Tibetan Buddhism: with its Mystic Cults, Symbolism and Mythology

Item Code: IDJ008
Author: L. Austine Waddell
Publisher: Pilgrims Publishing, Varanasi
Language: English
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 9788177691429
Pages: 598 (Illustrated Throughout in Black & White)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.3" X 5.4"
Weight 610 gm
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Book Description

From the Jacket

Tibetan Buddhism covers the whole gamut of the growth and development of Buddhism in Tibet, its rites and its historical background. Waddell's anthropological study also includes details of the Lamaist order and of its evolution from primitive Buddhism.

The author discusses the mythology, ritual, and festivals related to Lamaism and the role they play in the everyday life of the Tibetan people. He has dealt with the Lamaist order, the monastic system prevalent in the country, its discipline, hierarchy, the incarnate deities and re-embodied saints. This alongside the metaphysical sources of the doctrine as well as its morality and literature make this a complete study of one of the most abstruse subjects. As one reads into the text the dual character of Tibet becomes apparent and one hand and its richness and diversity on the other.

During his long tenure with the British army in Darjeeling, Waddell, the celebrated author of many works on Tibet, studied the language and culture from visiting Tibetan scholars and priests. He himself visited Tibet several times secretly and in disguise. At the time of the Young husband expedition in 1905, where he acted as the cultural expert, he was considered alongside Sir Charles Bell as one of the foremost authorities on this very secret domain, which had for centuries kept itself secluded from the inquisitive eyes of the West.


No apology is needed for the production at the present time of a work on the Buddhism of Tibet, or "Lamaism" as it has been called, after its priests. Notwithstanding the increased attention which in recent years has been directed to Buddhism by the speculations of Schopenhauer and Hartmann, and the widely felt desire for fuller information as to the conditions and sources of Eastern religion, there exists no European book giving much insight into the jealously guarded religion of Tibet, where Buddhism wreathed in romance has now its chief stronghold.

The only treatise on the subject in English, is Emil Schlagintweit's Buddhism in Tibet published over thirty years ago, and now out of print. A work which, however admirable with respect to the time of its appearance, was admittedly fragmentary, as its author had never been in contact with Tibetans. And the only other European book on Lamaism, excepting Giorgi's curious compilation of last century, is Koppen's Die Lamaische Hierarchieund Kirche' published thirty-five years ago, and also a compilation and out of print. Since the publication of these two works much new information has been gained, though scattered through more or less inaccessible Russian, German, French, and Asiatic journals. And this, combined with the existing opportunities for a closer study of Tibet and its customs, renders a fuller and more systematic work now possible.

Some reference seems needed to my special facilities for undertaking this task. In addition to having personally studied "southern Buddhism" in Burma and Ceylon; and "northern Buddhism" in Sikhim, Bhutan and Japan; and exploring Indian Buddhism in its remains in "the Buddhist Holy Land," and the ethnology of Tibet and its border tribes in Sikhim, Assam, and upper Burma; and being one of the few Europeans who have entered the territory of the Grand Lama, I have spent several years in studying the actualities of Lamaism as explained by its priests, at points much nearer Lhasa than any utilized for such a purpose, and where I could feel the pulse of the sacred city itself beating in the large communities of its natives, many of whom had left Lhasa only ten or twelve days previously.

On commencing my enquiry I found it necessary to learn the language, which is peculiarly difficult, and known to very few Europeans. And afterwards, realizing the rigid secrecy maintained by the Lamas in regard to their seemingly chaotic rites and symbolism, I felt compelled to purchase a Lamaist temple with its fittings; and prevailed on the officiating priests to explain to me in full detail the symbolism and the rites as they proceeded. Perceiving how much I was interested, the Lamas were so obliging as to interpret in my favor a prophetic account, which exists in their scriptures regarding a Buddhist in carnation in the West. They convinced themselves that I was a reflex of the Western Buddha, Amitabha, and thus they overcame their conscientious scruples, and imparted information freely. With the knowledge thus gained, I visited other temples and monasteries critically, amplifying my information and engaging a small staff of Lamas in the work of copying manuscripts and searching for texts bearing upon my researches. Enjoying in these ways special facilities for penetrating the reserve of Tibetan ritual, and obtaining direct from Lhasa and Tashi-lhunpo most of the objects and explanatory material needed, I have elicited much information on Lamaist theory and practice which is altogether new.

The present work, while embodying much original research, brings to a focus most of the information on Lamaism scattered through former publications. And bearing in mind the increasing number of general readers interested in old world ethics, custom and myth, and in the ceaseless effort of the human heart in its insatiable craving for absolute truth; as well as the more serious students of Lamaism amongst orient lists, travelers, missionaries and others, I have endeavored to give a clear insight into the structure, prominent features and cults of this system, and have relegated to smaller type and footnotes the more technical details and references required by specialists.

The special characteristics of the book are its detailed accounts of the external facts and curious symbolism of Buddhism, and its analyses of the internal movements leading to Lamaism and its sets and cults. It provides material culled from hoary Tibetan tradition and explained to me by Lamas for elucidating many obscure points in primitive Indian Buddhism and its later symbolism. Thus a clue is supplied to several disputed doctrinal points of fundamental importance, as for example the formula of the Causal Nexus. And it interprets much of the interesting Mahayana and Tantrik developments in the later Indian Buddhism of Magadha.

It attempts to disentangle the early history of Lamaism from the chaotic growth of fable, which had invested it. With this view the nebulous Tibetan "history" so-called of the earlier periods has been somewhat critically examined in the light afforded by some scholarly Lamas and contemporary history; and all fictitious chronicles, such as the Mani-kah-bum, hitherto treated usually as historical, are rejected as authoritative for events which happened a thousand years before they were written and for a time when writing was admittedly unknown in Tibet. If, after rejecting these manifestly fictitious "histories" and whatever is supernatural, the residue cannot be accepted as altogether trustworthy history, it at least affords a fairly probable historical basis, which seems consistent and in harmony with known facts and unwritten tradition.

It will be seen that I consider the founder of Lamaism to be Padma sambhava-a person to whom previous writers are wont to refer in too incidental a manner. Indeed, some careful writers omit all mention of his name, although he is considered by the Lamas of all sects to be the founder of their order, and by the majority of them to be greater and more deserving of worship than Buddha himself.

Most of the chief internal movements of Lamaism are now for the first time presented in an intelligible and systematic form. Thus, for example, my account of its sects may be compared with that given by Schlagintweit, to which nothing practically had been added.

As Lamaism lives mainly by the senses and spends its strength in sacerdotal functions, it is particularly rich in ritual. Special prominence, therefore, has been given to its ceremonial, therefore, had been given to its ceremonial, all the more so as ritual preserves many interesting vestiges of archaic times. My special facilities for acquiring such information has enabled me to supply details of the principal rites, mystic and other, most of which were previously undescribed. Many of these exhibit in combination ancient Indian and pre-Buddhist Tibetan cults. The higher ritual, as already known, invites comparison with much in the Roman Church; and the fuller details now afforded facilitate this comparison and contrast.

But the bulk of the Lamaist cults comprise much deep-rooted devil-worship and sorcery, which I describe with some fullness. For Lamaism is only thinly and imperfectly varnished over with Buddhist symbolism, beneath which the sinister growth of poly-demonist superstition darkly appears.

The religious plays and festivals are also described. And a chapter is added on popular and domestic Lamaism to show the actual working of the religion in everyday life as a system of ethical belief and practice.

The advantages of the very numerous illustrations- about two hundred in number, mostly from originals brought from Lhasa, and from photographs by the author-must be obvious. Mr. Rockhill and Mr. Knight have kindly permitted the use of a few of their illustrations.

A full index has been provided, also a chronological table and bibliography.

I have to acknowledge the special aid afforded me by the learned Tibetan Lama, Padma Chho Phel; by that venerable scholar the Mongolian Lama She-rab Gya-tso; by the Nim-ma Lama, Urgyan Gyatso, head of the Yang-gang monastery of Sikhism and a noted explorer of Tibet; by Tunyig Wang-dan and Mr. Dorje Tse-ring; by S'ad-sgra sabpe, one of the Tibetan governors of Lhasa, who supplied some useful information, and a few manuscripts; and by Mr. A.W. Paul, ..E., when pursuing my researches in Sikhism.

And I am deeply indebted to the mind courtesy of Professor C. Bendall for much special assistance and advice; and also generally to my friend Dr. Islay Moorhead.

Of previous writers to whose books I am specially under obligation, foremost must be mentioned Csoma Korosi, the enthusiastic Hungarian scholar and pioneer of Tibetan studies, who first rendered the Lamaist stores of information accessible to Europeans. Though to Brian Houghton Hodgson, the father of modern critical study of Buddhist doctrine belongs the credit of discovering the Indian nature of the bulk of the Lamaist literature and of procuring the material for the detailed analyses by Csoma and Burnouf. My indebtedness to Koppen and Schlagintweit has already been mentioned.

Jaeschke's great dictionary is a mine of information on technical and doctrinal definitions. The works of Giorgi, Vasiliev, Schiefner, Foucaux, Rockhill, Eitel, and Pander, have also proved most helpful. The Narrative of Travels in Tibet by Babu Sarat chandra Das, and his translations from the vernacular literature, have afforded some useful details. The Indian Survey reports and Markham's Tibet have been of service; and the systematic treatises of Professors Rhys Davids, Olden berg and Beal have supplied several useful indications.

The vastness of this many sided subject, far beyond the scope of individual experience, the backward state of our knowledge on many points, the peculiar difficulties that beset the research, and the conditions under which the greater part of the book was written-in the scant leisure of a busy official life-these considerations may, I trust, excuse the frequent crudeness of treatment, as well as any errors which may be present, for I cannot fail to have missed the meaning occasionally, though sparing no pains to ensure accuracy. But, if my book, notwithstanding its shortcomings, proves of real use to those seeking information on the Buddhism of Tibet, as well as on the later Indian developments of Buddhism, and to future workers in these fields, I shall feel amply rewarded for all my labours.


Buddhism has over a period of two thousand five hundred years permeated into not only all sections of Oriental life but also into the Occident. This deeply penetrating and profound religion has taken on many shapes and forms during its travels amongst humankind and has the courage to mould and adapt itself to its environment.

Providing humankind with an almost perfect platform upon which to develop itself it has survived the travails of persecution throughout its history. Banished from its country of origin it still manages to pervade the thoughts of its protagonists. Now becoming an important and well-recognized feature of their heritage it is once again finding sympathy and support.

As with all organized religions dissentions within led to numerous schisms and the establishment of many schools. One of the main schools thus formed became known as the Mahayana school or Northern school of Buddhism. Out of this school developed Tibetan Buddhism or Lamaism the religion of both the Tibetan and Mongolian people. It was one of the least known forms of Buddhism until the turn of the nineteenth century when a few very brave persistent people were able finally to penetrate the forbidden land of Tibet.

This most mystical form full of the demons of the Bonpo that it supplanted has in recent times become the most well-known and popular forms of the Buddhism faith. This is thanks mainly to popularity of the Dalai Lama now living in exile and travelling extensively in the West. The author of this book a well known expert on Tibetan affairs of the times and accompanied the Younghusband expedition in 1905 as its cultural advisor. It was a time when Tibet was an almost unknown count4ry forbidden and foreboding.

His book on Tibetan Buddhism covers the whole gamut of religion, mysticism, practice and beliefs. It is a complete guide into the teachings of the Tibetan Buddhists. Filled with many examples of the symbolism of the Tibetans and graphic descriptions of their practices it provides a deep insight into has remained so secret for so long.



Chapter   Page
  Introduction to New Edition v
  Preface vii
  Note on Pronunciation xxi
  List of Abbreviations xxiii
I. Introductory-Division of Subject 1-4
II. Changes in Primitive Buddhism Leading to Lamaism 5-17
III. Rise, Development, And Spread of Lamaism 18-53
IV. The Sects of Lamaism 54-75
V. Metaphysical Sources of the Doctrine 76-131
VI. The Doctrine and its Morality 132-154
VII. Scriptures and Literature 155-168
VIII. The order of Lamas 169-211
IX. Daily Life and Routine 212-225
X. Hierarchy and Re-Incarnate Lamas 226-254
XI. Monasteries 255-286
XII. Temples and Cathedrals 287-304
XIII. Shrines and Relics(And Pilgrims) 305-323
XIV. Pantheon and Images 324-386
XV. Sacred Symbols and Charms 387-419
XVI. Worship and Ritual 420-449
XVII. Astrology and Divination 450-474
XVIII. Sorcery and Necromancy 475-500
XIX. Festivals and Holidays 501-514
XX. Sacred Dramas, Mystic Plays and Masquerades 515-565
XXI. Domestic and Popular Lamaism 566-573
I. Chronological Table 575-578
II. Biblography 578-583
  Index 585-598

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