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Literature, Innovation, and Buddhist Philosophy: Shabkar’s Nine Emanated Scriptures

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This article is about the Tibetan Buddhist poet-saint Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol’s (1781–1851) nine “emanated scriptures” (Tibetan, sprul pa’i glegs bam). Described by Shabkar as being “unprecedented,” the “emanated scripture” is the single largest genre represented in his Collected Works. In this article, I examine the significance of the emanated scripture using a literary perspective that remains cognizant of the texts’ original religio-cultural background. After considering the Buddhist philosophical context in which Shabkar understood his nine emanated scriptures, I demonstrate how an analysis of simile, intertextuality, textual structure, and style: (1) illuminates facets of the texts that may have otherwise remained unnoticed in traditional Buddhist contexts, (2) modifies the prevalent notion in Buddhist and Tibetan studies that traditional Tibetan society did not value newness, and (3) represents an important step towards understanding Shabkar’s written legacy and the relationship between religion and literature in comparative religious contexts.

Affiliations: 1: Davidson College, Religion Department


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