The Navel of the Demoness: Tibetan Buddhism and Civil Religion in Highland Nepal

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Oxford University Press, Dec 10, 2007 - Religion - 408 pages
This groundbreaking study focuses on a village called Te in a "Tibetanized" region of northern Nepal. While Te's people are nominally Buddhist, and engage the services of resident Tibetan Tantric priests for a range of rituals, they are also exponents of a local religion that involves blood sacrifices to wild, unconverted territorial gods and goddesses. The village is unusual in the extent to which it has maintained its local autonomy and also in the degree to which both Buddhism and the cults of local gods have been subordinated to the pragmatic demands of the village community. Charles Ramble draws on extensive fieldwork, as well as 300 years' worth of local historical archives (in Tibetan and Nepali), to re-examine the subject of confrontation between Buddhism and indigenous popular traditions in the Tibetan cultural sphere. He argues that Buddhist ritual and sacrificial cults are just two elements in a complex system of self-government that has evolved over the centuries and has developed the character of a civil religion. This civil religion, he shows, is remarkably well adapted to the preservation of the community against the constant threats posed by external attack and the self-interest of its own members. The beliefs and practices of the local popular religion, a highly developed legal tradition, and a form of government that is both democratic and accountable to its people all these are shown to have developed to promote survival in the face of past and present dangers. Ramble's account of how both secular and religious institutions serve as the building blocks of civil society opens up vistas with important implications for Tibetan culture as a whole.
 

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Contents

Introduction
3
1 The People of Mustang and Their History
23
2 Inside the Shöyul
43
3 Neighbours and Enemies
71
4 From Clans to Households in Te
99
5 The Encounter with Buddhism
147
6 The Wild Gods of Te
187
7 Buddhists or Pagans?
215
8 Agedness of Error
233
The Creation of a Collectivity
261
10 The Headmen of Te and the HeavenAppointed King
311
The Disenchantment of Te?
353
Notes
363
Bibliography
375
Index
385
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About the author (2007)

Charles Ramble is Lecturer in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, University of Oxford.

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