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Buddhism Past and Present in the Western Himalaya



This course, which is financed by the Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies Fonds, will be offered in the Spring semester of 2017 and is open to all interested in the field of Buddhist Studies. Students who want to get credits for the course, should register for the course as for regular courses and will have to write the paper. Others do not have to register and can just attend the lectures. For more information, please contact prof. dr. J.A. Silk.

Classes are on Thursdays from 19:00 to 21:00 in Lipsius 0.30. Classes start on February 23.

Admission requirements



This course will deal with:

  • Reception and propagation of Buddhism in Tibet and the Western Himalaya, with an emphasis on the second diffusion (11th c., phyi dar) and the role of the translator Rin chen bzang po;

  • Genereral characteristics of Tibetan Buddhism, with an emphasis on its various “schools” and non-Buddhist influences;

  • We will concentrate especially on the areas of Ladakh and present-day Himachal Pradesh, now politically part of India but culturally Tibetan, and discuss monastic organisations as well as lay Buddhist activities.

Course objectives

Students will gain a familiarity with Buddhist history in the Western Tibetan regions, including main doctrines and the development of schools, but also locations (monasteries etc), and main personages.



Mode of instruction


Course Load

For students who take the course for credit:
Total course load: 140 hours
Class meetings: 2 × 13 = 26 hrs
Weekly assignments: 1 × 12 = 12 hrs
Readings: 7 × 12 = 72 hrs
final paper: 18 hours

Assessment method

  • Paper 100%

Reading list

Selections from the following:
Beyer, Stephan, The Cult of Tārā: Magic and Ritual in Tibet. Berkeley 1973
Boord, Martin J. & Losang Norbu Tsonawa (transl.), Overview of Buddhist Tantra. General Presentation of the Classes of Tantra, Captivating the Minds of the Fortunate Ones, by Panchen Sonam Dragpa. Dharamsala 1996
Chattopadhyaya, Alaka, Atīśa and Tibet. Calcutta 1967, repr. Delhi 1981
Clark, W.E., Two Lamaistic Pantheons. 2 vols, New York 1965
Davidson, Ronald M., Indian Esoteric Buddhism. A Social History of the Tantric Movement. Columbia Univ. Press 2002, repr. Delhi 2004
Francke, A. H., A History of Western Tibet, One of the Unknown Empires. London 1907. Reprint New Delhi 1995.
Francke, A. H., Antiquities of Indian Tibet. Part (volume) II: The Chronicles of Ladakh and Minor Chronicles. Texts and Translations, with Notes and Maps. New Delhi 1926. Reprint 1972
Getty, A., The Gods of Northern Buddhism. Oxford 1914
Hopkins, Jeffrey, (transl. and ed. [!, contains no edition]), Tantra in Tibet. The Great Exposition of Secrte Mantra by Tsong-ka-pa. London 1977
Karmay, G., The Great Perfection. A Philosophical and Meditative teaching of Tibetan Buddhism. Leiden u.a. 1988
Kværne, Per, “On the Concept of Sahaja in Indian Buddhist Tantric Literature.” In: Temenos. Studies in Comparative Religion. Vol 11 (1975), 88-135
Namkhai Norbu, Dzog Chen and Zen. Oakland 1984
Powers, John, An Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism. New York (Snow Lion), 2005?
Sanderson, Alexis, “Vajrayāna: Origin and Function.” In: Buddhism into the Year 2000. International Conference Proceedings. Bangkok, Los Angeles 1994, 87-102
Shakspo, Nawang Tsering, A Cultural History of Ladakh, edited by Kyle Gardner. Sabu-Leh 2010
Snellgrove, David L., Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. London 1987
Stein, R.A., Tibetan Civilization. Paris 1962 (in French), London 1972 (Engl. translation)
Tucci, Giuseppe, Minor Buddhist Texts II. Roma 1956, reprint (together with pt. I) Kyoto 1978 [introduction]
Tucci, Giuseppe, Rin-chen-bzaṅ-po and the Renaissance of Buddhism in Tibet Around the Millenium. New Delhi 1988 (English Version of Indo-Tibetica II)
Tucci, Giuseppe, The Religions of Tibet. Translated from the German and Italian by Geoffrey Samuel. Berkeley, Los Angeles 1980
Vitali, Roberto, The Kingdoms of Pu.hrang According to mNga’.ris rgyal.rabs by mkhan.chen Ngag.dbang Dharamsala 1996
Vitali, Roberto, A Short History of Mustang (10th-15th century). McLeod Ganj- Dharamsala 2012
L. Austin Waddell, The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism. 1895, 2Cambridge 1959


General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

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Helmut Tauscher