Death and Reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism

In-Between Bodies

By Tanya Zivkovic

© 2013 – Routledge

148 pages | 7 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:
Hardback: 9780415830676
pub: 2013-10-04
US Dollars$145.00

Look Inside

About the Book

Contextualising the seemingly esoteric and exotic aspects of Tibetan Buddhist culture within the everyday, embodied and sensual sphere of religious praxis, this book centres on the social and religious lives of deceased Tibetan Buddhist lamas. It explores how posterior forms – corpses, relics, reincarnations and hagiographical representations – extend a lama’s trajectory of lives and manipulate biological imperatives of birth and death.

The book looks closely at previously unexamined figures whose history is relevant to a better understanding of how Tibetan culture navigates its own understanding of reincarnation, the veneration of relics and different social roles of different types of practitioners. It analyses both the minutiae of everyday interrelations between lamas and their devotees, specifically noted in ritual performances and the enactment of lived tradition, and the sacred hagiographical conventions that underpin local knowledge.

A phenomenology of Tibetan Buddhist life, the book provides an ethnography of the everyday embodiment of Tibetan Buddhism. This unusual approach offers a valuable and a genuine new perspective on Tibetan Buddhist culture and is of interest to researchers in the fields of social/cultural anthropology and religious, Buddhist and Tibetan studies.


"This is an important and fundamentally original work, theoretically sophisticated and multilayered in its approach. Perspectives offered by texts and individual practitioners are well chosen and balanced. While implicitly and explicitly acknowledging "the variation of knowledge systems in Tibetanized societies" (76), the author is able to present a set of findings with implications beyond the immediate issue. For this reader it was of particular interest in regard to the study of rNam-thar, a field in which a number of significant studies have recently emerged. It demonstrates the linking of biographies and realities that allows different lineages to present different interpretations of various biographical events and processes serving different purposes. No one interested in Tibetan concepts of death, whether from a ritual, textual, or philosophical perspective, can fail to gain fresh insights from this stimulating study. Partly due to a writing style that entirely eliminates excess, this is a short work, just 130 pages of text, but it has the great merit of leaving the reader wanting more." A. C. McKay International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. Relics and Reincarnation of Khenchen Sangay Tenzin 3. The Spiritual Mastery or (Spirit Possession) of Gupha Rinpoche 4. Embodying the Past in the Present: Gelongma Palmo 5. Buddhism Across Cultures: Bokar Rinpoche 6. Conclusion

About the Author

Tanya Zivkovic is a Research Fellow in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Adelaide, Australia. Her research explores the body and cultural trajectories of the lifecourse.

About the Series

Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism

Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism is a comprehensive study of the Buddhist tradition. The series explores this complex and extensive tradition from a variety of perspectives, using a range of different methodologies. The series is diverse in its focus, including historical, philological, cultural, and sociological investigations into the manifold features and expressions of Buddhism worldwide. It also presents works of constructive and reflective analysis, including the role of Buddhist thought and scholarship in a contemporary, critical context and in the light of current social issues. The series is expansive and imaginative in scope, spanning more than two and a half millennia of Buddhist history. It is receptive to all research works that are of significance and interest to the broader field of Buddhist Studies.

Some of the titles in the series are published in association with the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, which conducts and promotes rigorous teaching and research into all forms of the Buddhist tradition.

Editorial Advisory Board:
James A. Benn, McMaster University, Canada

Jinhua Chen, The University of British Columbia, Canada

Rupert Gethin, University of Bristol, UK

Peter Harvey, University of Sunderland, UK

Sallie King, James Madison University, USA

Anne Klein, Rice University, USA

Lori Meeks, University of Southern California, USA;

Ulrich Pagel, School of Oriental and African Studies, UK

John Powers, Australian National University, Australia;

Juliane Schober, Arizona State University, USA

Vesna A. Wallace, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Michael Zimmermann, University of Hamburg, Germany

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / Buddhism / General (see also PHILOSOPHY / Buddhist)