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Buddhadharma : Fall 2011
79 fall 2 01 1 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly the Dunhuang liberation rite as an example of Buddhist human sacrifice, but many Buddhists would regard the coupling of the terms “Buddhist” and “human sacrifice” as oxymoronic. The majority of ritual manuals demand the use of an effigy, and numerous Buddhist texts, including the Buddhacarita, an early Indian biography of the Buddha, describe the Buddha’s rejection of violent Vedic sacrifice. Tibetan histo- ries such as the Sayings of Ba, more- over, describe Buddhists condemning Tibetans’ pre-Buddhist practice of ritu- alized killings. Such condemnations, Dalton explains, continued until Garwang’s day, with numerous lamas denouncing the use of ritual violence. Whether in each case they were responding to flesh-and-blood tan- trikas to whom institutional Buddhism seemed overly sanitized or, rather, the mere possibility that certain practitioners might take the tantras literally is difficult to determine. Either way, though, their writings can be seen as efforts to define the boundaries of Buddhist practice in the face of cryptic and authoritative tantric literature, the difficulty of which cannot be overestimated. These are only some of the issues that The Taming of the Demons so skillfully illuminates. Much more could—and indeed should—be said about this out- standing book. Dalton treats a variety of other violent matters, from early Buddhist scriptural allowances for mur- der, to the employment of Buddhist rituals of warfare by both “the Mongol Repeller” Sokdokpa (1552–1624) and the Great Fifth Dalai Lama (1617–1682). Equally compelling is his discussion of violent mythology’s role in the construc- tion of temples and the mapping of Tibet’s geography. Each chapter, in short, offers important insights into violence’s place in Tibetan Buddhism, resulting in a rewarding read for those willing to con- front Tibet’s darker facets. A more recent Tibetan work by the Nyingma author Rigdzin Garwang (1858–1930) echoes the violent impli- cations of Yeshe Ö’s edict. At around the time that L. Austine Waddell (1854– 1938) was writing The Buddhism of Tibet or Lamaism, the first detailed study of Tibetan Buddhism to appear in English, Garwang was composing a text titled The Dangers of Blood Sacrifice. Unaware of each other, these two men shared similar attitudes toward violence and societal reform in Tibet. Waddell, on the one hand, criticized Tibetans for defil- ing true Buddhism with their sorcerous, violent ways, and prayed that his fellow British colonialists would one day liber- ate them from their lamaist overlords. Garwang, on the other hand, addressed his fellow citizens of Nyarong, a remote region on the border between Tibet and China, who had only recently adopted the traditions of institutional Buddhism. He admonished those per- forming perverse blood sacrifices, and demanded observance of Buddhism’s more conventional ethical ideals. While declaring that Indian Hindus, Tibetan Bönpos, and certain Buddhists clearly had it wrong, he did not recommend forgoing such rituals altogether. Rather, he suggested that an authentic Buddhist practitioner could perform a liberation rite without anger, delivering the victim’s consciousness into a pure buddhafield before restoring the sentient being who had been killed. As Dalton observes, this remarkable procedure departs from Yeshe Ö’s edict, blurring the distinction between “sacrifice” and “liberation.” Yet it also, in his estimation, points to a context very similar to Yeshe Ö’s, namely, a Tibet in which blood sacrifices were actually performed. Aside from questions of blood sac- rifice’s historical reality in Tibet, Yeshe Ö and Garwang’s texts also raise ques- tions about what counts as Buddhist. As Dalton notes, it is tempting to describe Reviews