Over the Borderline: The Rhetoric of Secrecy in Early Tibetan Buddhism


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


East Asian Languages & Cultures


The object of my dissertation is to trace the contours of secrecy discourse as it took root in Tibet between the late eighth and eleventh centuries. More specifically, I suggest that the *Guhyagarbha and its circle of attendant tantras, commentaries, and ritual texts defined the interpretive space within which Tibetans explored tantric secrecy. In these writings and their offshoots in the closely related world of early Dzogchen (Rdzogs chen), Tibetan exegetes began weaving together two discourses on secrecy—one sociological, the other epistemic—into a uniquely Tibetan form of esotericism. The collapse of the Tibetan empire, I argue, made this nascent discourse vital to the sustenance of Buddhist communities that found themselves newly detached from centralized authority.