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Tibetan Studies Internet Newsletter

Vol. 3, #1

August 2003

 

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Published by The Center for Research on Tibet

Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA

Melvyn C. Goldstein, Director

 

Compiled and Edited by Melvyn C. Goldstein

 

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Contents:

 

Editor's comment

I. New Publications

II.  Websites and collections

III.  New Dissertations

 

           

 

 

 

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I. NEW PUBLICATIONS:

 

1. Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison. The CIA’s Secret War in Tibet. U. of Kansas Press, 2002.

 

2. Thomas Laird.  Into Tibet: The CIA’s First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa. N.Y. Grove Press, 2002.

 

3. Ann Frechette. Tibetans in Nepal: The Dynamics of International Assistance Among a Community in Exile. Berghahn Books, 2002.

 

4. F. Pommaret (ed.) Lhasa in the Seventeenth Century:  the capital of the Dalai-Lamas.

Tibetan Studies Library, Brill, Leiden-Boston, 2003.

ISBN 90 04 12866 2

 

            Before 1642, Lhasa was a small town, renowned for its Jokhang temple and the three large Gelukpa monasteries built nearby in the 15th century, but it had neither the status nor the fame of a capital.  The political victory of the Gelukpa changed its destiny and it was through the will of the Fifth Dalai

Lama that Lhasa became the centre of the Tibetan world, with its influence reaching as far away as Mongolia and Ladakh.  The small town was transformed into a capital adorned with prestigious monuments, of which the Potala Palace was the focus and the symbol. 

 

            This book, based on Tibetan and Western sources and written by specialists,  provides a fascinating study of the history of Lhasa against  the background of the triangular  relations Tibetans-Mongols-Manchus.  The articles explore the different facets of the historical, political and cultural context  of

the 17th century Lhasa and finally allow the reader to understand Lhasa in the contemporary Chinese framework.

 

 

II. WEBSITES AND COLLECTIONS:

 

1. News from the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology (NIT), Gangtok, Sikkim

 

Since its establishment in 1958, the NIT has sponsored and promoted research on the religion, history, language, art and culture of the people of the Tibetan cultural area which includes Sikkim. The NIT's library holds one of the largest collection of Tibetan works in the world outside Tibet and a museum of Tibetan iconography and religious art. It has published the Bulletin of Tibetology since 1964 and numerous books over the years.

 

The site on which the institute was established was donated by the late Chogyal (king) of Sikkim Sir Tashi Namgyal in memory of his departed son Paljor Namgyal. The foundation stone of the institute was laid by the 14th Dalai Lama on the 10th of February 1957 and the institute was declared open by the late Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on the 1st of October 1958. The building of the institute is an imposing monument and a splendid example of Sikkimese architecture.

 

In the summer of 2002, the NIT's new director, Mr. Tashi Densapa, has undertaken to expand the institute, restructure its research wing and open its doors to international collaboration. This will be done through the creation of new research programs, monthly lecture series, seminars, language classes, fellowship programs, publications and collaboration with foreign scholars. It is hoped that the institute will actively promote Tibetan studies, including its sub-field of Sikkimese studies, and become a dynamic research centre in the Eastern Himalayas. In order to help him achieve this, Mr Densapa has appointed Tashi Tsering (Amnye Machen Institute, Dharamsala) as part-time Consultant and Anna Balikci Denjongpa (PhD London) as Research-Coordinator.

 

From its publication department, the NIT has decided to translate and publish some of its rare manuscripts, histories of Sikkim and sacred guide-books in order to make them available to a larger public.  Among its new research programs, the NIT's Research Officers have undertaken a project to document the social history of Sikkim's 60-odd monasteries in order to publish an illustrated book on the subject. A second project proposes to locate, digitalize and document old and rare photographs of Sikkim, both in India and abroad. The aim is to create a digital image bank at the NIT and organize a permanent photographic exhibition. The NIT is also establishing a visual anthropology project in order to produce an enduring digital record of Sikkim's vanishing indigenous and Buddhist cultures.

 

An international inter-disciplinary seminar on Sikkim will be held at the institute towards the end of 2003 in honour of famous Sikkimese scholars in Tibetan studies. Scholars interested to participate should contact the NIT on: nitsikkim@yahoo.co.in. It is hoped that the seminar will generate interest in Sikkimese studies and facilitate the establishment of an international association for Sikkimese studies based at the institute.

 

The NIT will soon undergo a general expansion of its infrastructure and facilities. The construction of a new building which will house a library, study rooms, a conference hall, studios and an administrative wing is to begin before the end of the year. A grant to modernize the NIT's exhibition hall has been approved by the American International Centre, India.

 

The NIT’s new web-site www.tibetology.com is still under construction but please visit the site for further information about the institute and its activities in the future.

 

 

2.  The Himalayan Page http://himalaya.pagina.nl/ has an English mirror site at: http://himalaya.start4all.com/

 

 

3. The Center for Research on Tibet has expanded its content on Tibetan society. In particular, it is developing an extensive section on Tibetan pastoralism and related topics. See: http://www.cwru.edu/affil/tibet/. Scholars who wish to add their own articles, reports or out-of-print books on Tibetan nomads should contact the Center.

 

 

4. NEW from the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center.

 

 

 

III. NEW DISSERTATIONS:

 

1. Hess, Julia Meredith. “Stateless citizens: Culture, nation and identity in the expanding Tibetan diaspora," THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO, 2003, Ph.D.

 

Abstract

 

The Tibetan diaspora has expanded dramatically in North America since the passage of the 1990 Immigration Act. The act included legislation that allowed 1,000 Tibetans living in South Asia (India and Nepal) to resettle in the U.S. with immigrant visas. The dissertation examines this migratory movement and the attendant transformations in expressions of Tibetan identity in diaspora. Part One of the dissertation places the expansion of the diaspora in historical and geopolitical context, exploring the range of state policies that have impacted diasporic Tibetans. I discuss discourses deployed by the Tibetan government-in-exile (a non-state) to articulate the "Tibet issue" in an international arena composed of states. In particular, I examine the slippage between "culture" and "nation" employed by the government-in-exile and Tibetans in general. Discourses about Tibetan identity, culture and nation intersect with state policy in the production of diaspora consciousness which characterizes Tibetan exile identity. Part Two of the dissertation examines the establishment, organization and responses to the Tibetan-U.S. Resettlement Project (TUSRP) when it began in the early 1990s. I divide the majority of responses to the TUSRP into three categories--the impact on the future of the political movement to gain some measure of autonomy or independence for Tibet, the economic impact of increased migration, and concerns about culture preservation and loss. Part Three of the dissertation, "Tibetans in the United States," focuses primarily on data collected in the New Mexico "cluster site" of the TUSRP. Tibetans resettled in the U.S. with a perspective on Tibetan identity and culture shaped by formalized schooling in South Asia that steeped them in modernist perspectives of "nation" and "progress." Tibetan nationalist ideology serves as a strong foundation for their identity as members of a diasporic community. Migration to the West is conceptualized as a patriotic act, enabling individuals to better support the Tibetan cause. Tibetan youth are developing a "cosmopolitan" outlook that emphasizes political activism, global awareness and transnational mobility. Yet, both adults and children express concerns and hopes about the impact of U.S. resettlement on Tibetan identity in the years to come.

 

 

2. Jorden, Ngawang. "Buddha-nature: Through the eyes of Go rams pa Bsod nams seng ge in fifteenth-century Tibet," HARVARD UNIVERSITY, 2003, Ph.D.

 

Abstract

 

This dissertation explores the evolving interpretation and understanding of the Buddha-nature in Fifteenth-Century Tibet, through the eyes of Go rams pa Bsod nams seng ge (1429-1489), a prominent scholar of the Sa skya school of Tibetan Buddhism. The previous work of European and American scholars in this field have led to our general understanding of Buddha-nature as an innate potential for enlightenment that lies within all sentient beings. The concept of Buddha-nature provides the primary answer to a question with which all Mahäyänists have been philosophically concerned, throughout history: are all sentient beings capable of attaining Buddhahood? The Mahäyäna, more specifically, Madhyamaka theory of Buddha-nature answers the question unequivocally: "Since all sentient beings possess Buddha-nature they are guaranteed to achieve the state of Buddhahood." This research has been mostly limited to the interpretations of Indian and Chinese texts and to a study of only certain Tibetan schools. This dissertation seeks to fill the gap in present scholarship by analyzing the systematic thought of Go rams pa, who set out to provide a critical analysis, explain the internal coherence, and map out the organization of diverse Indian and Tibetan interpretations of this complex idea. I demonstrate in two fundamental ways that Go rams pa developed an unique view of Buddha-nature in two ways: First, I explore the facts Go rams pa's interpretation of Buddha-nature that contribute to his unique perspective. Second, I analyze his opponents' views on the subject thereby illuminating its distinctive features in an historical context. Throughout this study, I deploy a comparative apparatus considering the different views that Go rams pa thought was wrong. Given this fifteenth-century debate, we realize that the understanding of Buddha-nature is subtle and complicated; yet this study is vital to explicate its implications. I conclude that according to Go rams pa, Buddha-nature is to be understood as unity of the emptiness of the mind and clarity which is the nature of mind.

 

3. Sumegi, Angela. "Dreams of wonder, dreams of deception: Tension and resolution between Buddhism and shamanism in Tibetan culture," UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA (CANADA), 2003, Ph.D.

 

Abstract

 

This study explores the nature of dreams and dreaming in shamanism and Buddhism. It focuses on the specific case of Tibet where the indigenous layer of religious beliefs and practices has been dominated by Buddhism but continues to emerge as a vital presence in the religious world-view of Tibet. The three major divisions in this study are concerned with (1) the shamanic world-view and attitude towards dream, (2) the ancient Indian world-view and the Buddhist approach to dream, and (3) the use and meaning of dreams and dreaming in Tibetan culture. With regard to Tibetan attitudes to dream, it will be shown that conflicting statements and views expressing, on the one hand, the value of dream as a vehicle of prophecy and knowledge and, on the other, dismissing the world of dream as the ultra-illusions of an illusory world were present in the Indian Buddhist tradition that entered Tibet. However, in the Tibetan context, dream comes to play a heightened role in Buddhist religious life as a method of authenticating spiritual status and as a path to liberation. The Tibetan attitude toward dream is shown to encompass earlier contradictions, but also to involve an additional tension arising out of the Buddhist competition with, and eventual hegemony over, indigenous religious systems that also use dream to transmit and validate knowledge and religious power. These tensions are reflected in conflicting statements over dream that appear in Tibetan literature. Resolution and harmony, however, are possible because of a concept of interdependency and interconnectedness that is fundamental to both shamanism and Buddhism. I have proposed that the conflicting views on dream in Tibetan literature reflect a much more complex situation than is expressed in assigning the differing views to the categories of "popular" and "elite", and I have provided an alternate model for understanding the contradictory attitudes to dream in Tibetan Buddhism.

 

4. An, Lulu. "Media portrayals and the Dalai Lama image: A fantasy theme analysis," CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, FULLERTON, 2002, MA.

 

Abstract

 

This study is qualitative research using fantasy theme analysis to find out how media portray the Dalai Lama, and what fantasy themes contribute to his popularity in the U.S. Content analysis was conducted on the news reports of the Dalai Lama in the case study tradition. News reports in three U.S. major newspapers - The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post - during a six-year span from January 1, 1996 to December 31, 2001 were analyzed for the presence of fantasy themes. A Chinese newspaper People's Daily and three U.S. movies Kundun, Seven Years in Tibet, and Red Corner were examined for corresponding themes. Fantasy types emerge from the media portrayals and form the rhetorical social reality of the Dalai Lama accordingly. The study contributes to the body of literature on Symbolic Convergence Theory, media influence, and individual image building.

 

5. Dalton, Jacob Paul. "The uses of the dgongs pa 'dus pa'i mdo in the development of the Rnying-ma school of Tibetan Buddhism (China)," UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, 2002, Ph.D.

 

Abstract

 

The Sütra of the Gathered Intentions of All the Buddhas (Tib. Sangs rgyas thams cad dgongs pa 'dus pa'i mdo) is a canonical work recognized by both western scholars and today's Rnying-ma-pa as the fundamental tantra of the anuyoga class of teachings. Apart from this simple fact, however, it remains almost completely unknown. This dissertation traces the life of the Sütra from its ninth century origin through the present day. Each chapter examines, in chronological order, how the Sütra was used in a series of arenas. What emerges is an alternative history of the Rnying-ma school, one in which the Sütra plays a vital role. Chapter One argues that the Sütra, through a variety of interwoven strategies, provided Tibetans with a comprehensive system for organizing the flood of Buddhist teachings arriving from India. Chapter Two follows the Sütra into the twelfth century, when it was used in the codification of a new "Spoken Teachings" (bka' ma) curriculum for Kah-thog monastery in eastern Tibet. Chapter Three looks at how, upon entering the canon, the Sütra became less an active teaching system than an icon, worshipped only through its elaborate empowerment ritual. Chapter Four focuses on how, in the politically tumultuous years of the seventeenth century, a new lineage was constructed at Rdo-rje Brag monastery to replace the two already existing. Chapter Five looks at the Sütra 's role in the project carried out at Smin-grol-gling monastery at the turn of the eighteenth century to reformulate the Rnying-ma school through large-scale public rituals. Chapter Six reviews several attempts over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to revive or preserve the practice and study of the Sütra. Chapter Seven considers how a text that has been so influential in the formation of the Rnying-ma school could have become invisible to the modern observer.

6. Hillis, Gregory Alexander. "The rhetoric of naturalness: A critical study of the gNas Lugs mdzod," UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, 2002, Ph.D.

 

Abstract

 

Religious discourse, like other forms of discourse, is never fully separated from its social, political, as historical contexts. It may be that each of these forms of discourse is mutually constitutive of the others and represents an intersection of, or dialogue between, different, and often competing, discourses and vocabularies. Religious rhetoric is ubiquitous throughout almost all other forms of cultural discourse, and it should be clear to even the casual observer that religious ideas and beliefs are often used in pursuit of other, not necessarily related, personal, social and political agendas. The Treasury of Abiding Reality (gNas Lugs mdzod) represents the intersection of several religious, philosophical, historical, biographical, political, and even legal discourses. It also may well represent the culmination of its author Longchenpa's mature thought, as it was likely his last major work. The Treasury of Abiding Reality is thus informed by a lifetime of experience, conflict, and reflection. The present thesis argues that in it, these various currents crystallize for a moment before moving on. Using rhetoric as its principal interpretive rubric, the thesis addresses various questions not often raised in a strictly philosophical textual interpretation. In addition to being a presentation of a philosophical position, the distinctive "rhetoric of naturalness" articulated by Longchenpa and other followers of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism is a response to contemporaneous social, political and cultural trends. Moreover, elements found in The Treasury of Abiding Reality derive from specific details of Longchenpa's biography. Using historical and literary critical methods, the thesis interprets the bold, often paradoxical, language used in The Treasury of Abiding Reality as an instantiation of the broader social, political and religious conflicts in Tibet at that time.

 

7. Li, Ruohong. "A Tibetan aristocratic family in eighteenth-century Tibet: A study of Qing-Tibetan contact (China)," HARVARD UNIVERSITY, 2002, Ph.D.

 

Abstract

 

This dissertation is a case study on the Manchu Qing-Tibetan contacts during the eighteenth century by investigating the precarious political career of one of the most eminent Tibetan aristocratic families in central Tibet, the Rdo ring (or Dga' bzhi) family. Drawing upon multi-lingual first-hand sources, mainly Rdo ring Bstan 'dzin dpal 'byor's autobiography, this research intends to shed new light on the connections between Tibetan lay aristocrats and Qing officials on the official as well as personal level. Utilizing the current research trend of micro-historical approach, the Rdo ring family's political career in four generations will be put into the context of eighteen-century Qing and Tibetan politics and the change of Qing court policy in ruling Tibet. The rise and fall of the Rdo ring family throughout the eighteenth century reflects the change of Qing Tibetan policy. The Rdo ring family emerged as eminent Tibetan aristocrats as a result of the Qing's early pro-lay aristocracy policy following the Dzungar incursion to Tibet and Tibetan civil war. The ascent of the family political power was greatly attributed to the strong tie that Pho lha nas had with the Qing court. In the late eighteenth century, the downturn of the Rdo ring family's political power signaled serious and fundamental problems in Qing Tibetan policy. Lay aristocracy failed the court; the Dalai Lama's dominant power both in the political and religious realms cannot ensure a balanced power structure, and regency was not reliable in face of chaotic situation. The Qing court was left with no other choices but to turn to its own ambans. This research concludes that the ultimate failure of Qing Tibetan policy resulted from the temporary and opportunistic features of the policies themselves, the inefficiency of the amban system and the decline of the Qing empire as a whole that started from the late eighteenth century. The Qing suzerainty over Tibet was largely wishful thinking. Deeply troubled by the overall imperial administrative laxity and socioeconomic disturbances in all aspects, Tibet was left out of the major picture of the Qing empire in the post-Qian long era. The decline of the Rdo ring family epitomizes the Qing-Tibetan contacts and the change of the Qing Tibetan policy in the eighteenth century.

 

8. Schiaffini-Vedani, Patricia. "Tashi Dawa: Magical realism and contested identity in modern Tibet (China)," UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, 2002, Ph.D.

 

Abstract

 

This dissertation focuses on the writer Tashi Dawa, who in the 1980s became the most famous Tibetan writer in China, and one of the most controversial figures associated with modern Tibet. The controversy surrounding Tashi Dawa revolves around his half-Tibetan half-Han ethnic background, his writings in Chinese language and his use of a magical realistic style. The very few studies about his works tend to interpret them in opposite terms: some affirm his stories portray Tibetan traditions in order to oppose the Chinese domination of Tibet, while others accuse them of misrepresenting Tibetan culture to satisfy the Chinese taste for the exotic. This dissertation addresses relevant topics neglected by previous scholarship, such as an in-depth study of Tashi Dawa's early realistic works, and what his progression from realism to magical realism tells us about his ethnic transition from being regarded as a Han to being regarded as a Tibetan. Contrary to the generalized assumption that Tashi Dawa's magical realism is based on the author's imitation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, this dissertation explains the origins of his writing style in terms of his culturally hybrid identity. Through the analysis of Tashi Dawa's magical realistic works and a comparison of his life and ideas with those of other magical realistic writers, this study defends that Tashi Dawa arrived to magical realism as a result of a common process experienced by other culturally hybrid writers all over the world. Tashi Dawa, like these writers, rediscovered his native land after being educated under the culture of the colonizer and, he also wanted to find literary alternatives to the dominant (socialist) realism. Finally, this dissertation also explores how the controversy surrounding Tashi Dawa relates to the debate about Tibet's right to independence, and how this political and ethnic conflict affects the literature produced in Tibet and the ways in which scholars approach it.

 

9. Tuttle, Gray Warren. "Faith and nation: Tibetan Buddhists in the making of modern China (1902--1958)," HARVARD UNIVERSITY, 2002, Ph.D.

 

Abstract

 

In the present work, I analyze one aspect of how the dynastic Qing empire became the modern Chinese nation-state through the effort to include Tibet as part of the new China. In so doing, I offer insights into the impact of the global forces of nationalism, race, and religion on social organization in East Asia. The territory of East Asia's largest empire, the Qing dynasty, has largely been preserved in the nation-state of the People's Republic of China. In the case of Tibet, the rhetoric of nationalism and racial unity proved largely powerless to effect this transition. Instead, religion served as the pan-Asian link between the social organization of the dynastic empire and the nation state. I examine Tibet's inclusion as part of how contemporary China defines itself in order to demonstrate the crucial role that Buddhists played in China's transition from a dynastic empire to a nation-state. I also explore the nexus of religion and nation and argue that religion cannot merely be associated with "tradition" that is ultimately displaced by "modernity" in the form of the nation. My findings demonstrate that within the context of the modern nation-state religious traditions are readily adopted and adapted by both state actors and members of religious institutions to advance their respective interests. The central thesis of my dissertation is that Buddhism was the key factor in maintaining a tenuous link between China and Tibet during the Republican period (1912-1949), a link that the Communists preserved when exerting control over Tibet by force in the 1950s. For this reason, I argue that Buddhist religious culture played an essential role in the formation of the modern Chinese nation-state. The majority of this dissertation is devoted to understanding the efforts of Buddhists and politicians to integrate Buddhist culture and modern Chinese politics. I have combined the methodologies of historical analysis of specific cases of religious, educational, and political interaction with a comparison across time of the changing or continuing nature of these relations. These methodologies have allowed me to demonstrate the effect of nationalist and racial ideology and new conceptions of what it meant to be Buddhist on twentieth century Sino-Tibetan interaction.