The Tibet Journal
Spring Vol. XXIV, No. 1 1999

[Articles] [Review Articles] [Book Reviews] [Film Review] [Contributors]

"On Byams pa and Thub chen Iha khang of Glo sMos thang," Roberto Vitali, p. 3

"The Production of Tibetan Banknotes," Wolfgang Bertsch, p. 29

"A Preliminary Archaeological Survey of Da Rog mTsho," John Vincent Bellezza, p. 55

"A Preliminary study on the Cultural ties between Tuva and Tibet: The History and the Present," Marina Mongush & Mergen Mongush, p. 92

Review Articles
Mandala and Landscape, edited by A.W. Macdonald, Kabir Mansingh Heimsath & Hubert Decleer, p. 101

A Comparative Grammar of Tibeto-Himalayan Languages by D.D. Sharma, R.K. Sprigg, p. 131

Book Reviews
Tibet: The Road Ahead by Dawa Norbu, Ronald D. Schwartz, p. 141

The Way of the Bodhisattva: A Translation of the Bodhicharyavatara by Shantideva, trans. the Padmakara Translation Group, Cathy Cantwell , p. 144

A Poisoned Arrow: The Secret Report of the 10th Panchen Lama, Tibet Information Network (TIN), P. Christiaan Klieger , p. 146

On the Path to Void. Buddhist Art of the Tibetan Realm, edited by Pratapaditya Pal, Parmananda Sharma, p. 150

The Tibetan Art of Parenting: From Before Conception Through Early Childhood by Anne Hubbell Maiden and Edie Farwell, Riika Virtanen, p. 151

Film Review
FILM REVIEW Mandala: The Sacred Circle of Vajrabhairava, written and narrated by Daniel Cozort, Linda C. Ehrlich 152

Contributors, p. 155

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John Vincent Bellezza is an independent research scholar based at Dharamsala (India) for the last 15 years, during which he has been doing research in the origin and character of ancient civilization in Tibet. He has several publications in his credit including a book, Divine Dyads: Ancient Civilization in Tibet, Library of Tibetan Works & Archives (LTWA), 1997.

Wolfgang Bertsch, a scholar of Tibetan Studies in Germany, has been doing research on Tibetan coins and paper money since 1974 and has published several articles on this subject in different journals including the Tibet Journal; his latest publication being A Study of Tibetan Paper Money with a Critical Bibliography, LTWA, 1997.

Cathy Cantwell, PhD, is an honorary research fellow at the University of Kent at Canterbury. She lectures in Religious Studies at the University of Wales, Lampeter, and in Social Anthropology at Chaucer College, Canterbury.

Hubert Decleer is the academic director, Tibetan studies for the School of International Training of Brattleboro, Vermont.

Linda C. Ehrlich, associate professor of Japanese, Comparative Literature and Cinema at Case Western Reserve University, has published articles and reviews about Asian and Spanish cinema in East-West Film Journal, Journal of Film and Video, Post Script, Literature/Film Quarterly, Cinemaya, Japan Forum Cinema Journal and Film Quarterly, among others.

Kabir Mansingh Heimsath holds an M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently co-director of the Tibetan Studies Program of the School for International Training, Brattleboro, Vermont. His fields of interest are sacred geography, religious biographies, and practice in contemporary Tibet.

P. Christiaan Klieger, now with the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, is an anthropologist who has been working with Tibetan refugees since 1978. He is author of Tibetan Nationalism and many articles on various Tibetan subjects.

Marina Mongush, PhD, is a leading Researcher at Tuvinian Scientific Research institute of language, literature and history, Kyzyl. She has published several research papers and two books: Lamaism in Tuva (1992) and Tuvinians in China (1997).

Mergen Mongush is a Moscow based free-lance journalist regularly contributing to the ABREES, British quarterly, and the author of a number of publications on history and current affairs in Tuva in English.

Ronald Schwartz is Professor of Sociology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He is the author of Circle of Protest: Political Ritual in the Tibetan Uprising (Columbia, 1994), and is currently engaged in research on the social, political, and economic situation in contemporary Tibet.

Parmananda Sharma, honourable member of the LTWA's Governing Body and ex-Principal of Government College (Dharamsala) has several publications in his [++Contributors ++Page 135] credit, including an English translation of Bhavanakrama published by Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1997.

R.K. Sprigg, PhD, Litt.D, Readership in Phonetics University of London, was a lecturer in Phonetics at the school of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; and British Council Visiting Professor in India in 1974. He began publishing on Tibetan phonology in 1954, and his PhD thesis was entitled "Phonetics and pholology of Tibetan (Lhasa dialect)."

Riika Virtanen has been studying Tibetan language and culture at the LTWA, Dharamsala, since 1990. She takes special interest in Tibetan literature and poetry, and has translated into English a collection of stories by modern Tibetan writers (forthcoming from LTWA).

Roberto Vitali is an independent researcher on Tibetan history. He has authored Early Temples of Central Tibet and The Kingdoms of Pu.hrang According to mNga'.ris rgyal.rabs by mKhan.chen Ngag.dbang

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Film Review

Mandala: The Sacred Circle of Vajrabhairava, written and narrated by Daniel Cozort. Featuring monks of the Namgyal Monastery. Distributed by Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, NY, 1997, videocassette, 60 min. US$ 29.95.

To the sound of a lone flute, a hand, in close-up, meticulously places sand within sketched-in outlines. In a series of slow dissolves, the rich, pure colors of the mandala rise to the surface. Throughout this initial visual sequence of the video Mandala: The Sacred Circle of Vajrabhairava -- presented without any dialogue -- we are introduced to the wonder and the precision of the sand mandala.

After a fade-to-black, the title card is displayed and we suddenly see the whole space from a high-angle shot. Now we are aware of the mandala, not just as a series of exquisite details, but as a circle, as a symbol of the cosmos and of psychic integration. Called by the narrator "the world's richest religious symbol," the mandala is viewed through multiple perspectives in this serious, almost devotional, short video.

In his 1969 The Theory and Practice of the Mandala, Giuseppe Tucci describes the mandala. as "a geometric projection of the world reduced to an essential pattern" (p.25) and, more emotionally, as a guide to help pass through "the stormy troubled sea of maya in which [the neophyte] is shipwrecked" (p.21). In their book on the mandala, Jose and Miriam Arguelles write of "the center as symbolic of the eternal potential" (p.12). The video offers additional definitions: "visual scriptures," "ideal models for personal transformation," "a materialization of the monk's contemplative wisdom."

The relatively stable camera used throughout the video helps to reinforce the sense of calm (although a greater effect might have been achieved with more variety in pacing and in the vocal quality of the narrator). Statements by the interviewed monks tend to be informative, if somewhat overly didactic. In these interviews (in which the interviewer is never shown), the monks help define phrases like "subtle consciousness," and they stress the role of imagination and visualization. More playfully, one monk comments on how visitors seem to like the sound of the funnel used for dispensing the sand, and so he would always try to produce an especially energetic sound to accompany his work in public.

The viewer is offered a computerized rendering of the sand mandala as a three- dimensional "palace" resting on a lotus of 64 petals. (This imaginative computer artwork, linking traditional form and modem technology, was made by the late Ven. Pema Losang Chogyen, to whom the project is dedicated.) We enter into it; [++Page 153] we fly over it; it whirls off into space. In contrast to the stunning visuals, the narrative speaks of emptiness and transcendence as the true framework for this fragile and transitory artform (which was, somewhat paradoxically, originally made out of semi-precious stones). A frequent reliance on a slow pan up of the paintings makes good use of the camera's ability to pass smoothly over details as it allows the viewer to contemplate the varied iconography of the deities.

A large segment of the video is devoted to the construction of a sand mandala of the Buddha Vajrabhairava (the Diamond Terrifier) in the Trout Gallery of the Dickinson College campus in Pennsylvania. We catch glimpses of the process from the opening ceremonies to the dismantling of the finished work.

Recently, in Cleveland, three monks assigned to the Dalai Lama's Western branch of his personal monastery in Ithaca, N.Y. spent several weeks constructing a Kalachakra. sand mandala. on a raised dais in the center of the spacious "Armour Court" (so named because that space formerly housed an impressive collection of shiny armour from the European Middle Ages). Curious onlookers crowded around as the three monks patiently filled in the carefully drawn outlines of the mandala. What had seemed at first a rather small design acquired depth as the highly saturated colors of the sand were added, day by day. Returning week after week to see the transformations became a source of delight. One of the monks who was more proficient in English took time to quietly answer questions from those who stood around on the four sides of the working monks. At the end of the process, the sands were swept into an urn and poured into the lagoon in the Fine Arts Garden on the south side of the museum. (As the narrator of the video reminded, "the beauty is in its creation, not in its duration, and in its effect on onlookers.")

Not only was a beautiful work of art and devotion temporarily added to the splendid Cleveland Museum of Art collection, there was also a sense of growing ease and familiarity with Tibetan traditions. In the same way, the video Mandala: The Sacred Circle of Vajrabhairava offers both beauty and a sense of familiarity that will help bring "the exotic" closer home. Until the 1980s, Tibetan sand mandalas were rarely seen by outsiders to the tradition, but in 1988 His Holiness the Dalai Lama permitted a more widespread construction of the mandala to help promote a greater awareness of its message.

As the credits roll at the close of the video Mandala, we see monks and onlookers leaving the Trout Gallery, walking toward the camera, to pour the sand into flowing water. One monk stops to help a little girl down a steep step.

This video is an effective addition to a growing library of films on Tibet, including Satya: A Prayer for the Enemy (dir. Ellen Bruno, 1993), Lung ta: The Forgotten Tibet (dir. Marie Jaoul de Poncheville and Franz-Christophe Giercke, 1991, narrated by Richard Gere), The Reincarnation of Khensur Rinpoche (dir. Tenzing Sonam and Ritu Sarin, 1991), A Song for Tibet (dir. Anne Henderson, 1991), and Mustang: The Hidden Kingdom (1994, narrated by Harrison Ford). It is especially effective, not only as a careful presentation of the philosophies behind the art form, but also as a documentation of how such forms can travel successfully across cultures.

--Linda C. Ehrlich

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