50 years Tibet Institute Rikon

Starting in 1961, Switzerland has integrated thousands of Tibetan refugees. Many of them were welcomed in the Tösstal (Canton of Zürich), where they found work and shelter. However, the Kuhn family, industrial entrepreneurs in Rikon, realized quite early that the refugees were also in need of a spiritual centre. After careful consultations with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, they founded and financed a Tibetan monastery in their village.

The central mission: Providing for the spiritual needs of Tibetans

On September 28, 1968, the monastery was inaugurated. Since then, a community of some ten monks, headed by an abbot appointed by His Holiness, provides spiritual support to the Tibetan Community in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Such support is especially needed in cases of death and other difficult situations. In addition and with the support of professional educationists, the abbot and monks also offer workshops for Tibetan children and youths introducing them into basic topics of Buddhism. On religious holidays, many Tibetan families gather in Rikon to jointly celebrate the respective occasion.

Educational Programme for an interested public

The list of educational events published by the monks’ community and the Institute’s staff runs up to about 100 talks and seminars held each year and related to Tibetan Culture and Religion. The offer attracts some 2’000 visitors each year, both of Tibetan and non-Tibetan origin. Since interdenominational religious studies are part of the curricula of all public schools in the Canton of Zürich, twenty to thirty classes, together with their teachers, visit Rikon each year to acquaint themselves with Tibetan Buddhism.

A Library to preserve and to pass on the Tibetan Heritage

In the course of the years, a scientific library has been built up in Rikon, focussing on Tibetan Buddhist Culture and History. Today, it comprises some 12'000 titles, but also a broad range of audio and video material as well as photo archives. It also covers the history of the Tibetan resettlement and community-building in Switzerland. It serves as a basis for scientific research and publications with the purpose of preserving, explaining and passing on Tibetan Culture to future generations. As part of the Zürich network of academic libraries, it offers electronic access to every interested individual.

The Project „Science meets Dharma“

Following a suggestion by H.H. the Dalai Lama, the Tibet Institute, since many years, participates in the efforts to familiarize nuns and monks in Tibetan monasteries in India, with Western scientific reasoning and achievement. Swiss scientists, supported by Tibetan interpreters, teach in numerous exile monasteries, but also in Rikon itself. The name of the Project is “Science meets Dharma” – “Western Science and Buddhist Doctrine come closer to each other”. The name is inspired by the concept according to which Tibetan Buddhism must be open to dialogue with other philosophies and approaches if it is to further develop and to contribute to a better world. At the same time, the Western World will be greatly enriched if it can open up to dialogue with Buddhist Philosophy and Practice.

Legal Form and Financial Support

The Tibet Institute Rikon was given the legal form of a Foundation according to federal law. It receives financial support from individuals, enterprises and other foundations. The contributions of Tibetan families in Switzerland amount to about 10% of the Institute’s annual budget.