A Buddhist Sensibility: Aesthetic Education at Tibet's Mindröling Monastery

A Buddhist Sensibility: Aesthetic Education at Tibet's Mindröling Monastery

by Dominique Townsend


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Founded in 1676 during a cosmopolitan early modern period, Mindröling monastery became a key site for Buddhist education and a Tibetan civilizational center. Its founders sought to systematize and institutionalize a worldview rooted in Buddhist philosophy, engaging with contemporaries from across Tibetan Buddhist schools while crystallizing what it meant to be part of their own Nyingma school. At the monastery, ritual performance, meditation, renunciation, and training in the skills of a bureaucrat or member of the literati went hand in hand. Studying at Mindröling entailed training the senses and cultivating the objects of the senses through poetry, ritual music, monastic dance, visual arts, and incense production, as well as medicine and astrology.

Dominique Townsend investigates the ritual, artistic, and cultural practices inculcated at Mindröling to demonstrate how early modern Tibetans integrated Buddhist and worldly activities through training in aesthetics. Considering laypeople as well as monastics and women as well as men, A Buddhist Sensibility sheds new light on the forms of knowledge valued in early modern Tibetan societies, especially among the ruling classes. Townsend traces how tastes, values, and sensibilities were cultivated and spread, showing what it meant for a person, lay or monastic, to be deemed well educated. Combining historical and literary analysis with fieldwork in Tibetan Buddhist communities, this book reveals how monastic institutions work as centers of cultural production beyond the boundaries of what is conventionally deemed Buddhist.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231194877
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 03/09/2021
Series: Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 822,331
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Dominique Townsend is assistant professor of Buddhist studies at Bard College. She is also a poet and the author of Shantideva: How to Wake Up a Hero (2015), a book about Buddhism for children and families.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
A Note on Translations and Transliterations
Introduction: Buddhist Aesthetics, the Cultivation of the Senses, and Beauty’s Efficacy
1. Historical Background: Laying the Foundation for Mindröling
2. A Pleasure Grove for the Buddhist Senses: Mindröling Takes Root
3. Plucking the Strings: On Style, Letter Writing, and Relationships
4. Training the Senses: Aesthetic Education for Monastics
5. Taming the Aristocrats: Cultivating Early Modern Tibetan Literati and Bureaucrats
Epilogue: Destruction and Revival: The Next Generation

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