Type of Document Thesis Author McCune, Lindsay URN etd-04092007-003235 Title Tales of Intrigue from Tibet's Holy City: The Historical Underpinnings of a Modern Buddhist Crisis Degree Master of Arts Department Religion, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Bryan Cuevas Committee Chair John Corrigan Committee Member Kathleen Erndl Committee Member Keywords
- Shukden Controversy
- Drakpa Gyeltsen
- Tibetan History
Date of Defense 2007-03-30 Availability unrestricted AbstractIn 1976, the Dalai Lama publicly denounced the Tibetan Buddhist deity, Dorjé Shukden, urging his followers to discontinue their worship of him. This disavowal sparked an onslaught of negative publicity for the Tibetan leader within his community. Division lines were drawn between those who supported the Dalai Lama and those who were angered and offended by his change of sentiment. In 1997, the resentment came to a head with the deaths of three of the Dalai Lama’s supporters.
Not surprisingly, the so-called “Shuken Affair,” or “Shukden Controversy,” has become an object of fascination for many westerners who are baffled by this Buddhist display of political strife. In recent times, a small, but noteworthy, body of scholarship has arisen, which attempts to understand this dilemma. Most of these works have been aimed at explicating the opinions and claims of each side of the disagreement within the framework of Tibetan Buddhist understandings of protective deities. In order to do so, these endeavors rely on the origin myth of Dorjé Shukden as the foundation of their understandings of the history of this affair.
However, it is my contention that these works have been inadequate in their discussion of the historical bases of this controversy because they have leaned too heavily on the origin tale without satisfactory reference to other historical materials. While some scholars have attempted to follow the schism back to its roots in seventeenth-century Lhasa, I believe that their use of primary materials has been myopic. Because they take for granted the historicity of the events detailed in the origin myth, they fail to ask truly innovative questions about the individuals portrayed therein. In particular, they express little fascination with the man who is said to have become Dorjé Shukden, the incarnate lama, Drakpa Gyeltsen.
The object of the present endeavor is to transcend these commonly held notions in order to attempt some real understanding of who this man was and why he might have become associated with Dorjé Shukden. In the process, I will enumerate some Tibetan understandings of protective deities: their function and their mannerisms. I will also offer a survey of some of the recent polemical works produced by both sides, so that the reader may more fully understand the controversy in its modern context. As a means of explicating the historical circumstances of the quarrel, I will examine the various sources related to the life of Drakpa Gyeltsen. Finally, I will offer some personal insights into several opportunities for further studies in this area.
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