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Books > Buddhist > Biography > Account of a Pilgrimage to Central Tibet
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Account of a Pilgrimage to Central Tibet
Account of a Pilgrimage to Central Tibet
Description
Introduction

Tibetan legends tell us that Tibet’s early kings descended to earth via sacred mountains, which became objects of worship long before Buddhism evolved. “Going around a holy place” (gnas skor) or “meeting a sanctified site” (gnas mjal), the actual meaning of pilgrimage, has long been and still is an integral part of Tibetan culture. Pilgrim-age practice and daily worship still punctuate the rhythm of traditional Tibetan life.

The study of Tibetan pilgrimage sheds light, directly or indirectly, on many aspects of Tibetan culture, including social, economic, historical, political, national, psychological, religious, and literary.

The following thesis however, will look at the tradition of Tibetan pilgrimage from only four angles: previous studies on the subject, the literary genre of historical and religious geography, the investigation of one specific pilgrimage account, and the life and tradition of the pilgrim who wrote that account.

Tibetan pilgrimage from the western academic point of view is a comparatively new field that has gradually developed during just the last forty years. In part I, chapter 1, I give a brief overview on these previous studies and introduce-in the context of these-the approach taken in the present work.

As the second part of part I (chapter 2 and 3), I look at the literary genre of historical and religious geography. The corpus of that literature is vast (especially if one includes the dkar chag genre). Chapter 2 discusses the nature of that Tibetan literary genre, and chapter 3 presents a bibliography that lists and classifies some 370 guidebooks and pilgrimage accounts.

In part II, we will focus on a single specific pilgrimage account, the dBus gtsang gi gnas bskor byed tshul rag bsdus tsam zbig brjod pa mi brjed dren pa’I gsal ‘debs gzur gnas mkhas pai’I rna rgyan (hereafter: dBus gtsang gi gnas bskor), a typical example of the genre which has, however, been until now neglected by the scholarly world. It is a rare book. To my knowledge no edition, translation, or other study of the text has yet been published. It is also largely unknown to Tibetans. In chapter 4, I will therefore introduce that pilgrimage account. Chapters 5 and 6 will present an edition and annotated English translation of a bit more than one quarter of the Tibetan-language guidebook.

In part III, I would like to examine the point of that guidebook’s pilgrim author. Brag-dgon-pa Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho (1868-1941), the author of the dBus gtsang gi gnas bskor, made his pilgrimage probably in 1916, while visiting central Tibet and meeting the 13th Dalai Lama. In chapter 7, I will describe my search for this author, about whom very little was formerly known, and give biographical sketches of Brag-dgon-pa and his previous incarnations. Chapter 8 presents an English translation of a short biography of ‘Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho.

Apart from the dBus gtsang gi gnas bskor (chapter 5) and the biographical material (chapter 8), which are reproduced in Tibetan characters, Tibetan words are transliterated using the common Wylie (1959a) system of Romanization. Syllable foundation letters (ming gzhi) are capitalized in the first syllable of names (person, place, title, and text). Personal names, titles, and place names are hyphenated, while titles of works and Tibetan terms are presented in cursive letters. For the bibliography at the end of the work, I have used English sorting order for both Tibetan and European Language works.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the help of those who assisted me during my research. Thanks are due first of all to David Jackson (Hamburg), who supported and advised me throughout the investigation phase and during the actual writing of the thesis. Thanks also to Karl-Heinz Everding (Bonn, Hamburg), who has agreed to act as co-evaluator, for his inspiring seminars in Tibetan historical and religious geography.

My special thanks are due to Gene Smith (Boston, Massachusetts) and Toni Huber (Wellington), who made available to me recent publications on ‘Jam-dbyangsbstan-pa-rgya-mtsho, without which I would not have been able to complete part III. Many thanks also to Tashi Tsering of the Amnye Machen Institute (who recently visited Belgium), Yonten Gyatso (Paris), and Hortsang Jigme (McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala) for their valuable information, suggestions, and hints that allowed me to continue my research. Thanks to A-lags mTsho-kha-ba (bSang-chu-rdzong, Amdo) and one anonymous correspondent, whose identity still remains unknown, for answering my letters and sending me valuable information on the Brag-dgon-pa lamas. Thanks also to Jan-Ulrih Sobisch (Hamburg) and Dorje Wangchuk (Hamburg) for answering simple and difficult questions.

Last, but by no means least, I wish to thank my companion through life, Astrid Grabler, for her constant support and in particular my twin daughters, Jasmin and Saskia, for pulling me away from my desk and reminding me of other very important things.

Back of the Book

Account of a Pilgrimage to Central Tibet investigates a rare text, the dbus gtsang gi gnas bskor and its author ‘Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho, about whom very little was formerly known. This Brag-dgon-pa lama made his pilgrimage in 1916, while visiting central Tibet and meeting the 13th Dalai Lama.

Besides an edition and annotated translation of part of the guidebook, as well as a translation of the biographical material about ‘Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho, this study also provides a bibliography that lists and classifies some 370 Tibetan-language works belonging to the Tibetan literary genre of historical and sacred Geography.

Andreas Brunder received his MA in Tibetology from the University of Hamburg. His main research interests are the tradition of Tibetan pilgrimage, and the history and geography of specific sacred sites in the Tibetan cultural realm. He currently works as a Head of Mission with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

Contents

List of Figuresvii
Abbreviationsix
Introductionxi
Part I: Introductory Matter1
1Previous Studies of Tibetan Pilgrimage3
2Tibetan Religious Geography: A Tibetan Literary Genre13
3A Bibliography of Tibetan-Language Geographical Works15
3.1 Pilgrimage accounts of central Tibet (dBus and gTsang)15
2.3 Geographies of the world17
2.4 Guidebooks to sacred places in dBus19
3.5 Guidebooks to sacred places in dBus30
3.6 Pilgrimage accounts of Tsa-ri33
3.7 Guidebooks to sacred places in gTsang38
3.8 Pilgrimages to Western Tibet, including Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar48
3.9 Guides to places in the India Himalaya54
3.10 Guides to places in the Nepal Himalaya55
3.11 Guides to the hidden land of Sikkim63
3.12 Guides to places in the Bhutan Himalaya66
3.13 Guidebooks to sacred places in Khams and the Chinese borderland68
3.14 Guidebooks to sacred places in A-mdo77
3.15 Guidebooks to sacred places in (Inner) Mongolia86
3.16 Guidebooks to sacred places in western China89
3.17 Guides to Shambhala and similar pure lands92
3.18 Three lam yig to the Swat Valley (Pakistan)94
3.19 Route descriptions to Nepal and guides to holy places there95
3.20 Pilgrimage accounts of Buddhist India100
3.21 Guides to sites in India103
3.22 Works about undetermined locations105
Part II: A Pilgrimage to Central Tibet: An Example of a Lam yig109
4 Introductory Remarks to the Edition and Translation111
4.1 The Manuscript111
4.2 Contents112
4.3 Conventions used in the Edition117
4.4 Remarks about the Translation117
5 Edition of the Tibetan Text121
6 Translation of the Tibetan Text133
Part III: The Author, ‘Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho143
7 The Author and his Lineage145
7.1 My search for ‘Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho, Brag-dgon-pa (1968-1941)145
7.2 The Brag-dgon-pa Lineage152
7.3 Biographical sketches of the Brag-dgon-pa lams153
(2) Brag-dgon-pa bLo-bzang-shes-rab (1728-1800)153
(3) Brag-dgon-pa dKon-mchog-bstan-pa-rab-rgyas (1801-1866)154
(4) Brag-dgon-pa ‘Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho (1868-1941)155
8 A Brief Biography of ‘Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho157
8.1 Accounts of the Brag-dgon-pa lama157
8.2 Tibetan Texts and Translations158
Notes165
Bibliography183
Tibetan Sources183
European Language Sources185

Account of a Pilgrimage to Central Tibet

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2008
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Introduction

Tibetan legends tell us that Tibet’s early kings descended to earth via sacred mountains, which became objects of worship long before Buddhism evolved. “Going around a holy place” (gnas skor) or “meeting a sanctified site” (gnas mjal), the actual meaning of pilgrimage, has long been and still is an integral part of Tibetan culture. Pilgrim-age practice and daily worship still punctuate the rhythm of traditional Tibetan life.

The study of Tibetan pilgrimage sheds light, directly or indirectly, on many aspects of Tibetan culture, including social, economic, historical, political, national, psychological, religious, and literary.

The following thesis however, will look at the tradition of Tibetan pilgrimage from only four angles: previous studies on the subject, the literary genre of historical and religious geography, the investigation of one specific pilgrimage account, and the life and tradition of the pilgrim who wrote that account.

Tibetan pilgrimage from the western academic point of view is a comparatively new field that has gradually developed during just the last forty years. In part I, chapter 1, I give a brief overview on these previous studies and introduce-in the context of these-the approach taken in the present work.

As the second part of part I (chapter 2 and 3), I look at the literary genre of historical and religious geography. The corpus of that literature is vast (especially if one includes the dkar chag genre). Chapter 2 discusses the nature of that Tibetan literary genre, and chapter 3 presents a bibliography that lists and classifies some 370 guidebooks and pilgrimage accounts.

In part II, we will focus on a single specific pilgrimage account, the dBus gtsang gi gnas bskor byed tshul rag bsdus tsam zbig brjod pa mi brjed dren pa’I gsal ‘debs gzur gnas mkhas pai’I rna rgyan (hereafter: dBus gtsang gi gnas bskor), a typical example of the genre which has, however, been until now neglected by the scholarly world. It is a rare book. To my knowledge no edition, translation, or other study of the text has yet been published. It is also largely unknown to Tibetans. In chapter 4, I will therefore introduce that pilgrimage account. Chapters 5 and 6 will present an edition and annotated English translation of a bit more than one quarter of the Tibetan-language guidebook.

In part III, I would like to examine the point of that guidebook’s pilgrim author. Brag-dgon-pa Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho (1868-1941), the author of the dBus gtsang gi gnas bskor, made his pilgrimage probably in 1916, while visiting central Tibet and meeting the 13th Dalai Lama. In chapter 7, I will describe my search for this author, about whom very little was formerly known, and give biographical sketches of Brag-dgon-pa and his previous incarnations. Chapter 8 presents an English translation of a short biography of ‘Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho.

Apart from the dBus gtsang gi gnas bskor (chapter 5) and the biographical material (chapter 8), which are reproduced in Tibetan characters, Tibetan words are transliterated using the common Wylie (1959a) system of Romanization. Syllable foundation letters (ming gzhi) are capitalized in the first syllable of names (person, place, title, and text). Personal names, titles, and place names are hyphenated, while titles of works and Tibetan terms are presented in cursive letters. For the bibliography at the end of the work, I have used English sorting order for both Tibetan and European Language works.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the help of those who assisted me during my research. Thanks are due first of all to David Jackson (Hamburg), who supported and advised me throughout the investigation phase and during the actual writing of the thesis. Thanks also to Karl-Heinz Everding (Bonn, Hamburg), who has agreed to act as co-evaluator, for his inspiring seminars in Tibetan historical and religious geography.

My special thanks are due to Gene Smith (Boston, Massachusetts) and Toni Huber (Wellington), who made available to me recent publications on ‘Jam-dbyangsbstan-pa-rgya-mtsho, without which I would not have been able to complete part III. Many thanks also to Tashi Tsering of the Amnye Machen Institute (who recently visited Belgium), Yonten Gyatso (Paris), and Hortsang Jigme (McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala) for their valuable information, suggestions, and hints that allowed me to continue my research. Thanks to A-lags mTsho-kha-ba (bSang-chu-rdzong, Amdo) and one anonymous correspondent, whose identity still remains unknown, for answering my letters and sending me valuable information on the Brag-dgon-pa lamas. Thanks also to Jan-Ulrih Sobisch (Hamburg) and Dorje Wangchuk (Hamburg) for answering simple and difficult questions.

Last, but by no means least, I wish to thank my companion through life, Astrid Grabler, for her constant support and in particular my twin daughters, Jasmin and Saskia, for pulling me away from my desk and reminding me of other very important things.

Back of the Book

Account of a Pilgrimage to Central Tibet investigates a rare text, the dbus gtsang gi gnas bskor and its author ‘Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho, about whom very little was formerly known. This Brag-dgon-pa lama made his pilgrimage in 1916, while visiting central Tibet and meeting the 13th Dalai Lama.

Besides an edition and annotated translation of part of the guidebook, as well as a translation of the biographical material about ‘Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho, this study also provides a bibliography that lists and classifies some 370 Tibetan-language works belonging to the Tibetan literary genre of historical and sacred Geography.

Andreas Brunder received his MA in Tibetology from the University of Hamburg. His main research interests are the tradition of Tibetan pilgrimage, and the history and geography of specific sacred sites in the Tibetan cultural realm. He currently works as a Head of Mission with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

Contents

List of Figuresvii
Abbreviationsix
Introductionxi
Part I: Introductory Matter1
1Previous Studies of Tibetan Pilgrimage3
2Tibetan Religious Geography: A Tibetan Literary Genre13
3A Bibliography of Tibetan-Language Geographical Works15
3.1 Pilgrimage accounts of central Tibet (dBus and gTsang)15
2.3 Geographies of the world17
2.4 Guidebooks to sacred places in dBus19
3.5 Guidebooks to sacred places in dBus30
3.6 Pilgrimage accounts of Tsa-ri33
3.7 Guidebooks to sacred places in gTsang38
3.8 Pilgrimages to Western Tibet, including Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar48
3.9 Guides to places in the India Himalaya54
3.10 Guides to places in the Nepal Himalaya55
3.11 Guides to the hidden land of Sikkim63
3.12 Guides to places in the Bhutan Himalaya66
3.13 Guidebooks to sacred places in Khams and the Chinese borderland68
3.14 Guidebooks to sacred places in A-mdo77
3.15 Guidebooks to sacred places in (Inner) Mongolia86
3.16 Guidebooks to sacred places in western China89
3.17 Guides to Shambhala and similar pure lands92
3.18 Three lam yig to the Swat Valley (Pakistan)94
3.19 Route descriptions to Nepal and guides to holy places there95
3.20 Pilgrimage accounts of Buddhist India100
3.21 Guides to sites in India103
3.22 Works about undetermined locations105
Part II: A Pilgrimage to Central Tibet: An Example of a Lam yig109
4 Introductory Remarks to the Edition and Translation111
4.1 The Manuscript111
4.2 Contents112
4.3 Conventions used in the Edition117
4.4 Remarks about the Translation117
5 Edition of the Tibetan Text121
6 Translation of the Tibetan Text133
Part III: The Author, ‘Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho143
7 The Author and his Lineage145
7.1 My search for ‘Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho, Brag-dgon-pa (1968-1941)145
7.2 The Brag-dgon-pa Lineage152
7.3 Biographical sketches of the Brag-dgon-pa lams153
(2) Brag-dgon-pa bLo-bzang-shes-rab (1728-1800)153
(3) Brag-dgon-pa dKon-mchog-bstan-pa-rab-rgyas (1801-1866)154
(4) Brag-dgon-pa ‘Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho (1868-1941)155
8 A Brief Biography of ‘Jam-dbyangs-bstan-pa-rgya-mtsho157
8.1 Accounts of the Brag-dgon-pa lama157
8.2 Tibetan Texts and Translations158
Notes165
Bibliography183
Tibetan Sources183
European Language Sources185
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