Accepted paper:

Religious diversity in the Western Himalayas and in Western Tibet: Tibetan Buddhism, Bon religion and 'local' religious traditions and the function of spirit possession/trance-mediums

Authors:

Christian Jahoda (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the question of religious diversity and syncretism in the case of village communities in Spiti and Upper Kinnaur in the Western Himalayas and adjacent areas of Western Tibet. This will be done by specifically looking at the conceptualizations and functions of spirit possession/trance-mediums.

Paper long abstract:

The religious beliefs and practices of the village communities on the Indo-Tibetan/Chinese border areas in the Western Himalayas and in Western Tibet were often described by scholars as being a syncretic mixture of Tibetan Buddhism, Bon religion and various 'local' religious traditions. Based upon extensive field research this paper attempts to examine religious diversity by looking particularly at the phenomenon of vital spirit possession/trance-mediums in the area. What is the function of spirit possession/trance-mediums, which seems to represent an important common trait all over the area, in the ongoing processes and discourses determining the conceptualizations of religious beliefs and practices of various social groups in the area? What is their relationship towards representatives of Tibetan Buddhism and other agents claiming religious authority, for example as expressed in the case of public ritual performances?

panel W064
Interpreting religious diversity: conversion, syncretism and religious practice