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The Dalai Lama and the Nechung Oracle

Associate Professor of Religious Studies Christopher Bell, Christopher Bell

Religion / Buddhism / Tibetan

"This book is about two immortals whose friendship has spanned nearly five hundred years across the Tibetan plateau and beyond. The first immortal is the Dalai Lama, the emanation of a bodhisattva, an enlightened being who voluntarily takes rebirth in the world to benefit sentient beings. The second immortal is a wrathful god named Pehar, who has possessed the Nechung Oracle since the sixteenth century. This book is the first to examine the relationship between these two monolithic figures that began in the seventeenth century during the reign of the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682). This study is also the first extensive examination of the famed Nechung Oracle and his institution. In the seventeenth century, the protector deity Pehar and his oracle at Nechung Monastery were state-sanctioned by the nascent Tibetan government, becoming the head of an expansive pantheon of worldly deities assigned to protect the newly unified country. While the Fifth Dalai Lama and his government endorsed Pehar as part of his larger unification project, the governments of later Dalai Lamas continued to expand the deity's influence, and by extension their own, by ritually establishing Pehar at monasteries and temples around Lhasa and across Tibet. Pehar's cult at Nechung Monastery came to embody the Dalai Lama's administrative control in a mutually beneficial relationship of protection and prestige, the effects of which continue to reverberate within Tibet and among the Tibetan exile community today"--

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