Rationality and Spirit Cult

Georges B. J. Dreyfus

in The Sound of Two Hands Clapping

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780520232594
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928244 | DOI:
Rationality and Spirit Cult

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This chapter considers the conception of rationality that Tibetan scholasticism presupposes, particularly in its relation to some of the practices associated with folk religion. This brief heuristic exploration attempts to highlight some of the differences between traditional and modern conceptions of rationality. This important topic is one of the most misunderstood aspects of Buddhism, which is too often misrepresented as scientific. The chapter's general focus on dialectical practices underlines the importance of rationality in traditional Tibetan education. However, this emphasis must be put in perspective if we are to avoid the danger of misunderstanding the role of reason within Tibetan monastic education, as Tibetan scholars are made to look too much like modern intellectuals. The dialectical emphasis of Ge-luk education strongly resembles that of the medieval European universities. Similarly, the spirit cult described in this chapter has parallels in other traditional cultures, though its details may be specific to Tibet. The key distinction between mundane and supramundane deities affects a set of practices that are particularly important to Tibetan Buddhists, the propitiation of the dharma protectors.

Keywords: rationality; spirit cult; scholasticism; folk religion; Buddhism; monastic education; Tibet; Ge-luk; deities; dharma

Chapter.  4963 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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