Magic and Ritual in Tibet: The Cult of Tara by Stephan Beyer

Magic and Ritual in Tibet: The Cult of Tara

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Magic and Ritual in Tibet: The Cult of Tara
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The real history of man is the history of religion. The truth of the famous dictum of Max Muller, the father of the History of Religions, is nowhere so obvious as in Tibet. Western students have observed that religion and magic pervade not only the forms of Tibetan art, politics, and society, but also every detail of ordinary human existence. And what is the all-pervading religion of Tibet? The Buddhism of that country has been described to us, of course, but that does not mean the question has been answered.

The unique importance of Stephan BeyerÍs work is that it presents the vital material ignored or slighted by others: the living ritual of Tibetan Buddhists. The reader is made a witness to cultic proceedings through which the author guides him carefully. He does not force one to accept easy explanations nor does he direct one's attention only to aspects that can be counted on to please. He leads one step by step, without omitting anything, through entire rituals, and interprets whenever necessary without being unduly obtrusive. Oftentimes, as in the case of the many hymns to the goddess Tara, the superb translations speak directly to the reader, and it is indeed as if the reader himself were present at the ritual.


"A definitive contribution to the field by a brilliant young scholar. The magnitude of this work is awesome-a fine and scholarly piece of work which sheds much light on a dark subjects." - Virgina Quarterly Review

"The result of field-work.... supplemented by vast researches into Tibetan and Sanskrit source material which is handled with impressive competence. It is impossible not to admire the immense amount of hard work and deep and critical thinking which has gone into this book, which is certainly major milestone in the subject." - Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African studies

"Opens a new door for the Western student of religion to the understanding of ritual in one of its most sophisticated and artistic forms... The author provides a precise and descriptive representation of the actual rituals. He gives very readable translation of the important parts of the ritual texts such as the visualizations of the contemplated deity, praises, prayers, offerings, and innovations along with a detailed account of what the participants actually do. These descriptions are much aided by simple and comprehensible sketches of the hand gestures to be performed as well as attractive drawings of the different deities involved...and photographs of the preparation of the rituals and ritual in progress." - Artibus Asiae

"The author has a kindly attitude toward the subject and an instinct for the important; and he is careful. All of these are attributes which insure the authenticity and trustworthiness of his material. His anecdotes and writing style are appealing; and the numerous mudra figures are charming." - Journal of Asian Studies

"Going beyond the irreducibly Tibetan flavor that pervades this material, Beyer's presentation propels the reader over the 'ocean of Tantra' in the direction of a more general theory of religions ritual, within whose confines the socio-dynamics of magic and mysticism, the history and philosophy of religion, epistemology, psychology, and semiotics all play important roles." - Philosophy East and West

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