Buddhism and State in Seventeenth-Century Tibet: Cosmology and Theology in the Works of Sangyé Gyatso
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AbstractThis dissertation studies works of the Desi Sangyé Gyatso (1653–1705), a prolific and influential Tibetan statesman. Its main sources are texts by Sangyé Gyatso and, to a lesser extent, by the fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Losang Gyatso (1617–82). The Dalai Lama was the highest authority of the Ganden Phodrang government, founded in 1642. Sangyé Gyatso was his lieutenant and took control upon the latter’s death. During his tenure as ruler, Sangyé Gyatso made major intellectual and practical contributions to this Tibetan Buddhist state. He wrote at length about the ruler’s authority and the goals of the state. His ideas developed in close conversation with Buddhist texts, concepts, and practices, leading to novel reformulations of well-traveled ideas, while also informing court practices, rituals, and architecture.
Though famous as a politician, Sangyé Gyatso’s thinking about Buddhism and state has received less attention in scholarship. This project sheds light on several of his texts, both in the interest of fostering further study and to suggest alternative possibilities for thinking about religion and politics, beyond exposing the mechanisms of power. Over six chapters, this dissertation highlights three major productions of Sangyé Gyatso’s rule: a model for public speaking, a holiday to commemorate the Dalai Lama, and a new palace built in Lhasa. It argues for the direct participation of cosmological and theological discourses and their related practices in the work of situating, articulating, and realizing a Buddhist state.
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