Religions of South Asia, Vol 2, No 2 (2008)

Old Traditions, New Techniques: The Bodily Preservation of Kyabje Ling Rinpoche

Mark Owen
Issued Date: 19 Jan 2010


Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, the senior tutor of His Holiness the fourteenth Dalai Lama, passed away shortly before noon on 25 December, 1983. On the recommendation of the Dalai Lama the decision was taken to preserve the body of the deceased Rinpoche. Over the next four years traditional Tibetan methods and modern sculpting techniques were used to create a ‘living likeness’ of the Rinpoche. This process culminated in a consecration ceremony during which the
‘spirit’ or ‘energy’ of Kyabje Ling Rinpoche was asked to enter back into the preserved body. The holy body, or mardung (dmar gdung), is today kept in a small room in the Dalai Lama’s private temple. Drawing on evidence gathered during fieldwork in a number of Tibetan Buddhist communities, this article attempts to build on recent scholarly work in the increasingly popular field of Buddhist relics. Originally conceived as a starting point for further research in the area of Tibetan Buddhist bodily preservation, this study also attempts to increase insight into traditional Tibetan preservation practices, and the views and beliefs of contemporary Buddhist practitioners.

Beginning with an overview of previous scholarship in this area, this investigation addresses issues relating to terminology, motivations for the tradition, as well as contributing to broader methodological debates.

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DOI: 10.1558/rosa.v2i2.215


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