Magic and Ritual in Tibet,The Cult of Tara By Stephan Beyer

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**The result of field-work in the Tibetan
community at Palampur, Kangra, India,
which is well known as one of the most
vigorous surviving centres of traditional
Tibetan culture, supplemented by vast
researches into Tibetan and Sanskrit
source material which is handled with
impressive competence. It is impossible
not to admire the immense amount of
hard work and deep and critical thinking
which has gone into this book, which is
certainly a major milestone in the subject.”This paper represents a first attempt to formulate the processes and presuppositions of Tibetan Buddhist ritual, a field that has been left relatively untouched by Western scholars.One finds oneself almost immediately intimidated by the vast amount of material to be covered, even though there remains only
a decimated literary debris carried from Tibet by refugees of the Chinese occupation. Here the problem of organization becomes acute. Ferdinand Lessing, in his often neglected classic Yung-ho-kung,attempted to deal with the unwieldy mass of material at his disposal by discussing the rituals that took place in the various halls of this large temple complex, but the promise of this projected multivolume series remained unfulfilled at his death. David Snell-grove, taking a similarly localized approach in his Buddhist Himalaya, discussed the ceremonies he had seen performed at Chiwang Monastery. René de Nebesky-Wojkowitz, on the other hand, in his brilliant compendium Oracles and Demons of Tibet, organized his material around the cult and iconography of the Tibetan protective deities, approaching the problem through the rituals of a class
of deities rather than of a particular place.These works together constitute a standard of presentation which
is difficult to meet. All three authors clearly felt deep bonds of affection for and sympathy with the Tibetans, and their works are important in their attempt to capture the spirit of a living tradition
and to describe a practice of Buddhism which is still a vital force among an entire people.The present work is an extension of their approach, for Snell-grove’s concern for the history of Buddhism, and Lessing’s and Nebesky-Wojkowitz’s concern for its iconography, limited the space they had available in their books for detailed analyses of the complexities of Tibetan ritual. As Lessing himself said, “A book could well be written describing in detail these rites alone, with the rit.
ual books translated, annotated and illustrated by sketches, drawings and photographs.

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