ENDURING MYTHS : SMRANG, RABS AND RITUAL

IN THE DUNHUANG TEXTS ON PADMASAMBHAVA
Cathy Cantwell and Rob Mayer, University of Oxford

Introduction :

Over the last nearly four decades, Samten Karmay has made numerous extraordinary contributions to the emerging discipline of Tibetology. Amongst his most significant works are his many and wide-ranging studies of indigenous Tibetan beliefs, including a remarkable series of essays on indigenous Tibetan ritual and its close relation to
myth.
This paper is considerably inspired by Samten Karmay’s work on indigenous Tibetan myth and ritual. In it, we propose to look at the strategies that were employed by early Tibetan tantrists to transform and partially
indigenise the imported Indian tantrism they encountered, a movement that contributed substantially to the rNying ma tantric culture that has continued to thrive into the present day. More specifically, we want to examine if the deployment of a particularly Tibetan understanding of the proper relation of myth to ritual might have become important to this indigenising  process…

Historical context

The particular examples of indigenisation under discussion here quite likely belong to the post-Imperial period, often known as the ‘time of fragments’ or ‘sil bu’i dus’. When referring to this approximately 150-year period with specific reference to the dissemination of Buddhism, we now propose to call it the Intermediate Period of the propagation of the teachings. Such a periodisation was not as far as we know distinguished by traditional Tibetan historians, and our term is a neologism.                                                                                                                             Had traditional Tibetan historians made such a distinction, they would perhaps have called it something like the ‘bstan pa bar dar’.
In our usage, the Intermediate Period postdates what is commonly called the bstan pa snga
dar, or Earlier Period of the propagation of the teachings, which is
associated with the official translation projects of the Imperial period.

The Intermediate Period also pre-dates what is commonly called the bstan pa phyi dar, or Later Period of the propagation of the teachings, that gathered pace with the renewed translational and other activities mainly from the
late tenth century onwards. The term Intermediate Period thus serves to disambiguate the relationship between the highly esoteric rNying ma tantrism as we have it today—predominantly an Intermediate Period
tradition—from the quite different and much more exoteric Buddhism that was officially sponsored by the Tibetan Empire—the snga dar proper.
Much existing and especially traditional nomenclature fails to make any such distinction, presenting modern rNying ma esotericism as though it were a snga dar tradition stemming from the Imperial period.

This is clearly misleading, and moreover draws attention away from the quite unique and remarkably creative contributions of the Intermediate Period.
A significant rhetorical stance or ideological trend of the Intermediate Period (although clearly not the only one!) was to indigenise Tantric Buddhism, to make it more properly Tibetan, and less foreign or alien .

Pdf complete : Enduring-Myths-Smrang-Rabs-and-Ritual-in-the-Dunhuang-Texts-on-Padmasambhava

article from : ocbs.org

 

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