Celibacy, revelations, and reincarnated lamas contestation and synthesis in the growth of monasticism at Katok Monastery from the 17th through 19th centuries

Ronis, Jann Michael, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Germano, David, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Hudson, Clarke, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Schaeffer, Kurtis, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Sihlé, Nicholas, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia

This is a study of Katok Monastery in the Degé region of Kham in eastern Tibet. Katok Monastery was founded in 1159 and is one of the most influential monasteries of the Nyingma sect. The dissertation explores a crisis in the continuity of tradition and administration at Katok as impelled by volatile changes in regional politics and religion during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. For the first several hundred years of Katok's distinctive history, its primary self-identification was as a bastion of Nyingma esoteric scriptural traditions translated into the Tibetan language during the imperial period called the Kama. Katok was also a celibate community – at least in terms of its ideals and reputation – for its first several hundred years. The historical analysis of this study begins with a profound transformation of its original administration and religious programs during the midseventeenth century rise of the new Degé kingdom in Kham. This new polity injected itself directly into the life of the monastery by imposing on it a new head lama, Longsel Nyingpo (1625-1692). This lama was not a proponent of the Kama but instead a discoverer of revealed scriptures (Terma). Moreover, he was a non-celibate lama whose successor was his biological son.

The dissertation thus begins with a rupture with the past and traces the reverberations that rippled through the monastery as the changes introduced by this lama were variously challenged, altered, and codified. Broader developments within the Nyingma School and the Degé kingdom also impacted the cultural and administrative life of the monastery, such that the vicissitudes of Katok provide important glimpses into the religious history of the region overall. By the early nineteenth century the monastery's administration and curricula had been thoroughly reformulated in such a way that both the Kama and the revelations of Longsel Nyingpo were integrated into the core liturgical and scholastic programs at the monastery, and celibate monasticism was revived. Additionally, new institutional and educational practices originating outside the monastery – especially the recognition of reincarnated lamas, the revival of monasticism, and the study of the literary arts – were also firmly incorporated into the monastery.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: