Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ancient Tibet (1196 BC - 950 AD)


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"Since the second propagation on the Buddist doctrine in Tibet, in which teachings of non-Indian origin were dismissed..."... ( 28......Myriad Worlds: Buddhist Cosmology in Abhidharma, Kalachakra & Dzog-chen..... Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye )..."

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640 to 842 CE, Tibet was in a phase of expansion during which it absorbed the state of Zhang-zhung, and then substantial Chinese, Nepalese and other territories surrounding it. It was near the end of this period, that under royal patronage, the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery was founded at Sam'ye.

"Tibet. In 617 A.D. Namri Songtsen, the 32nd King of the peoples of Tibet, had a son named Tri De-songtsen (Ch: Chi Tsung-lung-tsan), who is better known as Tri Songtsen Gampo.4 This young ruler (he was 13 when he ascended the throne in 630) quickly squashed the attempted coup that accompanied his father's assassination and then proceeded with the systematic and bloodthirsty reduction of all traces of opposition to his control over the Tibetan Plateau. Having married his sister to the king of Suvarnadwipa, he conspired with her in the latter's ambush and murder.5 Following upon the death of the last descendant of the matriarchal dynasty of Suvarnadwipa, the armies of Tibet streamed westward along the Indus and north toward the vast basin lands of the Tarim,,,Songtsen Gampo's apotheosis into the Buddhist archetype of unconditional love and mercy, as Avalokitesvara, is incongruous in face of the reality of his character as one of the greater warlords of Oriental history. He did, however, accomplish much good by introducing culture and the art of writing into the country. Songtsen Gampo died of the plague in 649 A.D. and the throne descended to his grandson, Mangsong Mangtsen."....

"The first encounters between the Islamic world and Tibet took place in the course of the expansion of the Abbasid Empire in the eighth century. Military and political contacts went along with an increasing interest in the other side. Cultural exchanges and the transmission of knowledge were facilitated by a trading network, with musk constituting one of the main trading goods from the Himalayas, largely through India. From the thirteenth century onwards the spread of the Mongol Empire from the Western borders of Europe through Central Asia to China facilitated further exchanges. The significance of these interactions has been long ignored in scholarship."....."Islam and Tibet – Interactions along the Musk Routes.".... Edited by Anna Akasoy, Oriental Institute, University of Oxford

The Tibetan Empire existed during the 7th and 9th centuries A.D., and ruled roughly the area of Tibetan Plateau.The historic name for the Tibetan Empire is different from Tibet's present name."This first mention of the name Bod, the usual name for Tibet in the later Tibetan historical sources, is significant in that it is used to refer to a conquered region....

Mutri Tsenpo, the second king of Tibet, was interested in the Bon trantric practice Drakpa Kor Sum and invited many scholars from Zhang Zhung to teach it. ....

Tsetang, Tibet’s third largest city, is the mythical birthplace of the Tibetan people. According to legend a monkey mediating in a cave was seduced by a female demon who had refused to wed another monster. She married the monkey and produced six children who grew up to form the six major tribes of Tibet. Another myth describes how the first Tibetan king descended to earth from heaven on a sky rope. These myth are believed to have their origin in the ancient Bon religion.

"New ideas that came into the empire as a result of its expansion, helped to create stresses and power blocs that were often in competition with the ruler at the center of the empire. Thus, for example, adherents of the Bön religion and the supporters of the ancient noble families gradually came to find themselves in competition with the recently-introduced Buddhism.

Songtsän Gampo (Srong-brtsan Sgam-po) (born ca. 604, died 650) was the first great emperor who expanded Tibet's power beyond Lhasa and the Yarlung Valley, and is traditionally credited with introducing Buddhism to Tibet.

The Chinese Princess Wencheng (Tibetan: Mung-chang Kung-co) departed China in 640 to marry Songtsän Gampo's son. She arrived a year later. This is traditionally credited with being the first time that Buddhism came to Tibet, but it is very unlikely Buddhism extended beyond foreigners at the court.....Songtsän Gampo’s sister Sämakar (Sad-mar-kar) was sent to marry Lig-myi-rhya, the king of Zhangzhung in what is now Western Tibet. However, when the king refused to consummate the marriage, she then helped her brother to defeat Lig myi-rhya and incorporate Zhangzhung into the Tibetan Empire. In 645, Songtsän Gampo overran the kingdom of Zhangzhung.

Between 665-670 Khotan was defeated by the Tibetans, and a long string of conflicts ensued with the Chinese Tang Dynasty. In the spring of 670, Tibet attacked the remaining Chinese territories in the western Tarim Basin. With troops from Khotan they conquered Aksu, upon which the Chinese abandoned the region, ending two decades of Chinese control. They thus gained control over all of the Chinese Four Garrisons of Anxi in the Tarim Basin in 670 and held them until 692, when the Chinese finally managed to regain these territories.

By 750 the Tibetans had lost almost all of their central Asian possessions to the Chinese. In 753, even the kingdom of "Little Balur" (modern Gilgit) was captured by the Chinese. However, after Gao Xianzhi's defeat by the Caliphate and Qarluqs at the Battle of Talas (751), Chinese influence decreased rapidly and Tibetan influence began to increase again. Tibet conquered large sections of northern India during this time.

"...the Uyghurs, nominal allies of the Tang emperors, continued to make difficulties along Tibet's Northern border. Toward the end of this king's reign Uyghur victories in the North caused the Tibetans to lose a number of their allies in the Southeast.

Recent historical research indicates the presence of Christianity in as early as the sixth and seventh centuries, a period when the Hephthalites had extensive links with the Tibetans. A strong presence existed by the eighth century when Patriarch Timothy I (727-823) in 782 calls the Tibetans one of the more significant communities of the eastern church and wrote of the need to appoint another bishop in ca. 794.

In 801, Tibetans were active as far west as Balkh, Samarkand and Kabul. Caliphate forces began to gain the upper hand, and the Tibetan governor of Kabul submitted to the Caliphate and became a Muslim about 812 or 815. The Caliphate then struck east from Kashmir, but were held off by the Tibetans. In the meantime, the Uyghur Khaganate attacked Tibet from the northeast. Strife between the Uyghurs and Tibetans continued for some time

Tritsu Detsen (Khri gtsug lde brtsan), best known as Ralpacan, is important to Tibetan Buddhists as one of the three Dharma Kings who brought Buddhism to Tibet. Tibetans attacked Uyghur territory in 816 and were in turn attacked in 821. After successful Tibetan raids into Chinese territory, Buddhists in both countries sought mediation. Ralpacan was apparently murdered by two pro-Bön ministers who then placed his anti-Buddhist brother, Langdarma, on the throne.

The reign of Langdarma (Glang dar ma), regal title Tri Uidumtsaen (Khri 'U'i dum brtsan), was plagued by external troubles. The Uyghur state to the north collapsed under pressure from the Kyrgyz in 840, and many displaced people fled to Tibet. Langdarma himself was assassinated, apparently by a Buddhist hermit, in 842....The civil war that arose over Langdarma's successor led to the collapse of the Tibetan Empire. The period that followed, known traditionally as the Era of Fragmentation, was dominated by rebellions against the remnants of imperial Tibet and the rise of regional warlords.

"With the consolidation of the Tibetan empire in the seventh century AD under the Yarlung kings there was increasing contact between Tibet, India and China, establishing a lasting pattern of cultural contact and exchange. Under Srong brTsan sGam Po (around 618-41) scholars were sent to India to develop a system of writing for the Tibetan language and, as part of treaty negotiations with the Chinese, the emperor married a Tang dynasty (618-907) princess.The Yarlung empire disintegrated in the mid-ninth century. Buddhism, dependant on royal support, suffered set-backs, but from the late-tenth century efforts were made to re-establish links with Indian centres of knowledge. The arrival of the Indian-born master Atisha in 1042 is generally regarded as the culmination of the ‘second propagation’ of Buddhism in Tibet.

The garuda and the dragon have their origin in Indian and Chinese mythology, respectively. However, regarding the origin of the animals as a tetrad, "neither written nor oral explanations exist anywhere" with the exception of a thirteenth century manuscript called "The Appearance of the Little Black-Headed Man" (dBu nag mi'u dra chag), and in that case a yak is substituted for the snow lion, which had not yet emerged as the national symbol of Tibet. In the text, a nyen (wylie: gNyan, mountain spirit) kills his son-in-law, Khri-to, who is the primeval human man, in a misguided attempt to avenge his daughter. The nyen then is made to see his mistake by a mediator and compensates Khri-to's six sons with the gift of the tiger, yak, garuda, dragon, goat, and dog. The first four brothers then launch an exhibition to kill robbers who were also involved with their mother's death, and each of their four animals then becomes a personal drala (wylie: dgra bla, "protective warrior spirit") to one of the four brothers. The brothers who received the goat and dog choose not to participate, and their animals therefore do not become drala. Each of the brothers represents one of the six primitive Tibetan clans (bod mi'u gdung drug), with which their respective animals also become associated......

"Around 1196 B.C., Zhutrul Yeshi, a great master from Tagzig established the Bon monastic system and propagated the practice of monastic discipline and philosophical study in the kingdoms of Zhang Zhung and Tibet with energy and devotion. Mutri Tsenpo, the second king of Tibet, was interested in the Bon trantric practice Drakpa Kor Sum and invited many scholars from Zhang Zhung to teach it. "

".... one of the ways the Tibetan Buddhist schools attempted to suppress Bon, was by accusing Bon practitioners of being ‘intellectually uncivilized’ – of being mere primitive shamans. However, in the deepest sense, shamanic belief is the Tibetans’ very lifeblood. Tibetans of any religious school who get ill will enact rituals, such as putting up prayer flags, to invoke their guardian spirits and perform ransom rites to remove disturbing spirits, without a moment’s hesitation. Shamanism contains much wisdom that is used to harmonise imbalances, by working on re-establishing good relationships with spirits. The work of Native American shamans in contacting guardian animals for guidance, strength and knowledge, is of great value for hea and for restoring a harmonious relationship with animals, the elements, the sky and the whole environment.."....

"Before 1959, there were approximately 3000 Tibetan Muslims living in Central Tibet. They were the descendents of Muslim merchants who came to Tibet from Kashmir, Ladakh, Nepal, and China, mostly between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, married Tibetan women, and settled there. They speak Tibetan and follow most Tibetan customs. They had four mosques in Lhasa, two in Shigatse, and one on Tsethang, built in Tibetan style architecture. Further, they had two Islamic schools in Lhasa and one in Shigtase for studying the Quran and Urdu. In Indian exile as well, the Muslim and Buddhist Tibetan communities live in harmony, with religious tolerance. ......There is a long history of trade between Kashmir, Ladakh, and Tibet, over the course of which merchants from these areas settled in Western and Central Tibet. After the late fourteenth century introduction of Islam in Kashmir and Ladakh by Sufi masters, the settlers would have included Muslims. The main influx of Kashmiri and Ladakhi Muslim immigrants to Tibet, however, occurred during the mid-seventeenth century reign of the Fifth Dalai Lama. They came to Tibet mostly because of widespread famine in Kashmir and settled in Lhasa........As part of a policy of tolerance for all religious factions, the Fifth Dalai Lama granted the members of the Muslim community special privileges. They could elect a five-member committee to supervise their internal affairs; could settle their own disputes independently according to the Shariah laws; could open shops and conduct trade in other Tibetan cities; and were exempt from tax. In addition, they could eat meat during the Buddhist holy month of Sakadawa and did not need to take off their hats to the monk officials during the Monlam prayer festival. Moreover, the Fifth Dalai Lama gave the Muslim community land in Lhasa for a mosque and a cemetery, and invited its leaders to all major government celebrations."

An Overview of Horns in the Tibetan David Germano......"The Horns (ru) were the top most administrative unit in Imperial Tibet, and hence the largest. They are said to have been created by the seventh century emperor Songtsen Gampo (srong btsan sgam po) in order to divide his domain into manageable units. Originally there were four horns named largely after directions - Central Horn (dbus ru), Branch Horn (ru lag), Right Horn (g.yas ru), and Left Horn (g.yon ru). Later two more were added with names deriving from conquered ethnicities - Sumpa Horn (sum pa ru) and Zhang Zhung Horn (zhang zhung ru)......After the collapse of the Tibetan Empire the four horns of Tibet, which had formed the core units of the empire, lived on as a geographical designation that persists up to the present. As such, the “four horns of Tibet” can refer to central Tibet, and is sometimes used as a political term similar to “Tibet.”

In 751 Tibet began a crucial alliance with Nanzhao against the Tang. Faced with China’s weakness following the An Lushan rebellion, Tibet invaded Changan in 763 and installed a puppet emperor on the Tang throne. This state of affairs lasted only two weeks, but over the next two decades Tibet conquered all of China’s city-states in the Gansu corridor. The Tang sued for peace in 783, accepting Tibetan demands that the treaty protocols recognize Tibet as the equal of China. The treaty was soon broken, and negotiations in 787 led only to further hostilities. The Tibetans pressed further into Central Asia, with an aim to effectively cut off China’s access to the Silk Road and to the western regions. In the 790s and in the first decade of the ninth century, Tibet was at war with the Arabs in the Northwest, the Uighurs in the North and Northeast, and the united forces of the Tang and Nanzhao (which defected in 794) in the west and southwest. Tibet proposed peace treaties several times from 806 until an eventual treaty with Tang, Nanzhao, and the Uighurs in 821-822. These four powers, with the possible exception of Nanzhao, fell into decline from that point, leading to the Kirghiz conquest of the Uighur Empire in 840. Tibet faced a succession crisis in 842, followed by an end of centralized imperial power and the devolution of its imperial domains. By 866, the empire had come to an end. China also faced crises in the 840s, inaugurating a climate of xenophobic purges and anti-Buddhist violence. A diminished Tang would limp its way to its eventual end in 907......

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John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….November 2012


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