Tibetan Deity Cults Bibliography

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Tibetan Deity Cults Bibliography in the THL Bibliographies

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Overview of Subject

The Tibetan cultural landscape is overrun with the lives, adventures, and influences of innumerable gods and demons, both foreign and autochthonous. These deities play a significant role in shaping the religious history of Tibet and continue to have a strong presence in the daily practice and worship of Tibetans. Furthermore, numerous dieties and supernatural entities are elicited in the process of defining every facet of Tibetan cultural history. If a king is oppressing Buddhism, as in the case of Lang Darma in the 9th century, he is believed to be possessed by a demon, and thus must be subjugated (i.e., assassinated). Conversely, the Tibetan Buddhist kings were believed to be possessed by demons by practitioners of Bön, who were being persecuted in the 7th and 8th centuries. The Tibetan people believe themselves to be descended from gods and demons from various realms of the intermediate spaces, as well as from emanations of the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara and the goddess Tārā. Also, many religious adepts are believed to be emanations of important bodhisattvas. The Tibetan landscape istself is thought to be teeming with spirits, which is the reason given for why Tibet is such a harsh environment; indeed, the very land is said to be a giant reclining demoness. Tibetan medical texts describe the various demonic species that cause numerous kinds of ailments, and how to expel those demons in the process of healing. In Tibetan Buddhism and Bön, gods and demons play a strong pragmatic role in the daily and annual rituals of both lay and monastic communities. To this day, gods and demons inhabit every part of Tibetan life and are essential for social cohesion.

This ubiquitous nature of Tibetan divinities is in many ways analogous to language. They communicate a collection of symbols that adhere to a common understanding of the world within Tibetan society. These symbols are anthropomorphic "sentences" sharing similar modules of meaning—such as coloration, iconography, weaponry, mythology, narrative history, textual tradition, activity, and locale—yet combined in different permutations to represent unique instances by which to express shared ideas. Like languages, these ideas are developed naturally in communal settings, and only after the fact is an artificial structure applied to them that can never quite encompass the whole, always having to make room for countless exceptions; consider the shifting taxonomy of demonic species and the fluctuating hierarchical assigning of various deities to either the worldly ('jig rten pa'i bsrung ma) or transcendent ('jig rten las 'das pa'i bsrung ma) class (not to mention malevolent and tantric designations). Also like language, there are many regional variations and idiomatic forms. Thus, just as any language is important in the process of making sense of a given culture, so too is this language of the gods essential in the development of a greater understanding of Tibetan culture and religion.

Therefore, it is important to study Tibetan deities, where they come from, how they evolve, what rituals they're associated with, and how they impact Tibetan social forms. To this end, the following bibliography on scholarship concerning Tibetan deities and deity cults is provided.

State of Scholarship

The state of scholarship concerning Tibetan deities and deity cults is still very nascent and quite scant. The below bibliography represents a close to exhaustive survey of primarily secondary resources, with a number of prominent (but by no means exhaustive) primary Tibetan sources. The majority of these sources are by western scholars trained in Tibetan studies writing in the last half century, with Tibetan sources ranging from contemporary to centuries old. The most important authors are Stephan Beyer, A. M. Blondeau, René de Nebesky-Wojkowitz, Todd Gibson, Amy Heller, Samten Karmay, and Richard Kohn. While these authors are generally very full in focus, the majority of the below sources are quite scattered and run the gamut on focus, specificity, historical scope, and methodological approach (not always successfully). A good deal of the work being done is anthropological in nature, which has produced a sizeable amount of theoretical work that nonetheless needs to be enhanced with more textual and ethnographic data overall. For the most part, despite the importance and ubiquitous presence of deities and their cults in Tibetan religious history and practice, very little research has been conducted on Tibetan deities compared to the overwhelming scholarship on Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. It would seem that a preferential bias still exists toward the high value of Buddhist philosophy and the belief that it is the core of Buddhist religion. In this regard, it's understandable that anthropologists have a degree of purview with Tibetan deities, since they focus on the lived traditions of Himalayan communities, which very overtly involve a constant association with deity cults and related holidays, festivals, and rituals. However, historical and textual scholarship on deities continues to grow (especially through French scholarship). The books, collections, and articles enumerated below are still excellent resources for an evolving focus on Tibetan Buddhist deities and deity cults, as well as their innumerable related rituals.

Contributors

Christopher Bell (University of Virginia; May 2007)

Bibliography

Introduction to Tibetan Deity Cults

The following sources are considered rudimentary in that a focus on Tibetan gods and demons and deity cults is their central concern. Given the poor state of scholarship on Tibetan deity cults, these sources are informative but can be greatly improved by further research.

Bellezza, John Vincent. 1997. Divine Dyads: Ancient Civilization in Tibet. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives.

Bla brang skal bzang. 1996. Bod skyong srung ma khag gi lo rgyus. Dharamsala: H. P.

Blondeau, A. M. 1971. "Le Lha 'dre bka'-thaṅ." In Études Tibétaines Dédiées à la Mémoire de Marcelle Lalou. Paris: Librairie d’Amérique et d’Orient, pp. 29-126.

de Nebesky-Wojkowitz, René. [1956] 1998. Oracles and Demons of Tibet: The Cult and Iconography of the Tibetan Protective Deities. New Delhi: Paljor Publications.

Farkas, János, and Tibor Szabó. 2002. Die Bilderwelt der tibetisch-mongolischen Dämonen; The Pictorial World of the Tibeto-Mongolian Demons. Budapest: Mandala & LibroTrade.

Getty, Alice. [1914] 1962. The Gods of Northern Buddhism: Their History, Iconography and Progressive Evolution through the Northern Buddhist Countries. Rutland: Charles E. Tuttle Company.

Gibson, Todd Allen. 1991. “From btsanpo to btsan: The demonization of the Tibetan sacral kingship.” Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University.

Gu ru O rgyan gling pa. 1986. Bka’ thang sde lnga. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, pp. 1-84.

Heller, Amy. 2003. "The Great Protector Deities of the Dalai Lamas." In Lhasa in the Seventeenth Century: The Capital of the Dalai Lamas. Françoise Pommaret, ed. Leiden: Brill, pp. 81-98.

Kelényi, Béla, ed. 2003. Demons and Protectors: Folk Religion in Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhism. Budapest: Ferenc Hopp Museum of Eastern Asiatic Art.

Ladrang Kalsang. 1996. The Guardian Deities of Tibet. Pema Thinley, trans. Dharamsala: Little Lhasa Publications.

Linrothe, Rob and Jeff Watt. Demonic Divine: Himalayan Art and Beyond. Chicago: Serindia Publications.

Martin du Gard, Irène. 1971. “Génies et Démons au Tibet.” In Génies, Anges et Démons. Sources Orientales 8. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, pp. 383-402.

Tenzin, Khempo Sangyay and Gomchen Oleshey. 1975. "The Nyingma Icons: A Collection of line drawings of 94 deities and divinities of Tibet." In Kailash 3(4), pp. 319-416.

Willson, Martin and Martin Brauen, eds. 2000. Deities of Tibetan Buddhism: The Zürich Paintings of the Icons Worthwhile to See (Bris sku mthoṅ ba don ldan). Boston: Wisdom Publications.

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Collections on Tibetan Deity Cults

These works comprise both western and Tibetan collections focusing on Tibetan deities and their cults. The western sources are collections of articles by notable scholars in the field, while the Tibetan sources are compilations on the basics of individual deities, the information of which they culled from several sources (which they usually noted) and provided verbatim. The western sources provided are the only two major collections that concern scholarship on Tibetan deities and deity cults.

Achard, Jean-Luc, ed. 2002. Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines 2: Numéro Spécial Lha srin sde brgyad. Paris: Langues et Cultures de l’Aire Tibétaine.

Blondeau, Anne-Marie, ed. 1998. Tibetan Mountain Deities, Their Cults and Representations. Wien: Verlag Der Österreichischen Akademie Der Wissenschaften.

Blondeau, Anne-Marie, and Ernst Steinkellner, ed. 1996. Reflections of the Mountain: Essays on the History and Social Meaning of the Mountain Cult in Tibet and the Himalaya. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, ed. n.d. Snga 'gyur rgyud 'bum las btus pa'i gtam rgyud phyogs bsgrigs. gser rta dgon po'i par khang.

Kong sprul Blo gros mtha’ yas. 1976. Rin chen gter mdzod chen mo: a reproduction of the Stod-luṅ Mtshur-phu redaction of ’Jam-mgon Koṅsprul’s great work on the unity of the gter-ma traditions of Tibet, with supplemental texts from the Dpal-spuṅs redaction and other manuscripts, vols. 59-63. Paro: Ngodrup and Sherab Drimay.

Macdonald, A. W. 1967. Matériaux pour l'Étude de la Littérature Populaire Tibétaine. 2 vols. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Sle lung rje drung Bzhad pa’i rdo rje. 1979. Dam can bstan srung rgya mtsho’i rnam par thar pa cha shas tsam brjod pa sngon med legs bshad, 2 vols. Leh: T. S. Tashigang.

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Rituals related to Tibetan Deity Cults

Not surprisingly, deities are very closely aligned to rituals, for it is through the latter that Tibetan practitioners willfully engage with the former. In the Tibetan context, deities can too often be pernicious, even those deities supposedly subjugated and reassigned as protectors of the Buddhist teachings. Because of this, many Tibetan rituals are enacted in part to subdue these deities yet again and employ them in the service of Buddhism more abstractly, or for the purposes of the practitioner and their institution more pragmatically. Ritual overall is a means to control the environment, the future, or one's soteriological destiny, and since deities in the Tibetan context tend to be various personifications of all these forces, ritual plays a very important part in Tibetan deity cults. Like deity cults, scholarship on Tibetan ritual in general has received very little attention in comparison to Tibetan scholasticism and philosophy, and so it is an area of research greatly in need of improvement.

Bentor, Yael. 1996. Consecration of Images and Stūpas in Indo-Tibetan Tantric Buddhism. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Beyer, Stephan. 1978. The Cult of Tara: Magic and Ritual in Tibet. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • As de Nebesky Wojkowitz's Oracles and Demons of Tibet is the first source to approach with regards to Tibetan deities, likewise is The Cult of Tara the first source for Tibetan ritual. While Beyer's scope is trained primarily on the bodhisattma Tārā, this is an incredibly extensive work, focusing on numerous rituals, their contexts and implements, overall. It should be noted that given the time period in which this book was published, there are about thirty pages of unnecessary speculation into the psychedelic experiences such ritual practices supposedly engender. It also has numerous spelling errors. Despite these fallbacks and it being over thirty years old, this text continues to be an indispensable resource for rituals and their connection to deity cults.
  • Beyer-TaraCult-Review

Cantwell, Catherine. 1997. "To Meditate upon Consciousness as Vajra: Ritual ‘Killing and Liberation’ in the Rnying-ma-pa Tradition." In Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the Seventh Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Graz 1995. Helmut Eimer, ed. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, pp. 107-118.

Chabpel Tseten Phuntsok. 1991. "The Deity Invocation Ritual and the Purification Rite of Incense Burning in Tibet." In The Tibet Journal 16(3), pp. 3-27.

Decleer, Hubert. 1978. "The Working of Sādhana: Vajrabhairava." In Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the First Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Zurich 1977. Martin Brauen and Per Kvaerne, eds. Zurich: Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich, pp. 113-123.

de Nebesky-Wojkowitz, René. 1950-51. "The Use of Thread-Crosses in Lepcha Lamaist Ceremonies," In The Eastern Anthropologist 4(2).

—. 1956. Where the Gods are Mountains. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, pp. 204-215, 234-253.

—. 1976. Tibetan Religious Dances: Tibetan Text and Annotated Translation of the ’Chams Yig. Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf, ed. The Hague: Mouton.

  • This text has two things in common with Oracles and Demons of Tibet, it's by de Nebesky-Wojkowitz and it's a quintessential resource, but specifically for Tibetan ritual dances, which in most instances reenact cosmic dramas involving numerous deities.

Gyatso, Janet. 1997. "An Avalokiteśvara Sādhana." In Religions of Tibet in Practice. Princeton Readings in Religions. Donald S. Lopez, Jr., ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 266-270.

Heller, Amy. 1985. "An Early Tibetan Ritual: Rkyal 'bud" In Soundings in Tibetan Civilization. Barbara Aziz and Matthew Kapstein, eds. New Delhi: Manohar Publications, pp. 257-267.

Jackson, Roger. 1997. "A Fasting Ritual." In Religions of Tibet in Practice. Princeton Readings in Religions. Donald S. Lopez, Jr., ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 271-292.

Karmay, Samten G. 1998a. "The Soul and the Turquoise: a Ritual for Recalling the bla." In The Arrow and the Spindle: Studies in History, Myths, Rituals and Beliefs in Tibet. Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point, pp. 310-338.

—. 1998b. "The Man and the Ox: A Ritual for Offering the glud." In The Arrow and the Spindle: Studies in History, Myths, Rituals and Beliefs in Tibet. Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point, pp. 339-379.

—. 1998c. "The Local Deities and the Juniper Tree: a Ritual for Purification (bsang)." In The Arrow and the Spindle: Studies in History, Myths, Rituals and Beliefs in Tibet. Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point, pp. 380-412.

Kohn, Richard. 1997. "An Offering of Torma." In Religions of Tibet in Practice. Donald S. Lopez, ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 255-265.

—. 2001. Lord of the Dance: The Mani Rimdu Festival in Tibet and Nepal. Albany: SUNY.

  • This work, and its related documentary, are on par with de Nebesky-Wojkowitz 1976 (see above) in scope and necessary information regarding Tibetan ritual dance. It has the added benefit of being better organized and more up-to-date, with a stronger methodological framework. The discussion of lingas, demonic effigies, is especially cogent with regards to the cosmic layering occuring in these complex public rituals.

Sangs rgyas gling pa. 14th century. Bskul 'bum myur mgyogs glog gi phreng ba.

Sihlé, Nicolas. 2002. "Lhachö [Lha mchod] and Hrinän [Sri gnon]: The Structure and Diachrony of a Pair of Rituals (Baragaon, Northern Nepal)." In Religion and Secular Culture in Tibet: Tibetan Studies II. H. Blezer, ed. Leiden: Brill, pp. 185-206.

—. forthcoming: Rituals of Power and Violence: Tantric Buddhism in a Community of the Tibetan Himalayas.

Skorupski, Tadeusz. 1997. "In Praise of the Ḍākinīs." In Les Habitants du Toit du Monde: Études Recueillies en Hommage à Alexander W. Macdonald. Samten Karmay and Philippe Sagant, eds. Recherches sur la Haute Asie 12. Nanterre: Société d'Ethnologie, pp. 309-324.

u.a. u.d. Bsam lcog dbang drag gling gi dam can chos srung rnams kyi bskang gso myur mgyogs glog gi phreng ba.

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Oracles in Tibetan Deity Cults

While rituals are very concrete engagements with Tibetan deities, oracles are even more so, representing a very real social element through which deities can interact with people. As the term suggests, a Tibetan oracle is a member of a community, or in some instances a political institution, who becomes possessed by a specific deity in order to provide communal advice or prophetic pronouncements. In many instances of trance possession, an oracle could be possessed by multiple deities in succession beyond the particular one they're known to embody, and are expected to help resolve conflicts between monastic communities as well as between individual patrons of the lay community. Since it has already been listed, de Nebesky-Wojkowitz's Oracles and Demons of Tibet is not provided below, but it remains equally an important resource on Tibetan oracles as well as deities, and indeed could be considered the first resource for this topic as well. Conversely, of the resources offered below, none stand out as a comprehensive survey of oracles, though Sophie Day's dissertation comes close with its strong ethnographic focus. A sampling of them all would do more to provide an overall impression. Lastly, if this bibliographic enumeration of Tibetan oracles is not exhaustive, it certainly comes close; this is said in order to illustrate just how little research there has been on the subject.

Arnott, W. Geoffrey. 1989. "Nechung: A Modern Parallel to the Delphic Oracle?" In Greece & Rome 36 (2), pp. 152-157 .

Bellezza, John Vincent. 2005. Spirit-Mediums, Sacred Mountains and Related Bon Textual Traditions in Upper Tibet: Calling Down the Gods. Leiden: Brill.

Berglie, Per-Arne. 1976. "Preliminary Remarks on Some Tibetan ‘Spirit Mediums’ in Nepal." In Kailash 4(1), pp. 85-108.

—. 1992. "Tibetan Spirit-Mediumship: Change and Continuity. Some Observations from a Revisit to Nepal." In Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the Fifth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Narita 1989, volume 2. Ihara Shōren and Yamaguchi Zuihō, eds. Tokyo: Naritasan Shinshoji, pp. 361-368.

Chime Radha Rinpoche. 1981. "Tibet." In Oracles and Divination. Michael Loewe and Carmen Blacker, eds. Boulder: Shambhala Publications, pp. 3-37.

Day, Sophie. 1989. "Embodying Spirits: Village Oracles and Possession Ritual in Ladakh, North India." Ph.D. dissertation, London School of Economics and Political Science.

—. 1990. "Ordering Spirits: The Initiation of Village Oracles in Ladakh." In Wissenschaftsgeschichte und gegenwärtige Forschungen in Nordwest-Indien 9(3), pp. 206-222.

Diemberger, Hildegard. 2005. "Female Oracles in Modern Tibet." In Women in Tibet. Janet Gyatso and Hanna Havnevik, eds. New York: Columbia University Press.

Hao, Wangdui and Xiao Hao. 1992. "Between God and Human Beings: A Visit to Sorceress Losang Zizen." In China’s Tibet 3(1), pp. 32-40.

Havnevik, Hanna. 2002. "A Tibetan Female State Oracle." In Religion and Secular Culture in Tibet; Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the Ninth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Leiden 2000. Henk Blezer, ed. Leiden: Brill, pp. 259-287.

Peter, Prince of Greece and Denmark. 1978a. "Tibetan Oracles in Dharamsala." In Proceedings of the Csoma de Körös Memorial Symposium. Louis Ligeti, ed. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, pp. 327-334.

—. 1978b. "Tibetan Oracles." In Himalayan Anthropology: The Indo-Tibetan Interface. Hague: Moulon, pp. 287-298.

Rock, Joseph F. 1935. "Sungmas, the Living Oracles of the Tibetan Church." In National Geographic Magazine 68, pp. 475-486.

Schenk, Amelia. 1993. "Inducing Trance: On the Training of Ladakhi Oracle Healers." In Proceedings of the International Seminar on the Anthropology of Tibet and the Himalaya; September 21-28, 1990, Zurich. Charles Ramble and Martin Brauen, eds. Druck: BuchsDruck, pp. 331-342.

Tewari, Ramesh Chandra. 1987. "Pre-Buddhist Elements in Himalayan Buddhism: The Institution of the Oracles." In The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 10(1), pp. 135-155.

Tsepak Rinzin, et al. 1992. "Nechung: The State Oracle of Tibet." In Tibetan Bulletin, July/August 1992, pp. 16-32.

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Sacred Places in Tibetan Deity Cults

In Tibet especially, deities are very strongly tied to locations and to sacred places. This association precedes and transcends their residency at monasteries. Many indigenous deities are strongly linked to and even conflated with mountains or lakes where they are said to reside, so much so that these locales share the same name with these deities in many instances. The importance and innate sacred nature of places only intensified in Tibet after the introduction of the maṇḍala, the ultimate cosmic and mythographic diagram of space and place, with its key feature being its population of deities. Therefore, the below resources, while not exhaustive, represent a sampling of important scholarship in regards to sacred places generally and in relation to Tibetan deities specifically. While again there has been no comprehensive treatment on the subject, the resources provided offer a strong amount of scholarship that could be furthered with future research. Notable sources are Gyatso 1987, Huber 1999, all three Karmay 1998 sources, and Miller 2003.

Acharya, Chowang and Sonam Gyatso Dokham. 1998. "Sikkim: The Hidden Holy Land and Its Sacred Lakes." In Bulletin of Tibetology 34(3), pp. 10-15.

Chandra, Lokesh, ed. 1961. The Samye Monastery. Bhoṭa-Piṭaka 6. New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture.

Diemberger, Hildegard. 1993. "Gangla Tshechu, Beyul Khenbalung: Pilgrimage to Hidden Valleys, Sacred Mountains and Springs of Life Water in Southern Tibet and Eastern Nepal." In Proceedings of the International Seminar on the Anthropology of Tibet and the Himalaya; September 21-28, 1990, Zurich. Charles Ramble and Martin Brauen, eds. Druck: BuchsDruck, pp. 60-72.

Dowman, Keith. 1988. The Power-Places of Central Tibet: The Pilgrim’s Guide. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Ehrhard, Franz-Karl. 2003. "Political and Ritual Aspects of the Search for Himalayan Sacred Lands." In History of Tibet, vol. 2. Alex McKay, ed. London: RoutledgeCurzon, pp. 659-674.

Gung Bshad sgra ba Dbang phyug rgyal po. 2000. Bsam yas dkar chag dad pa’i sgo ’byed. Gangs can rig mdzod 34. Lhasa: Bod ljongs bod yig dpe rnying dpe skrun khang.

Gyatso, Janet. 1987. "Down with the Demoness: Reflections on a Feminine Ground in Tibet." In The Tibet Journal 12(4), pp. 38-53.

Huber, Toni. 1999. The Cult of Pure Crystal Mountain: Popular Pilgrimage and Visionary Landscape in Southeast Tibet. New York: Oxford University Press.

Karmay, Samten G. 1998d. "Mountain Cult and National Identity." In The Arrow and the Spindle: Studies in History, Myths, Rituals and Beliefs in Tibet. Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point, pp. 423-431.

—. 1998e. "The Cult of Mountain Deities and its Political Significance." In The Arrow and the Spindle: Studies in History, Myths, Rituals and Beliefs in Tibet. Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point, pp. 432-450.

—. 1998f. "The Cult of Mount dMu-rdo in rGyal-rong." In The Arrow and the Spindle: Studies in History, Myths, Rituals and Beliefs in Tibet. Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point, pp. 339-379.

Kirkland, J. Russell. 1982. "The Spirit of the Mountain: Myth and State in Pre-Buddhist Tibet." In History of Religions 21(3), pp. 257-271.

Marko, Ann. 2003. "Civilising Woman the Demon: A Tibetan Myth of State." In History of Tibet, vol. 1. Alex McKay, ed. London: RoutledgeCurzon, pp. 322-335.

Miller, Robert. 2003. "'The Supine Demoness' (Srin mo) and the Consolidation of Empire." In History of Tibet, vol. 1. Alex McKay, ed. London: RoutledgeCurzon, pp. 336-353.

Ngag dbang rgyal po, Legs bshad thogs med, Zla ba rgyal mtshan. 2005. Dpal bsam yas mi ’gyur lhun gyis grub pa’i gtsug lag khang gi dkar chag. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang.

Reinhart, Johan. 1978. "Khenbalung: The Hidden Valley." In Kailash 6(1), pp. 5-35.

Sardar-Afkhami, Hamid. 1996. "An Account of Padma-bkod: A Hidden Land in Southeastern Tibet." In Kailash 18(3-4), pp. 1-21.

—. 2001. "The Buddha's Secret Gardens: End Times and Hidden-lands in Tibetan Imagination." Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University.

Tucci, Giuseppe. 1965. "The Tibetan Tradition of Geography." In Bulletin of Tibetology 2(1), pp. 17-25.

Wylie, Turrell. 1962. The Geography of Tibet According to the ’Dzam-Gling-Rgyas-Bshad. Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente.

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Specific Studies on Tibetan Deity Cults

These sources represent the handful of books and articles that have treated specific Tibetan deities and their cults beyond those included above in relation to collections, rituals, or oracle traditions. These works are sparse but highly detailed and focused. They provide very useful methodological approaches to Tibetan deity studies. Both Macdonald 1978 articles are particularly powerful pieces with regards to relating deity cults to political institutions and hegemonic shifts (though centered specifically on the 16th-century). Overall, these works are excellent templates for future approaches.

Dargyay, Eva. 1985. "The White and Red Rong-Btsan of Matho Monastery." In Journal of the Tibet Society 5, pp. 55-65.

—. 1988. "Buddhism in Adaptation: Ancestor Gods and Their Tantric Counterparts in the Religious Life of Zanskar." In History of Religions 28(2), pp. 123-134.

Denjongpa, Anna Balikci. 2002. "Kangchendzönga: Secular and Buddhist Perceptions of the Mountain Deity of Sikkim Among the Lhopos." In Bulletin of Tibetology 38(2), pp. 5-37.

Dhongthog, Tenpai Gyaltsan. 1996. The Earth Shaking Thunder of True Word: A Refutation of Attacks on the Advice of H. H. the Dalai Lama Regarding the Propitiation of Guardian Deities. Shoreline: Shotech Press.

Diemberger, Hildegard and Guntram Hazod. 1997. "Animal Sacrifices and Mountain Deities in Southern Tibet." In Les Habitants du Toit du Monde: Études Recueillies en Hommage à Alexander W. Macdonald. Samten Karmay and Philippe Sagant, eds. Recherches sur la Haute Asie 12. Nanterre: Société d'Ethnologie, pp. 261-281.

Dobis Tsering Gyal. 2009. "Remarks on the State Oracles and Religious Protectors of the dGa' ldan pho brang Government (Gzhung sa dga' ldan pho brang chen po'i gzhung bsten chos skyong khag la dpyad pa). In Contemporary Visions in Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the First International Seminar of Young Tibetologists. Chicago: Serindia Publications, pp.343-361.

Dreyfus, Georges. 1998. "The Shuk-den Affair: History and Nature of a Quarrel." In Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 21(2), pp. 227-270.

Gibson, Todd Allen. 1985. "Dgra-lha: A Re-Examination." In Journal of the Tibet Society 5, pp. 67-72.

Heller, Amy. 1988. "Early Textual Sources for the Cult of Beg-ce." In Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the Fourth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Munich 1985. Helga Uebach and Jampa L. Panglung, eds. München: Kommission für Zentralasiatische Studien Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, pp. 185-195.

—. 1990. "Remarques Préliminaires sur les Divinités Protectrices Srung-ma Dmar-nag du Potala." In Tibet Civilisation et Société. Fernand Meyer, ed. Paris: Éditions de la Fondation Singer-Polignac, pp. 19-27.

—. 1992a. "Historic and Iconographic Aspects of the Protective Deities Srung-ma dmar-nag." In Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the Fifth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Narita 1989, volume 2. Ihara Shōren and Yamaguchi Zuihō, eds. Tokyo: Naritasan Shinshoji, pp. 479-492.

—. 1992b. "Étude sur le développement de l'iconographie et du culte de Beg-tse, divinité protectrice tibétaine." Ph.D. dissertation, École Pratique des Hautes Études.

—. 1997. "Notes on the Symbol of the Scorpion in Tibet." In Les Habitants du Toit du Monde, Études Recueillies en Hommage à Alexander W. Macdonald. Samten Karmay and Philippe Sagant, eds. Nanterre: Société d’Ethnologie, pp. 283-297.

—. 2001. "On the Development of the Iconography of Acala and Vighnāntaka in Tibet." In Embodying Wisdom: Art, Text and Interpretation in the History of Esoteric Buddhism. Rob Linrothe and Henrik H. Sørensen, eds. Copenhagen: Seminar for Buddhist Studies, pp.209-228.

—. 2006. "Armor and Weapons in the Iconography of Tibetan Buddhist Deities." In Warriors of the Himalayas: Rediscovering the Arms and Armor of Tibet. Donald J. LaRocca, ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 35-41.

Hummel, Siegbert. 1962. "Pe-har." In East and West 13(4), pp. 313-316.

Kapstein, Matthew. 1992. "Remarks on the Maṇi Bka'-'bum and the Cult of Āvalokiteśvara in Tibet." In Tibetan Buddhism: Reason and Revelation, Steven Goodman and Ronald Davidson, eds. Albandy: SUNY, pp. 79-93.

—. 1997. "The Royal Way of Supreme Compassion." In Religions of Tibet in Practice, Donald S. Lopez, Jr., ed. Princeton Readings in Religions Series. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 69-77.

Kvaerne, Per. 1990. "A Preliminary Study of the Bonpo Deity Khro-bo Gtso-mchog Mkha'-'gying." In Reflections on Tibetan Culture: Essays in Memory of Turrell V. Wylie. Lawrence Epstein and Richard Sherburne, eds. Studies in Asian Thought and Religion 12. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, pp. 117-125.

Lozang Jamspal. 2006. "The Gonkhang, Temple of the Guardian Deities." In Warriors of the Himalayas: Rediscovering the Arms and Armor of Tibet. Donald J. LaRocca, ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 43-49.

Macdonald, Ariane. 1978a. "Le culte de Pehar et de Ci'u dmar-po dans la tradition écrite et orale. Histoire du monastère de Gnas-chung et de ses médiums (suite)," "Histoire et philologie tibétaines" (conférences 1976-1977). In Annuaire de l'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris, pp. 1139-1145.

—. 1978b. "Les rivalités politiques et religieuses centrées sur Samye au XVIe siècle. La lignée spirituelle du Ve Dalai-Lama dans la littérature, dans l'histoire, et dans l'art." "Histoire et philologie tibétaines" (conférences 1977-1978). In Annuaire de l'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris, pp. 1023-1030.

Narayanan, Kumar. 2003. "Between Worlds: Guardians in Tibet as Agents of Transformation." In Perspectives 4(3), pp. 45-62.

Ricca, Franco, and Lionel Fournier. 1996. "Notes Concerning the Mgon-khaṅ of Źwa-lu." In Artibus Asiae 56(3/4), pp.343-363.

Ricca, Franco. 1999. Il Tempio Oracolare di Gnas-chuṅ: Gli dei del Tibet più magico e segreto. Orientalia 8. Torino: Edizioni dell'Orso.

Richardson, Hugh. 1998. "The Cult of Vairocana in Early Tibet." In High Peaks, Pure Earth: Collected Writings on Tibetan History and Culture. London: Serindia Publications, pp. 177-181.

Rock, Joseph F. 1959. "Contributions to the Shamanism of the Tibetan-Chinese Borderland." In Anthropos 54, pp. 796-818.

Stoddard, Heather. 1997. "The Nine Brothers of the White High. Mi-nyag and 'King' Pe-dkar Revisited." In Les Habitants du Toit du Monde: Études Recueillies en Hommage à Alexander W. Macdonald. Samten Karmay and Philippe Sagant, eds. Recherches sur la Haute Asie 12. Nanterre: Société d'Ethnologie, pp. 75-109.

Stuart, Kevin, Banmadorji, and Huangchojia. 1995. "Mountain Gods and Trance Mediums: A Qinghai Tibetan Summer Festival." In Asian Folklore Studies 54(2), pp. 219-237.

Stuart, Kevin and Dpal-ldan-bkra-shis. 1998. "Perilous Novelties: The A-mdo Tibetan klu-rol Festival in Gling-rgyal Village." In Anthropos 93, pp. 31-53.

Waddell, L. A. 1895. "The Tibetan House-Demon." In Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 24, pp. 39-41.

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Tibetan Deity Cults in History and Texts

An effective approach to Tibetan deity studies has been an historical one structured with textual evidence. The following sources illustrate this methodology and are thus excellent templates for future studies with regards to diachronic perspectives. Notable sources are Cuevas 2003, which explores the famous Tibetan text the Great Liberation upon Hearing in the Intermediate State (bar do thos grol chen mo) and its derivation from a much larger body of texts focused on peaceful and wrathful deities, and Mills 2003, which explores the complex (and often ignored) relationship between monasticism, cosmology, deities, oracles, and local practices (though in a specifically Geluk monastic context). Martin 1996a is also a good exploration of a specific historical instance where popular religious movements associated with a certain deity were historiographically ignored as part of the effort by the validating power to challenge and eventually reject their legitimacy.

Cuevas, Bryan. 2003. The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Davidson, Ronald M. 2003. "Reflections on the Maheśvara subjugation myth: Indic materials, Sa-skya-pa apologetics, and the birth of Heruka." In History of Tibet, vol. 2. Alex McKay, ed. London: RoutledgeCurzon, pp. 206-232.

Karmay, Samten G. 1988. Secret Visions of the Fifth Dalai Lama. London: Serindia Publications.

Lohia, Sushama. 1994. Lalitavajra's Manual of Buddhist Iconography. Śata-Piṭaka Series: Indo-Asian Literatures, vol. 379. New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan.

Martin, Dan. 1996a. "The Star King and the Four Children of Pehar: Popular Religious Movements of 11th-to 12th-century Tibet." In Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 49(1-2), pp. 171-195.

—. 1996b. "Lay Religious Movements in 11th- and 12th-Century Tibet: A Survey of Sources." In Kailash 18(3-4), pp. 23-55.

Mayer, Robert. 1996. A Scripture of the Ancient Tantra Collection: The Phur-pa bcu-gnyis. Oxford: Kiscadale.

Mills, Martin. 2003. Identity, Ritual, and State in Tibetan Buddhism: The Foundations of Authority in Gelukpa Monasticism. London: RoutledgeCurzon.

Phillips, Bradford. 2004. "Consummation and Compassion in Medieval Tibet: The Maṇi bka'-'bum chen-mo of Guru Chos-kyi dbang-phyug." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia Department of Religious Studies.

Studholme, Alexander. 2002. The Origins of Oṃ Maṇipadme Hūṃ: A Survey of the Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra. Albany: SUNY Press.

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Bön Deity Cults

The Bön religion of Tibet is intimately tied to Tibetan Buddhism. It is complicated by the fact that it is difficult to assess where exactly Bön ends and Tibetan Buddhism begins, or vice versa. There are a number of similarities between the two traditions, one of which being deity cults. Given the limited scholarship that exists on Tibetan Buddhist deity cults, there is even less regarding Bön. Nonetheless, Bön is an important tradition of Tibet and it deserves a great deal more attention. Likewise, gods, demons, and protector deities in Bön also deserve more attention, and this section lists the scant resources that exist concerning Bön deity cults.

Achard, Jean-Luc. 2003. "Contribution aux nombrables de la tradition Bon po: L'Appendice de bsTan 'dzin Rin chen rgyal mtshan à la Sphère de Cristal des Dieux et des Démons de Shar rdza rin po che." In Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines: numéro quatre — Octobre 2003. Jean-Luc Achard, ed. Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, pp. 78-146.

Blezer, Henk. 2004. "The 'Bon' dBal-mo Nyer-bdun (/brgyad) and the Buddhist dBang-phyug-ma Nyer-brgyad: A Brief Comparison." In New Horizons in Bon Studies. Samten G. Karmay and Yasuhiko Nagano, eds. Delhi: Saujanya Publications, pp. 117-178.

Karmay, Samten G. 1998. "The Appearance of the Little Black-headed Man." In The Arrow and the Spindle: Studies in History, Myths, Rituals and Beliefs in Tibet. Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point, pp. 245-281.

Karmay, Samten G. 2004. "A Comparative Study of the yul lha Cult in Two Areas and its Cosmological Aspects." In New Horizons in Bon Studies. Samten G. Karmay and Yasuhiko Nagano, eds. Delhi: Saujanya Publications, pp. 383-413.

Kvaerne, Per. 1996. The Bon Religion of Tibet: The Iconography of a Living Tradition. Boston: Shambhala.

Mori, Masahide. 2004. "The Bon Deities Depicted in the Wall Paintings in the Bon-brgya Monastery." In New Horizons in Bon Studies. Samten G. Karmay and Yasuhiko Nagano, eds. Delhi: Saujanya Publications, pp. 509-549.

Nagano, Sadako. 2004. "Sacrifice and lha pa in the glu rol Festival of Reb-skong." In New Horizons in Bon Studies. Samten G. Karmay and Yasuhiko Nagano, eds. Delhi: Saujanya Publications, pp. 567-649.

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Brief Discussions of Tibetan Deity Cults in Broader Resources

This list of resources illustrates what one will commonly discover when searching for sources on Tibetan deities. Beyond the explicit sources listed above, the majority of discussions about deities is usually found as a subsection of much broader treatments of Tibetan religions. What's more, this discussion tends to be secondary to the central focus often given to Tibetan monasticism, philosophy, and scholastic or textual history. Beyond those Tibetan texts provided or translations of such (Blo bzang 1982, Gyaltsen 1996, Sørensen 1994, Wangdu and Diemberger 2000), none of these sources give a great deal of attention to Tibetan deities and their cults, but they are good, at times cogent, brief introductions in English. The two exceptions are Kapstein 2000 and Mumford 1989, both of which give adequate theoretical attention to deity cults regardless of the broader focus of their works. Except for de Nebesky-Wojkowitz's Oracles and Demons of Tibet, it is through these resources that most will have been introduced to Tibetan deities. Stein 1972 and Tucci 1988 are particularly telling in that both have relegated Tibetan deities to the purview of an almost separate folk religion, distinct from the (seemingly more Buddhist) elements of monasticism. A subtle acceptance of this trend is noticeable in several of the other works cited below as well.

Aris, Michael. 1979. Bhutan: The Early History of a Himalayan Kingdom. Warminster: Aris & Phillips Ltd., pp. 8-24.

Blo bzang tshe ring, ed. 1982. Bdud rtsi snying po yan lag brgyad pa gsang ba man ngag gi rgyud ces bya ba bzhugs so. Lhasa: Bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang.

Davidson, Ronald. 2005. Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 217-224.

Edou, Jérôme. 1996. Machig Labdrön and the Foundations of Chöd. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, pp. 57-77.

Gyaltsen, Sakyapa Sonam. 1996. The Clear Mirror: A Traditional Account of Tibet's Golden Age. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, pp. 52-79, 111-117, 163-187, 230-249.

Ḥaarh, Erik. 1969. The Yar-luṅ Dynasty. København: G. E. C. Gad’s Forlag, pp. 231-288.

Kapstein, Matthew. 2000. The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation, and Memory. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 141-177.

Klong rdol Ngag dbang blo bzang. 1991. Bstan srung dam can rgya mtsho’i mtshan tho. In Klong rdol ngag dbang blo bzang gi gsung ’bum, vol. 2. Lhasa: Bod ljongs bod yig dpe rnying dpe skrun khang, pp. 461-493.

Mills, Martin A. 2003. Identity, Ritual and State in Tibetan Buddhism: The Foundations of Authority in Gelukpa Monasticism. London: RoutledgeCurzon, pp. 176-205, 235-262.

Mumford, Stan. 1989. Himalayan Dialogue: Tibetan Lamas and Gurung Shamans in Nepal. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, pp. 63-164.

Samuel, Geoffrey. 1993. Civilized Shamans. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. 233-236, 244-257, 265-269, 291-294.

Sørensen, Per K. 1994. Tibetan Buddhist Historiography: The Mirror Illuminating the Royal Genealogies, An Annotated Translation of the XIVth Century Tibetan Chronicle: rGyal-rabs gsal-ba’i me-long. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 95-133, 187-195, 251-297, 358-403.

Stein, R. A. 1972. Tibetan Civilization. Stanford: Stanford University Press, pp. 164-229.

Tucci, Giuseppe. [1970] 1988. The Religions of Tibet. Geoffrey Samuel, trans. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 163-212.

—. [1949] 1999. Tibetan Painted Scrolls, 3 vols. Bangkok: SDI Publications, pp. 713-742.

Waddell, L.A. [1893] 1973. Lamaism in Sikhim. Delhi: Oriental Publishers, pp. 93-177.

Wangdu, Pasang and Hildegard Diemberger, trans. 2000. dBa’ bzhed: The Royal Narrative Concerning the Bringing of the Buddha’s Doctrine to Tibet. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

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External Studies related to Deity Cults

To provide a fuller scope of deity cults, it is necessary to at least begin to explore how deities are approached in the scholarship of other related cultures. The following sources are a sample of such, ranging mainly from China to India, two of the most historically important neighbors of Tibet. It is specifically with an eye toward potentially untapped methodological approaches that these texts are cited. One notable source is Teeuwen and Rambelli 2003, which actually explores Japanese deity cults and offers a collection of articles that work toward a very sound methodological approach to the assimilation of Buddhist and indigenous deity cults in Japan that could posibly be reworked and applied to the Tibetan context.

Bhattacharyya, Narendra. 2000. Indian Demonology: The Inverted Pantheon. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers.

Cohen, Richard S. 1998. "Nāga, Yakṣiṇī, Buddha: Local Deities and Local Buddhism at Ajanta." In History of Religions 37(4), pp. 360-400.

DeCaroli, Robert Daniel. 1999. "Haunting the Buddha: The Influence of Indian Spirit Religions on the Formation of Buddhism." Ph.D. dissertation, University of California.

Elliott, Alan. 1955. Chinese Spirit-Medium Cults in Singapore. Norwich: Jarrold and Sons LTD.

Gombrich, Richard and Gananath Obeyesekere. 1988. Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Kleeman, Terry. 1994. "Mountain Deities in China: The Domestication of the Mountain God and the Subjugation of the Margins." In Journal of the American Oriental Society 114(2), pp. 226-238.

Sutherland, Gail Hinich. 1991. The Disguises of the Demon: The Development of the Yakṣa in Hinduism and Buddhism. Albany, SUNY Press.

Teeuwen, Mark and Fabio Rambelli, eds. 2003. Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm. London: RoutledgeCurzon.

von Glahn, Richard. 2004. The Sinister Way: The Divine and the Demonic in Chinese Religious Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Also see Alison Melnick's Dakinis Bibliography.

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