Week 4

Week 4: The Ancients (Nyingma) & Treasure Tradition


Imaginal Tibet I: The cult of Padmasambhava cult and snga ‘gyur, Scriptural Authenticity, Canons and Revelatory Practices (Ter). To look in detail at the way in which Tibetans during the renaissance period formed the imaginal worlds in which they lived via narrative rewriting of their past and other means. In this week, we will focus on this process as it relates tot he Cult of Padmasambhava in particular, and thus also be addressing the issue of treasures (gter, “ter”) in the context of canon and revelation in Buddhism, as well as lay tantric lineages. The Renaissance cult of gTer, scriptural authenticity & production, channeling voices, visionary logic and the Great Guru Padmasambhava. This seminar focuses on the cult of Padmasambhava, the associated treasure (gter) movement of revealed scriptures, and the broader Buddhist issue of producing scriptures in the voice of a Buddha.

Not just narratives – temple construction (zang mdogs dpal ri), statues and murals, festivals (tseh bcu, dakini day), calendar, ritual evocations, etc. But also not just about past, because Padmasambhava and other cast (king, yeshe tshogyel, disciplines, dakinis) are seen as contemporary agents via manifestation from other realms (pure lands, non-material dimenions), possession, reincarnation, visionary memories of past, visions in general, ritual evocations, statues understood and experienced as living animated agents, etc. Nyang ral: raised public profile of gter ma phenomena, and also created imaginal Tibet. Thematize issue of Buddhism as religion of continuing revelation. Issue of “open/closed” canon

Required Readings

Blue Annals Fragment #3: A Section on the Earlier Translations of Secret Mantra ; Dum bu #3 (135-252): gsang sngags snga 'gyur gyi skabs; Blue Annals. Selections concerning treasure finders.

external link: Gyatso, Janet (1986). "Signs, Memory and History: A Tantric Buddhist Theory of Scriptural Transmission" in The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, volume 9, number 2, pp. 7-35. On e-reserve Toolkit for RELB 549 Fall 2000.

external link: Gyatso, Janet (1993). "The Logic of Legitimation in the Tibetan Treasure Tradition" in History of Religions, volume 33, number 2, pp. 97-134. On e-reserve Toolkit for RELB 549 Fall 2000.

Davidson, Tibetan Renaissance, Chapter 6: Treasure Text, the Imperial Legacy and the Great Perfection (273-324)

Kapstein, Matthew (2000). The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation and Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Ch. 8 The Imaginal Persistence of the Empire (141-162)

Additional Bibliographical Resources

  • Additional Bibliography - Tibetan/Buddhist studies Week 4
  • Terma Bibliography
  • Kapstein, Matthew (2000). The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation and Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ("Chapter 9: Samantabhadra and Rudra: Myths of Innate Enlightenment and Radical Evil" (163-177). Formerly, Kapstein, Matthew (1992). "Samantabhadra and Rudra: Innate Enlightenment and Radical Evil in Tibetan Rnying-ma-pa Buddhism". Previously In Discourse and Practice, edited by David Tracy, 51-82. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Weekly Student Generated Content

Discussion Questions