Lumbini Conference 2011

23rd  February: directions from Christoph on airport procedures.

The below has already been emailed to you along with your eTickets:

Departure time on the 28th of February is at 16:20 by Buddha Air to Bhairahawa. All participants should be at the domestic airport by 15:00.

Mr. Punya Prasad Parajuli who also attends our conference will assist you during the check-in. He will also advance the NRP 170.- per person for the airport tax. Klaus-Dieter Mathes will also help and assist.

The location of the domestic airport is to the north of the international airport. The access from the main street is through the common bombastic gate, then after the police check post one has to turn to the left and follow the road.

Mr. Parajuli has copies of all eTickets, in case someone did not print it out.


22nd  February: the Conference Schedule and the Chief Guest

We have now made a Conference Schedule. Please click on the link below to download it as a pdf file.


We are also happy to announce that our chief guest will be Ven. Acharya Karma Sangpo, Vice-Chairman of the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT).


18th December: The Abstracts

Many thanks to all for these excellent abstracts. A provisional schedule for the presentation of the papers will appear later.


A brief survey of relevant results of the Three Pillars of Bon, NWO-Vidi 2005-2010

Henk Blezer, Leiden

In the Vidi program, our main goal was to under­stand the formation of Bon religious identity in Tibet at the turn of the first millen­nium AD. We investigated Tibetan views of history and developed new historio­graphical methodologies. Considering the peculiar configuration of Bon historiography—typical: remarkably late stories on very early origins—we systematically refo­cused from the narrated content of history to the history of the narratives. Religious historical narratives often prioritise the expression of particular structures and poten­tials for meaning over historical fact. We therefore proposed to ‘disregard’ the history narrated and simply asked when the story was first told, how it developed, and under which circum­stances. We thus historicised the historical narratives themselves and looked at the ‘mirror’ of history, rather than in it.

This simple methodology yields interesting insights into the structure and historiography of major pillars of Bon identity. All main narratives converge at the turn of the first millennium or later, but recycle earlier materials, in revealing ways. With hindsight, antecedents of self-con­sciously Bon historical narratives appear construed (better phrased intran­sitively: ‘emerge’), based on facts and stories ‘remembered’. This provides insight into the manner of ‘construction’ of the narratives. E.g., a major historio­graphical strategy of Bon, obviously, is to negotiate, in creative design of competing narratives, earlier dates for crucial events than their Buddhist rivals have.

This methodology often puts received wisdom in question:

  • The grand narrative of early western origins of Bon is demonstrably later than the actual historical beginnings of Bon. Earlier key narrative elements of the stories are instead trace­able to areas located more centrally in Tibet, which later were mainly known as early centres of Buddhism. These early references to central locations often appear to involve rMa names.
  • The name of the ‘ancient’ founder of Bon, gShen rab mi bo, has its immediately verifiable origins (that are still relevant to organised Bon) in relatively late narrative con­structs and not in any other historical realities. Its earliest precursors, again, tantalisingly involve rMa names.
  • The claimed centrality of gShen rab-related (gShen and dMu) clans before the tenth century AD may likewise be a later ideological con­struct that is grafted on sparsely surviving data; comparable to the projections of occidental origins for Bon by central Tibetan groups.
  • Yet, this manoeuvre cannot conceal the more convincingly historical realities of ubiquitous rMa names, both in pre-tenth century antecedent narratives on gShen figures and in later emerging, self-consciously Bon—yet at the same time already eclectic—historical narratives.
  • Blondeau has shown that a rMa name is closely connected with highly influential early Bon historical narratives (Gling grags). These consciously negotiate Buddhist affinities in Bon.
  • Later Bon historians have largely glossed over the many pivotal links to eclectic rMa figures.

Narratological analysis of Tibetan history thus often turns received wis­dom upside down. If we want to make sense of these paradoxical findings, we need to look at the involved nature of Bon identity discourse. Historiographically, Bon identity is articul­ated as a discourse of respectably (more) ancient otherness vis-à-vis Buddhism, framed in Buddhist discourse. Perhaps this even is the major constant in Bon identity discourse: the content changes, but the narrated position of otherness remains. Yet, the rMa clan clearly mediates ambivalent Bon traditions (Blondeau), which are conversant with Buddhism. Quite surprisingly, as outlined above, on closer historical analysis, these ambivalent, somewhat eclectic trends appear closer to the centre of emerging Bon than has hitherto been assumed. Indeed, historically, ‘eclecticism’ in a Buddhist environment appears a defining feature of the Bon ‘other’, from its very inception!

When bonpos define their identity, they also demarcate ever shifting internal divides on its periphery (‘Eternal’ Bon vs. ambivalent New Treasure or, later still, New Bon).[1] Yet, by reference to a remembered or imagined past, bonpos manage to create the semblance of being carved or reformed out of a solid piece of Bon of ancient pedigree. This they accomplish by distancing themselves from internal bonpo ‘others’ who court Buddhism too overtly. Those internal ‘others’ appear scapegoats from within, who openly trans­gress the unwritten code of Bon ‘otherness’. They take the full blame of eclecticism, yet, they do not go about their Bon business fundamen­tally different from the way bonpos seem to have done ever since the earliest historical records.

In the religious-political tug of war of later centuries, about what distinguishes Bon from Buddhism and internally demarcates Bon ‘orthodoxy’, rMa groups were ever more relegated to an am­bivalent margin of Bon. Promoted instead were ideologically more pure-sounding clan names of the founder, such as gShen and dMu. Central Tibetan groups claim these names and their pedigree for their own interests, while spinning tropes on far western origins.

The need to discriminate internal scapegoat Bon others, as ambivalent, probably relates to the rise in importance of (Bon) monastic insti­tu­tions, their curricula, and canonisation in Tibet, around or some time before the fourteenth century AD, vis-à-vis the rise to power of Buddhist monastic institutions at the time.

[1] For these groups, see now work by Achard, e.g., 2004b, 2005 and 2008.


Narrative religion and religious narrative: the bar dar and the rise of Tibetan historical narrative

Brandon Dotson, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München

The collapse of the Tibetan Empire and the decentralization of political and religious power was attended by a transformation of historical narrative. In the simplest terms, we can say that a royal narrative form, exemplified by the Bsam yas and Skar cung inscriptions and edicts, gave way to a religious historical (“rise of the doctrine”) narrative form. How this movement from one form to another took place is not clear. Here I wish to query how, exactly, the bar dar period is implicated not only in the movement from royal to religious narrative, but also from chronicle to history. I will examine how recitations and origin tales (e.g., smrang), with their emphasis on the transformative and healing power of story, constitute what one might call “narrative religion,” and further point out how such traditions have informed historical narrative. Ritual narratives and divination prognoses, for example, formed some of the building blocks for transitional forms of historical narrative such as the Old Tibetan Chronicle. Unlike later religious histories, however, the Chronicle was not set within a larger narrative and/or cosmogonical frame. This is not to say that such a frame was lacking at the time of composition, and we have among the Dunhuang manuscripts some well-attested beliefs in a cycle of good ages and bad ages and a similar division of the afterlife. In considering the development of Tibetan narrative history during and after the bar dar, and in particular the emplotment of events within the narrative of the rise of the Dharma (or of Bon), I shall try to identify as markers the most salient expressions of the emerging cosmogonic and narrative frame. In so doing, I hope to contribute both specific points on how Tibetan historical narrative developed against the backdrop of the bar dar, and more general observations on the nature and genre of some of the main narrative forms.


The Plundering Of The Royal Tombs. Aspects of Political Realignments in Central Tibet of the 9th to 10th Century

Guntram Hazod, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna

The contribution offers a closer look at the well-known passage in the Tibetan chronicles which reports the opening and (partial) looting of the royal tombs in ’Phyong-rgyas by a number of clans around the turn of the 10th century (most detailed in Dpa’-bo gtsug-lag phreng-ba’s Mkhas pa’i dga’ ston and in ’Jigs-med gling-pa’s Gtam gyi tshogs). The account and its textual context open up a range of questions. After a brief discussion regarding the identification of the individual tombs, the paper will address among others the issues: Who were the lineages that divided the graves among themselves, and what were their possible com­monalities in this connection? Why were only certain graves in the two fields of ’Phyong-rgyas robbed, and is the report in this sense “complete” at all? Why were certain structures only partially plundered? What were these treasures at all, and is there any evidence about their later use? In this connection, the intention here is not least to estimate the possible objectives and the political consequences of this significant event during the revolt period. It requires an examination of the question of when exactly the grave looting took place, meaning an examination of its true chronological assignment within the sequence of events in the immediate post-Glang Dar-ma era.


Observations on Painted Coffin Panels from Tibetan Tombs

Amy Heller, research collaborator, CNRS-Paris, UMR 8155, Centre de recherche sur les civilisations chinoise, japonaise et tibétaine

During the Tibetan empire, ritual burial in tombs was practiced for members of the Tibetan aristocracy throughout Tibet, documented by extant tombs in ‘Phyong rgyas, Lha rtse, and Qinghai. This practice apparently ceased in the aftermath of the Tibetan empire. This presentation will present research in progress on painted panels recovered from tombs in Qinghai. In 2002 Xu Xinguo, director of the Qinghai Archeological Institute, excavated two tombs with several painted coffin panels in Guolimu county. (see Xu Xinguo, “New Discoveries in Qinghai” in China Heritage Newsletter; see  Luo Shiping “A research about the drawing on the coffin board of Tubo Located at Guolimu, Haixi, Qinghai province, Wenwu 2006/ 7: 68-82).

The principal themes painted on these panels:

  • several hunting scenes of reindeer and wild yak
  • slaughter of yak by archers
  • arrival of foreign envoys
  • ceremonial banquets taking place in tent encampments
  • amorous scenes
  • a commercial caravan of camels

Several other painted panels have subsequently been discovered which I will  present here. Their comparison is fruitful. We will see there is correspondence in terms of the themes illustrated on the panels, notably  the  hunt of the yak. In addition to the ceremonial banquet, there are scenes of cooking, musicians, dancers and acrobats; in addition to the ritual sacrifice of the yak, there is possible evidence of human sacrifice. Additional literary and cross-cultural references will be explored in this presentation.

These painted panels yield concrete documentation of the mobile habitat of the btsan po and his entourage during the sPu rgyal dynasty. The study of the women and men portrayed on these panels – their activities, weapons, cooking utensils and drinking vessels, costumes, jewelry and face make-up, and the accoutrements of their habitat –  yield clues to better understanding of daily life in ancient Tibet while simultaneously relating to rituals and nomad customs prevailing during the 20th century.


The development of the Gnga’ khri btsan po myth in the Bar-dar period

Nathan Hill, SOAS

The myth of the first Tibetan emperor’s descent from heaven served as one of the primary legitimizinig narratives of the empire both before and after the introduction of Buddhism. This talk traces the development of this myth in the immediate post imperial period, considering how the myth adapted to changing political circumstances.

The only undeniably imperial period attestation of this myth is its brief retelling in the incipit of the Rkong-po inscription. In connection with the formula lha las myi’i rjer gshegs ‘he came from the gods as the lord of men’ the tale is referred to in a number of Dunhuang texts, but narrative versions occur only in PT 0126 and PT 1058. The manuscript PT 0126 reports the negotiations between the envoys of the Phywa gods and the lord of Dmu for the descent of the latter to earth as the lord of men. PT 1038 presents three versions of the emperors descent, which range from cynical to reverent.

Samten Karmay originally pointed out the similarities between the accounts given in  PT 0126 and PT 1038 with the extensive quotations from the otherwise lost Can lnga found in the 13th century Lde’u chos ‘byung. Buidling on Karmay’s work, my contribution seeks (1) to methodologically clarify the degree to which later texts can be used to interpret older fragmentary materials, (2) to rigorously periodize the Dunhuang sources on philological and paleographic ground, and (3) by highlighting differences in detail of retelling of the myth, tracks its adaptation to changing socio-political circumstances.


Tang Dynasty Sources for Tibetan Empire Studies: a Bibliographic Essay

Bianca Horlemann, Moscow

This paper intends to provide an overview of primary and secondary Chinese sources related to the Tibetan Empire period as well as standard or recent western publications concerning Tang China which provide useful comparative per­spectives for the Tibetologist.

Although most western Tibetan Empire specialists are well acquainted with the Tibet/ Tufan/ Tubo chapters of the Old and New Tang Dynastic History (Jiu Tang shu, Xin Tang shu) and the Tibet related Chinese Dunhuang Documents, other very important historical sources such as the two 11th century works Com­prehensive Mirror for Aid in Government/ Zizhi tongjian and Outstanding Models from the Storehouse of Literature/ Cefu yuangui as well as the Important Documents of the Tang/ Tang huiyao, the Collected Edicts of the Tang/ Tang da zhaolingji, the annals/ benji, monographs/ zhi and biographies/ zhuan of the Jiu and the Xin Tang shu still remain rarely used. Several anthologies such as the Complete Collection of Tang Prose/ Quan Tang wen, the Complete Collection of Tang Poetry/ Quan Tang shi and the Song Biographies of Eminent Monks/ Song Gao Seng chuan or the 9th century geographical work Maps and Gazetteer of the Provinces and Counties in the Yuanhe Period (806-14)/ Yuanhe junxian (tu)zhi also contain some useful pieces of information concerning imperial Tibet or the areas under Tibetan domination. This material adds up to several hundred pages but to my knowledge only a small fraction has been systematically analysed so far.

Those acquainted with Chinese historical texts are probably well aware of the difficulties involved in using them: not only finding the relevant paragraphs referring to Tibet in a multi-volume, unpunctuated historical work is a major task, but translating them is also beset with many uncertainties. Furthermore, most of the original texts have been lost and often we have only later and frequently revised editions at our disposal which had been copied from encyclopaedias and thus warrant extra caution.

However, there exist several research tools such as modern Chinese annotated and punctuated editions of historical works as well as anthologies especially devoted to Tibet related material (such as the Tibet related Historical Material in the Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government/ Zizhi tongjian Tufan shiliao), works on Tang administrative units or place names (such as the Collected References to Toponyms in the Two Tang Histories/ Liang Tangshu dilizhi huishi), searchable Chinese text editions available on the internet etc. which make these Tibet related sources much more easily accessible. Equally helpful is Endymion Wilkinson’s Chinese History. A Manual which dates, classifies and describes all major Chinese historical works including those mentioned above.

Furthermore, a considerable number of important studies on the Tibetan Empire period have come out from PRC researchers such as Wang Yao, Wang Duo, Rong Xinjiang, Huang Weizhong, Lu Li, Tian Feng etc. and from the Taiwanese scholar Lin Guanqun/ Lin Kuan-ch’ün. If you search for “吐蕃 Tufan/ Tubo” in the Chinese Academic Journals’ [CAJ] database, some 2,500 articles by Chinese authors are listed for the period from 1994 to 2010 alone. Of course, not all of them are relevant, but a fair number certainly deserves our attention.

With regard to western secondary sources on Tang China, some works are convenient reference books for tracing major political, cultural and/ or religious trends of the Tang Dynasty such as Sui and T’ang China, 589-906, i.e. volume 3, part 1 of The Cambridge History of China. Others provide valuable background information on specific issues such as the geography of the Tang empire, Tang military history, the role of religion and especially of Buddhism during the Tang Dynasty etc. These are indispensable tools for the scholar who attempts to better understand important developments in Tibet or in Sino-Tibetan relations by adapting a comparative approach. Among these works are the historical works by Denis Twichett, Howard Wechsler and Stanley Weinstein which explore politico-religious relations in Tang-China, the works by Kenneth Ch’en, Paul Demiéville, Jacques Gernet or Antonino Forte on Chinese Buddhism during the Tang or Edward Schafer’s work The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A study of T’ang Exotics on tribute and trade relations and many more.


Early bKa’ gdams pa Masters and Khams ‘Dan ma

Maho IUCHI, Kobe City University of Foreign Studies, Japan

‘Dan ma historically has been a cultural and traffic crossroads in Tibet. More­over, it was one of the important places of the origin of the second diffusion of Buddhism in Khams. Before the arrival of Atiśa (982-1054) and the establish­ment of bKa’ gdams pa, early bKa’ gdams pa masters, including three prime disciples of Atiśa, i.e. ”khu rngog ‘brom gsum”, studied together at ‘Dan ma. Ac­cording to the biography of ‘Brom ston pa (1004/5/6-1064) in bKa’ gdams chos ‘byung, ‘Brom ston pa has two teachers, Se btsun and Smṛti­jñāna­kīrti. This paper mentions about some existent monasteries in ‘Dan ma related with early bKa’ gdams pa masters and Smṛtijñānakīrti.


A New rnam thar of Lha Bla ma Ye shes ‘od

Samten Karmay

Recently an unknown hence a new hagiographical account (rnam thar) of Lha Bla ma Ye shes ‘od became available, but only in a digital version. It is based on a manuscript copy kept in one of the libraries of Drepung Monastery, Central Tibet. The work is important in many respects not least because it is the only one that is devoted to the hagiographical account of the king. It is therefore interesting to compare it with the fragments of decrees of the same king. I presented one of these decrees in 2009 at the Simla conference  and another at the 12 Seminar of IATS at Vancouver.

The main task in this paper will be to demonstrate to what extent the hagiographic account has relied on the facts that are given in the decrees just mentioned. Otherwise it is a very much genre of pious rnam thar work.


Prayer Wheels and Air Wheels: Lay (or Popular) Practices at the Edge of the Phyi-dar

Dan Martin

What I would like to submit for discussion of our Lumbini seminar is an experimental probe into the literature to determine if there might be sufficient material to say something about a particular facet of Tibetan social and religious history that appears to have continued (and likely changed) between the Bar-dar and the Phyi-dar.  Specifically, I will gather together and try to analyse groupings of practices that might be called ‘lay Buddhist practices,’ although since they are also (and perhaps even more likely) performed by monastics, we might prefer to call them ‘popular practices.’

There are a number of lists and prescriptive passages, most of them brief, concealed in lengthy texts, both Bon and Chos, from both before and after the turn of the 11th century.  It would of course be desirable to determine what scriptural passages might be there in their background.  One of those interesting areas of agreement between Bon and Chos, these practice passages (as I might want to call them, just to have a handy label for them) are interesting to consider for what they might contribute to larger arguments about the degrees of social penetration achieved by Buddhism in earlier phases of Tibetan history.*

*Please note: my main sources are all in Tibetan, with one or more scriptural passages in Sanskrit.  While I may make use of hardly more than a thing or two derived from Dunhuang Tibetan and classical Chinese sources, I will welcome the offer of any information about what may be found in them.

As prescriptive texts, and as textual passages that may have never intended to supply a comprehensive picture, we are led to ask a lot of questions.  If circumambulation and prostration aren’t mentioned in the earliest list, could it be because they were introduced only later (or because they were too ubiquitous to require mention)?  When were the so-called prayer wheels introduced?  Why do some of these texts mention air wheels (rlung ‘khor) only?  (Is this perhaps an early or eccentric name for the hand-held wheel-turning practice?)  From their contexts, can we know to whom these prescriptions were intended?  Were they meant for farmers, nomads, city dwellers, aristocrats or rulers?  For everyone?  Well, I don’t know, but it seems to me that finding new questions to ask may be more interesting than just reciting old and in fact unsure certainties about ways early plateau dwellers practiced their religion.


“Chinese rDzogs chen” and bKa’ brgyud Mahāmudrā. A Comparison of Tibetan Syncretism in Dunhuang with the Teachings of the Siddhas.

Klaus-Dieter Mathes, Vienna

gSar ma traditions, most prominently the Bka’ gdams pa and Sa skya, describe the time between the disintegration of the Tibetan empire and the establishment of a centralized political power at the end of the 10th century as a “dark period,” a time when Tantras were misunderstood and elements of Chinese Chan (for instance, the possibility of sudden enlightenment) prevailed. The agenda of gSar ma, then, was to re-establish the “pure” Indian traditions and ban the “deteriorated” forms of Buddhism that had crept in during that earlier period. In his sDom gsum rab dbye, Sa skya Paṇḍita (1182-1251) claims, for example, that there was no difference between “present-day mahāmudrā and Chinese rdzogs chen,” the tradition of the Chinese monk (Hva shang) having been secretly retailored into mahāmudrā after the royal rule had vanished. Sa paṇ further asserts that in the original Indian traditions the realization of mahāmudrā could be only the result of Tantric generation and perfection stages, and not simply a suspension of the thought process brought on by the mind having been altered through devotion to the master. In support, Sa paṇ adduces the Caturmudrānvaya and claims that its sequence of the four seals rules out the attainment of mahāmudrā without, for one, karmamudrā.

Recent research suggests, however, that the so-called dark age represented a crucial stage in the development of Tibetan Buddhism. Of particular interest are here Van Schaik and Dalton’s studies of Tibetan Dunhuang manuscripts in which the Chan elements of viewing the mind, not thinking, not conceptualizing and not becoming mentally engaged were integrated into the first of the three samādhis which constitute the generation stage in Mahāyoga, namely the tathatā-samādhi of meditating on emptiness. I suggest that we have here a systematic inclusivism typical of elaborate Buddhist Tantras, in this case Mahāyoga, a system that was open enough to accomodate rdzogs chen as well.

In my paper I will show that Indian Buddhism of the 10th and 11th centuries developed in a way similar to what we find in Dunhuang. The possibility of sudden realization was entertained, for example, by Maitrīpa’s (ca. 1007 – ca. 1085) disciple Karopa, who distinguishes an instantaneous from a gradual path; while in Saraha’s dohās one is repeatedly encouraged to view the mind so as in the end to find neither mark nor marker. The main purport of these dohās, which were extremely critical of any formal Buddhist practice, including Tantra, was to realize the co-emergent nature of mind through the pith instructions and the blessing of a qualified master. It will be argued that the dohās may have had an effect on the Tantras similar to that of Chan. In particular, it will be shown that the Caturmudrānvaya and the Sekanirdeśa do not describe the sequence of the four seals in such a rigid way as Sa paṇ would have it: the practice of karmamudrā is optional, and only meant for yogins of inferior capacities, mahāmudrā remaining a directly attainable goal, as in the dohās.


The mythologisation of Padmasambhava in post-Imperial Tibet.

Robert Mayer, Oxford

Padmasambhava became arguably the most densely mythologised figure in all of Tibetan literature, creating particular problems for historians. Recent scholarship has tended to place excessive weight on the 12th century and figures such as Nyang ral nyi ma’i ‘od zer (1124-1192) as the sources of Padmasambhava’s mythologisation. However, this theory is somewhat weakened by recently discovered evidence from the Dunhuang texts, which already show a highly mythicised Padmasambhava. Moreover, with the hindsight offered by the new discoveries, the idea that Nyang ral largely invented the Padmasambhava cult can also be seen to have relied from the outset on somewhat forced interpretations of the previously used data. In this paper I will present the new evidence for Padmasambhava’s mythologisation in the Dunhuang texts, as well as fresh interpretations of the previously used evidence, and will argue that Nyang ral merely codified or gave added expression to a tendency that was already present perhaps as much as two hundred years before his time.


“When transgressive rituals arrived…”

Carmen Meinert, Hamburg

Among the corpus of Dunhuang manuscripts, we find a number of (pre-)10th century Tibetan texts dealing with ritual violence – rites that were severely criticised  in the late 10th/ early 11th centuries in Central and Western Tibet.  My paper will circumscribe the situation that enabled (Tibetan) Buddhist com­munities in Dunhuang to allow for the translation and spread of ‘precarious teachings’ in the 9th/10th centuries. A further look at the fate of the Indian translator Dānapāla, who travelled through Dunhuang in the late 10th century and later worked at the Chinese court as a prominent translator, might shed some light on how historical context may influence the meaning of teachings and how it may act as a powerful (de-) attractor.


Is the fragmentation and reconstruction of religion after 850 A. D. a Tibetan fiction? The example of Sino-Tibeta Divination (nag-rtsis), Geomancy (sa-dpyad) and gTo-Rituals

Dieter Schuh

Detailed Tibetan sources on the history of nag-rtsis, sa-dpyad and gto are ex­tremely rare. We can only mention the Vaidurya dkar-po (17th century) and the bShad-mdzod yin-bzhin nor-bu (15th century). The most important source is of course the description in the Vaidurya dkar-po. Sangs-rgyas rgya-mtsho de­scribed in the colophon of his chapter on the history of nag-rtsis, sa-dpyad and gto the sources of his story. The oldest sources derive from Khams-pa khra-mo (perhaps 11th century or 900 A.D.) and Du-har nag-po (about 1300). They are called lo-rgyus.

The history of nag-rtsis, sa-dpyad and gto starts at the Wutai Shan, where Manjushri taught numerous texts which were partially classified as rGyud (Tantra) and mDo (Sutra). Already on the Wutai Shan, Manjusri started to hide texts as gTer-ma. After a period of transmission in China, we see twelve periods of translations of Chinese texts in Tibet with numerous unknown names of translators, Chinese and Tibetan, and lists of numerous titles of books. All these books are lost of course. We are told that a great number of texts were put into boxes to hide them as gTer-ma. The so called reconstruction starts with Kham-pa khra-mo, whose collections included several texts called rgyud and translations of texts from Du-har nag-po, a Chinese who came to Tibet at the time of Khri-srong lde’u-btsan (second half of the 8th century). According to Sangs-rgyas rgya-mtsho, Kham-pa khra-mo followed Du-har nag-po in the third generation of students (about 900 A.D.?). The works of Kham-pa khra-mo also are most probably lost although Sangs-rgyas rgya-mtsho pretends to have used some of them.

Most confusing is the story in the Vaidurya dkar-po that in the time between these two persons, a constant flow of numerous translators arrived in Tibet. Again we find many titles of translated texts, divided in nine periods of translations.

What do we conclude from this history?

Perhaps the famous Thuú kvan Blo-bzang chos kyi nyi-ma is right, when he says:” The old Tibetans told a chain of lies, when they explained that the nag-rtsis was taught on the Wutai Shan in China. … The Divination-Tantras, which are known in Tibet and which presumably had been translated from Chinese into Tibetan do not exist in China, even by name. I assume that they were written by the Tibetans.”

At which time? And we have to keep in mind that the nag-rtsis definitely derives from China.


Animal-Headed Humans In Art & Literature During The Me Ro ‘Bar Phyi Dar Period (10th-11th C.)

Heather Stoddard, INALCO, Paris.

Very little art remains in Tibet from the Period of Fragmentation (Bod sil bu’i dus skabs), or from the Rekindling of the Flame (Me ro ‘bar) ie. the early beginnings of the Latter Diffusion of Buddhism. A few fragments of wall paintings survive today in chapels such as Gra thang, or in old black and white photos (1940s-1966), before the Maoists & the Cultural Revolution destroyed the historic, cultural and religous wealth of Tibet.

The images that do survive bear striking witness to the heyday of the sPu rgyal empire, reflecting a cosmopolitan ethos, the wealth and splendour of the court, when particular attention was paid to the diversity of human civilisation. The early Buddhist temples of Zhalu, Ye dmar, Sad ni, rKyang phu-Samada, Ta po, Gra thang etc., as described by G. Tucci in the 1940s, and as seen in some rare pre-1966 photos, have been discussed by Tucci, and by later scholars, especially Roberto Vitali.

However one striking aspect of Me ro ‘bar imagery, in artistic and literary sources, has not yet been discussed. This is the presence of anthropomorphic figures : human beings with animal heads. They are distinct from the zhi khro deities associated with the bar do, who also have human bodies and animal heads, but who are depicted almost naked in Indian style, and belong to a specific category of divine beings in the Vajrayana pantheon. The animal-headed humans presented in this paper, are admittedly few. They are portrayed as belonging to the human realm, and do not appear to take part in any of the ‘gods and demons’ (lha ‘dre, or lha srin sde brgyad) categories of the Tibetan pantheon. They appear only to disappear by the end of the 11th century, in the same way as the cosmopolitan ethos of the sPu rgyal empire.

We shall attempt to comprehend their role(s), while presenting a few images and readings from early texts that support the identification of these images with the human realm.


Notes on the Sampuṭa/Sampuṭodbhava

Péter-Dániel Szántó, Merton College, Oxford

In this presentation I wish to communicate some of my findings relating to the eclectic yoginītantra usually known as the Sampuṭa. Although there are partial editions of this text (Elder1and Skorupski2) and some valuable studies (which are unfortunately virtually unknown outside Japan) by Noguchi, the textual history of this scripture remains quite unexplored and its oldest and most valuable manu­scripts are still in disregard.3

First I shall present an overview of the material we have at hand with special reference to the unused palm-leaf manuscripts, arguing that the oldest of these codices dates to cca. 1050 ce. This is at the same time the only piece of hard evidence we have for dating the text, although the possibility of an earlier date is by no means out of the question. I will also discuss the role of the Sampuṭatilaka, a ‘continuation-tantra’ extant in two of the palm-leaf mss., and the exact number of commentaries, including a little-known gloss on the text, the single Sanskrit ms. of which was very likely penned at Vikramaśīla.

The second part of my talk will focus on the composite textual nature of the Sampuṭa. Some of the sources of which the compilers freely availed themselves have already been identified (most notably by Noguchi), however, as I hope to demonstrate, this is only the beginning. The Sampuṭa can be shown to contain almost two hundred verses from the Catuṣpīṭha, large swathes of the Māyājāla, the Vajrabhairava, even little-known exegetical texts such as the commentary to the Vajrāmṛta by one Bhago, with the same trend continuing in the Sampuṭa­tilaka, which incorporates several passages from the famous Tattvasiddhi. The fact that there is almost nothing ‘original’ in the text might have the implication that the title means quite simply ‘ananthology’.

1 George Robert Elder, The Saṃpuṭa tantra: edition and translation, chapters I-IV. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation submitted to Columbia University, 1978.

2 Tadeusz Skorupski, “The Saṃpuṭa-tantra, Sanskrit and Tibetan Versions [sic!] of Chapter One”. In: The Buddhist Forum, vol. IV. London 1996. & “The Saṃpuṭa-tantra, Sanskrit and Tibetan Versions of Chapter Two”. In: ibid., vol. VI, Tring 2001.

3 I am aware that the editorial staff of the CIHTS is currently working on an edition, but I have not had the opportunity to consult them on this matter. Any eventual overlapping findings are therefore purely accidental.


The Six Greatnesses of the Early Translations according to Rong-zom Mahāpaṇḍita

Lopon P. Ogyan Tanzin, Sarnath

The present paper seeks to present the six greatnesses of the Early Translations (snga-’gyur) as formulated by the great scholar Rong-zom Chos-kyi bzang-po (11th century): the greatness of the patrons, the greatness of the scholars, the greatness of the translators, the greatness of the places where the translations were made, the greatness of the doctrines translated and the greatness of the offerings made as a support for requesting the doctrine.

While Rong-zom Mahāpaṇḍita properly belonged to the later period of Buddhism’s diffusion in Tibet (phyi-dar) and hence formulated these six greatnesses after the period concerned as a means to distinguish the Early from the New Translations (gsar-’gyur), they have remained an important element in the self-presentation of the rNying-ma-pas to this day and indeed help to identify some of the unique features of the early translation activity in Tibet.


Central Asian Mélange: Multi-cultural aspects of early medicine from Dunhuang and Turfan

Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim, Goldsmiths, University of London

The Tibetan medical manuscripts from Dunhuang are few yet they are of great importance not only for our understanding of the development of Tibetan medicine, but also for the understanding of transmissions of substances and ideas in and around Dunhuang. Their mentions of foreign locations, foreign names and the abundance of luxury goods all point to the importance of analysing this material in relation to cross-cultural trade material.  In order to further our under­standing of these references, this paper will use contemporary non-Tibetan medical manuscripts from Dunhuang and Turfan in order to provide a context within which we can begin to paint a picture of medical knowledge in and around Dunhuang in the 9th and 10th centuries.


Khams in the context of Tibet’s post imperial period

Roberto Vitali, Dharamsala and Kathmandu

In this paper I study the process of historical fragmentation of the old sPu rgyal Bod dominions within the borders of the Tibetan plateau, the one that led to the formation of several regional kingdoms. On the one hand, I try to identify this political reality from the limited documentation at my disposal. In doing so, I use historical material concerning territories―with emphasis on Khams―not covered by the well known account of the subdivision of Central Tibet among ancestral clans that was allegedly promoted by its “architect” Bran ka dPal gyi yon tan. On the other hand, sources on which I focus lead me to wonder about the extent of bstan pa me ro in Khams (and elsewhere?).


Context and culture of PT016/IO751

Michael Walter, LIRI and Indiana

A close reading of this unique exemplar and important source of religio-political concepts reveals a layered document with a complex history. This study analyzes the language and style of PT016/IO751 from a variety of viewpoints in order to il­lumi­nate that history. (An examination of the technical terms of the document, along with a translation, will be undertaken in a subsequent study of this docu­ment.)


23rd November 2010:  two important updates from Christoph.

[1] Accommodation will be at Hotel Kasai. It looks excellent and very well situated. Christoph tells me the food is particularly good. Please follow these links to have a look:

[2] A representative of LIRI will be at the Domestic Terminal of Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu to meet us, look after us, and escort us onto our charter flight to Lumbini. The LIRI representative will know clearly who and how many we are, and will even manage our boarding passes, so that catching this flight should be entirely free of stress and difficulty. Just turn up in good time up and relax.

The Buddha Air Company have not yet determined the exact hour of our flight, but  when they do so, we will update you promptly.



Important flights information

Christoph is arranging charter flights between Tribhuvan Airport, Kathmandu (KTM) and Bhairahawa Airport, Lumbini (BWA). It’s important not to miss these flights!

Outgoing charter flight, 28th February 2011: Please arrive at Tribhuvan between 12:00 to 14:00, for the take-off around 17:00 from the domestic airport.

Returning charter flight, 5th March, 2011: Please be up and ready nice and early, since this flight takes off from BWA between 9:00 and 10:00 in the morning, arriving at KTM by 12:00 noon (as we have to calculate possible delays).

Our tentative program is as follows. A more complete one will be created when the abstracts are in. The program as it stands allows one hour for each speaker. If anyone wants a longer or shorter slot (for example, to discuss many slides), please let me know, and I will do what I can to be accommodating, even if this means using up some of the spare time on 4th March.

1st March:              morning session            afternoon session

2nd March:            morning session             excursion in the afternoon

3rd March:             morning session            afternoon session

4th March:             morning session             free time in the afternoon

5th March:             morning departure


Between Empire and phyi dar: the fragmentation and reconstruction of society and religion in post-imperial Tibet.

March 1-4, 2011, Lumbini International Research Institute (LIRI), Nepal

Second Circular, 26th September 2010

Dear Participants,

We have had a very good response to the conference invitations, and a great deal of interest has been shown. Notionally, all eighteen of our permitted conference places are now taken, although it is highly likely that space can still be made for late-comers or those who have not yet confirmed but who show a keen interest. The list of confirmed participants is as follows:

Henk Blezer,   Brandon Dotson,  Guntram Hazod,  Amy Heller, Nathan Hill,  Bianca Horlemann,  Maho Iuchi,  Samten Karmay, Dan Martin, Klaus-Dieter Mathes, Rob Mayer,  Carmen Meinert, Dieter Schuh,  Heather Stoddard,  Peter Szanto,  Lopon P. Ogyan Tanzin, Roberto Vitali,  Mike Walter,  Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim.

Abstracts and title: please try to submit these by November 30th, 2010.

Accommodation and subsistence in Lumbini: please note that all accommodation and subsistence in Lumbini will be provided free of charge by LIRI, excluding additional drinks. There is no conference fee.

Transfers between Kathmandu and Lumbini: please note that LIRI will arrange and pay for your return airtravel between Kathmandu and Lumbini.

Transit accommodation in Kathmandu: LIRI can help you locate transit accommodation in a hotel or guesthouse in Kathmandu, for your journey en route to and from Lumbini, but LIRI cannot pay for this.

Airtickets: Please remember to book your travel tickets from your point of departure to Kathmandu in good time!

Conference Convenors: Dr Christoph Cüppers & Dr Michael Walter, LIRI, PO Box 39, Bhairahawa, Dist. Rupahendi, Nepal Tel/fax: 00977-71-580-175.  Dr Rob Mayer, Oriental Institute, Oxford University, Oxford OX2 1LE, Tel: +44 (0)1227-456226