Textual scholar

During the loss of Tibet and subsequent Cultural Revolution, over 5,000 libraries in the country were destroyed. Books became scarce and, early in his monastic studies, Geshe Michael often had to share a single textbook with dozens of classmates. At this point, in 1987, the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae was just going strong at Princeton University, with the help of Geshe Michael’s Sanskrit teacher, Prof. Samuel Atkins. This was a project spearheaded by Dr. David Packard Jr, son of one of the founders of Hewlett-Packard Computer Corporation, which succeeded in digitalizing the entire ancient literature of Greece. Dr. Packard in fact helped develop the first CD-ROM in order to store this data.

Geshe Michael immediately saw a chance to help save what was left of ancient Tibetan literature, including the Sanskrit originals. He wrote a proposal for the Asian Classics Input Project and presented it to Dr. Packard, who issued a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for the first ACIP input center, located within a Tibetan refugee camp. Ancient Tibetan literature is carved onto woodblocks, which means that to be stored in a searchable way it must be typed into a computer. ACIP began to train, pay, and equip dozens of Tibetan refugees to type in the several hundred thousand spiritual classics of Tibet, using innovative software developed by the Project.

23 years later, this work continues, mostly by refugee Tibetan women in India who as non-citizens cannot find any other employment. To date, some 14,414 ancient texts have been typed in and the verified versions posted on the web for free download by anyone in the world. It is estimated that at the current rate the project will require over 100 more years to complete.

Millions of dollars have been raised for the project, originally through Andin Diamond and in recent years by director John Brady and other domestic ACIP staff, all working as volunteers. ACIP has also received a number of major grants from the US National Endowment for the Humanities, and corporations worldwide. Its work has been described in Wired magazine and in documentaries by Xerox Corporation and by Walter Cronkite & Ward TV for The Learning Channel. In 2007, Geshe Michael helped found Global Family, a program for adopting ACIP input operators and their families.

To preserve the last remaining copies of many texts, Geshe Michael in 1993 concluded agreements with the University of St Petersburg and the St Petersburg Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences to catalog their extensive collections of ancient Asian texts. This catalog was completed by a team of Tibetan monks, under the supervision project directors Dr. Lev Serafimovich Savitsky, John Brady, Ngawang Kheatsun, and Geshe Michael, after 15 years of work. It contains details of 134,327 ancient manuscripts and is one of the largest Asian catalogs in the world.

In 1988, Geshe Michael turned to the task of helping republish hundreds of missing Tibetan books from ACIP´s data. He first worked with Steven Bruzgulis to create TTPS (Tibetan Text Processing System), the world´s first Tibetan word processor, and with Geshe Ngawang Rigdol then organized a publishing arm of Sera Mey Monastery to print lost textbooks. Geshe Michael was then assigned by the monastery as the primary editor for Sera Mey´s textbook series, including correcting the final Tibetan versions of the ancient texts, a post which he filled for almost ten years.

In 1989, Geshe Michael was engaged by the United States Library of Congress to help design their ongoing acquisitions program for ancient Tibetan texts, and after consulting with 120 Tibetan institutions created a catalog of over a thousand target works. In 1995 he was appointed a Research Fellow of the Institute for the Advanced Studies of World Religions.

Geshe Michael is one of the most prolific modern translators of ancient Asian manuscripts, having completed more than 40 ancient texts of Tibetan and Sanskrit (for more detail see The Knowledge Base), totaling at present some 10,253 pages.