Invoking Tibet’s Main Deity: Avalokiteshvara Practice Manuals in Context

142261 SE 2024S

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Nächster Termin

Dienstag, 25.06.2024 11:00-12:30 Seminarraum 2 ISTB UniCampus Hof 2 2B-O1-18


Ziele, Inhalte und Methode der Lehrveranstaltung

Avalokiteśvara, in Tibetan Chenrezig (spyan ras gzigs), represents the key Buddhist deity of the Tibetan plateau and its peoples. Avalokiteśvara is sometimes conceptualised as a Bodhisattva on the path to enlightenment (sūtra) or as the embodiment of the kindness and compassion of all Buddhas (tantra). Within the traditional histories of the Tibetan plateau, this deity is not only inextricably linked with the origin myth of the Tibetan people, but Tibet’s religious history is conceived of as a series of events that express Avalokiteśvara’s salvific activity. Important Tibetan lines of reincarnates, trülku, are also portrayed as embodiments of this bodhisattva. Therefore, we find countless Buddha forms and artistic expressions of Avalokiteśvara along with a vast body of tantric scriptures, commentaries, evocation rituals, and meditation guidebooks. In this exercise, we will focus on two famous short rituals on the four-armed Avalokiteśvara, authored by Thang stong rgyal po (1361–1485) and Zhabs dkar Tshog drub rang sgrol (1781–1851), and study meditation guidance manuals to this practice, such as Karma Nges don bstan rgya’s (19th century) Grub chen thang stong rgyal po’i ’gro don mkha’ khyab ma’i ma ṇi sgom bzlas, “The Ma ṇi [Mantra] Meditation and Recitation of Mahāsiddha Thang stong rgyal po’s ‘Benefit of Beings that Fills Space’.” In this way, students not only develop a deeper understanding of the Tibetan language, but also general skills for dealing with this type of text. Furthermore, we also want to work out some historical details about the authors and origins of this ritual, its meaning, and the doctrinal contexts embedded in it. The importance of orality is also addressed. This leads to a deeper understanding of Tibetan Buddhist and Vajrayana practices overall.


Art der Leistungskontrolle und erlaubte Hilfsmittel

Each week, a section of the respective text is to be pre-translated. All aids are permitted and some are also recommended. Oral participation is checked by jointly discussing and analyzing the translation and further participation. A scheme for the presentation will be discussed in the course, as will the detailed criteria for the written contribution.



Literature is divided into core readings (listed below) and additional readings (which will be provided at the beginning of the semester in class). Key works among these will be made available via Moodle and/or found in the Handapparat of the ISTB library. Tibetan sources will be provided in class.

Core Academic Literature:
Cozort, Daniel. 1996. “Sadhana (sGrubs thabs): Means of Achievement for Deity Yoga.” In Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre. Essays in Honor of Geshe Lhundup Sopai, ed. José I. Cabezón and Roger R. Jackson. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 368–392.

Dewar, Tyler, trans. 2004. Trainings in Compassion: Manuals of Meditation on Avalokiteshvara. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion.

Jackson, Roger R. 2015. “Borrowed Texts, Fluid Genres, and Performative Licence: Reflections on a dGe lugs pa Offering Ritual.” In Tibetan Literary Genres, Texts, and Text Types: From Genre Classification to Transformation, ed. Jim Rheingans. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 89–109.

Rheingans, Jim. 2015. “Introduction. Typologies in Tibetan Literature: Genre or Text Type? Reflections on Previous Approaches and Future Perspectives.” In Tibetan Literary Genres, Texts, and Text Types: From Genre Classification to Transformation, ed. Jim Rheingans. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 1–28.

Schwieger, Peter. 2013. “History as Myth: On the Appropriation of the Past in Tibetan Culture. An Essay in Cultural Studies.” In The Tibetan History Reader, edited by Gray Tuttle and Kurtis R. Schaeffer, 64–85. New York: Columbia University Press.

Stearns, Cyrus; ’Gyur med bde chen, and Kun dga’ bsod nams. 2007. King of the Empty Plain: the Tibetan Iron-Bridge Builder Tangtong Gyalpo. Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion.



The translated primary literature and essential secondary literature (core readings) are required to prepare the presentation and written assignment. Students can choose a piece of text and one of the three major subject areas. The presentation and the written assignment must be on different topics.


Mindestanforderungen und Beurteilungsmaßstab

Students should already have a knowledge of classical Tibetan; the individual needs of the students can then be catered for in class.

The assessments comprise of:
- Regular attendance
- Participation (incl. preparation of the translation, contributions in the course) 40%
- Presentation on a selected topic 25%
- Written work with translation, analysis and commentary 35%

The grading system is structured as follows:
100-85% Very good (1)
75-84% Good (2)
65-74% Satisfactory (3)
50-64% Sufficient (4)
49-0% Unsatisfactory (5)