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An ethnographic account of the religious practice in a Tibetan Buddhist refugee monastery in northern India

Cantwell, Catherine Mary (1989) An ethnographic account of the religious practice in a Tibetan Buddhist refugee monastery in northern India. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85958) (KAR id:85958)

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Chapter 1 introduces the social and political context of present day Tibet, the exodus of refugees and their organisation in exile. It reviews the works of previous anthropologists on Tibetan refugees and Tibetan Buddhist ritual and comments on some general characteristics of the rNying-ma-pa in exile. It outlines the approach taken to the ethnography, emphasising the importance of understanding the historical and religious heritage, and it considers the limitations of the research.

Chapter 2 describes the background of the Rewalsar community: the village and its amenities, the religious significance of Rewalsar, Buddhist pilgrimage and the resident Tibetan community. It includes sections on the Tibetans living in the hermitage and the village, and on the rNying-ma-pa and 'Bri-khung bKa'-rgyud-pa monasteries.

Chapter 3 presents the daily life of the monks at the rNying-ma-pa monastery: their routines and their regular communal practice. After considering theoretical and methodological problems, it outlines the textual recitations from bDud-'joms Rin-po-che's "Chosspyod", the daily practices of rDo-rje Gro-lod and the Dharma protectors.

Chapter 4 is a detailed description of the monthly tenth day "Bla-sgrub" practice, including textual translation. It has three main sections: the Preparations, the Main Practice and the afternoon practice which includes a "Tshogs" offering.

Chapter 5 is an account of the first month practice session, based on the "Bla-sgrub" practice. It describes the preparations and the practice session itself, culminating in the tenth day ritual dances ("Chams"), and concluded with a "sByin-sreg" (Burnt Offerings Practice).

Chapter 6 considers some theoretical issues: the relationship between "text" and "practice"; sacrificial themes in Tibetan ritual and the possibility of cross cultural comparison; rituals and their social contexts; and the effects of literacy. Finally, it comments on Tibetan ethnicity and rNying-ma-pa identity, and a Postscript discusses recent developments in Rewalsar.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85958
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Religion
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:22 UTC
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 11:03 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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