Tibetan Rituals of Death: Buddhist Funerary Practices

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Routledge, Sep 10, 2012 - Political Science - 208 pages
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This book describes and analyses the structure and performance of Tibetan Buddhist death rituals, and situates that performance within the wider context of Buddhist death practices generally. Drawing on a detailed and systematic comparative survey of existing records of Tibetan funerary practices, including historical travel accounts, anthropological and ethnographic literature, Tibetan texts and academic studies, it demonstrates that there is no standard form of funeral in Tibetan Buddhism, although certain elements are common.

The structure of the book follows the twin trajectories of benefiting the deceased and protecting survivors; in the process, it reveals a rich and complex panoply of activities, some handled by religious professionals and others by lay persons. This information is examined to identify similarities and differences in practices, and the degree to which Tibetan Buddhist funeral practices are consistent with the mortuary rituals of other forms of Buddhism. A number of elements in these death rites which at first appear to be unique to Tibetan Buddhism may only be ‘Tibetan’ in their surface characteristics, while having roots in practices which pre-date the transmission of Buddhism to Tibet.

Filling a gap in the existing literature on Tibetan Buddhism, this book poses research challenges that will engage future scholars in the field of Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism and Anthropology.

 

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Contents

1 Introduction
1
2 The sources
5
3 Before death
12
4 Immediately after death
15
5 Disposal of the body
46
6 Special cases
80
7 Postdisposal rituals of benefit and protection
96
8 Remembering the deceased
130
9 Conclusion
134
Notes
138
Glossary
162
Bibliography
165
Index
177
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About the author (2012)

Margaret Gouin received her doctorate in Tibetan Buddhist studies from the University of Bristol and is now an independent scholar. Her current areas of interest are dying and death in Buddhist practice, the adaptation and evolution of Buddhism in the West, and research methodology.

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