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R ED ISC O V E R IN G W E S T E R N TIB ET:
GONPA, CHORTEN AND THE CONTINUITY OF PRACTICE WITH A
TIBETAN BUDDHIST COMMUNITY IN THE INDIAN HIMALAYAE lizabeth A nne S tu tch b u ry
LIBRARYUNlVt£^ A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of The Australian National University July 1991 Except where otherwise acknowledged in the text, this thesis represents my own orginal research Elizabeth Anne Stutchbury Department of Anthropology Research School of Pacific Studies The Australian National University SE R u M P O C H g.
J2Jn p o c n e G u n d z c 9 R in p o c r» e and in iv Acknowledgements I wish to thank Drukchen Rinpoche for his encouragement to work with the Drukpa Kargyu lineage, and T'ukse Rinpoche for directing me to Apo Rinpoche Gonpa and Kardang Gonpa. Professor Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, Sogyal Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Jigme (Sh. Rinpoche) have all offered encouragement and advice which has been invaluable.
My thanks also to Se Rinpoche, Gegan Khyentse Gyatso, Ama-la and Thinley Choden, and everyone from Apo Rinpoche Gonpa, including fellow Australian Elizabeth Harper, whose skill as a linguist was greatly appreciated.
My gratitude to the people of Karzha, particularly the practitioners at Kardang Gonpa. The hospitality and guidance of Lama Paljor Lhaije is deeply appreciated.
My thanks are also extended to the Thakur family, who now reside in Rangri, for their hospitality and encouragement.
Other individuals who assisted me at various stages throughout the project and to whom thanks are extended include Karma Lodro Chopel, Pema Sherab, Gelek Gyatso and Ngawang Khedrup.
To John Alexander Temple Pirie, who supported me throughout the final period of writing, and my daughter, Erin Tara Stutchbury, who both balanced and demanded the discipline required in writing, my thanks.
Professor Michael Allen encouraged me to continue with anthropological studies after my under-graduate studies, directing me to the Research School of Pacific Studies at the Australian National University, where I undertook my doctoral studies, and the Himalaya. These directives are greatly appreciated.
Thanks are due to the Government of India, the Tribal Resource Centre of the Himachal Pradesh State Government, and the District Administration of Lahul, who gave permission for the research and offered me much appreciated assistance.
My gratitude to the Research School of Pacific Studies at the Australian National University for enabling me to carry out extensive research, and to the Australian Government for the Commonwealth Post-Graduate Research Award which supported my doctoral studies.
I appreciate the support of the staff in the Anthropology Department, R.S.Pac.S.
Particularly, I wish to thank Emeritus Professor Derek Freeman for his advice on
fieldwork methods, and my supervisory committee:
Professor Roger Keesing, for his administrative assistance both within the university and in India, and for his encouragement and confidance in my work;
Dr Gehan Wijeyewardene for his support and encouragement, particularly upon my return from the field;
Associate Professor Geoffrey Samuel of the Sociology Department at Newcastle University, who was appointed to my committee after my fieldwork, and whose extensive familiarity with Tibetan culture and society stimulated my assessment and analysis of my material.
The assistance of Michael Richards, Hamish Gregor and Helen Williams is also appreciated, as is the contibution of Sally Ward, who did the maps and drawings. There are several other individuals who have offered assistance, and while they are not named individually, they are nevertheless thanked.
Abstract The thesis studies the continuity and revitalisation of Tibetan Buddhism of the Drukpa Kargyu tradition in the district of Karzha in Lahul, Himachal Pradesh (India).
The study is centred on the religious community of Kardang Gonpa and on the associated village of Kardang.
Chapter 1 presents Karzha and Lahul as seen by the Indian administratration.
This 'external' description is further developed in Section I of the thesis, with the historical survey and presentation of the perspective of the outside observer. After this 'external' description, Section I introduces the 'internal' perspective, the sacred geography of Karzha Khandroling ('Karzha, Land of Dakinis'), and considers the relationship between the two perspectives.
Section II presents descriptions of the village, the households which make it up, and the cycle of agricultural and calendrical rituals which are performed there.
Attention then turns, in Chapter 5, to the gonpa and the links between its practitioners and the village households from which they come. The origins of the gonpa early this century, in a period of religious revitalisation stemming from the activity of the East Tibetan teacher, Shakya Shri (1853-1919), and his Karzhapa disciples, Kardangpa Norbu (1885-1947) and Kardangpa Kunga (18837-1967), are narrated.
A more recent period of revitalisation, associated with the ritual and teaching activities of Shakya Shri's refugee grandson, and continued after the latter's death by his teaching assistant, Gegan Khyentse Gyatso, and his son, Se Rinpoche, is explored in Section III. Chapter 7, which focuses on the building of a chorten (stupa) in Kardang village during the period of fieldwork, is both indicatative of this revitalisation and demonstrates the relationships between village and gonpa.
Section IV considers the stories told about the origins of Kardang Gonpa in the light both of stories about earlier religious teachers in Karzha, particularly the early Drukpa teacher Gotsangpa, and of the general Tibetan tradition of namthar or hagiography. Such narratives play a vital part in maintaining Karzhapa ways of thinking and behaving and so validate the continuity of the Drukpa Kargyu tradition of Buddhism, which allows the people of Kardang to respond in a positive and constructive way to processes of change, 'development' and incorporation into the
Pure Land o f the Lord Heruka, Place ofVajra and Ghanta, mountain o f Means and Wisdom, Gathering place o f viras and dakinis, Place for the faithful to gather the Two Kinds o f Virtue,, Mountain where the worldly can purify the Two Obscurations to Knowledge, Place where practitioners can increase their experience and insight, Place where hypocrites disappear in the wind.
Above the southern clouds float in the sky, And a gentle shower rains incessantly.
The mind is clarified here and confusion diminished.
Experience and insight are born in this place.
To the right and left are many kinds o f crops and In front the mandala is prepared with devotion.
Here in this central spot where the three valleys come together Is the place o f the triangle from which all phenomena originate.
The mountain to the right is like a pile o f jewels, The mountain to the left like the fierce deity King o f Wrath, The mountain in front like the Triangle o f Origin piled up, The mountain behind like a crouching lion.
Such is this best and most blessed place, An abode o f the siddhas o f the past, A place fo r Dharma practitioners to stay in the future.
In this threefold place the dakinis stay and make offerings, Best o f places fo r the achievement o f all Dharma activities.
As a holy place for all beings, may it long remain!
[Prayer by the Ladakhi saint Ngawang Tsering (1717-94) on visiting the holy mountain of Drilburi in Karzha. Life and Works o f 'Khrul-zig N o g dban-tshe-rin. Reproduced from a manuscript collection preserved at Rdzon-khul Monastery in Zans-dkar by Topden Tshering. Volume 2, Delhi 1975. (Cf. Nawang Tsering 1979:34-5.) xii Tibetan, Karzha and Sanskrit terms Tibetan words are given as pronounced in Karzha. They are underlined the first time they are used, with the Tibetan given in brackets following (italicised and in Wylie transcription). These words appear again in the Tibetan and Karzha Glossary. Karzha dialect words also appear underlined on first usage and are included in the Tibetan and Karzha Glossary. Sanskrit words are designated by ‘Skt.’ on first usage (except where now in common English use).
Diacritics are not m arked in the text, but these terms are included in the Sanskrit Glossary with correct diacritics.
Place names in Lahul are often confused with variant spellings, different names used in different dialects, and haphazard phonetic renderings. Peter, a Moravian missionary stationed in Ladakh between 1930-1940, has published an extensive list of place names for ‘W estern Tibet’, which includes Lahul, and a brief summary of its historical or cultural significance (Peter 1977). There has been no formalisation of spelling of many names, although as Peter observes, this would be useful.
‘Lahul,’ for instance is often rendered Lahaul or Lahoul, (and sounds like Lauhl) and frequently claimed to be a corruption of the Tibetan L ha yul, ‘country of Gods,’ or Lho yul, ‘southern country,’ although Tibetans and the people from the region do not commonly use the name Lahul, but rather Karzha (see Tobdan 1984:7-9). The capital is frequently rendered Keylong, though Kyelang, from the Tibetan Kye lang or Kye glang may be more appropriate.
Some names, such as ‘Karzha,’ have several different Tibetan spellings, because they are dialect words which have been approximated in Tibetan. For most names, a Tibetan equivalent is given on first usage and appears in the Tibetan and Karzha Glossary, although it seems that some of names are dialect words, rather than Tibetan.
Throughout the thesis I use the form of the name which seems to be in most common usage, noting variants if appropriate. For example, I use Rohtang, as the Indian administrators usually spell it, although the Tibetan is ro thang, and it is also anglicised to Rothang by some.
kardang oonpa (middle around) wi-th [)nlbumn bacXground (nQh+). Note fields 4 i e r r a c i n g, willow -frees reom gonpa, -fbe r e m n a n ts of- -/he once.
-fbre'sbs a nol -f/ Ov'OfOnche wails bailf ne behind -fhe oonpa.
1 Chapter One Introduction: Towards Historical Ethnography (or Making Ethnographic History!)...my radical conclusion [is] that all ethnography is fiction... (Leach, 1989:34).
Anthropologists have long been aware of the problems of objectivity in fieldwork, and increasingly concerned with the interpretation of data collected in the writing of ethnography, evidenced in several recently published volumes on ‘post-modern ethnography’, ‘the new ethnography’ or ‘the anthropology of experience’, to mention three voguish typifications of this now central concern (Bruner 1984a; Turner and Bruner 1986; Clifford and Marcus 1986; Tedlock 1983;
Tonkin et al. 1989). Conversant with these issues, which are addressed to a greater or lesser extent in undergraduate textbooks on anthropology (Keesing and Keesing 1971; Keesing 1981), the apprentice ethnographer cannot be but tentative when faced with Sir Edmund Leach’s ‘radical conclusion’, quoted above. However, a closer examination of Leach’s theorising on the ethnographic process reveals that his conclusion is not so radical, after all, and further that a reductionist ethnography is no longer regarded as an adequate analysis of society, in spite of the limited insights it may offer.
Context to Leach’s declaration, initially made in 1987, not long before his death on 6th January, 1989, reveals the process of his critical evaluation of his fieldwork and the classic study of 1954, Political Systems o f Highland Burma, in the light of current theoretical concerns. His assessment is made, and his conclusion
drawn, with all the benefits of hindsight:
... at that time I still accepted the conventional view that my task was to discuss an indigenous social system of which I myself was not a part. Thus the missionaries and the colonial administrators and the British military recruiting officers were not really part of my story. I see now that this was a mistake. (Leach 1989:41) Leach continues his evaluation of ‘Tribal Ethnography; past, present and
future’ with these admonitions:
There can be no future for tribal ethnography of a purportedly objective kind. Ethnographers must admit the reflexivity of their activities: they must become autobiographical. But with this changed orientation, ethnographers should be able to contribute to the better understanding of historical ethnography...
Historical ethnography is not just a m atter of recognizing that the way V e ’, the ethnographers, see ‘them ’, the people about whom we write our books, changes over time; there is also the question of how they see us. We need to look again at the mythology and traditions of ‘tribal peoples’ to see what they can tell us about their changing evaluations of the others (i.e. the foreigners, especially the Europeans). (Leach 1989:4s)1 Others theorising on ethnography have formulated their concerns and analyses in different terms. Ethnography is seen as narrative, and through the use of biography, "cultural narratives become personal narratives" (Bruner 1984b:6; see also 1986a), while others use the image of dramatic performance to present events within the ethnography (see e.g. Turner and Bruner 1986).