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What is Sacred? Understanding the Culture of Books in Tibet
[CAS Luncheon Series] In this Luncheon Series talk, Marcus Perman of the Tsadra Foundation will discuss the culture of books in Tibet. In the context of written documents, if you ask the question, "what is sacred?" you get interesting answers from different religious thinkers, scholars, and practitioners. The reverence that appears to be shown for the written word and to particular texts in the Tibetan traditions might lead one to see similarities with Judeo-Christian traditions that have a history of holding not only a single book sacred, but also of establishing libraries and an entire field of textual studies, and translation studies. In Judaism, for example, the treatment of the Torah and its production, reproduction, and use is fascinating and perhaps extreme in the level of devotion to detail and the care of this sacred object. However, in Tibetan cultures we find a very different relationship with the production, consecration, and use of religious texts. We find the three-fold practice of wang, lung, and tri along with seemingly paradoxical practices in which the book is revered over and above its content, or vice versa. We find truly massive literary output in the form of Tibetan commentaries, but little care for reading what to many would be considered the "Buddhist Bible," the Kangyur. We will explore some of the practices related to "the culture of the book" in Tibet through discussing Jamgön Kongtrül Lodro Thayé (1813-1900) and the massive collections of texts he assembled in his lifetime. We will also look at the projects to reprint and then translate these collections in recent times.
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