Book

The Navel of the Demoness

Charles Ramble

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780195154146
Published online January 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199868513 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195154146.001.0001
The Navel of the Demoness

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This book is a study of religion in a Tibetanised community of highland Nepal. The village of Te, in Mustang District, is nominally Buddhist: until recent times it had a tradition of Sakyapa monasticism, and depends on Nyingmapa tantric priests for ritual and clerical services. However, it also has a thriving cult of territorial divinities involving the performance of animal sacrifices. At first glance, Te appears to be a fundamentally pagan community attempting to preserve its traditions against the efforts of Tibetan Buddhist missionaries. However, a closer investigation reveals that this picture of simple ideological opposition is untenable. A combination of ethnographic observation and a close study of the community's archives—which date back to the 17th century—reveals an altogether more complex picture. Documentary evidence indicates that clan solidarity was gradually replaced by a sense of shared community. The creation of this community was an active process involving the designation of public resources, the production of written laws, a change in the inheritance pattern, and the emergence of ceremonies that entailed the piecemeal adoption of Buddhist rituals and dramatised episodes from Te's history. This complex is best understood in terms of civil religion, a concept developed by Rousseau and later elaborated by writers such as Robert Bellah and Gerald Parsons. While this reified community is ultimately the product of the individuals of which it is composed, it is perceived and represented as an autonomous, “transcendent” entity with a reciprocal influence on their lives.

Keywords: Nepal; Tibet; Mustang; Buddhism; tantric priests; sacrifice; Bellah; Parsons; transcendence

Book.  408 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Buddhism

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Table of Contents

Introduction in The Navel of the Demoness

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 Inside the Shöyul in The Navel of the Demoness

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 Neighbours and Enemies in The Navel of the Demoness

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 From Clans to Households in Te in The Navel of the Demoness

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 The Encounter with Buddhism in The Navel of the Demoness

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 The Wild Gods of Te in The Navel of the Demoness

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 Buddhists or Pagans? in The Navel of the Demoness

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 Agedness of Error in The Navel of the Demoness

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 Community Law in The Navel of the Demoness

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