The Social Element of Visionary Revelation
Public Rites as A Means of Negotiating Authenticity in Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Lineages
In Tibetan Buddhism, visionary literature, known as ‘treasures’ (gter), form unique and often controversial additions to the established canon. They are ‘discovered’ by practitioners believed to be prophetically predestined to spread the cycles of teachings, rituals and meditations that are included in these Treasure lineages. The rituals included in and developed out of these lineages have social as well as spiritual importance. In these rituals, the discoverer negotiates his way into a position of legitimacy as public participation in ritual validates his discovery, while the community also negotiates for active agency in religious virtuosity that recognizes them as ‘insiders’ in the process of creation of religious authority. Although they cannot experience the realization that comes with mastery of the Treasure practices, they still, in some way, receive the spiritual benefit. The chapter uses as an example a Guru Rinpoche treasure ritual discovered by a recent Treasure discoverer, rTogs ldan Sha kya Shri (1853- 1919), who in the course of his rich visionary life received many Treasures.
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