Recovering the Lost Buddhism of Dêgê: Ecumenicism as a Discourse of Resistance


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


Religious Studies


My dissertation situates the teachings of Jamgön Kongtrül in the politics of nineteenth-century Kham in order to demonstrate that the egalitarian rhetoric of his so-called “Ecumenical [ris med] Movement” in fact belied a religio-political effort to preserve local practices and teachings from extinction at the hands of foreign aggressors. Though Kongtrül pays lip service to the value of all Buddhist teachings, he deploys a hierarchical system in his catalogues of Buddhist practices designed to privilege the Nyingma and Kagyu schools associated with Dêgê at the expense of the Gelug teachings of the invaders. I conclude with a theoretical discussion of how disenfranchised religious groups can use the language of similarity to preserve difference in the face of homogenizing forces.