Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tibetan Feng Shui

I just came across an interesting article on what the author, Martin A. Mills, calls "royal Buddhist geomancy" in the December 2007 issue of JIATS, abstract here:

This is a must read. The academics have somehow managed to inject kinky sex (pinning the supine demoness... heaven knows my heart but she knew me better) and gender studies (she was pinned because monks hate women) into feng shui.

Is that anything like making a mountain out of a molehill?

Seriously though, questions about "Tibetan Feng Shui" abound, and we have touched upon this here (and here, and here) on DTBA in the past. For the past several months, I have been working on a little book about the subject, and if interest warrants, we may yet publish a few excerpts.

Anyway, this seems like a good opportunity to also mention that the indispensable THDL site is being completely overhauled, and will become the THLIB site in future. I can't explain exactly why this is being done -- on the theory of "if it ain't broke don't fix it" -- but everyone seems to think it is a marvelous idea anyway.

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4 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Tenpa,

Do you not like the term "royal Buddhist geomancy", then?


Martin Mills

TENPA said...

Dear Martin:
It feels counterintuitive because, as you know, the art under discussion isn't geomancy per se, nor is it entirely Buddhist, and it doesn't necessarily have royal origin. Nevertheless, your article is valuable because it approaches albeit indirectly the "great question" in Asian feng shui practice: did the Indians "invent" feng shui and give it to the Chinese, or did the Chinese "invent" feng shui and give it to the Indians? If that could be sorted out anywhere, one would suppose Tibet might be the place. I'd like to see more from you on this topic, and so would many others. P.S. Janet needs to get out more.
WIth all respect,

Martin Mills said...

Dear Tenpa,

Well, I used 'royal' because it was Songtsen Gampo, Buddhist because the Tibetans regard it as part of Buddhism's institutional form; we can debate what geomancy means somewhere else. While I was certainly interested in origins here, I'd say it was fair to call it this in the Tibetan historical context, because that's how Tibetans think about it in my experience.

On your latter question, I have several pieces on the go regarding this issue, but most are forthcoming. You might find the last few chapters of my 2003 book on monasticism (Identity, Ritual and State in Tibetan Buddhism) interesting (lots on local gods), and there's an article on modern Tibetan earth rites and their relationship to the term 'World Peace' by me in Peter Kirby's book Boundless Worlds, which just came out.

Hope that helps,



TENPA said...

To what extent were Songtsen Gampo's advisors employing what they gleaned from Vaastu Shastra, as distinct from "form school" Chinese feng shui? Please note that neither have much to do with Tibetan Buddhism at this point, yet both are in play.

For example: I can tell you from experience that the siting and construction of stupas is wholly controlled by Vaastu Shastra norms, whereas the distinctions of surrounding form are often addressed by Chinese norms.

Thanks for the tips. I will definitely look into this.