using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Buddhadharma : Fall 2011
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 11 78 Reviews the Nyingma, or “Ancient,” school of Tibetan Buddhism. In his new book, The Taming of the Demons, Nyingma specialist Jacob Dalton takes this text as his starting point, building around it a fascinating history of violence in Tibetan Buddhism. Associated with the Rudra myth are numerous ritual manuals. Mimicking Rudra’s liberation at the hands of a bud- dha, these works identify the steps for conducting the ritual murder of those who threaten the dharma. While nearly all of these manuals recommend an effigy of paper, cloth, or dough, Dalton finds instructions in a tenth-century Tibetan manuscript from the famous “library cave” at Dunhuang that suggest the involvement of a live victim. First, the text lacks a summoning rite, by which one draws the victim’s consciousness to the effigy. It also describes lobbing the victim’s severed head onto a mandala, and then divining his or her next rebirth based on the head’s position, explaining that if it splits open, the rebirth will be favorable. Such a rite, Dalton argues, demands a three-dimensional effigy that is capable of splitting apart. Another text from Dunhuang even identifies both the victim’s head and blood as offerings. Yet, as Dalton carefully notes, none of this guarantees that living victims were targeted in the performance of these ritu- als. The use of three-dimensional dough effigies is common in Tibetan Buddhism, and some of these effigies even contain hidden pouches of blood. Similarly, these texts may have guided only imagined ritual practices, in which the meditator performs the offerings in his or her mind. Add to this a lack of archaeological evi- dence and the matter becomes highly ambiguous, resisting attempts at con- clusive historical assessment. Discussions of human sacrifice are not confined to the ritual manuals, however. Dalton turns to the writings of King Yeshe Ö (947–1024), who issued a public edict commanding the tantrikas of Tibet to desist from “liberating” peo- ple alive. Yeshe Ö laments that while the great kings of Tibet’s imperial period— Songtsen Gampo (circa 605–649/650) and Trisong Detsen (circa 742–800) among them—had successfully halted blood sacrifices, these rites had resur- faced during the century and a half of political tumult and lawlessness preced- ing him. Yeshe Ö’s edict is striking in its men- tion of human victims. Yet Dalton is careful here too, situating the proclama- tion in its legal and political context. At the time of Yeshe Ö’s reign, local chief- tains styled themselves as the inheri- tors of both clan power and tantric lineages, associating with practitioners of various tantric traditions. Seeking political dominance, Yeshe Ö aimed to unite these chieftains and tantrikas under a single Buddhist law, declaring Buddhism the state religion, devising a sophisticated legal system, and calling for a return to institutional monasticism and more conventional Buddhist ethics. He chastised tantrikas who ate meat, drank alcohol, had sex, frequented cemeteries, and offered flesh to the bud- dhas, along with the chieftains who had allowed such behavior to occur. To him, these individuals had misunderstood the Buddhist teachings, taking them literally while deeper, symbolic meanings were available. Certainly, Yeshe Ö did not seek to suppress the tantras entirely, but rather to domesticate their practice, dubbing “liberation” rites involving effi- gies Buddhist, and “sacrifices” involv- ing live victims demonic. While Dalton does not believe Yeshe Ö’s edict reflects pure self-serving political expediency— it is possible that Yeshe Ö is responding to real murderous undertakings—his criticism of tantric violence worked to justify the rational rule of law, highlight- ing the consequences of the chieftains’ approaches to governance.