Tantric Buddhist India and Its Tibetan Appropriation

in The Holy Land Reborn

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780226356488
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226356501 | DOI:
Tantric Buddhist India and Its Tibetan Appropriation

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During the imperial era of Tibetan history, when peoples of the high plateau of Tibet began their slow conversion to and assimilation of Buddhism, the bulk of Buddhist practices, narratives, and doctrines that were reliably available to them were those of the Mainstream (or Hinayāna) and particularly Mahāyāna styles of Buddhism. It is evident that a culturally creative background interest in Indian Tantra developed in imperial Tibet, and that it continued despite the widespread decline of Buddhist monasticism there following the disintegration of the empire during the ninth and tenth centuries. This chapter describes the pītha sites as the Buddhists of Tibet have come to know, understand, and engage with them as a particular construction of place. Tibetan acquisition of the pītha cult was an important factor in their development of a new and far more extensive, subcontinental vision of India as Buddhist holy ground. Moreover, the thorough appropriation of this Indian scheme of sacred geography contributed to the alternative creation of a new type of Tantric Buddhist geography in Tibet itself.

Keywords: India; Tibet; Tantra; pītha; Buddhism; sacred geography; monasticism

Chapter.  14987 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Buddhism

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