Narrative and Ethics in Tibet: The Ethical Cosmology of Female Revenants

Kamaoji, Fnu, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Schaeffer, Kurtis, Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Germano, David, Religious Studies, University of Virginia

This dissertation investigates the biographies of the seventeenth-century Tibetan delok (revenant) Karma Wangzin as a case study in the analysis of delok genre literature, Buddhist cosmology and ethical beliefs, perceptions on death and the dying process, gender roles, rituals, practices, and the Buddhist societies embedded within these narratives. Building upon recent scholarship on Tibetan Buddhist narrative literature, this study explores these areas by examining the embedded cultural knowledge latent in primary source manuscripts, contemporary scholarly interpretations, and in the author’s extensive field research conducted in Karma Wangzin’s home village in the Lhodrak region of Tibet. Using different versions of the narratives about this important religious figure’s journey to the underworld, this research attempts to illuminate popular understandings of death, the afterlife, individual agency, and ethics at the local level. When comparing her narrative with other female revenant stories, we begin to uncover the relevant, regional cultural contexts of their time to create a more holistic picture of their lived realities. Further analysis reveals the innovative ways in which these stories transmit Buddhist principles regarding death, dying, afterlife, karma, and ethics for lay audiences.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Delok , Revenant , Karma , Ethics , Afterlife , Underworld , Tibetan Buddhism , Tibetan Popular Beliefs , Buddhist cosmology , Buddhist Narrative, Gender
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