Bringing Light into the Darkness: An Intellectual History of Tibet's Dark Age (842-978 CE)

Lopez, Manuel, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Schaeffer, Kurtis, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

How does a society assimilate a foreign religious tradition, transforming it while simultaneously being transformed by it? My project explores the process of assimilation of Buddhism in Tibet during the so-called Dark Age period (842-978 CE) with this central question in mind. While traditional Tibetan historiography considers this era as one of intellectual decline that witnessed the almost complete disappearance of Buddhism from Tibet, my research will argue that the Dark Age was, instead, one of the most creative and transformational periods for the assimilation of Buddhism in the region. At the center of this creative process of assimilation during this period we find the emergence of the Great Perfection tradition, a Tibetan reinterpretation of Buddhist doctrine and practice that rejected the complex and antinomian tantric practices that were so popular during the early introduction of Buddhism in Tibet (7th-9th centuries). I will use as evidence for my research the single largest philosophical treatise written by a Tibetan scholar that has survived from this period, The Lamp for the Eye in Meditation (Tib. bsam gtan mig sgron), a doxography authored by the 10th century scholar, Nupchen Sangyé Yeshé (Tib. gNubs chen sangs rgyas ye shes), which contradicts many traditional assumptions about this period

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Tibet, Tibetan Buddhism, Dzokchen, rdzogs chen, Dark Age, Nupchen Sangye Yeshe, gnubs chen sangs rgyas ye shes
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