details.
  4. For the duration of the course, class video recordings and study guides will be made available to you each week as you progress through the course.
  • The Divine Tree Grammar Poem Suite, 2nd edition
  • A Primer for Classical Literary Tibetan by John Rockwell
  • TLI’s Heart Sutra Translation Workbook, 3rd ed., by David Curtis


Course Details

Being able to access this kind of course from the comfort of your home or when you are traveling is a great opportunity to continue to deepen your relationship to the Dharma.

Weekly Class Meetings: 10 weeks on Thursdays

4:00 PM – 5:45 PM    Pacific Time

5:00 PM – 6:45 PM    Mountain Time

6:00PM – 7:45 PM     Central Time

7:00PM – 8:45 PM     Eastern Time

Course Instructor

The principal instructor at TLI is David Curtis. He has a university degree in Classical language. David began his Dharma studies in 1980, traveling in 1984 to receive teachings from H.H. the Dalai Lama. He lived and trained at Kagyu Ling in France, in 1992 completing the traditional Tibetan Three-Year Retreat in meditation, yoga and philosophy. Subsequently David has sought teachings from all schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

In 1993 he began teaching the Tibetan language to students in Los Angeles.  Many Rinpoches from Kagyu and Nyingma lineages have encouraged him to teach Tibetan and guide others in their meditation practice. As a teacher and author, Lama David established the nonprofit Tibetan Language Institute in 1996 and is its president and executive director.

 Lama David combines his linguistic skills with a practitioner’s knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism. In 2007, Gochen Tulku Rinpoche (Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche) awarded him the title of Acharya (master teacher). For more information.


What Students Say about the Reading Course:

“Studying Tibetan has absolutely transformed my retirement–I can’t explain my excitement when a formerly opaque liturgy or text suddenly jumps off the page with meaning! So I can’t thank you & David enough for all you that offer.  –Richard D

“A primary hope of mine was that learning classical Tibetan would deepen my understanding and love of Buddhadharma.  It has done so immeasurably, and much, much more…. –Jim L.


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