The Decline of Buddhism IV: Keepers of the flame

embers

Whether or not the Tibetan emperor Lang Darma really did persecute Buddhist monks and monasteries, as he is said to have done during his ill-fated reign in the 840s, there is no doubt that a catastrophic collapse did indeed occur in Central Tibet. As society fragmented, revolutions and civil wars broke out and the Buddhist monasteries were abandoned. In Central Tibet, monastic Buddhism was all but wiped out. It took over a century – a Dark Age for Tibetan Buddhism – till monks began to appear in Central Tibet again.

There’s a tradition that monastic Buddhism survived in Tibet thanks to a few heroic monks, keepers of the flame of the monastic lineage. According to an old Tibetan saying, during this dark age the embers of the Buddha’s teaching were kept in the East. The story is that several monks refused to renounce their robes, and instead hit the road as Buddhist refugees. After much travelling they ended up in Amdo in Tibet’s northeast, which had avoided the complete collapse of monastic Buddhism. These refugees had taken their books with them, including most importantly the books of the vinaya, the monastic code that is the heart of the tradition of monastic ordination. This ensured the survival of the ordination lineage through the dark age.

Tradition preserves the names of a few of these refugee monks who settled in Amdo.The chaotic flight and eventual resettling of these monks is summarized in a passage from Nelpa Pandita’s history:

Yo and Mar, with a Central Asian monk called Shakya Sherab acting as their servant, settled in the rocky cave of Anchung Namdzong. Tsang settled in the temple of Khangsar Yaripug. Kwa Ö Chogdragpa, returning from Nepal, heard the news and left on the road to the north with a mule-load of abhidharma texts, finally settling in the temple of Palzang Kharchag Drilbu. Lhalung Rabjor Maldrowa and Rongtön Senge Drag left Yerpa with many books of vinaya and abhidharma, fleeing to Nagshö. After that, Lhalung settled in the temple of Dashö Tsal and Rongtön settled in Jang Chajerong.

Most later histories also add that Lang Darma’s assassin, Lhalung Palgyi Dorje, fled to Amdo too. In any case, the crucial point is that the first three of these refugees (Yo, Mar and Tsang) passed on their ordination lineage to a young local fellow. This young man had been brought up in the local non-Buddhist traditions, but had developed some faith in Buddhism and decided to ask the refugee monks for ordination. With the help of two Chinese monks, the young man was ordained, and given the religious name Gewa Rabsel.

*  *  *

Apparently Gewa Rabsel became an important figure in the religious scene of Amdo, but we don’t really know much about him. He is said to have spent a significant portion of his life teaching at the monastic mountain retreat of Dentig, which still exists in a valley west of Lanzhou. Gewa Rabsel ordained many local Amdo monks, and later histories also make Gewa Rabsel the religious preceptor of the famous men who came from Central Tibet in search of a living ordination lineage. These men (their number various in the sources) were the ones who brought the ordination lineage back to Central Tibet, and gradually restored Samyé and many other old monasteries that had fallen into ruin.

The story is convincing in its general outlines. There certainly must have been refugee monks, there probably was a Gewa Rabsel, and the idea that the monastic lineage was brought back to Central Tibet from Amdo is convincing. But even the Tibetan historians had some doubts about it. The main problem is the idea of Gewa Rabsel ordaining the men who brought the monastic lineage back to Central Tibet. Considering that the refugee monks who ordained Gewa Rabsel  arrived in Amdo some time in the 840-50s, and the “men of Central Tibet” received their ordination from him some time in the 970-80s, Gewa Rabsel would have to have lived an unfeasibly long time.

In fact we don’t have to accept this part of the story, even if we stay with the traditional histories. Though some early historians, notably Butön, had Gewa Rabsel ordaining the men from Central Tibet, others were not so sure. Sönam Tsemo wrote in the 12th century of this ordination lineage: “Some say it was received from Lachen Gewa Sel. Some say it was received from Tülpa Yeshe Gyaltsen.” And Nelpa Pandita, in his 13th century history, argued that there couldn’t be a direct connection between Gewa Rabsel and the monks who brought Buddhism back to Central Tibet:

Now, between the iron bird year when the dharma was snuffed out and the earth bird year when the embers were fanned and dharma communities appeared in Central Tibet, nine year-cycles passed. For 109 years there were no monks in Central Tibet. Therefore to say that the six men of Central Tibet received their vows from Lachen Gongpa Sel is a deceptive explanation which is utterly wrong.

In truth, Nelpa Pandita argues, the men of Central Tibet were ordained by one Drum Yeshe Gyaltsen – a disciple of a disciple of Gewa Rabsel and  no doubt the same person as the Tülpa Yeshe Gyaltsen mentioned by Sönam Tsemo. Similarly, Gö Lotsawa in the Blue Annals also denies any connection between Gewa Rabsel and the six men of Central Tibet, although he does say that some other histories make that connection. So a longer, and more convincing lineage for the keepers of the flame looks like this:

  1. The refugees: Yo, Mar and Tsang
  2. Gewa Rabsel
  3. Yangong Yeshe Yungdrung
  4. Drum/Tülpa Yeshe Gyaltsen
  5. The men of central Tibet

*  *  *

amdo-grasslands

So who was this Drum Yeshe Gyaltsen? He was a local Amdo man who was ordained by one of the students of Gewa Rabsel. He established a monastery in Amdo, which followed a fairly strict interpretation of the vinaya, banning agriculture and animal husbandry, as well as luxurious cushions or carpets. Interestingly, he also banned political activity and certain  funeral rituals involving the inscription of syllables (which could have been a good source of income for the monks).

Despite its strictness, Drum’s monastery seems to have been quite successful, and its ordination lineage became known as “the lineage of the ascetics” (tsüngyü). Why “ascetics”? Well, there was also another Amdo lineage known “the lineage of the scholars” (khégyü), which came from a monastery established by a monk called Nub Palgyi Jangchub and was much more lax in its discipline. It was mainly distinguished from Drum’s lineage by the fact the monks were allowed to meddle in politics. As a result, Nelpa Pandita says that the monks of this lineage “were of little use for religious training.” Nyangral’s history doesn’t mention the specific differences between the lineages, but does suggest that the split came about because of “a little bit of wordly activity.”

The difference between the approaches of the two lineages is illustrated in this amusing story about their two founders (from Nelpa Pandita’s history):

One day Drum went to the residence of Nub, and they talked a lot about the dharma. Then Drum said, “Let’s sleep; where shall I make my bed?” Nub replied, “Here, same as me.” Drum said, “They say you drink alcohol in secret. Can I stay in the attic?” Nubs replied angrily, “Ha! you’re so strict, it’s like you have wood for brains!” Thus Drum became known as “Wood-for-Brains”.

In the end, Drum had the last laugh. It was his lineage of ascetics that was passed down to the six men of Central Tibet and used to revive the monasteries there. The restoration of the temples, and the ordination of hundreds of new monks, set the scene for the “later diffusion” of Buddhism in Tibet – the visit of Atisha and the Kadam school that grew up around his teachings, the new scholasticism of Shalu monastery, and so on… This ordination lineage even survived into the 20th century in the Nyingma tradition as the Mindröling lineage, and in the Gelug tradition as the “Abbot’s lineage of Lachen”.

Apart from these survivals, it has to be said that the ordination lineage from Gewa Rabsel was ultimately eclipsed by new ones. In fact it had a rather controversial reputation, some people objecting to the fact that the refugee monks and Gewa Rabsel had performed all of three stages of ordination in a single ritual. Others defended this practice by pointing to the sublime nature of Gewasel and his preceptors, and the dire straits in which the monastic ordination found itself in the period of fragmentation.

Gewa Rabsel remains one of the culture heroes of Tibetan Buddhism, who kept the flame of the monastic lineage alive and passed it on so that it was eventually brought back to Central Tibet, where it lit the fires of a Buddhist revival. Let us also not forget Drum Yeshe Gyaltsen, the wooden-headed abbot who kept his monks free enough from politics to preserve a meaningful model of monasticism for the Tibetans of the generations to come.

*  *  *

See also:
The Decline of Buddhism I: Was Lang Darma a Buddhist?
The Decline of Buddhism II: Did Lang Darma persecute Buddhism?
The Decline of Buddhism III: Why should the secret mantra be kept secret?

Some thoughts on the dates of Gewa Rabsel…
Gewa Rabsel’s name has several variations: he is known as Gewa Rabsel or simply Gewa Sel, as Gongpa Rabsel or Gongpa Sel, and often merely by the honorific Lachen (“great lama” or “great soul”). His dates are not given in the earlier sources, but the Blue Annals states that he was born in a water mouse year, and died in a wood pig year, at the age of 84. Traditionally these dates are supposed to be equivalent to 952–1035, but this is skewed by the mistake made by all later Tibetan historians in dating the death of Langdarma a whole 60-year cycle too late, So we should move these dates back one cycle, giving us 892–975.

Even with those earlier dates, the connection with monks fleeing central Tibet in the 840s or 850s seems rather unlikely. If we move them back by one further sixty-year cycle to 832–915, Gewa Rabsel would have been a young man when the refugee monks arrived in Amdo. This does place him rather far from the revival of monastic Buddhism in Tibet at the end of the tenth century, but that’s not a problem if we follow the histories that don’t insist on a direct connection between Gewa Rabsel and the six men of Central Tibet.

And on the names of Yeshé Gyaltsen…
The name Tülpa (thul pa) Yeshé Gyaltsen given by Sönam Tsemo is probably a corruption of Dülwa (‘dul ba), and a “Dülwa Yeshé Gyaltsen” does indeed appear in some histories. So Tülpa and Dülwa Yeshé Gyaltsen were surely the same person. What about Drum Yeshé Gyaltsen? Since Drum (‘grum) is a clan name, while Dülwa an honorific indicating an expert in the vinaya, it’s likely that these names also refer to a single person.

As for Drum’s nickname “Wood-for-Brains”, this is shing klad can in Tibetan. Here I’m following Helga Uebach’s reading of Nelpa Pandita’s text, which actually gives shing glag can. The same story features in the Nyangral Nyima Özer’s history, where we have shing rlag pa can. (Note that in this version Nubs also gets a nickname, phag shing rta, which might be translated as “Pig Wagon”.) Finally, in the Sba bzhed (R.A. Stein’s version) we have phying klag can. Not at all conclusive I know, but I like Uebach’s solution.

*  *  *

References (Tibetan dharma histories)
1. Butön Rinchendrup: Chos ‘byung gsung rab rin po che mdzod. Beijing: Khrung go bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang. 1988. English translation in Obermiller, E. 1931-2. The history of Buddhism (Chos ḥbyung) by Bu-ston. I The Jewellery of Scripture, II The history of Buddhism in India and Tibet. Heidelberg: O. Harrosovitz. Reprint 1986, New Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications.
2. Gö Lotsawa Zhönupal: Deb ther sngon po. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang. 1984. English translation in Roerich, G.N. 1949. The Blue Annals. Calcutta: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal. (See p.67.) Also available here.
3. Nelpa Pandita: Ne’u chos ‘byungNel-pa Paṇḍita’s Chronik Me-tog Phreṅ-wa: Handschrift der Liberary of Tibetan Works and Archives, Tibetischer Text in Faksimile, Transkription und Übersetzung. Munich: Kommission für Zentralasiatische Studien, Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1987. (The first quote is from pp.122-3 and the others from pp.128-9.)
4. Nyangral Nyima Özer: Chos ‘byung me tog snying po – facsimile in Schuh, Dieter. Die grosse Geschichte des tibetischen Buddhismus nach alter Tradition rÑiṅ ma’i chos byuṅ chen mo. Sankt Augustin: VGH Wissenschaftsverlag. (See p.445-6. Nyangral mentions another Amdo ordination lineage, called Me(rme), and unlike other sources, he apparently states that the both the ascetics’ and scholars’ lineages lasted and became famous in Central Tibet, though it isn’t very clear – see p.446.5.)
5. Sönam Tsemo: Chos la ‘jug pa’i sgo – in Sa skya bka’ ‘bum, vol.I (See p.318b).
6. T.G. Dhongthog Rinpoche: Sa skya’i chos ‘byung. New Delhi. 1977.

References (English works)
Davidson, Ronald M. 2006. Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. (See Chapter 3 for an excellent account of this period based on a variety of historical sources.)

Also see here for a summary of the traditional story from the Berzin Archives.

14 thoughts on “The Decline of Buddhism IV: Keepers of the flame

  1. Hi,

    As to the correction of XXX-glag-can into XXX-klad-can : in the Bon literature, there are several individuals having the compounded suffix slag-can in their name. It refers to their wearing a robe or cloth made of for instance tiger skin (stag-slag-can, like in dBal ‘bar stag-slag-can, b. 1833) or monkey skin-robe (sprel slag can), etc.
    As for the Drum/’Grum clan and Shing-slag-can, you may also note that there is a Shing-slag-can in Bon historical literature concerning the vinaya with the following lineage :
    1. Mu zi gsal bzang (9th century?)
    2. Khri ‘bar Tshul khrims
    3. Grum bu Shing slag can (Tshul khrims gtsug phud), son of Grum bon dbal ‘bar
    4. Ya zi bon ston (aka Shes rab tshul khrims and Mu thur dGongs pa rab gsal).
    Check Shardza Rinpoche’s Legs bshad mdzod, pp. 228 et seq.

  2. Thanks Early (and thanks J-L),

    for the marvelous discussion of the first monks of the Later Propagation! I’d first like to draw attention to Hugh Richardson’s ‘correction’ of the dates of Dgongs-pa Rab-gsal to 865-935 CE in his article “Tibetan Inscription from Rgyal Lha-khang” (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1957), p. 62. How did this dating happen?

    Another thing, Early. I felt a little uncomfortable with the words “later histories” (in scholarly parlance I think this is often just a way of saying ‘less reliable,’ even if this is so untrue… often later histories are more reliable, or have the truer readings, sometimes a result of less tortuous manuscript transmissions…). I wonder if you think there are any sources at all that are contemporary to the events. I think there aren’t, so all those sources you are using would have to be called “later histories,” now, wouldn’t they?

    In any case I think the future definitive treatment of the problems of early Tibetan monasticism’s history will have to take into account the late 13th-century Lde’u histories: The longer Lde’u at p. 390 and following, and the smaller Lde’u at p. 154 and following.

    The longer has Drum (Brum, not Grum) Shinglagchan (Shing-glag-can) being directly ordained by Dgongs-pa Rab-gsal. It also (on p. 392) has the account of the two different Amdo monastic lineages that you tell, with some interesting twists and turns, and variants that may help us make sense of what the other histories tell.

    One very early sources, the Lo-rgyus Chen-mo as preserved in citation in the Mkhas-pa’i Dga’-ston, gives the name as Grum Phying-slag-can. Like J-L, I’m not satisfied that Uebach’s solution really is one, or that it is the one we should pick up and run with (forgive that tiny grammatical sin of ending the sentence with with). And like J-L, I believe the Bon historical accounts supply essential parts of the puzzles.

    I’ll just give the relevant portion of this very important source, the lost ‘Great History,’ with a very provisional translation (personal names in all capitals in the text to draw attention to them):

    Lo rgyus Chen mo las / bstan pa bsnubs pa’i dus dbus nas ZHANG MNGA’ ‘JAM DPAL dang YANG GONG SHES RAB ‘BYUNG GNAS gnyis khams su byon / de’i tshe YANG GONG gis khungs bstan nas ZHANG MNGA’ ‘JAM DPAL las BLA CHEN DGONGS PA RAB GSAL bsnyen par rdzogs / de’i mkhan bu COG RO DPAL GYI DBANG PHYUG dang GRUM PHYING SLAG CAN gnyis yin /

    de tshe GTSANG PA LO CHUNG gnyis DBUS PA KLU MES dang ‘BRING ste bzhis COG GRUM la mkhan slob zhus te blangs / mkhan slob na re LO STON mthu che bas bstan pa srungs / KLU MES btsun pas mkhan po gyis / TSHONG GE blo rno bas chos ston / ‘BRING pho sbo mtho bas gnas brtan gyis la bzhi gar bsdoms pas gnas gzhi gcig zung zhig gsungs kyang mkhan slob kyi gsung bcag nas so sor bzung bas sde bzhi byung /

    “According to the Lo-rgyus Chen-mo: When the teachings were put into decline, Zhang-mnga’ ‘Jam-dpal and Yang-gong Shes-rab-‘byung-gnas went to Khams. At that time, when Yang-gong showed him the source, Bla-chen Dgongs-pa-rab-gsal took the complete monastic vows from Zhang-mnga’ ‘Jam-dpal. The ordinands of the [Bla-chen] were Cog-ro Dpal-gyi-dbang-phyug and Grum Phying-slag-can.

    At that time, two men of Gtsang, Lo and Chung, together with two men of Dbus, Klu-mes and ‘Bring, altogether four, requested Cog and Grum to serve as their mkhan [ordinator] and slob [preceptor] and took vows. The mkhan and slob said, “Lo-ston has great magical powers, so he must protect the Teachings. Klu-mes is righteous, so he will be the abbot/ordinator. Tshong-ge has sharp thoughts, so he will teach Dharma. ‘Bring has a bulging stomach, so he will be the Arhat. All four of you must take a single location,”

    Nevertheless, they broke the word of the mkhan and slob and each took their own location. This was the origin of the [splitting into] Four Factions.”

    We can hope that a thousand-year-old manuscript of the Lo-rgyus Chen-mo will pop out of the ground to verify the readings in the citation, but without holding our breath or stopping our thinking meanwhile. Well, that is, unless we’re going into a trance of suspended animation for 800 years…

    Yours,
    Dan

  3. “unless we’re going into a trance of suspended animation for 800 years”

    Well, that’s just what Mu-zi Gsal-bzang did. That’s why there was an 800 year hiatus in the monastic lineage of Bön.

  4. Dear Jean-Luc,

    Thank you for the pointer toward the Bon histories. Correcting the name of Drum to slag can does indeed seem an option, though the meaning (if we need a meaning) of Shing slag can is still a little difficult to make out:- “wooden robes” perhaps. I suppose that might work if we take the Buddhist historians’ view that this was a nickname deriving from Drum’s strictness. If it is slag can then these Buddhist historians, or the scribes who copied out their works, seem to have lost the original orthography and perhaps meaning, of this name. As for the Bon vinaya lineage, there certainly seems to be some overlap with the Buddhist lineage, does there not?

  5. Dear Dan,

    “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.”

    I understand why you might bridle at the phrase “later histories” and your point is well made (or “well taken”) as they say in the US. In fact, I’ve argued your position myself, elsewhere. As someone who has spent many, many hours translating a traditional history from the 20th century, it’s not me you need to convince! In fact it seems perfectly feasible that Lhalung Palgyi Dorje fled to Amdo. I also think that once the idea was circulating, it was so good for the narrative that it would have been difficult for historians to leave it out — whether it “really happened” or not.

    You’re right of course that there are no contemporary historical accounts. But we do have contemporary manuscript sources from Dunhuang, including many vinaya-related manuscripts. I hope to write a bit about these in a follow-up to this post.

    Anyway, thank you for the pointer to the Lde’u histories, which I didn’t have to hand when writing this by no means definitive account. (Note though that Ronald Davidson does draw on them in his discussion of this period.) And of course Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa always has something interesting to say about these thorny issues.

    The passage from the Lo rgyus chen mo is fascinating. Different refugee monks, and clearly placing Drum between them and the men of central Tibet. I would think that this is still viable, in terms of a chronology that spans the century or so of the eclipse of the dharma in Central Tibet.

  6. Dear Sam,
    Well the meaning of Shing-slag-can is apparently clear for Bonpos. It refers to hermit-like practitioners who dress-up with clothes which are made of tree-skin and not animal skins. This is a reference to a Sutra conduct which is apparently known in Bon practice since the early days of the phyi-dar and down to the present ones. There is an oblique reference to this in Shardza Rinpoche’s exposition of the dangers of tea where he quotes a sutra entitled The Sutra Separating Causes from their Results (rGyu ‘bras rnma par ‘byed pa’i mdo, unknow to me), saying :
    “— Wear clothes made of tree-leaves; eat the fruit of trees;
    Drink the sirup of trees and drink the water from rains.
    This way, the attachment to the wealth, food and clothes of this world will be severed.”
    (rgyu ‘bras rnam par ‘byed pa’i mdo las/ shing lo’i gos gyon shing gi ‘bras bu za/ shing gi khu ba char pa’i chu la ‘thung/ ‘jig rten zas nor lto rgyab ‘khri ba gcod/.). For me ‘Grum Shing-slag-can was wearing such clothes. It fit with those with wear animal-skin clothes, such as dBal ‘bar stag-slag-can, sPrel-slag-can, etc.

  7. Dear Early and of course J-L,

    J-L’s idea that Bonpo monks consciously made their slag (cloaks/coats) from non-animal products never occurred to me, but it surely rings true with what I think I might know.

    I can identify Shardza’s scriptural text, the Rgyu ‘bras rnam par ‘byed pa’i mdo as the 23rd chapter of the Gzi-brjid (for reference, see p. 6 of D. Snellgrove’s book The Nine Ways of Bon).

    Btw, I just checked the Mahâvyutpatti bilingual glossary, and find there at no. 5844 the Sanskrit equivalent[s] of slog-pa is carmacolaḥ ; carmacala.

    Both carmacola & carmacala should probably be read as the same as carmacela, which means (according to Monier-Williams’ dictionary it’s a word used in Buddhist texts) “a garment with the hide turned outwards.” The carma element most definitely means leather or hide. I see that cola can mean ‘jacket.’ Cela can mean a garment.

    I want to say, too, that shing-slag may not necessarily mean ‘wooden jacket,’ since the shing may stand for shing-bal, or ‘wood wool,’ which means cotton. This is just an idea that I think ought to be considered, not that I’m sure of it. It’s possible, too, that it is short for shing-shun, which is also a cloth-making material. On this, see M.B. Emeneau, Barkcloth in India, Sanskrit Valkala, Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 82 (1962), pp. 167-170, where the author argues that it must mean a kind of cloth made from bast fibers obtained from the soft inner bark of trees. So, Early, don’t act so surprised that wood can be made in to cloth. It’s not all that unlikely, I’m thinking.

    Meanwhile, J-L, I’d like to know more about the dangers of tea, since I think it’s great stuff, and I’m off to have some right now. I doubt that any of Shardza’s arguments will persuade me not to drink it, but try me.

    Cheerios!

    Dan

  8. Postscript: It just occurred to me to look at Per Kvaerne’s “Tibet: Bon Religion,” Brill (Leiden 1985), the final illustrated plate, LXVII, where you see artistic portrayals of two figures named Yang-rgyal-‘brug-slag-can (Yanggyal having a dragon cloak) and gCod-pa-khra-slag-can (Chöpa having a hawk cloak). It’s just interesting to see that Bönpos could have cloaks made of quite interesting kinds of hides, including not only fur, but feathers and scales as well. But also interesting to see that the captions here have clearly been switched around (the heads of the hawk and the dragon appear at the sleeves).

  9. Dear Jean-Luc and Dan,

    Together you have made a convincing case that “wooden” clothes might not be so bizarre after all, and indeed could be rather comfortable — whether derived from leaves, as J-L suggests, or bark, as Dan suggests. Well, I suppose after all that paper is made from trees, and even today disposable undergarments are made out of paper. With no personal experience of these, I can only assume that they are reasonably comfortable.

    Jean-Luc’s lines from Shardza make this a very convincing interpretation, that works on the Bonpo side — but does it also work with the way the Buddhist historians understood the name, as illustrated in the story I quoted in the post? When Snubs says, to give it a more literal rendering, “Hey, it’s like having a (shing glag), this strictness!” (e shing glag can ‘dra ba gyong po ‘di zer ba) he must be invoking an image of extreme or ridiculous asceticism. It’s not that Grum is said to have actually had a (shing slag), it was as if he did. Well, perhaps in medieval Amdo “tree cloaks” could have been something like “hair shirts” in medieval Europe.

    But just before we stop there, what about the other renderings of the name in Tibetan histories? Nyang ral’s rlag pa can makes little sense (though let’s not blame Nyang ral; it’s surely a scribal ‘correction’). And then there’s the Sba bzhed zhabs rtag ma with phying klag can. Well, according to Dan Martin’s dictionary, this is an old term meaning “felt” (Zhi-byed Coll. II 295.7). Now the idea of a monk wearing a felt cloak is very easy to accept.

    Have we been barking up the wrong tree?

  10. Yes, and wearing felt is one of the 12 dhūta-guṇas, one of the optional ascetic-type practices that are not required from monks in Vinaya. They’re fairly well covered in Reggie Ray’s book (Buddhist Saints in India, pp. 297, 307-8, 311).* I therefore don’t imagine that felt felt all that good, not really. I mean, even your medieval Christian monks had their hair shirts.

    *Ray’s main point is that only Mahâyâna texts have this particular dhūta-guṇa for wearing felt (or, he thinks, wool), and it is missing in Theravâda lists. So it must have something to do with Mahâyâna being in colder climates (I think the opposite, assuming it’s supposed to be a somewhat unpleasant asceticism!).

  11. Dan, Jean-Luc, thank you.

    At the end of this interesting tour, from feather-garbed Bonpos to bark-clad Hari Krishnas, I feel that our little philological enquiry can now rest in a kind of equilibrium between “wood” (leaf or bark derived) and felt clothing, both of which had ascetic connotations.

    But let’s not overdo the ascetic bit — cups of tea all round!

    Sam

  12. As 4 tea, even chinese gentli propose me ti guanin, i d rather refuse, in fear to have killed an insect in the process.

    Insects r quite fascinating and just like me it seems thei do not want to die.

    some sai praiers might help but i have no direct knowledge of it while i can hardli doubt i see mani insects protecting their life

    to go to the other shore of absolute ahimsa seems a long wai

    peace and love from guangzhou

  13. bi the wai thanks for the interesting site

    i was wondering if anibodi aware of jain influences in tibet?

    i remember i read once that some indians complained to gotama about his disciples carelesness about insects and that he agreed and that was the reason for the vassa, the summer retreat

    later i could not find the book in the librari

    anione aware of this stori and could give me sources?

    thx and peace and love

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s