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Death of Negi Lama in Lahul (H.P), India, in 1977.

The story of the Lama's After-Death Meditation Posture, Dramatic Weather, and the Spontaneous Splitting of the Lama's Bones, as told by Two Kinnauri Nuns in the Lama's Retinue (1)

I. When I was in India in 1995 six young Buddhist nuns sang me a song in Kinnauri language that ended as follows:

9. --, negi rinpoche.

10. omsi berang shong, kinnoringu kumo.

11. hana jerang berang, bharat tu bairang.

12. --, videshu kumo.

13. --, maidanu denmarg.

14. thungsa denmarg, tshayang kinnoring.

This means:

9. --, Negi Rinpoche.

10. The last time he was born in Kinnaur.

11. This time he was born outside India,

12. --, in a foreign country,

13. --, in flat Denmark.

14. His birthplace was Denmark, but his light is shining in Kinnaur. (2)

In these lines these Kinnauri nuns claim Negi Lama, whom they call Rinpoche or "precious one," for Kinnaur, his birthplace. Kinnaur--land of the legendary Kinners of the Indian epics--is a mountainous district northeast of Shimla in Himachal Pradesh on the Tibet border, unlike flat Denmark where the lama's reincarnation was born. And, they sing, they have the lama's "light"; even after his death and rebirth the rays of his enlightenment are still "shining" in Kinnaur--where too half his relics are enshrined.

Before singing that song the nuns sang the Tibetan religious song or mgurma composed by the lama himself. This is the last verse:

8a. ha cang tshig gi sbyor ba legs cha ni med kyang

b. a mri ta yi rjes 'gro thub gsung la rten phyir

c. mgur ma len pa 'ga' la phan pa yi bsam bas

d. bstan 'dzin rgyal mtshan zhes bya'i bla ma des bris so

In English this is:

8a. Even without having much art of rhetoric,

b. to follow the nectar that depends on the Buddha's words,

c. thinking that some singer would benefit,

d. the lama called Tenzin Gyaltsen has written this.

This is a prayer to the guru, and Negi Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen wrote it for Kinnauri nuns to sing. They do sing it, as a prayer to him. Even if they have not memorized it, they can sing along and some nuns have a printed version with a Hindi translation published by two monks in Sarnath--an example of the permeable boundary between oral traditions and written texts. (3) In line 3 Negi Lama says he wrote this song, "thinking some singer would benefit." His motive--bodhicitta, Sanskrit for the compassionate wish to help others as well as oneself--is also the motive behind Tibetan sacred biography and the nuns' story of Negi Lama's death, which I place in this literary context.

II. Tenzin Gyaltsen or Negi Lama, also called Khunu Lama, the lama from Kinnaur, was Kinnaur's most famous contemporary Buddhist saint. He was a scholar known for his book on Tibetan grammar and his poetry on compassion; the Dalai Lama called him guru. (4) He was unconventional and ahead of his time, living for years in a Hindu ashram on the Ganges studying Sanskrit at a time when Tibetan monks were not yet studying Sanskrit. He died in 1977 at the age of 83 while on a teaching tour in Lahul (also a district in Himachal Pradesh next to Kinnaur), where he had gone with a retinue of four nuns.

My purpose here is to re-tell the nuns' oral account of Negi Lama's death and explore their story's meaning in the contexts of the literary genre of sacred biography and ideas about death in Buddhism. What is the role of the after-death miracles in their accounts? Unusually, the creators of sacred biography here are nuns, and they have embedded the lama's story in their own life stories. So I begin with the lama's relation to nuns; then define the contexts; quote excerpts from their translated accounts; and conclude.

III. Negi Lama had a special relation to nuns. Nuns sing songs by and about him. One nun told me he used to say women deserved more teachings from him than men because of their hard lives. Many nuns 50 or older in 1995 had offered him their hair--the initial ritual for becoming a nun--and heard his teachings. When I arrived in India to start my research on Kinnauri nuns, the monk (now former monk Gareth Sparham) who had translated his poetry on compassion into English suggested that Negi Lama would be a good vehicle for understanding nuns because he had the same marginal status they did, being neither fully monastic nor fully lay; and like many of them he lived a simple, ascetic life--by choice in his case. Though he never allowed anyone to live with him, in his last year four nuns accompanied him to Lahul.

K. Ang Rup's Tibetan biography of Negi Lama names those four; they are Drikung Khandro, a Tibetan, and Tenzin Zangmo, Tenzin Dolma, and Bogti, three Kinnauri nuns. (5) The first has died; the second married. The two remaining nuns, Tenzin Dolma and Bogti (Tenzin Choeden's village name), told me the story of the unusual events at the death of Negi Lama in interviews recorded in 1995 and 1996. Parts of their story are quoted below, but in brief their story juxtaposes the marvelous with modern technology--helicopter and telegraph--in an encounter between officialdom, in the person of a district commissioner, and the nuns over the issue of moving the body while it is still in meditation posture three days after the death. The nuns feel it is their duty to protect the lama's meditation from being disturbed. In prayer they call upon the lama to help them, and as they see it he responds by creating a sudden storm that prevents the helicopter--come to transport the body--from landing. After the cremation while the nuns and monks are wondering how to divide the remaining bones between Lahul and Kinnaur, the big bone spontaneously splits.

IV. Sacred biography. Buddha's life is a model for Buddhists, and Negi Lama's life and also death resembled the Buddha's. Like the Buddha he left home dramatically--without permission, money, or it is said without stopping to put on shoes. Like the Buddha he studied with many excellent teachers, lived a simple ascetic life, taught for many years, and was loved for his compassion. His disciples believed he was enlightened and indeed was a Buddha. The Buddha died from food poisoning; Negi Lama died vomiting up blood. In Mahaparinibbana Suttanta (in the Pali canon), Buddha's last words were: "Decay is inherent in all component things! Work out your salvation with diligence!" (1881, p. 114: ch. 6, verse 10). Negi Lama too died thinking about his students; his last words--spoken to his disciple Bogti--were, "Today where did I get to in the teaching?" After death the Buddha's body resisted the fire at first. Similarly, after the cremation Negi Lama's skeleton was found to be nearly intact: "No amount of fire could consume his body-structure" (wrote G. C. Negi, n.d.). Eight groups disputed the distribution of the Buddha's remains and in the end divided them equally. The Shakyas sent this message: "The Blessed One was the pride of our race. We are worthy to receive a portion of the relics of the Blessed One. Over the remains of the Blessed One we will put up a sacred cairn" (Mahaparinibbana Suttanta, 1881, p. 132: ch. 6, verse 53). In the same way Kinnaur and Lahul argued over Negi Lama's remains but finally shared them equally.

In terms of miracles Buddha's biographies changed over time. Hallisey and Reynolds write, "Earlier narratives refer to Buddha's fatigue and to his susceptibility to illness"; but later, after Ashoka ([3.sup.rd] c. bce), "he is said to be above human frailties" and his activities are "increasingly portrayed in the modes of miracle and magic" (2005 [1987], p. 1064); in contrast "in the modern period ... elites [have been] deleting miraculous elements of Buddha's life," instead portraying a teacher of a "rationalistic ... scientific system," and a "social reformer" (2005 [1987], p. 1065). Notably as the nuns tell it, all three elements are present: after the lama's very human death, he displayed spiritual powers, with which he got the better of modern technology.

Jan Willis defines the Tibetan tantric literary genre called rnam-thar (liberation story) as sacred biography (1995, p. 3). While other religions have two genres, sacred biography for the founder and hagiography for saints, Tibetan Buddhists have only one genre because for them all enlightened beings are Buddhas (1995, p. 3). Miracles characterize Tibetan sacred biography, not so much as extraordinary events but as something expected; for a siddha, "perfected one" in Sanskrit, spiritual powers called siddhis, such as being able to fly or create hail, are natural (1995, p. 4). (6) For Willis (and I agree) it is a mistake to dismiss these biographies as "merely inspirational" or classify them as "popular" religion (1995, p. 4). They are also instructional and therefore are read by "erudite" as well as ordinary people; for example, gurus read from such stories while teaching. Tibetan sacred biographies have three levels, called Chi, Nang, and Sang, literally, "outside," "inside," and "secret," which Willis renders as history, inspiration, and instruction. She puts siddhis, miraculous powers, in the category of instruction, because sometimes the biographies explain the secret tantric practices the lama was doing that resulted in spiritual powers that became visible as miraculous events (1995, p. 5).

In a study on Tibetan religious literature Janet Gyatso remarks on the paradox of autobiography's popularity in a religion "in which 'self' is the principal villain" (1992, p. 465). She identifies "modes of self-presentation" ranging from "self-effacing" to "self-aggrandizing," but finds the same motive underlying both; namely, to present an exemplary role model that can inspire and instruct readers, most often the lama's disciples, and importantly to present an individual human being with whose struggles on the Buddhist path disciples can identify. Moreover, "some ... autobiographers write for their own edification" (1992, p. 473). For example, Kalu Rinpoche (quoted by Gyatso) wrote: "My wish is for my mind to merge with the minds of all excellent lamas whose kindness is beyond comparison. I work to fulfill their vision" (1992, p. 472). Gyatso found that "the disciples' presence is to be felt throughout the text" (1992, p. 469), and so the genres biography and autobiography are intertwined. For example, the lama often will dictate his or her story to disciples who then edit the material, even adding eulogy and Tibetan honorific forms. Also, after the lama dies the disciples add an account of the death at the end of an autobiography. The miraculous events typical in their accounts serve to confirm the lama's spiritual attainments and therefore the authenticity of the disciples' lineage.

As will be seen below, the nuns' accounts share some features with biographies of the Buddha and with stories of tantric masters in the Tibetan literary genre called rnam thar. The main commonalities are as follows: 1) The subject of the biography--the lama--is an exemplary role model. 2) As an enlightened being, the lama can naturally perform miracles. 3) The motivation underlying the biography is to benefit readers or listeners. 4) Guru devotion is central. As Tenzin Dolma says, "I have to please my teacher." 5) Biography and autobiography are entwined. But for nuns in what sense do the lama's powers confirm the authenticity of the lineage from master to disciple? To what extent can Negi Lama's nun disciples follow his example themselves? It is not clear that sacred biography has the same function and meaning for nuns as it does for monks, and so these are questions for future research. (7)

V. Death in Buddhism. Death is central to Buddhism. It was his first sight of a dead man that shocked the Buddha-to-be into leaving home to find a cure for the suffering seemingly caused by death, separation, and other forms of impermanence. After death--as illustrated in the entryways of Vajrayana Buddhist temples--comes rebirth in any one of the six realms, unless a person has followed the Buddha's path to liberation from the cycle of birth and death (and therefore is not reborn), or unless the person is a Bodhisattva like Negi Lama, a high spiritual being who has vowed to liberate all other beings; such a one will be reborn in the human realm. According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, between death and rebirth is the bardo or intermediate state. The average stay there is 49 days, and during those seven weeks the dead person is more accessible to prayer than later after rebirth. When a guru dies, disciples typically pray and recite mantras for the guru's good rebirth, and they may also ask the guru for help in their own liberation, as a Kinnauri nun did in these last five lines of the Song on Impermanence she composed (in Kinnauri language):

Who will pull us out of the ocean of misery?

Only you, please pull us out protector, Triple Gem [Buddha-Dharma-Sangha], --, and the kind root guru.

O root Guru, close the door of the six realms, --, and make taut the rope of Buddhahood. (8)

These basic Vajrayana Buddhist ideas about death inform the nuns' stories of the death of Negi Lama, and the above song gives an idea of why the "core" of Tibetan sacred biography might be, as J. Robinson (1996) for example says it is, guru devotion.

VI. Excerpts from the story of the death of Negi Lama as told by the nuns follow. (9) They now live far apart, so the interviews were conducted separately, in space and in time, but here the voices alternate throughout the story. At a hermitage in Manali (Samten Choeling at Pangaon cave), Tenzin Dolma spoke in Tibetan and a 21-year-old Bhutanese nun translated into English. In Kinnaur, Bogti (whose ordained name is Tenzin Choeden) spoke in Kinnauri and her niece, a primary school teacher, translated into Hindi, and I retranslated into English. Both interviews were tape-recorded.

Tenzin Dolma: When I was Kunu Rinpoche's attendant, there were four of us, including myself and [Drikung] Khandro Rinpoche. Two other nuns came later, Tenzin Lhamo [Zangmo] and Bogti.... Those two nuns didn't stay with him permanently. They stayed with Rinpoche around one year. They came to Lahul with us intending to go back to Kinnaur. But snowfall blocked the road out of Lahul and they had to stay on. At that time Kunu Rinpoche passed away. After he passed away we made a stupa for him, the four of us.

... We went to Lahul in the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar.... We went to Kardang monastery and Rinpoche gave teachings. He taught Gampopa's Jewel Ornament of Liberation and Nagarjuna's Jewel Garland.... When he was teaching, we four received teachings from him too. We stayed with the other monks and nuns and we got the same teachings. At other times we cooked for him and washed his clothes. That was the only work we had....

From there he went to Shashur monastery and he gave the Gampopa teaching. And when they had reached the part on emptiness, then he passed away. The first month of the Tibetan calendar he passed away [i.e., February-March]. In the middle of a teaching he passed away.... (10)

Bogti: At 11 o'clock we ate lunch. That day, though, he didn't even agree to eat lunch, because until he reached the emptiness teaching he didn't agree to rest at all. There, Tenzin Zangmo and Tenzin Dolma were making lunch. Then I went down to get hot water for Negi Rinpoche to bathe in. All the monks had come out of the room and were leaving. When I also got to the door, Rinpoche asked me, "Today where did I get to in the teaching?" I answered that today he got to Sherab Lung [emptiness teaching], that in the house the fire was lit and I was going for water.

When I had said this and was taking the soap and tub and was going, at that time, Negi Rinpoche had a fit of loud coughing.... When I had given [him] a bowl for phlegm, at that time in the coughing, blood came out. [She went for medicine.]

... Not even five or ten minutes had passed. As soon as I came back, Negi Rinpoche had vomited up so much blood that when I arrived at the door, half of it was already in the tub and a lot had run down his chest. From his mouth he was vomiting and a lot fell in front and some landed in the tub. From the door I saw and was so afraid and at the same time astounded. So suddenly and unexpectedly, what was happening? ... Tears fell....

... All the monk people at that time came back.... they made us go out of the room. (11) ... Then when we went back in, Negi Rinpoche at that time his consciousness [in Hindi, translator said sir sadar] had gone. Then whatever things we could have done for him before, at this time nothing could be done. This vomit of flowing blood was indeed his leaving this samsara.

Tenzin Dolma: Even after dying, Khunu Rinpoche stayed in meditation posture, thuks dam [Tibetan: sitting in meditation after death]. It's a kind of prayer after death. We are not allowed to touch a body in thuks dam.... Even if high lamas pass away, they stay in prayer. He was sitting for three days. And they destroyed it. Actually, he was going to stay about five days. But then people destroyed his sitting meditation. They thought of taking his body in a helicopter. When he passed away they rang up His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] to tell him Khunu Rinpoche passed away. They rang up all Khunu Rinpoche's relatives in Sunam village.

Then what happened was this. The people of Kinnaur wanted to take Khunu Rinpoche's body to Kinnaur.... And ... Khunu Rinpoche's relatives ... four of them ... sent [a message] to Shashur monastery. Then I quarreled with the people of Kinnaur. I said, "I'm happy to take his body to Kinnaur as I am from Kinnaur. At least wait until he finishes the meditation...." And they said they paid 60 thousand rupees for the helicopter and I would have to pay 60 thousand rupees to them. At that time I didn't have money at all, but I said, "I'll pay this very day."

Bogti: Then the monks asked us, "Until today we haven't had any darshan [Sanskrit, viewing of a holy person]. He was shut in and left. Now we haven't even got blessings [relics]" ... What can we do? Can we bathe Negi Rinpoche and cut his hair and keep the water and hair [as relics]?" "Keep it," we said.

... Then [the next day] the weather was completely pure and clear. From here a sort of palanquin was made, and Negi Rinpoche was seated in it and taken away....

I spoke in this way [in prayer] to Negi Rinpoche ... "We can't do anything. Negi Rinpoche, whatever shakti [Sanskrit: power] you have, show it! If you want to go in this way, if you don't want to go, then also, by some shakti, use your thul [Tibetan: miraculous power] and do something."

Having spoken in this way, I stayed doing prostrations, and Tenzin Dolma and Tenzin Zangmo went with Negi Rinpoche. In this way all the monks also went there, playing dungchen and gyaling [Tibetan musical instruments: long trumpets and double-reed instrument].... So very many people gathered and carried him. Khandroma [Drikung Khandro] and I, we two stayed behind ... and did prostrations, lit butter lamps, and at Negi Rinpoche's seat did offerings....

Tenzin Dolma: And suddenly what happened was, there was a big cloud and everywhere it became very dark. I thought the airplane would not come, and I said, "Now I'm going to take Rinpoche's body back to the place where he passed away."

I planned this myself. Whatever happened, I myself was going to take responsibility for it. Then we took him to Shashur monastery again. We climbed the mountain. And when we were about to reach Shashur monastery, all the clouds disappeared and the sun shone. Crowds of Lahul people came. We took his body back to Shashur monastery and from there we took the body up the hill to burn it. ... And I lit the fire first.

Bogti: Then the day we did the last rites, when we opened the brick wall, only the outer flesh had gone, the bones were still there. Only his two hands and two feet were gone. The rest was there. Then we put [ceremonial] white scarves on him forthwith, put good clean cloth on him, did la (12), and then shut him in a box. Then applied gram flour and sealed it, put on a lock and sealed it.

Tenzin Dolma: After burning the body we collected the small bones and locked them into a box. But his heart and head were still left. They didn't burn.... The people of Kinnaur wanted to take the heart to Kinnaur, and the people of Lahul wanted the heart too. Then I said, "I'm from Kinnaur too, and I know if the heart comes to Kinnaur I'll be happy. But I have to please my teacher and so we have to put it to the vote."

Vote means we took two pieces of paper and wrote the name [Kinnaur or Lahul]. The people of Kinnaur didn't get the heart. They kept the heart in Lahul and then they took the head to Kinnaur. And then we sent the small bones and ash to every monastery in Keylong like Kardang monastery, and we made a stupa. We made a silver stupa.

Bogti: Because no one came from Kinnaur, we again called the District Commissioner. The DC didn't come but in his place sent a branch officer in the Forestry Department from Pangi [in Kinnaur]. He was sent. Then we opened the casket in front of him. But it seemed strange to break the large bone.

Then Lama Sonam said, "Such a great lama, how can we break [this] with our hands?" Doing this, he sat holding it in his hands.

The one in charge there said, "The part that was [whole] should be given for relics. The part that was broken here should be sent to Kinnaur."

When he said that, there I began to say to Khandro, "This isn't right. What should we do?"

At the time we were thinking in this way, by themselves of their own accord Rinpoche's dancha [bones that did not burn] split into two pieces. Then at that time, Sonam said, "Ane [nuns], it broke in two itself. Now we don't have to worry [about dividing the bones]."

VII. Conclusions. (13) Though oral and told by nun disciples embedded into their own first-person life stories, these accounts of the death of Negi Lama are part of a long tradition of earlier Buddhist and later Tibetan sacred biography and contain miraculous events as they do. (14) Such miraculous events are said to be the result of enlightenment obtained by tantric methods (Willis, 1995) and generally confirm the authenticity of the lama's attainment and the lineage. But in their stories the nuns are concerned to tell their own achievements as well as the lama's. Most importantly, they were Negi Lama's close, chosen personal attendants and heard all the teachings he gave during their time together. Beyond that, they highlight their own displays of courage, good judgment, quick wit, and articulateness, and demonstrate how effective their prayers are. For by praying to the lama the nun Bogti indirectly caused a storm, and later by concentrating on dividing the bone she invoked the lama's response so that the bone broke spontaneously. According to the nuns, the monks in Lahul deferred to them at crucial moments. In addition, the nuns keep reminding us that Drikung Khandro--the lama's senior disciple and a khandroma (Tibetan; in Sanskrit, yogini) in her own right--is their close associate throughout the events of the story.

Because of all these achievements they too are exemplary figures, and so they tell the story of the lama and his exemplary nun disciples to benefit those who hear it--their own disciples, other nuns, and laywomen, including me. Perhaps too they tell their stories to confirm the authenticity of the nuns' lineage. Finally, it seems likely that they tell the story for their own edification [as Kalu Rinpoche said] to merge their minds with the lama's. To paraphrase Negi Lama: thinking some listener would benefit, the nuns told and I retold this story.

Interviews

Bogti. (1996). Interview conducted in Kinnauri in Asarang, Kinnaur. Tr. into Hindi by Bogti's niece (and into English by me).

Tenzin Dolma. (1995). Interview conducted in Tibetan in Manali, Himachal Pradesh. Tr. into English by Ven. Karma.

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Notes

(1.) An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Conference for the Study of Religions of India in Albion, MI, on June 12, 2005.

(2.) Kinnauri nuns studying in Jamyang Choeling nunnery in Dharmsala (H.P.), India, sang the song for me to record in 1995. In 1996 Ramesh Chandra Negi Mathas transcribed and translated it. For the complete text of this Kinnauri-language song (called githang in Kinnauri) and the one excerpted below, a Tibetan-language song (called mgur ma in Tibetan), see LaMacchia (2008). Here, blank lines mean that the previous half-line is repeated.

(3.) The nuns sang Negi Lama's mgurma from a small bilingual Tibetan and Hindi book translated and published in 1995 at CIHTS (Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Varanasi) by Ramesh Chandra Negi (Mathas) and Gurucharana Singh Negi (Bisht). The title page is in English and renders the book's title as "Song and Prayer by Negi Rinpoche Tanzin Gyaltsan."

(4.) When the present Dalai Lama first arrived in exile in India from Tibet in 1959, he went to see Negi Lama in Varanasi and requested teachings from him on Bodhicitta (Sanskrit; "compassion"). Negi Lama taught the young Dalai Lama the great Buddhist text written by the 8th century Indian scholar and monk Shantideva, called in Sanskrit the Bodhicaryavatara (in Tibetan, this is Byang-chub sems-pa'i spyod-pa-la 'jug-pa). Negi Lama's book on Tibetan grammar, called Ngag sgron ("the lamp for learned speech") is still widely used. His poetry on compassion was written in Tibetan in 1959 in the form of one four-line poem per day for one year. It is called Byang chub sems kyi bstod pa rin chen sgron ma ("the jewel lamp: a praise of Bodhicitta"). See the translation by Gareth Sparham in the references (Khunu Rinpoche, 1999).

(5.) Drikung Khandro (d. 1979) was an accomplished spiritual master in her own right and had many nun disciples both in Tibet and later in the pilgrimage site Tso Pema (Rewalsar), North India, where she lived after escaping from Chinese occupied Tibet, until she became Negi Lama's disciple and companion. She and three Kinnauri nuns accompanied him to Lahul, where the lama died in 1977. Hanna Havnevik (n.d. [1989], pp. 81-82) writes this about her: "Belonging to the Drigung Kagyu School, there is an incarnation of the nun Nene Choden Sangmo, Drigung Khandro, who stayed at Tso Pema until her death in 1976." In fact, Drikung Khandro was not an incarnation, since Nene Choden was still alive when she appointed the young Sherab Tharchin to be her successor in the Drikung Khandro lineage. Drikung Khandro Sherab Tharchin died in 1979, two years after Negi Lama. (For more on Drikung Khandro, see LaMacchia, 2006; see also Ontul Rinpoche's website at Drikung Kagyu monastery at Tso Pema (http://www.dharma-media.org/ratnashripj/wogmin/khandroneni.html).

K. Ang Rup (n.d. [1987]) names the four nuns in his Tibetan biography of Negi Lama: "[In Lahul] he stayed in one of the monk's rooms. He stayed there with his entourage: Drigung Khandro, Sherab Tarchin by name, and Tenzin Dolma and Tenzin Zangmo, both from the border of Kinnaur and Spiti, a place called Chango, and Tenzin Choeden from Asarang, a total of four nuns." (Translated by an anonymous staff member at the Campaign to Save Tibet, Washington, D.C.)

(6.) "Miracle" implies "supernatural" events to westerners, but Tibetan Buddhists' view may be different. Alexandra David-Neel (1989, p. 206) states: "so-called wonders, they think, are as natural as common daily events and depend on the clever handling of little-known laws and forces." Geoffrey Samuel (1993) points out that shamanism and shamanic abilities are not marginal in Tibetan Buddhism but mainstream. An example of this: the Tibetan government in India led by the Dalai Lama has an official state oracle--a monk at Nechung monastery--who helps with decisions of state and a weatherman who controls weather. Though Kinnauras are not Tibetans they practice the Tibetan form of Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism.

(7.) For example, unlike monks, nuns may be blocked from completing the standard monastic curriculum and earning degrees such as Geshe and Kachen, because at present full ordination is not available to nuns in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (see Mohr & Tsedroen, 2010; also, see Thubten Chodron, 2007, http://www.thubtenchodron.org/BuddhistNunsMonasticLife/lettertotheeditor; LaMacchia, 2012).

(8.) See LaMacchia (2008, pp. 143-146).

(9.) For full interviews, see appendix 5 in LaMacchia (2008).

(10.) Both Kardang and Shashur monasteries are near Keylong, the capital of Lahul. Negi Lama passed away at Shashur gompa (Tibetan: monastery).

(11.) Drikung Khandro and Tenzin Dolma had arrived too. The monks may have asked them to leave because the nuns were crying. For the sake of the dying person's peaceful transition, crying is discouraged at the time of death in the presence of the dying person.

(12.) Bogti's niece translating into Hindi used the word la. She may have meant lha, Tibetan for gods, meaning that the nuns invoked the gods.

(13.) In recording oral traditions, songs and stories, it is important to ask the singer or teller herself to interpret the tradition. Since I did not do that--did not ask the nuns what their story meant and what their purpose was in telling it, they may not agree with these conclusions.

(14.) Though this paper does not focus on an analysis of miracles, much more could be said about miracles, their definitions and categories. For example, in a recent provocative article, Grillo (2011) defines miracles as expressions of a divine or ultimate reality. She finds that in monotheistic and other world religions, the ultimate expresses itself mainly through "time" (history and the written word), while in indigenous or "primal" religions, ultimate reality expresses itself through "space" (e.g., "natural cosmos," interpreted by divination). In this frame, it could be argued that Tibetan Buddhism combines elements of both indigenous and world religions, and that in this story of Negi Lama's death, miracles of both time and space occurred.
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Author:LaMacchia, Linda
Publication:The Tibet Journal
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Mar 22, 2012
Words:5774
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