Asiatic Mythology: A Detailed Description and Explanation of the Mythologies of All the Great Nations of Asia

By J. Hackin; Clément Huart et al. | Go to book overview
Fig. 1. THE BODHISATTVA BETAKES HIMSELF TO THE PLEASURE GARDEN

THE MYTHOLOGY OF LAMAISM

THE iconography of Thibetan Buddhism, or Lamaism,1 contains many narrative elements, illustrations of the life of Buddha and the principal saints. To this strictly traditional collection should be added representations borrowed from Saivistic doctrine (the terrible divinities) and the ancient local cults. Two reformations, one in the eleventh century (Atīṣa), the other in the fourteenth (Tsong Kha-pa), did not succeed in bringing about the disappearance of the magic rites (tantra and sādhana), which were current in the popular religion from the seventh century of our era, when Buddhism was introduced into Thibet.

In the seventh century Nepal was merely "a dependency of Lha-sa, the capital of Thibet" (Sylvain Lévi). For many centuries Lamaism held sway over Nepal; in the seventeenth century there were still twenty-five sanctuaries in the part of the country that had remained faithful to Buddhism (the kingdom of Patan). To-day Buddhism in Nepal holds only a very diminished place.

It was in the first half of the thirteenth century that the Mongols came into contact with the Buddhist Uigurs; first of all they underwent the religious influence of these tribes. A few years later the Mongols were initiated into Lamaism, which had penetrated into the Chinese province of Kansu. The zeal, the learning, the piety of the lama 'Phags-pa (Matidhvajaṣrībhadra) ( 1240-80) assured the success of the new doctrine. The Chinese emperors of the Manchu dynasty favoured Lamaism very particularly; on different occa- sions the Grand Lamas of Pekin (the Changskya Khutuktu) were the object of imperial favours. Many Lamaistic paintings were executed during the reign of the Emperor K'ienLung ( 1736-96).

____________________
1
From the Thibetan Bla-ma (pronounced lama), 'superior,' 'eminent,' a name given to the members of the Buddhist clergy in Thibet.

-147-

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Asiatic Mythology: A Detailed Description and Explanation of the Mythologies of All the Great Nations of Asia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 5
  • Translator's Note 7
  • Contents 9
  • Illustrations 17
  • Introduction 27
  • The Mythology of Persia 35
  • The Mythology of the KĀfirs 57
  • The Mythology of Buddhism in India 61
  • Brahmanic Mythology 100
  • The Mythology of Lamaism 147
  • The Mythology of Indo-China and Java 187
  • Buddhist Mythology in Central Asia 242
  • The Mythology of Modern China 252
  • The Mythology of Japan 385
  • Buddhist Mythology 412
  • Index 449
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