The presentation will delve into the interactions between the communist state of China and Tibetan Buddhism. It will focus on the issue of reincarnation of tulkus or rinpoches, who are hierarchs in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. This tradition is turning into a major site of contestation between the Tibetans and the party state. When the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) marched into Tibet, they encountered a unique socio-political system, that is defined as a theocracy by many. As a belief system, Buddhism has a hegemonic hold over the Tibetans. Moreover, Tibetan Buddhism influences people in the Himalayan belt, a space contested by postcolonial India and China. It emerges as a factor in Sino-Indian relations, which will be highlighted during the presentation. However, the focus will be on the different modes of interaction between the Tibetan Buddhist elites and the CCP. While a greater part of this contact between them is described as conflict, the presentation will highlight moments of cooperation and co-option. The process will be understood through the idea of ‘binding the deities’, which was an important mode of ‘Buddhicisation’ of Tibet and the Himalayas.
About the Speaker
Jigme Yeshe Lama is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Calcutta. He completed his PhD from the Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His research interests are China-Tibet ties, study of religion and politics in the Himalayas, and Tibetan democracy in exile. He has published several chapters in edited volumes, and journals. He has also edited a volume titled Changes on the Roof of the World – Reflections on Tibet published in 2016 by Pentagon Press, New Delhi.
About the Chair
Swargajyoti Gohain is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Ashoka University. She has a PhD in Anthropology from Emory University, U.S.A., and Bachelors, Masters, and M.Phil. degrees in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University. Her monograph Imagined Geographies in the Indo-Tibetan Borderlands is a study of cultural politics and transborder spatial imaginations among the Tibetan Buddhist Monpa communities in Arunachal Pradesh. Her research interests include the anthropology of state and borders, culture and politics, development and infrastructure, and Tibetan Buddhist communities in the Indian Himalayan region. She has fieldwork experience in Northeast India and the Himalaya. Her current project is a study of contemporary Tibetan Buddhist educational and monastic institutions and networks in India. She has a second research project which broadly probes the relation between culture, politics, and ecology in the Himalaya.
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