Tibetan Ritual

Tibetan Ritual

Tibetan Ritual

Tibetan Ritual

Synopsis

Ritual is one of the most pervasive religious phenomena in the Tibetan cultural world. Despite its ubiquity and importance to Tibetan cultural life, however, only in recent years has Tibetan ritual been given the attention it deserves. This is the first scholarly collection to focus on this important subject. Unique in its historical, geographical and disciplinary breadth, this book brings together eleven essays by an international cast of scholars working on ritual texts, institutions and practices in the greater Tibetan cultural world - Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and Mongolia. While most of the chapters focus on Buddhism, two deal with ritual in Tibet's indigenous Bon religion. All of the essays are original to this volume. An extensive introduction by the editor provides a broad overview of Tibetan ritual and contextualizes the chapters within the field of Buddhist and Tibetan studies. The book should find use in advanced undergraduate courses and graduate seminars on Tibetan religion. It will also be of interest to students and scholars of ritual generally.

Excerpt

José Ignacio Cabezón

Look around almost anywhere you find yourself in the greater Tibetan cultural world—in Tibet, certainly, but also in Bhutan, Mongolia, and the Nepalese Himalayas—and you see ritual. If you live near a monastery, chances are that you will awaken to the sound of a gong calling monks to their morning prayer-assembly or tsog (tshogs). Even if you live far from a monastery, you may well be roused from sleep by the high-pitched clanging of someone ringing a ritual bell, or by the soft murmur of neighbors reciting khandön (kha ‘don), their daily ritual commitments. When you walk out of your door into the courtyard of your home, you see a family member burning sang (bsang), juniper incense, for the daily purification of the household or as a ritual offering to the gods. Before you begin eating your breakfast, you will recite a prayer offering the food to the Three Jewels. If you live in an urban area like Lhasa, when you walk out into the streets, you will not have to wander very far before you see young men dressed in monks’ garb sitting on a sidewalk intoning rituals as a way of procuring a little money. and when you pass the local temple, you hear the fast, rhythmic chanting and drum-beating of a protector deity kangso (bskang gso) ritual. At the next intersection, in the middle of a busy street, you come across a discarded “thread-cross” or namkha (nam mkha’), the remnants of an exorcism ritual from the night before. Walking past an old woman, you hear her softly reciting a prayer for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. At the Khyichu river’s edge, you stumble upon a lone torma (gtor ma), a ritual cake that failed to make . . .

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