This book describes and analyses the structure and performance of
Tibetan Buddhist death rituals, and situates that performance within the
wider context of Buddhist death practices generally. Drawing on a
detailed and systematic comparative survey of existing records of
Tibetan funerary practices, including historical travel accounts,
anthropological and ethnographic literature, Tibetan texts and academic
studies, it demonstrates that there is no standard form of funeral in
Tibetan Buddhism, although certain elements are common.
The structure of the book follows the twin trajectories of benefiting
the deceased and protecting survivors; in the process, it reveals a
rich and complex panoply of activities, some handled by religious
professionals and others by lay persons. This information is examined to
identify similarities and differences in practices, and the degree to
which Tibetan Buddhist funeral practices are consistent with the
mortuary rituals of other forms of Buddhism. A number of elements in
these death rites which at first appear to be unique to Tibetan Buddhism
may only be Tibetan in their surface characteristics, while having
roots in practices which pre-date the transmission of Buddhism to Tibet.
Filling a gap in the existing literature on Tibetan Buddhism, this
book poses research challenges that will engage future scholars in the
field of Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism and Anthropology.
Tibetan Rituals of Death, Margaret Gouin, Routledge, Hardcover, 182 Pages, $130.00