Pictures to Live By: An Iconography of the Tibetan Buddhist Monastic Code


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


Asian Languages & Cultures


My dissertation centers on a book and its related murals, which integrate text and images in ways unseen elsewhere. Composed by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, this book records his commentary on the monastic code, employing an innovative commentarial device: illustrations. When the book was transformed into a mural, these projects reinforced the Dalai Lama’s religious reforms for state protection. Over the next century, the mural was also painted at twelve sites in Tibet and India, becoming standardized. The commentary and its murals thus present an artistic genre previously undefined and an iconographic source-text unexplored. I examine this text’s genesis and contents, arguing that the book and murals established a visual system for portraying monastic life and transmitting monastic rules.