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Civilized shamans : Buddhism in Tibetan societies by Geoffrey Samuel

By Geoffrey Samuel

Civilized Shamans examines the character and evolution of faith in Tibetan societies from the 9th century as much as the chinese language career in 1950. Geoffrey Samuel argues that faith in those societies built as a dynamic amalgam of strands of Indian Buddhism and the indigenous spirit-cults of Tibet. Samuel stresses the range of Tibetan societies, demonstrating that crucial Tibet, the Dalai Lama's government

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Thus the shamanic approach has tended to go along with an em­ phasis on the validity of direct a's opposed to gradual entry into the Enlightened state and on positive conceptions of the nature of En­ lightenment (tathtigatagarbha, shentong), while lamas more aligned with the clerical approach have emphasized gradual entry and a more neg­ ative, intellectually based conception of Enlightenment. The relation­ ships here are not always straightforward, since the most influential lamas in Tibetan history all aimed at some kind of synthesis between the approaches, and the authority of Madhyamaka philosophy, with its basically negative conceptualizations, remained very great for all schools, but the significance of these linkages will emerge in the his­ torical account of Part Three.

Some men, and a few women, simply acquire a following as a result of their personal reputation for spiritual development, and so become lamas. Ascription of lama status may involve no more than the recognition of that person as a lama by a group of people. This fluidity has been part of Tibetan Buddhism from its early stages and it remains part of the contemporary situation. It is exemplified in Chapter 1 8 through ac­ counts of the lives of eight modern lamas. All this suggests that the Sarpgha in Tibetan societies is far less "domesticated," in Tambiah's phrase, than in contemporary Therava­ din countries, or than it seems to have been in Theravadin societies in recent centuries.

Qa m d o . - . ,. -", \ � '"",. ,pU . '-v.. A. /. � 9 0 B .. R.... r -r" • �\ INDIA (. :. _ " m I ) • YUN NAN , ) . E PROVINCE CIVILIZED SHAMANS eral authors (for example, Goldstein 1 98 9) use 'Tibet' to refer to the premodern Lhasa state and its modern equivalent, the Tibet Autono­ mous Region. It is difficult to judge how much these figutes for central Tibet, K'am, and Amdo have been affected by the period of Chinese rule from 1 950 onwards. ' The Dalai Lama's Secretariat in India has published estimates that 1 .

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