Skip to main content Skip to search
Civilized Shamans: Buddhism in Tibetan Societies
Format: Book (single author)
Publication Year: 1993
Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
Place of Publication: Washington, D.C.
Sources ID: 122467
Visibility: Public (group default)
Abstract: (Show)

Civilized Shamans examines the nature and evolution of religion in Tibetan societies from the ninth century up to the Chinese occupation in 1950. Samuel argues that religion in these societies developed as a dynamic amalgam of strands of Indian Buddhism and the indigenous spirit-cults of Tibet.The book stresses the diversity of Tibetan societies, demonstrating that central Tibet, the Dalai Lama's government at Lhasa, and the great monastic institutions around Lhasa formed only a part of the context within which Tibetan Buddhism matured. Employing anthropological research, historical inquiry, rich interview material, and a deep understanding of religious texts, the author explores the relationship between Tibet's social and political institutions and the emergence of new modes of consciousness that characterize Tibetan Buddhist spirituality. Samuel identifies the two main orientations of this religion as clerical (primarily monastic) and shamanic (associated with Tantric yoga). The specific form that Buddhism has taken in Tibet is rooted in the pursuit of enlightenment by a minority of the people –l amas, monks and yogins – and the desire for shamanic services (in quest of health, long life, and prosperity) by the majority. Shamanic traditions of achieving altered states of consciousness have been incorporated into Tantric Buddhism, which aims to communicate with Tantric deities through yoga. The author contends that this incorporation forms the basis for much of the Tibetan lamas' role in their society and that their subtle scholarship reflects the many ways in which they have reconciled the shamanic and clerical orientations. This book, the first full account of Tibetan Buddhism in two decades, ranges as no other study has over several disciplines and languages, incorporating historical and anthropological discussion. Viewing Tibetan Buddhism as one of the great spiritual and psychological achievements of humanity, Samuel analyzes a complex society that combines the literacy and rationality associated with centralized states with the shamanic processes more familiar among tribal peoples. (Steven Weinberger 2005-09-22)

Print media (print or manuscript, including PDFs)
Table of Contents: 

Preface -- Introduction: 1. Introduction: Shamanic and Clerical Buddhism; 2. Tibetan and Theravadin Societies: A Comparison -- pt. 1:

Chapter 3. Tibetan Societies: Introduction and Central Tibet; 4. Tibetan Societies: K'am (Eastern Tibet); 5. Tibetan Societies: Amdo (Northeastern Tibet); 6. Tibetan Societies: Southern and Western Tibet; 7. Tibetan Communities; 8. Some Conclusions -- pt. 2: 9. The Ritual Cosmos and Its Inhabitants; 10. The Folk Religion and the Pragmatic Orientation; 11. The Karma Orientation, Rebirth, and Tibetan Values; 12. Tantra and the Bodhi Orientation; 13. The Lama and the Tantric Deities; 14. Tantra and the Pragmatic Orientation; 15. Lamas, Monks, and Yogins; 16.Folk Shamans, Tertön, and Crazy Siddhas; 17. Tibetan Religious Communities (Gompa); 18. Some Recent Lamas -- pt. 3: 19. From Structure to Process; 20. India: Buddhist Beginnings; 21. India: Mahayana Schools; 22. India: Tantra and the Buddhist Siddhas; 23. Tibet to A.D. 841; 24. Tibet: The Local Hegemonic Period; 25. Tibet: Mongol Overlordship; 26. Tibet: Gelugpa Synthesis and the Shamanic Reaction; 27. Tibet: Gelugpa Power and the Rimed Synthesis; 28. Conclusion -- Epilogue: The Tibetans and Tibetan Religion Today -- Appendix: The Monastic Population of Tibet.

x, 725 p.; 24 cm