Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
A Survey of Bonpo Monasteries
by Dondrup Lhagyal, Phuntso Tsering Sharyul, Tsering Thar, Charles Ramble and Marietta Kind
Edited by Samten G. Karmay and Yasuhiko Nagano
National Museum of Ethnology and THL
Reproduced with permission from the authors
under the THL Digital Text License.

The framework for the survey

4. Hierarchical system

In some monasteries such as sMan ri and gYung drung gling, abbots were elected by secret lot. The abbots are the supreme head of these monasteries, but in other places the head of the monastery can be hereditary (gdung brgyud, gdung ’dzin), i. e. the monastery was founded by a member of a family in a nearby place. The family usually continues to provide a man to be the head of the monastery and in this sense he is qualified as dgon bdag, “owner of the monastery”. In this system, other important figures within the same monastery often take turns to be the head of the monastery and are in charge of the monastic affairs on a periodic basis under the authority of the dgon bdag.

However, the system of headship varies from one place to another. The head is often selected or appointed by general consent, but rarely did an individual monk take a personal initiative to be the head of a monastery, but after 1959 the system of appointing the head of a monastery had completely broken down. At the beginning of the 1980s when monasteries were allowed to be rebuilt, either an individual or a group of monks took the reconstruction initiative and as a result of this, in many places the question of the head of a monastery remains unsettled to this day.

Under the authority of the head of a monastery, there are different functions held by monks in varying positions. This hierarchical system also varies slightly from monastery to monastery. There is a host of technical terms relating to the monastic administration and duties and we have grouped them together under the title of “Terms of governing system and duties in monasteries” in order to avoid the repetition of their English translation in each account of the monasteries.

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Note Citation for Page

Dondrup Lhagyal, Phuntso Tsering Sharyul, Tsering Thar, Charles Ramble, and Marietta Kind, A Survey of Bonpo Monasteries and Temples in Tibet and the Himalaya (Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology, 2003), .

Bibliographic Citation

Dondrup Lhagyal, Phuntso Tsering Sharyul, Tsering Thar, Charles Ramble, and Marietta Kind. A Survey of Bonpo Monasteries and Temples in Tibet and the Himalaya. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology, 2003.