9780195341164

Travels in the Netherworld Buddhist Popular Narratives of Death and the Afterlife in Tibet

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  • ISBN13:

    9780195341164

  • ISBN10:

    0195341163

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2008-04-02
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Summary

In Travels in the Netherworld, Bryan J. Cuevas examines a fascinating butlittle-known genre of Tibetan narrative literature about the delok, ordinary menand women who claim to have died, traveled through hell, and then returned fromthe afterlife. These narratives enjoy audiences ranging from the mostsophisticated monastic scholars to pious townsfolk, villagers, and nomads. Theiraccounts emphasize the universal Buddhist principles of impermanence and worldlysuffering, the fluctuations of karma, and the feasibility of obtaining afavorable rebirth through virtue and merit. Providing a clear, detailed analysisof four vivid return-from-death tales, including the stories of a Tibetanhousewife, a lama, a young noble woman, and a Buddhist monk, Cuevas argues thatthese narratives express ideas about death and the afterlife that held widecurrency among all classes of faithful Buddhists in Tibet. Relying on a diversity of traditional Tibetan sources, Buddhist canonicalscriptures, scholastic textbooks, ritual and meditation manuals, and medicaltreatises, in addition to the delok works themselves, Cuevas surveys a broadrange of popular Tibetan Buddhist ideas about death and dying. He exploresbeliefs about the vulnerability of the soul and its journey beyond death, karmicretribution and the terrors of hell, the nature of demons and demonicpossession, ghosts, and reanimated corpses. Cuevas argues that theseextraordinary accounts exhibit flexibility between social and religiouscategories that are conventionally polarized and concludes that, contrary to theaccepted wisdom, such rigid divisions as elite and folk, monastic and layreligion are not sufficiently representative of traditional Tibetan Buddhism onthe ground. This study offers innovative perspectives on popular religion inTibet and fills a gap in an important field of Tibetan literature.

Author Biography


Bryan J. Cuevas is Associate Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies in the Department of Religion at Florida State University. He is the author of The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and co-editor of The Buddhist Dead: Practices, Discourses, Representations.

Table of Contents

A Note on Tibetan Words
To Hell and Backp. 3
Travels of a Tibetan Housewifep. 21
A Lama in Distressp. 55
The Return of a Noble Young Ladyp. 71
A Ghost in Monk's Robesp. 107
Storytellersp. 123
Spellings of Tibetan Names and Termsp. 141
Notesp. 147
Bibliographyp. 169
Indexp. 193
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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