South Asia Seminar: “Putting the Buddha to Work: Śākyamuni in the Service of Tibetan Monastic Identity”
Lecture given by Andrew Quintman.
This talk explores how images and texts related to Śākyamuni Buddha served as a broad organizing principal (a “Buddha program”) for Phuntsokling Monastery in western Tibet, seat of the seventeenth-century polymath Tāranātha (1575-1634). It suggests that the monastery’s central icon—a Śākyamuni statue of miraculous origin—not only acted as a locus of spiritual power. It also served Tāranātha in the promotion of his monastery, first as the literal center of the institution’s Buddha program, and second as a source of elevated prestige for Phuntsokling and its patrons during a time of political tension between the rulers of western Tibet and the ascendant Dalai Lama in Lhasa.